Dana stood looking at the beautiful stained wood mural on the wall with its carved trees, flowers, birds, and hidden beasts. She swirled the glass of rosy wine in her hand, letting the floral smell fill her nostrils before taking a long pull of the mildly sweet and tangy liquid. The mural could be gawked at for days, and you would continue to spy something new at every hour.
Dana reached up her free hand to rub at her left brow, feeling a smooth scar that cut through her pale ashen brow. The scar reminded her every day of the hell she had gotten herself into just five years ago. The night she confronted Colin had changed her world drastically.
Colin forbid her from visiting her family and friends, saying they were trying to turn her against him. Of course, he did enough of that on his own. Dana had nearly lost her spirit then, falling into a hole of deep depression and constant fear. Joe had been the only one left that Colin had allowed her to interact with.
When Joe found Dana after that night, curled up under her blankets, shivering and weeping, bandaged and bruised, it broke his heart. She had told him everything. Joe felt so helpless to comfort his adopted daughter, he could not offer her sanctuary, and he could not say anything to make it better. As he wallowed in guilt at putting the sweetest girl in the worst hell possible, he swore he would find a way to give her some kind of freedom, something to help her keep her strength.
That was when he discovered the tunnel leading to her tower. A secret door led down the tower and into a sewer system that ran under the city. He could give her a chance at escape. However, when he offered Dana her chance to run away, she turned him down.
Dana instead chose to remain, knowing that if she ran, even if her love ones went into hiding with her, Colin would burn the city to the ground trying to find her. Therefore, she would stay. However, she would use the tunnel. She asked Joe to speak with Ed, to find an artist that could be trusted. Ed found a friend willing to help, and the mural was built. A beautiful secret, hiding her only escape.
She would use it whenever possible to meet her friends and family and speak with members of the Left Hand. She would also walk through the tunnels alone, trying to test her powers. The powers that awoke in her in that fateful day were a mystery to her, any she was not sure why they failed her in the end. Therefore, for years she tried to hone her powers. A near impossible task when you are not sure what you are capable of.
With years of pain and anger on her side, she came to a very simple conclusion. Her emotions, especially her rage, fueled her powers. And so, when she felt helpless and raged in the solitary dark, she practiced her hardest. The rage within her would find a physical form from her will, enough where she was able to form shields to push objects away from herself. She was even able to focus the rage so well, she could use small bursts of that same force to hit an object.
Many walls in the sewer tunnels of Wellingstone bared the scorched and gouged markings of her many long hours of practice and self-discovery. Each mark a reminder of her pain, some for every woman Colin would slip into the Manor to share his bed. A mark for every bruise and mark on her pale skin. A mark for every night she cried for her mother. A mark for every night she was taken by force. A mark for every night she wished to die. A mark for every one she loved and missed every day she could not slip away against her husband’s orders. A mark for her still very broken heart.
Dana turned away from the stained wood mural and walked to the bedside table. She downed the last pull of wine, set the crystal glass down gently, begrudgingly placed on her wedding ring, and took the wool shawl from her bed, wrapping it over her shoulders. She ran her fingers over the elegant crochet work of the rich indigo wool.
Softer than any sheep wool, the ahuizotl river dog was a stunning and fierce beast with the silkiest fur along its petite body. Long waterproof locks of curling fur were highly prized in the southern reigns of Awica, where humans would trap or raise the fierce beasts for their exquisite waterproof wool. Dana had seen one of the animals at a shop, raised for its wool like many others, it’s almost human like paws would rifle through its owners belongings in search of small crabs.
The shop owner gave Dana a small treat to feed the river dog. She giggled at the feel of its tiny fingers opening her hands to find its treat, and as it nosily munched away, she ran her hand over its silver and black striped main. The creature’s tail swishing back and forth happily, its hair so long that its tail was twice its own body length.
