Things have come to a head, a head I say!
The sullen stand-off continued inside the witch’s hut. Ayla was entirely physically recovered from the blow almost immediately, but her bruised ego was not so easily magicked away. She sat bolt upright on the bed, glaring at Atrocious in a menacing fashion. Atrocious remained slouched down against the far wall, her arms wrapped around her knees. Eyes filled with uncertainty flicked watchfully between Ayla and Kira as she chewed on a ragged fingernail. Only the warrior seemed unaffected by all the drama. She lounged in the chair she’d rescued after its tumble with Ayla, smiling quite merrily. “Oh cheer up,” she said eventually. “You both look like someone told you the sky is falling.”
“I will be much better the moment I switch her behind red,” Ayla said, her voice as crisp and cold as the winter wind.
“Easy there,” Kira said, holding a hand up. “It’s not going to improve matters.”
“It will improve matters for me,” Ayla insisted.
“Will it? If you beat her for hitting you, what will she do next? You think she will suddenly become obedient?” Kira laughed a short laugh, letting the dimples in her cheeks come out to play. “Ayla, you have to know better than that.”
“I will not stand to be hit,” Ayla replied indignantly. She drew her elegant frame up from the bed, precipitating a brisk shuffle across the wall to the corner on Atrocious’ part.
“Nor apparently, will Atrocious,” Kira said with a flicker of a wink at Atrocious. The little thief smiled a small, tentative smile in response. Her hands were on the floor beside her, ready to propel her up if she had to make a quick break for it. Kira was holding Ayla off, but only just.
“You know you don’t have a leg to stand on Ayla, you’ve kidnapped her,” Kira continued the argument.
“Oh don’t give me that nonsense,” the warrior waved her strong hand in a gesture of light dismissal. “You and your fates. Funny how the fates always seem to want what you want, isn’t it?”
Ayla’s eyes narrowed at Kira. “So I’m supposed to let her go with you am I? Are you going to give her freedom?”
Atrocious remained silent, but her gaze was focused on Kira equally as intently.
“I might,” Kira shrugged.
“You will not,” Ayla laughed a bitter laugh. “You forget, I know you as well as you know me. What happened to the last wench you took away from here?”
“Well,” Kira said, looking rather cagey. “She, er, found other employment.”
Ayla cocked her head and smirked unpleasantly. “You sold her.”
“I had mead debts,” Kira shrugged again.
Atrocious’ mouth fell open at the revelation. Really, one was just as bad as the other. She was caught between a rock and a hard place, between the frying pan and the fire. The slim hope of freedom was growing smaller by the moment, giving her little to cling to.
“Oh yes pretty one,” Ayla said with more than a little spite. “You think Kira argues for you because she cares. She’s just taking advantage of an opportunity, as she always does.”
“Keep talking like that and I might get offended.” Kira spoke lightly, but there was steel in her voice, a steel Atrocious recognized and recoiled from. The warrior was toned from shoulders to calves, her musculature sleek but powerful. Atrocious didn’t want to know what havoc would be wreaked if Kira lost her temper.
Ayla was not nearly so concerned. “I think you should take your leave,” she said with icy politeness. “I have a disobedient apprentice to deal with.”
Kira raised a sceptical brow. “Are you truly offering her an apprenticeship?”
“I am,” Ayla said. “I give my word.”
“What if I were to do the same?”
“Then she would have a choice, wouldn’t she,” Ayla said. “Apprenticeships are not forced.”
Ayla and Kira turned to Atrocious, each with an expectant look in their eyes. “Well girl, it is time to choose your Mistress,” Kira said. “You should bear in mind, Mistress Ayla will most certainly whip you if you choose her.”
“And Mistress Kira will probably swap you for a chicken meal at her earliest convenience,” Ayla replied with a spiteful glare at Kira.
With her belly churning, Atrocious looked first at one woman, then the other. It seemed inevitable that she would fall under the control of one of them, but which one?
(Poll is non binding. Especially given my toppy chicken dinner kink.)