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Isada

Blog 225: Campaign Novelization

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This is pretty much the setup for the upcoming boss battle. Some old characters return and Mathal's undead sibling finally gets their time onscreen, so more character interactions than anything else for now.

If any recap is needed, the rest of the story can be found here on Wattpad: https://my.w.tt/h1HrXtlCDL, or on FF and AO3 as Council of Thieves.

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Chapter 36: The Parent Trap

Mathal woke grunting in a cold sweat. A splintering ache lanced through every bone, but she wasn’t bleeding. The air clung too close and thin to her clammy skin. There was no light, but every stone in the cell appeared too sharp as though they were trying to cut themselves out of her sight.

Her aura. She couldn’t feel her aura.

Her chest burned. She couldn’t fill her lungs. She tried short, shallow inhales to steady her breath. The air only turned to fire faster. Her lungs shriveled down to nothing, taking her into blackness with them.

--/--

Metal screeched on metal hinge. Mathal winced awake, hands instinctively trying to clamp over her ears. They jerked against heavy metal shackles. She hung from the wall drenched in sweat.

Silana stood in the doorway. They’d changed their coat of attacking shadow tentacles for a flat cap and a suit in midnight blue. Their arms folded across their chest. They walked with slow steps into the cell. The wooden door screeched shut behind them.

“Why would Mother send a bug to kill a dragon?” they asked, their voice a low, Aklo hiss.

“She didn’t,” Mathal huffed. “Was just there. Thinks you’re dead.”

Their demi-monolid eyes widened. Silana’s back bumped the side wall. They lowered down to a squat.

“What...what did she say?”

Figures.


“She knew. One day, you’d be dead.”

Silana, damn them. You see them in Hell, you beat them into lemure pudding, got it?

“Was angry. Death took you away.”

Silana bit back a sound between a grunt, a snort, and a choke. They stared at the opposite wall for a long time, long enough that they dropped out from their squat to sit with their legs flat against the floor and knuckles in the dust, propped up only by the wall at their back.

Mathal said nothing. All her focus went back to steadying the breath in her burning lungs.

“Who are you?”

“Mathal, your younger sister.”

“You are my replacement.”

“Technically, but I cut Mom off. She’s gonna need a replacement for a replacement...if she ever wants to get a coven going again.”

“She just enjoys having the option.”

Mathal snorted fire and winced.

“What are doing here if aren’t here for her?”

“Tracked some vampires here. Thought they’d killed my friend, so I was gonna rob them.”

“Morosino?” Silana snorted. “No, we’d never kill him. We haven’t even turned him. He ran away, but that is to be expected with pets.”

“So you’re just gonna let him suffer and starve down here?”

“Yesterday was the last day of his punishment.”

She could see why he’d run away.

“I can’t feel my aura.”

“It’s the chains.”

Silana had glyphed anti-magic into every chain in the Walcourt dungeon themself. That explained one thing, but left a world a questions.

“Why are you even with the vampires?”

“A home is a home is a home.”

“Maybe they’re better than Mother, but look what they did to Moris. A person ain’t a toy. No. They’re exactly the same as Mother.”

“You know nothing--”

“You wanna know what Mom called me?”

“...what did she call you?”

“A tool. See if you can call yourself any better.”

In the blink of an eye, Silana was on their feet in front of Mathal. Their black nails whipped across her face. Her neck cracked. Red sprayed.

Mathal’s head hung limp from her shoulders. She hadn’t hexed herself, but she could feel the itching, aching throb of muscle and bone realigning under her skin. If Silana could see the skittering tendons, they gave no sign of it.

Metal screeched. A deathly pale Taldan now occupied the doorway. A gray star over a black shield dangled from their black-beaded rosary.

“Silana, you’ve let breakfast bleed out all over the floor out he--”

The cleric’s eyes flicked from the dungeon hall to Silana to Mathal. Jair’s mouth twisted into a pitiless grin.

“If it isn’t Gorvio the Dog-Killer.”

Silana raised a questioning eyebrow. Mathal gave them the slightest shake of her head.

“I assume you’re here about our army of shadow mastiffs.”

In the blink of an eye, Silana pulled Jair into the cell and back-handed their shoulder.

“Ow, what was that for? Isn’t this the replacement? We’re all upstairs getting hungry.”