The owner offered Dana its next batch of wool for whatever her heart desired. Dana, accepting the offer, promised to pay top price so long as she could return and feed the river dog again. With how lovely and charming the creature was, Dana almost could not believe the creature to have a fierce bone in its tiny body, until the owner showed her the scars of past sheering.
Dana smiled at the memory. Today would be a good day as well. While the weather promised rain, she would be out in the city doing what she was meant to do. She often went to the hospital and even poor houses to help anyone she could from bringing in hot meals, to helping heal the minds of the broken. While she would often face tragic and painful situations, she never felt more fulfilled like when she could make a difference in a person’s life, even in the smallest way.
On her trips into the city for her charity work, she was assigned at least two guards as protection, according to Colin and other members of the Arcane Order. However, she was certain it was to insure she stayed away from her friends and family on her outings.
While she would leave the manor with a solemn look, once the car left the gates, she could finally breath, watching the statue of the naked man and woman in their intimate embrace fade from sight.
The young soldier who sat in the back reflected back her smile. The lad had come from Zecroybia less than a year back, sent to Awica for his first tour of duty. A comfortable job that many would appreciate. The boy, who was maybe a year younger than Dana, had been very kind to her, despite the language barrier. The boy, Alabaster, struggled with learning the new language.
Dana flashed an even brighter smile back at the soldier. “Why are you smiling?” She asked with a soft laugh.
The boy pondered her words for a moment. Her accent, being from SvalvÍk, made her somewhat harder to understand. However, Dana was patient with him, and he appreciated it. After a long moment, Alabaster grinned wider, his white teeth bright against his naturally sun kissed skin. “It is good day with Drottning.” He nodded proudly.
Dana nodded politely. “It’s a good day with you, too, Alabaster.”
The boy sat up, his teal green eyes sparkling with pride. “Much honor, Drottning.”
Dana blushed, smiling shyly and gazed out the window to watch for the hospital. It did not take long for the white walls to come into view. Every time she came, she never knew what she was walking into. Some days were harder than others were. A string of plague cases sweeping through the city from time to time. A traumatic reminder for many who had to watch their loved one’s die painfully during the war.
While the doctors worked to fight the plague, it seemed to always be changing, and yet, always the same. This kept doctors from being able to truly stop the mysterious disease. All they could do was comfort the dying and pry they could save some. Dana often saw her mother in the faces of the infected, a pain that would be drawn upon with every death. However difficult, she never stopped coming.
As the car pulled to the hospital visitor doors, Alabaster stepped out quickly, turning to Dana and bowing, his right hand over his back and his left hand held out for her to take. She took his hand delicately and stepped out, pulling her indigo shawl tight against the chill of the day.
Alabaster stood over a foot taller than Dana, but she was used to being the smallest in nearly every situation. Tipping his hat to her slightly, giving her a glimpse of light hazelnut hair under his black hat, she smiled up at him and nodded before walking forward through the hospital doorway, their companion soldier, silent as a specter, only a few feet behind.
Dana walked into the large waiting room, a smell hitting her she knew all too well. Bile and blood filled her nostrils, and she could almost swear she could smell the salt of the sea with it. Dana reached into the pocket of her lilac cross-top dress and she raised a small white cloth to her face.
Alabaster let out a rough cough that made him gag. “Is death. Drottning must go.”
Dana shook her head, taking the cloth from her face. “If it’s the plague than I’ll be fine, it’s you I fear for.”
Alabaster did not seem to hear her as he watched a doctor approach. “My Drottning.” The doctor bowed slightly. “You shouldn’t be here today. There’s an outbreak in the poorhouse, its killing faster than we’ve seen before.”
Dana looked past the doctor to the door leading into the hospital’s emergency area. “How fast is it?”
The doctor looked over his shoulder at the emergency doors, looking distressed with sweat on his brow and dark rings around his eyes. “It’s hard to say how long the infection takes to show symptoms, but most are gone in just a day’s time.”
