Chapter 512 – The Prisoner



At first, I couldn’t think of anything else.

Is that wrong? A completely new world, the only person I knew in it had just vanished, leaving me alone with a stranger.

At least, I wasn’t physically uncomfortable. It was a little breezy, but a bright sun warmed the air around us. I think, if the surroundings weren’t so pleasant, this would have been much harder. My elder had left me in a relatively safe place, other than the spear-wielding fairy in front of me. We were standing on a cobblestone walk in the middle of a green space outside the walls of the ‘Citadel’ where she had been headed when the fairy stopped her.

But I was frozen in place, without a thought of what to do next.

[Keep calm, child,] I heard Fan Li’s voice chide in my head. [We are here with you. Be confident.]

[But why must I do this?] I protested, dropping my eyes.

[I am too great a strain on Her Highness’s resources,] my elder declared. [Her efficiency is far too low for her spiritual vessel as she is right now. She is already having to take blood daily. I will soon cause her to either collapse or need to drink multiple times per day if I keep coming out.]

[But why me?] 

[Your world bore a greater resemblance to this one, so the cost of simulating you and the cost when you use your powers are both much lower than either this one or Sirth. Frankly, your world was simply Huade with much higher spiritual density. You are still expensive, but far less than us.]

I bit my lower lip, then recognized that biting my lip wasn’t ‘being confident’, and corrected myself. So I mustered my courage and met the stranger’s eyes.

“I…. I’m Lhan,” I stated, since Fan Li had not really introduced me.

Ëï onar lâ,” the fairy warrior replied dryly while nodding. “I am Falerè, Captain serving the Fairy King’s 12th Warrior Company. Do I understand correctly that the other one expects me to escort you to the prisoner?”

“Y… yes,” my shaky reply somehow came out. Then other feelings overwhelmed me.

I clapped my hands together before my face and bowed my head. “I’m really sorry!!”

“For what?” she retorted with a baffled tone.

“I really was not calling you fat, Great One!” I declared. “I’m sorry to have offended you!”

[Hey, hey, what bilge water are you spouting now, girl?] Sirth demanded in my head.

[She’s doing as she knows best. Leave her be,] Fan Li counseled.

My eyes were still squeezed shut, so I couldn’t see the fairy’s reaction. But I heard her snort.

Then she told me, “I’m not offended. The other one already explained what you meant. Raise your head, child.”

I cautiously looked up and saw her leaning on her spear, inspecting me with a slightly curled lip.

“Honestly, I still don’t understand what manner of beings you all are, but Lady Serera said to trust you,” she stated. “I shall bring you into this human stronghold by pretending you are one of my fairies. You’re not the same, but you’re a lot more like us than like the mortals. I don’t suppose you can change your raiment? I can tell that your dress isn’t material clothing.”

Since Master had favored me, the frock that he gave me, the one Fan Li recreated from my life, was actually a pretty white dress with a thigh-length hem. Very plain and simple, since it was for a slave, but still attractive. I wondered what was wrong with it.

“I’m… not sure?” I answered carefully while fiddling with the hem.

Her mouth crooked again. “Is that a question?”

I blushed and shrank a little. I was never one of the friendly children who could talk with anybody. This was becoming difficult.

[Have confidence,] Fan Li counseled again.

Falerè snorted again. “You remind me a little of my grandchildren. You seem quite a lot younger than those other beings.”

“I am, Great One. I’m only…” I chopped off just before saying ‘six’ corrected myself. “In the years of this world, I was only eleven years old when I died.”

She puzzled over that for a bit, then frowned. “When you died?”

“I’m already dead in my own world, Great One,” I explained. “I’m here because our… um, member?… in this world is alive.”

It looked to me like she felt she was hearing something insane, but of course, it was, wasn’t it?

“And those other two are ghosts as well?”

“We’re not really ghosts,” I answered. “At least, not like the ones in this world.”

They have ghosts here, but they’re just shadows that can turn into gidim if they are left to fester. Nothing like the ghosts that would show up in the slave quarters in my world.

“I can see that for myself,” she answered drily. 

Embarrassed, I just ducked my head again.

[You’re doing fine, girly,] Sirth said. [Hang in there.]

I screwed up my courage and stood straight again. Falerè appeared to be pondering something.

“It would be better if you looked more like a fairy warrior,” she mused. “Can you try?”

[Can I?] I tried to ask my elders.

[We haven’t taught you how to manage your own image yet,] Fan Li answered. [This one shall alter it for you.]

I felt something strange happening, and looked down at my slave frock. It was shimmering, then it suddenly transformed.

“Well, that’s a bit bold, but I suppose…”

I stared in horror at my exposed belly button and nearly exposed breasts, due to the replica of Lady Tiana’s fairy knight armor now adorning me, I whimpered, “Oh, please, no. Not this..”

“What’s wrong?” the fairy captain wondered, confused.

“This is not…” I started, then didn’t know what to say. I just shouted inside my head, [Not this, please! I’m practically naked!]

Fan Li sighed inside my head, then the outfit shimmered again. To my relief, a replica of Lady Tiana’s “Tia Mona” adventurer garb replaced the fairy armor. I even had a bastard sword that looked a bit like Durandal at my hip.

Falerè inspected me, then nodded. “Alright, then. Are you okay now?”

I nodded, still embarrassed, but now because I felt my reaction had been shameful. “Yes, Great One.”

“Okay, before we do anything else, what in Heaven is up with that ‘Great One’ name that you keep calling me?”

“Oh, um…” I bit my lower lip again. “It’s what we call nobles and fairies in my world. What should I call you?”

“Captain,” she stated, in a tone that brooked no argument.

“Okay,” I nodded. “Captain.”