“Right.”

Silana grabbed the chains that shackled Mathal’s arm to the wall. They murmured in a language she’d never heard. The metal links under their fists loosed from either chain. They brought both free ends together in front of Mathal. The links, shadow black in Silana’s hands, passed through each other and locked in their new formation. Mathal would’ve been impressed if she wasn’t the one in the cuffs.

“Try anything and I’ll kill you myself.”

“Now, now, Silana, that’s no way to talk to your food.”

“The same goes to you.”

Silana shoved Jair out of the cell. Mathal followed them out into the hall and under the long, hidden shaft. Jair flew up first, their dry snickers echoing and fading after them. Silana scooped Mathal up in their arms and flew up after them. The two siblings kept their gazes pointedly averted.

A false wall in the hidden chamber beside the walk-in closet opened into the main hall where Jair waited for them. Silana set Mathal back on her feet. She followed them up a flight of hairs and down the next hall. They stopped before a pair of rich mahogany doors. Silana and Jair each held one open.

Mathal stepped into a huge chamber supported by twelve thick columns of stone. Black curtains covered the bricked-over walls and between them hung oil portraits of unhappy nobles in gilded frames. A chandelier of black iron dangled from the center of the ceiling. Its squat, black candles were unlit. Below, a massive slate table stood in the center of the room set with fine porcelain, crystal goblets, and gold utensils.

A willowy, deathly pale elf with long, platinum-blond hair and silvery blue eyes sat at the head of the table in a crimson suit. On their left was an empty, leather-bound chair and a black-suited Taldan with a shock of red hair, Vahn, Delver Vahn. Moris sat on their right.

Though still emaciated, Moris had bathed and dressed in pink silk. A matching pink ribbon pulled his hair off his hollowed, shrunken face and bound it in a short tail. His eyes met Mathal’s absently, glazed over with despair.

“I’m sorry,” he rasped.

“Morosino,” the elf drawled in Elvish, “do you know this living one?”

Moris’s eyes darted from the elf to Mathal to Silana and back. His head gave an ambiguous half-shake.

“Who is this, Silana?”

“This is Mathal. She’s...my sister.”

The elf’s mouth opened in a little, exaggerated ‘O’. They stood with a generous smile and an even more generous bow. A black baton with an iron topper of batwings dangled from their belt.

“Silana, you’ve outdone yourself again. Mathal, what an honor it is to meet you. My name is Ilnerik Sivanshin, he/him. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to drink the blood of a cannibal.”

Jair grabbed Mathal and flung her back-first onto the empty center of the table. She grunted and kicked up, but the cleric caught her by the throat and shoved her back down. Moris sprang to his feet, chair clattering behind him. He clung to Ilnerik’s arm.

“No, no, no! Father! Please!”

Silana slumped into the seat beside Vahn. Sivanshin held up his left palm, laughing. Jair let go, hopping over to the seat beside Moris’s. Mathal sat up onto her elbows, huffing and glaring over her shoulder.

“What?” asked Sivanshin, “Are you going fight Silana for the first bite?”

“No, I--please, don’t kill her.”

“You’d rather I turned her? She would outlive you, you know. And then she would be--”

“I’d rather you let her go. Mathal’s my friend.”

Sivanshin laughed. Jair joined in snickering. The grim-faced Vahn even cracked half a smile. Sivanshin held up his palm and they fell back into immediate silence. His smile shrivelled.

“Weak.”

A muscle twitched in Silana’s jaw, but when they raised their head, their face was completely blank.

“Sorry, Morris. Friend or not, she’s my sister. Family first.”

Silana sprang up onto the table, feet on either side of Mathal. Mathal kicked up only to get slammed back down. The stone table cracked under her back and spinning head.

Silana dropped to one knee. They clamped one hand around Mathal’s neck. She flailed, her lungs back to burning. Darkness seeped into the corners of her eyes.

Silana’s other hand closed around the chain between her wrists. They pulled Mathal up to sitting and leaned in by her neck. Their putrid, undead breath was as cold as ice.

“I’m loathe to admit it, but...I think you were right.”

The cuffs slipped from Mathal’s wrists as insubstantial as shadow. She grit her teeth to keep the shock off her face. Without a moment to lose, she hexed herself.

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