Dana could feel the fear and terror all around her from everybody in the room. She turned to Alabaster and patted his arm. “Go to the car and wait for me, I’ll be fine.”
Alabaster cocked his head like a confused hound. “I stay with. You go, I go.”
Looking just behind him, Dana could see that the guard with them had already backed out of the hospital doors and stood anxiously at the door.
Dana considered his words, she did not want him to get sick, but he was just as stubborn as she was. Accommodations would be made. She turned to the doctor. “Do you have any protection for my friend?”
The doctor frowned and shook his head. He shoved a hand into the pocket of his white coat and pulled out a simple cloth face cover. “This is the best I can offer, and it’s no guarantee he won’t get sick anyway.” He handed the cloth to the soldier.
Alabaster examined it with a deep frown before looking at Dana. “You go, I go.” He told her again. Dana nodded and followed the doctor into the emergency center with Alabaster at her side, the pale cloth tied loosely over his nose and mouth.
Following at the doctor’s heals, Dana felt overwhelmed by the smells of death and disease, the sounds of pain and loss, and the emotions that hung in the air like foul incense smoke. The doctor spoke, and Dana found it hard to focus on his words.
“…no normal disease…”
As the doctor marched on, Dana stopped at a bed where a little girl lay, still as stone and just as gray. Her wide eyes focused on the ceiling, unblinking. Dana stood and watched the little girl, wishing she could see her frail chest rise, or a delicate finger twitch. The girl’s dark curly hair spilling over the pillow around her made he thing of her mother. Just as still and just as gray. Dana almost quivered with the anticipation of some movement, but never came. With the world around her gone but for this moment, Dana moved closer, only to be pulled back just as she noticed the dried blood at the corners of the little girls lips and eyes.
Dana turned to see Alabaster looking at the child with a sorrowful look. Silent as the grave yard, he simply led Dana away and steered her back into the path the doctor led. Dana did not fight against his firm, yet gentle grip at her arm. She knew he only wanted to spare her the horror of the plague.
As they moved to catch up with the doctor, Dana heard a loud pop. The sound was loud in the narrow hall, enough to leave her deafened for an agonizing moment . As the noise rang through the hall, she felt as though she had been punched in the shoulder so hard she nearly fell backwards. Stunned, she righted herself and looked at Alabaster. His teal eyes were wide and full of fear. Seconds turned into hours as Alabaster took Dana by the arms and pulled her close, she felt like they might be dancing for a moment as he twirled her around in the hall. Dana began to pull herself away from his embrace, the pain in her shoulder faded as the adrenaline took over.
Dana almost smiled at the observatory of dancing in a hall with Alabaster. Like a splash of ice water to wake her, she watched as the sides of Alabaster’s throat burst, blood spraying as he pulled her down to the ground with him, still trying to shield her as he slumped into her.
The world suddenly seemed to catch up to real time speed as she sat with Alabaster’s torso in her lap. With his head on her stomach, Dana pressed her hands over his bleeding neck as he gasped for air. Around her, people ran in all directions, screaming, but it all sounded so far away. All she could hear was the gasping breath of the young man.
Straining to keep her back off the ground, she held tight to his neck, whispering something inaudible even to her. She saw Alabaster swallow hard, blood leaking out the corners of his lips. His lips quivered and she strained closer to hear him.
Alabaster choked on the blood for a moment. With all his remaining strength he gargled roughly, “Long live Drottning.”
Dana stood over the body of the young man who died to protect her. He lay so peaceful in his black with red trim uniform, as though she had only caught him napping on the job. The mourners had cleared the hall, leaving Dana alone in the still of the massive hall, the dragon skull looming above them, watching through hollow sockets.
Dana placed a hand on the young man’s icy cheek and tried to smile, fighting back her tears. “Forgive me, Alabaster.” It hurt. She truly cared for the young man and considered him a friend.
