Challenge #53 - Danarius / Cauthrien - you’re not alone
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[Oh look, I wrote for this one already!]
When she took the job, she thought it would be easy. She thought it would be distant, the work of a hired sword, the work of a trophy. Orlesians wanted her for the joke of it, Loghain Mac Tir’s dragon in their home or their bed. But the Tevinters - they wanted her because she was good.
Because she was one of the best.
If she wasn’t a bodyguard, that hadn’t seemed to matter. The man who hired her, a magister, had built the position around what she could do. She could look intimidating. She could command men. She could disappear into herself.
The man beneath her hands screamed, and she flayed another strip of skin from his back.
There was nothing to be gained from this but pain and death, and she buried herself as she worked. Make an example, Danarius had said. Make him understand his transgressions. She had tortured men before, had pulled answers from them, had pulled truths and lies. This was different.
This man knew nothing.
Danarius met her outside the chamber doors, clad in summer robes, airy things made of fine silks and gauzy cottons. He wore a smile on his face; it was not his, but he donned it as needed, just as he donned the rings that spotted his fingers as he reached for her. He settled a hand against her shoulder and guided her out of the small building and onto the larger grounds of his villa.
“Splendid work,” he said, and Cauthrien didn’t respond except to keep her eyes focused ahead. He was no Loghain. He had all the charisma in the world and no purpose behind him, except his own power. Three years ago, she would not have followed him. Three years ago, she would have rather died.
Strange, what three years wandering Thedas with nothing could do to a woman and her convictions.
She expected him, when he was done his orating, his chatter that was carefully calculated, perfectly timed, that he would walk away from her, leave her to herself. She waited for it. But his hand remained on her shoulder, guiding her along, until they had passed the entrance to the barracks. He led her instead through the gardens to the main building, and from those doors down halls and stairways to a lower work room.
“Sit,” he told her as he closed the door behind him.
It was a stone room, channels carved in the floor, the walls, the ceiling. A stone table lay in the middle of it. There was only one chair, over-stuffed and upholstered in leather. Danarius watched her expectantly until she eased herself down.
He went to the little stand beside it and poured her a glass of wine. “Do you enjoy the work you do for me, Ser Cauthrien?” he asked as he handed it to her, fingers brushing hers. She did not flinch, taking the glass and drinking deeply from it.
She gave him no answer, and he chuckled.
He leaned down, lips brushing her ear. Her eyes shuttered and she frowned. He had never been quite so bold, but the way his hand returned to her shoulder-
“Do you feel alone, Ser Cauthrien?”
Slowly, she nodded. She had felt alone since she had let her lord die. She had felt alone since she had been forced from Ferelden. She had felt alone… for longer than she cared to think. And now she felt cut off even from herself, from the good in her, the passion in her, everything human that made up her soul, her body.
“I can take that away from you, if you’d like.” He smiled against her ear, a curling of lips she could barely feel. And then he bit, and she jerked, wine spilling as blood ran down the curve of it. She opened her mouth to protest, tried to turn, but her limbs wouldn’t work.
She couldn’t move.
“I would make you other than you are,” he murmured, hands skimming down her shoulders and urging her slowly, inexorably to her feet. “I would take away the knowledge of what you have lost. I would make you anew, whole and undeniable. Would you give yourself to me?”
It was her voice but not herself that responded, “Yes.”
“Good. Then, to me. I will take even your name.”
She stepped forward, eyes fixed on the table. Danarius followed behind her, the patter of blood from a wound he must have opened on himself the only sound. Her hands touched the stone.
“You will go to sleep a broken woman. And I will raise you up a deadly serpent.”