As Captain Robior walked the stairs to the Tooth’s rooftop, biting on his lip and playing with the bones figurines tinkling on his chest, the girl in the cage curled a strand of long blonde hair over her finger.
She lay down on the iron bars, hissing when the spokes bit into her skin. A little price to pay for what was about to happen. Fear always piled up bit by bit.
Now she just had to wait.
And wait. And wait. Tension before a battle was always the worst part. Captain Robior pulled his robes taut against his throat. He was getting old. A cold could kill him and looking down at the lonely figure on the shore was doing wonders to his nerves.
“She’s just standing there,” Heimru mused, shifting his weight.
“Something is going on,” Robior seethed. He just knew it. But he couldn’t put his finger on it. Fear gnawed at his mind, each minute taking larger and larger mouthfuls out of his sanity. Out of habit, he lay his gaze back towards the city of sparkling lights. He had not been to Zug in a long while – this tower was his home after all – and more often than not he felt disdain for the rich fucks who partied and laughed and danced in the city, knowing very well they lived at a day of march away from the things that crept under the trees, the same things that had almost pushed mankind out of Trinacria, all those decades before.
But tonight he felt like a young man again, young and stupid and afraid: he felt like he was doing his duty.
His gaze came back to the shore. To the crashing waves.
To the rocks peeking out of the knotting foam.
That was not supposed to…
“What the…” he leaned over the edge, peering down at the sea. The fortress, as if to help him, groaned and lurched forward, giving him a better look at the disappearing water. “Blood and ashes,” he seethed. “That witch is drying the sea out.”
In the distance, as the receding tide showed more and more rocks, the lonely Fae took her first step towards the old fortress.
The girl shifted. She stood up sitting in the almost-darkness, the red embers of the lonely candle danced over her tattered lips. She brushed her hands up her arms, pulling her legs to her chest.
“I’m cold. Can you at least give me back my cape?”
The priests did not reply.
But the one to her right missed a syllable.
“My cape. I guess you must have seen it. It’s a very good one, made it myself. Can I have it back?”
His black eyes shifted towards her, hate and fear crumpling his visage.
You always start from the weakest link.
From the thinnest crack.
She had learned as much, wobbling back and right as gravel and shouts hit her back.
“Please. Can I have it baaa-ack!” She growled as the priest pulled the rope, chains biting into her flesh. She let out a short laugh as soon as pain passed. “That is the one thing you can do. You are too afraid to stop your useless lullabies for one moment. Pain does not work on me. You have seen my body. Think your chains are going to be anything more than a nuisance? Ohhh, but I am so cold. I really wish I had my cape back. Such a good cape… wards wet and cold and fire and iron, and all I needed to make it was for my youngest sister not to wear her skin anymore.”
“Kill the witch!” Robior pointed at Heimru. A flash of fear passed through the man’s blue eyes, and anger: why was he the one who had to do the deed? But Robior did not have time for cold feet. “Kill her! She’s doing something. Kill her and we can drown that redhead bitch before she comes here.”
The Fae was no halfway through. Her steps as light as leaves over the still-damp rocks as the sea drowned out.
Heat came into the holding cell. It speared through air from the white-hot head of a poke, held against her face by a burly man with a single eye and a long beard. The girl chuckled, as if lost in some memory.
The man’s large hands trembled as he slowly pushed the poke through the bars.
Any animal would have recoiled. In fear of the heat if not of the red light.
But the girl just grinned. She pushed her blonde hair off her neck and showed it off to him.
Now that light had come back, her hideous visage was even clearer. The hole in the middle of her face, her curled lips, the patches of pale skin where it had seemingly knotted over deeper scars, and the two gashes that cut through her face.
“You have come down to kill me, at the end. Because you think I’m the one doing all this.”
The man’s fingers twitched.
His one good eye flashed with panic.
The priests’ litany began to waver.
“W-Witch,” he muttered, pushing the poke further towards her skin, which began to bristle. “I’ll run you through.”
“Witch,” she grinned, small droplets of sweat running down her neck and forehead. “That’s a good name.”
The priests pierced him with their angry gazes. The man did not know what to say, what to do.
“Why do you have to be the one to do it,” she asked softly. Her face a vision from the boiling sea, now that the burning poke highlighted ever blighted feature of her cratered face. “Why couldn’t it be the Captain? He’s the one ruling this place. Could have taken responsibility. Do you have friends? A family perhaps. Do you want to know what will happen to them as that iron touches my flesh?”
“Do not listen,” the priest to her right said. “Do it.”
“Ohhh, yes be a good boy and curse yourself for eternity,” she mocked, tilting her head to show off more of her smooth neck. “I’m so close, my dear priests, why don’t you try it? Isn’t it supposed to be your job?”
She chuckled at the tense gazes shared by the five men.
“Admitted it even works on me. You do not even know my name. But you did call me a Witch. Do it, please. Run it through me. See what happens.”