She felt the ache of her shoulder as she leaned her head to the side to examine the wound on his neck. Curious, she let her fingers pull down the collar of his uniform to see the stitching that sealed the bullet holes. Jerking her hand away, Dana sniffed hard several times to keep her nose from running as the tears overwhelmed her.
Alabaster would return home to his family across the Turbul sea to rest in his home town in Zecroybia. She could picture a rolling hill, lush with soft grass and spotted with yellow flowers, freckling the landscape. She imagined a pale stone at the tip of the hill, marking his final resting place, where his spirit could watch the fields come alive in the bright spring morning as the deer grazed and the birds sang his name in the wind.
A fantasy, pleasant as it was. She knew nothing of what would happen to him once his casket boarded to the next ship to cross the Turbul sea. Even so, she had no doubt his family would be grateful to have their son back to rest among his own.
Dana’s eyes blurred more. She squeezed her eyes tight and let the tears fall freely, sniffing hard. The fantasy was blown away like a plume of smoke as the sound of familiar sauntering footfalls filled the hall. Her shoulders tensed -painfully at her wound- as Colin approached, standing just behind her. She dared not turn to look at him. She hated letting him see her cry.
Her breath grew shallow as she felt his lean body press against her, his breath hot against her neck. “Since when do you cry for a soldier of the Order?” He asked, his voice a husky whisper.
Dana lifted her chin, her jaw clenched painfully. She feared and loathed his touch, his very presence making her stomach clench painfully. Her breath shook as she tried to remain composed.
Colin nuzzled her hair, smelling the sweet notes of peach, vanilla, and musk from her perfume. He placed his lips against her ear. “Handsome young man, wasn’t he? I’ll bet you let him fuck you senseless. Why else would you cry for him?”
Dana’s upper lip twitched as she fought a snarl. “Your foul.”
Colin licked Dana’s earlobe, pressing himself harder against her. Growing hard, he ground himself against her back. He began to pull the black lace dress up her thigh a finger at a time. “And your a little whore, aren’t you?”
Hot tears rolled down her eyes. She wanted to run away, but if she tried, he would only hurt her worse. “Please, stop.” She pleaded.
Colin took her wounded shoulder and gave it a squeeze, making her whimper in pain. She had to buckle her knees to keep from dropping to the marble floor. “How about I bend you over his corpse and show you what a whore you are?”
Before Dana could so much as breath, a familiar voice saved her from his sadistic pleasures. “My Kongur, Dr. Vlach’s war dog has arrived.” She had never been so glad to hear the cocky voice of Martin Altair.
Colin straightened his black slacks and adjusted himself to hide his hunger. “The traitor has finally returned. Splendid.” Colin clapped once before he waved his friend off. He turned back to Dana. “Come, dear, your body guard has arrived.”
Dana turned her head only slightly to see Colin out of the corner of her eye. “Body guard?” She asked skeptically.
Colin smiled. “Oh course, we don’t want another attempt on your life, do we? I had the good doctor bring in his little assassin. Who better to protect you from an assassin than another assassin?” He let out a dry chuckle.
Dana turned her head to look at her husband better with a cold glance. “What do you care? I figured you’d be thrilled at the prospect of my death.”
Colin waved his finger at her and tisked. “Now, now, sweet wife. You’re not entirely so disposable. No, come. Meet your new guard dog.” Colin held out his arm for her to take.
Reluctantly, she placed her arm in his as he lead her from the hall. A heavy wave of exhaustion hit Dana, leaving her with a hallow feeling. She felt to tired and weary to feel her usual disgust at her husband’s touch.
Colin guided his solemn wife from the hall and walked her towards the central tower. All the while he spoke excitedly about something Dana was tuning out. She kept her eyes ahead, and allowed her mind to drift as she was aimlessly led to her husbands work office in the central tower. Typically a place she dreaded, but with the promise of so many people waiting for them, she felt safer than if she was alone with Colin.