“Your  name was…. Hlahn or some such. It doesn’t sound Fairy. I’ll call you “Hiléa”

“… huh?”

“My granddaughter’s name. A very sweet young fairy-blooded mortal I happen to be quite fond of. Her name is Fairy and it sounds a bit like yours. You remind me of her. Come along.”

She wheeled and strode with a military gate away from me, and I had to hurry to catch up.

Once I did, she asked, “Do you know how to use that sword?”

I shook my head. “No, Great… No, Captain.”

“Then don’t,” she stated. “Although I’m not sure what can harm you, it would be better if we don’t find out. The hellspawn is dangerous, and if anything happens, I want you to simply run away.”

“Yes, Captain.”

The Citadel was indeed a very human fortress. The only one I saw during my life was the manor house where my master lived, which had seemed so intimidating, but this was on a much grander scale. I felt very small as we circled it and headed toward the great gate, which seemed to grow larger and larger as we approached.

“They built it big enough for artillery pulled by Bicorns to pass,” she said when she noticed my awed stare. The lintel above us seemed to be higher than the tower of my master’s manor. Maybe it was.

Inside, a very martial atmosphere reigned, with soldiers in Pendorian uniforms everywhere I looked. It was strange that they seemed to avoid looking at us as we passed by.

“Don’t stare at them,” Falerè warned me. “They’re nervous enough of us as it is.”

Embarrassed, I put my eyes forward and looked down.

“A fairy doesn’t act like a mouse,” she stated. “Keep your head up.”

I did my best. The humans kept shying away from us, all the way until we entered the blocky building, and all the way downstairs to the ‘special containment block’, where I no longer saw any humans at all.

“Where are the… mortals?” I wondered.

“We’ve ordered them to stay away from her,” Falerè stated as she strode down the undecorated concrete hallway. “We bring her meals ourselves. One of us guards her, and mages keep an eye on her from a remote location.”

It sounded very lonely. I felt sorry for Shindzha.

At last, we arrived at a steel door and Falerè rapped on it three times, then opened it. I wondered what the knocking was for, if she was going to open it herself.

Inside, one of her warriors was just then standing up. She pounded her fist on her chest while at attention.

“How’s the prisoner?” Falerè asked cooly.

“As always,” the lesser fairy stated, while sending curious glances my direction. “I had to remind her to eat, though.”

“What? Why?” I wondered.

“Um…” the warrior gave me a more direct look.

“This is Hiléa,” Falerè stated. “She needs to see the prisoner. She’s on business from the Castle.”

I could hear Sirth chuckling in my head, and wasn’t sure why.

[What she said was perfectly true, but implied you have some kind of official permission when you don’t really have such a thing,] Fan Li explained.

To me, Falerè explained, “The prisoner lacks an appetite and has a death wish, so we have to keep reminding her that Lady Tiana wants her to stay alive.”

The warrior pursed her lips, then nodded. “Shall I open it?”

“Please,” the captain stated. “And the protocol is, you stay out here while we’re within.”

“Yes, ma’am,” she nodded. “But both of you are going in?”

Falerè hesitated, then nodded. “She isn’t part of our company, nor is she Pendorian military. I’m treating her as a civilian.”

The warrior’s eyes glanced toward the sword on my hip, but she nodded.

When the metal door clanged behind us, I said, “I felt like she didn’t trust me.”

“Orëà doesn’t trust anyone,” she answered with a dry smile. “She’s had a hard life.”

As we entered, I thought at first that the cages inside the room were all empty, except for some blankets piled up on a cot in one of them. “Shindzha!” Falerè called with a sharp voice. “You have a visitor.”

The pile stirred. My mind caught up with the ‘spiritual sense’ that I’m still learning to understand and I realized that it was actually a living being, wrapped up in a blanket.

The hellspawn’s head came out, and then she quickly rose.

“Mistress!” she called out, rushing to the bars closest to me.

I think I said something like “eep!” as I backed up slightly, but she didn’t notice. She just grasped the bars and stared at me with… well, she looked very hungry. My knees nearly gave out.

“I’m … not your mistress, Shindzha,” I answered, struggling to keep my voice from shaking. “But I’m here to check on you for her. We just want to… she wants to make sure you’re alright.”

“No!” she said, shaking her head violently. “I know you’re the Mistress! I can tell!”

[As I suspected,] Fan Li stated. I could feel her nodding her head. [Shindzha possesses some form of spiritual senses. She can either see or sense our aura.]

“I’m not…” I repeated, getting worried for her. She seemed very anxious.

[Shindzha, calm yourself,] came a new voice. It was a spiritual voice, not simply words I was hearing in my head, and Falerè could hear it, too. Her eyes widened as she looked at me.

Her surprise was probably because it was Lady Tiana’s voice.

Shindzha, replying to me, dutifully ducked her head and answered, “Yes, Mistress!”

[The child in front of you is indeed part of me, as you can sense, but she is separate from me. She cannot feed upon you, nor can she grant you any aid right now. That must come later.]

“Mis.. tress? But your voice…”

[You can feel it coming from her, yes,] Tiana agreed. [I’m speaking through her.]

The hellspawn bit her lower lip like a little girl, then shook her head rapidly.

“I don’t need any aid, Mistress. Just, please… Please let me die! I’m a danger to you! I mustn’t remain alive! Why did you order me to live?!”

Her words were closer to a heart-rending wail. It hurt to see the same anguish in her face, and I wanted so much to reach out my hand and comfort her.

- my thoughts:

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When Lhan said she was eleven when she died, and readers may recall she died in childbirth, that was in Huadean years. In Earth years she would be thirteen. Although, that's only slightly less horrific. Anyway, consider her a thirteen year old.

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