Upon entering Colin’s office, Dana scanned the room quickly. She saw Dr. Isadore Vlach talking to Martin and two other soldiers Dana had not seen before, or at least could not recall. Standing at the center of the group of men stood a tall man as still as stone and clad in all black. A heavy black hood hid his eyes from sight. At his face was a hand crafted black leather mask shaped to look like a wolf snarl. More black leather fit tight along the man’s barrel chest and waist. Tight black cloth filled in the gaps around his muscular arms and legs. A sniper rifle rest over the man’s stiff back. Dana took a moment to peak at the mans belt and spotted at least one dagger hilt and a pistol hidden under the black cloak.
As Dana drew closer to the strange man, under the heavy cloak wrapping around his shoulders and neck, she saw something that gave her pause. The man’s left hand looked to be armored in a metal claw glove of black and blue steel. However, as Colin urged her closer, she realized the clawed metal glove was a prosthetic, as she looked closer, she could see the outline under the black fabric over the entirety of the arm and his shoulder, jagged and powerful, clearly heavier than the right arm with the way the man stood, his weight shifted to his right to find balance.
Dana did not hear her husband addressing her she tried to get a closer look at the left hand. She straightened herself and looked to Colin. “I’m sorry?”
“Surely you know the story of Isadore’s war dog?” Colin smiled mischievously, a terrible glimmer in his icy blue eyes.
Dana could sense the malice, and returned a look of confusion and annoyance back to her husband. Like a giddy child, Colin moved up to the dark stranger, staining only inches away from the man. Dana noticed the man stood a few inches taller than Colin, and for some reason, found it amusing.
“Awica’s very own traitor. He joined the Arcane Order and took the ritual, like us.” He grinned at Dana and turned to look at the man. “Killed his own. And together, we won the war by killing the Alliance Transcendents.”
“He’s a Transcendent?” Dana asked, drawing closer to try and see the man’s eyes.
“The only other to survive the ritual.” Spoke Isadore Vlach. “We recovered him from a landslide, probably caused by some blast. His entire arm was crushed, the shoulder was badly damaged at well. We were able to save him, and after the ritual, we were able to replace his lost limb with a metal-dragon scale prosthetic.” The doctor proudly took the stranger’s arm and showed it to Dana closely.
“The blue, that’s dragon scale formed to fit with the metal. The scale is far stronger than any material we could hope to use. And you see, here,” Isadore bent the arm awkwardly, revealing strange marking along the inside of the wrist, hidden under the blue scale. “Our witch was able to create ruins that allow the soldier to cast with the arm. His very touch can generate heat, cold, even electricity! Its incredibly powerful!” Isadore nearly hopped with excitement, his eyes comically wide behind his bottle glassed.
Colin turned to Dana, still grinning wickedly. “Makes for quite the effective assassin. Isadore is the handler for our dog of war, here.” Colin placed a hand on the man’s black clad shoulder and shook him, barely moving the man’s arm.
Dana found it odd when the man made no reaction to the talk around him. Seeing the man make no reaction to touch gave her pause. She cautiously drew close.
Colin watched Dana starring at the man like a curious child, and took hold of the man’s heavy black hood. With a effortless tug, he revealed the man hidden in cloth mystery. A wave of thick brown hair fell forward, a main falling just at the man’s broad shoulders.
While the leather wolf mask hid most of his face, Dana was finally able to look into his hooded eyes, looking into a set of doll like steel blue eyes. Dana drew ever closer and reached out with her mind to touch the strangers. It was like nothing was behind those captivating eyes and thick brows. But that wasn’t possible, no one was a hollow shell. As she tried to prod deeper, suddenly sensing something like a spark in a dark room, she was interrupted.
“…will be yours to command,” Spoke Isadore Vlach with a smile.
Dana looked at the doctor and blinked, confused. “Command?” She asked.
Isadore Vlach excitedly took Dana’s hand, then took the hand of the assassin, placing his at the bottom and Dana’s on top. “Yes, I give you command of him until I must claim him back. Until than, he is yours. He will obey and protect you at any cost, my Drottning.” Isadore released their hands, leaving Dana’s hand awkwardly on top of the assassin’s remaining human hand.
Letting her hand fall away, she looked to Colin to see his reaction. “Fear not, my dear, you are in the best of hands. No one shall harm you.”
Dana wanted to ask, “No one?” She dared not provoke her husband’s wrath. Instead, she dipped her head and lightly curtsied. “Thank you, my Kongur.”
Colin gave her one of his charming smiled, the smiles that used to fill her stomach with fluttering wings. Now, they made her feel sick at the very pit of her being, stirring hate and fear within. “Of course, my love. Now, if you will, you may retreat for the evening with your new dog. I believe my wife has had a long day.”
Dana excused herself polity, and as she moved to the door, so did the strange man, without so much as a summons. The man remained at her side in deafening silence as they walked from the central tower and back to hers.
As soon as they were safely alone in the sanctuary of her room, Dana paused. She studied the man as he stood still as stone making no move to even examine the room around him. Everything about him was unnatural and inhuman, but Dana couldn’t believe that was all there was to the stranger.
She stood facing the tall masked man. His hair hanging in his face like a brown vial. His hooded steel blue eyes held her captive as she tried to search them. No person could be so without emotion like this. She knew as everyone did that the man was trained as an assassin, but there should still be something to feel. He did not back away as she inched ever closer, trying to find something she was certain she glimpsed before. Something was hidden away inside the man, and she felt a pull to it.
As her hands rose, she stopped. “Could I… may I take off the mask?” She asked in a whisper.
The man stared at her for a long time, no sound or movement made. Slowly, she moved her hands to his face as she stood on her tiptoes, waiting for him to stop her. Very carefully, she pushed back the strands of his dark brown hair and delicately let her fingers search for the release for the leather mask. Watching his eyes, he held perfectly still for her. When her fingertips found purchase on a small clasp, she carefully worked at it until she felt a release.
The leather wolf muzzle mask slacked and she carefully took hold of the black mask and pulled it away from the man’s face. Not looking away, she delicately set it onto the table at her side. Under the mask was the clean shaved face of a man who looked to be in his mid to late thirties. His face was a square shape, with a slight dimple on his chin. His jaw seemed to relax slightly at the freedom, his lips a soft pink. His nose was straight and more narrow towards the tip, his cheekbones high and narrow, giving him hollow cheeks.
Dana gasped softly. She was surprised by how handsome the man was. She had expected to discover some rough, scar covered soldier under the mask, but the man before her was quite comely to look at. She waited to see if he would react, but he still made no movement. She could not shake the feeling that something called to her from behind the cold stare. Like a song that she could only hear if she could silence her own heartbeat.
Carefully she reached up one hand, and again, he did not move to stop her. It was as if part of him wanted her to touch him. She reached up to his face again, this time letting her long fingers slip into his brown mane and touch his temple. There she felt it, a part of him lost in his own mind.
He had likely been a prisoner of his own mind for many years, isolated and helpless with only a small window of the eyes to watch the outside world move on without him. She could feel hopelessness and longing from the imprisoned mind.
Dana had never come across a mind that caged its own consciousness like a bird in a cage. It was a terrifying possibility. She couldn’t imagine how something so horrible could happen to someone. What could have happened to be imprisoned in his own mind?
She reached out, unlocking the cage in his mind and taking hold of the man within and gently led him forward. As she pulled him forward she could hear the laughter of children calling out to the boy lost in his own mind. She could feel the joy and the connection he felt to the voices that called to him. Much like a lullaby sung from afar. Dana pulled the man out of his cage and freed his mind.
The man let out a sudden gasp and stumbled backward, falling to the floor with a heavy clatter as his weapons hit the wall. The man let out heavy breaths, panting hard. Startled by the reaction, Dana had to keep herself composed as to not frighten the man further. As Dana knelt down, she saw heavy tears run down the man’s terrified face.
Slowly setting herself to her knees, Dana held out a hand to the man. “Shhh… you’re safe. No one’s going to hurt you.” She kept her voice low and calm.
The man looked at her, blinking away the tears. “You… How? What did you do to me?” The man spoke in an Awican accent, which again, startled Dana. While he was Awican born she still didn’t expect it.
Dana sat up onto her black heals, a strange position in the knee length black dress and heels. “I pulled you forward into your mind. I knew you weren’t just some mindless soldier.” Proud of herself, she smiled. Realizing the inappropriateness of the smile and her pride, she let it slip away as she watched his face.
He shook slightly. “I remember everything… I remember you.” He let out a shaking sigh.
Dana nodded, trying to hide her excitement. “That’s good, that means part of you was still able to observe what you were made to do.”
The man looked her in the eyes. “What they did to me… What I did… I…” He trailed off.
Nodding, Dana looked at the man with sympathetic eyes. She concluded that the man had been warped and likely brainwashed into this roll. “You’re safe. I know what they did to you, and I won’t let them hurt you anymore.” She maneuvered herself to sit more comfortably on the cold marble floor, tucking her legs to the side. “What’s your name?”
The man looked around the room for a moment. “It’s, uh, Redford… Broderick Redford.” He looked down at himself and examined the heavy metal and dragon scale arm more closely. The iridescent colors shifted in the low light.
Dana watched him closely, realizing how overwhelmed he must be. “I’m sorry this is a shock, and it will be hard to fully grasp for a while, but if you let me, I’ll help you.”
He looked up at her. He mulled the notion over for a moment. He knew there was no one he could put his trust in anymore. He could not even be sure if he could trust this woman; however, he knew he was out of options. He nodded once, showing that, for the time, he would accept her offer. “Ok… What do you need me to do?”
Dana gave him a kind smile. She could sense the unease, and honestly could not blame him. She would simply have to prove herself trustworthy. “Right now, I want you to try and relax. We can figure this out one day at a time. Ok? Is it ok if I call you Brody?” She asked, reaching for a small peace offering.
He swallowed hard and nodded. No one had called him Brody sense before the war, it was strange and yet comforting to hear form this stranger. “Yeah.”
She gave him a genuine smile, feeling a small wisp of hope. “Can I get you into some regular cloths for the night?” She motioned to the leather and armor suit, guns and knives harnessed all over his belt and back.
Broderick blinked at her, giving her a confused look. “We’re staying here?” He glanced about her quarters, her room alone was the size of a large apartment, it even came with its own bath and shower room, a small library and reading nook, and balcony. A large couch was at one end of the room while the large bed stood at the other end.
“It’s safe,” Dana explained. “I keep the door locked. No one will come in without my say, and I have a way to sneak out if I needed to.” She whispered, flashing a knowing smile and winked, sharing her secret in confidence without fear.
Broderick watched her stand, taken aback by her strange and seemingly trusting manor. “Why would you help me?”
Dana’s face fell as she stopped and looked over her shoulder at the man on the floor. The tone of her voice changed, stressing the seriousness. “Because I can’t sit by and watch the Order destroy more lives.”
Broderick raised a dark brow at her remark. “Then why not leave?”
Dana folded her arms over her chest and hunched over slightly, as though suddenly cold. “It’s… Complicated.” She let out a heavy sigh and walked to the wall only feet from the bathroom entrance. On the wall was a woodcarving of a forest scenery with birds and flowers on the branches, animals sneaking through the trees, in all different shades and colors of stained wood polished beautifully.
Dana pressed one finger into the center of one of the purple stained flowers and a door opened from the wall. She turned her head and smiled at Broderick. “I’ll bring some cloths for you, just relax and don’t leave.” She slipped onto the space and disappeared.
Broderick remained seated on the floor and stared at the door, transfixed. He waited for less than ten minutes before Dana came back with a dark skinned fragile looking man walking behind her. Both were walking in with handfuls of clothing side by side. They walked to the couch and set everything down. Dana walked the elderly man back to the door, her arm holding his intimately and whispered something to him that Broderick could not make out before slipping through the door and out of sight again. Dana closed the secret door and walked over to Broderick.
She knelt down in front of him and gave him an assuring smile. “Don’t worry, he’s a friend.” Dana held out a delicate hand to Broderick.
Broderick looked at her hand for a moment. Her long fingers looked elegant with the long rounded, unpainted nails. three out of five fingers were adorned with narrow banded silver and rose gold rings with precious stones of blue sapphire and amethyst on her fingers. He reached out and placed his large, rough right hand in hers, but did not use her to help himself up.
Dana noticed but gave no reaction. “You can change out of all this,” She waved to his armor. “Feel free to use the bathroom to try some clothes on. I’ll wait.”
Broderick walked to the couch and glanced at the cloths. Very casual style, such as plain shirts and dark pants. Everything seemed like it might fit fairly well. He picked up a gray shirt and some black slacks and began to walk to the bathroom. He turned to see Dana sitting on her bed, watching him closely.
Broderick clenched his jaw, mulling over his mistrust. He did not like how she seemed to observe him like many of the scientists and such who would observe his every move. “What do you intend to do with me?” He asked dryly.
Dana looked genuinely taken aback by the question. She smiled and scoffed. “I don’t intend to do anything with you. I wanted to free you. However, I think you should stay with me until we can right the wrongs we’ve done here.”
Broderick looked at her curiously. What wrongs could a small and delicate lady like her commit? “What do you mean?” He asked slowly.
Dana looked at her hands. “If we want to stop all this, we have to do it from the inside. I need you to play the role of my bodyguard. You’ll be safe here with me, and we can figure out how to save others. Because if we were out there,” She pointed out the window to the city lights outside. “We would be powerless and on the run. We have a chance to fix things here.” Dana paused and looked at Broderick. “Think on it, and if you want to go, I won’t stop you.”
Broderick furrowed his brow and looked at her for a moment before walking into the bathroom to change. It took him a while to take everything off and put on very different cloths. The shirt was tight over his arms and chest, and the slacks were slightly loose, but that was better than being to tight over his muscular thighs. When he looked in the mirror, he smiled, pleased with the result. He looked almost like he used to when he was young, before the war, before the nightmare his life had become.
He gathered his armor and weapons, keeping everything together to make it faster to put on if needed. He had been thinking about what Dana had been saying, and really, she was not wrong. He also wanted to right the wrongs he committed over the years as the assassin they made him to be.
When he stepped out of the bathroom, he saw Dana in a white full-length nightgown, he hesitated as he saw that the fabric was somewhat translucent. He could see the outline of her hourglass shaped body and the shape of her large breasts and the soft blush of her nipples.
He cleared his throat and looked away to the window. “I, uh, I want to join you. In your plan that is.” He felt his face grow warm.
Dana noticed his reaction and walked to her cedar wood armoire and picked out a thick robe of soft purple velvet, and wrapped herself tight. “I’m glad to hear it. I could use a friend here, I’m afraid my welcome is wearing thin.”
Broderick looked over at her curiously. “What do you mean?”
“They assigned you to me because someone tried to kill me, and while they claim it’s the rebels of the Left Hand that tried to kill me, I know that’s not true.” She walked to the now cleared couch and sat at the end. She patted the spot at her side.
Broderick set his armor beside the couch and sat down at the far edge of the couch, looking at her cautiously. “How do you know it wasn’t a rebel attack?”
Dana inhaled deeply and exhaled slowly, her breath shaky. “Because, I work with them.”