Judith's Background, Complete
The rank stench of death and decay surrounded the....thing. It looked like it had begun as a dog, perhaps a wolf, but it was so decomposed that it was hard to tell. In her eight years of life, Judith had never seen the like, though she'd heard stories.
It shuffled toward her, two of it's legs not working well. She might have been afraid if it weren't so pathetic, so obviously unable to do harm. Pity stirred in her, an unfamiliar feeling. It stirred her to reach for the thing, stroke it's remaining clumps of fur, watch in surprise as the thing strengthened under her hand. It raised it's head and looked at her, milky white eyes slowly clearing until they reached a closer resemblance to what they'd been like in life.
Ahh.....as their gazes locked, she felt a jolt of recognition. This had not happened by chance. Her little dance with the unknown, her need to explore the dark urgings of her mind, they had caused this. She, Judith, controlled this beast that had recovered enough of itself to be identified as a wolf.
Oh, it still looked dead. She looked at it appraisingly, proud that she had brought it to her, even though the thing still had only patches of hair and flesh that could only be described as diseased. But it was hers. Nothing had been hers since her brat of a sister Shauna was born, and very little before that. Every night she shared a blanket with the sniveling child, listening to her whimpers as night arrived, and Judith often made a game of scaring her further. If she made her scream, her mother would come get Shauna and take her to the bed she shared with their father, and Judith would be able to sleep in peace.
Ah, that gave her an idea.
She walked back down the path she'd taken that morning, taking care to keep her new plaything out of sight. Their hut was the closest to the edge of their village. Simple enough to sneak her wolf in, hide it behind the cloth her mother made for the women in the village. She and Shauna slept in the main room, the only other room in their hut was her parent's sleeping area. It would be perfect for scaring her sister in the night, and if she kept her wits about her, she might even scare her enough that she would refuse to sleep anywhere except with their mother.
Smiling, Judith left, knowing that if she didn't bring back the cotton and berries her mother had sent her out for that there would be consequences.
Screams sounded through the air as she approached the village again, her pouches full of the materials her mother needed. She paused, listened, then broke into a run as she recognized her mother's cry. Berries that had been so carefully picked, so gently put into her pouch, were bounced uncaringly within their container as she ran, their crushed skins leaking the bright red color her mother prized so highly.
As she topped the hill, her village came into view. The normal seeming day was shattered with red, the bright red of her mother's favorite gown, the dark red that even as she watched, spread quickly over the brighter color, replacing life with death. The wolf....the wolf snarled on top of the dress, human feet twitching underneath it, head buried in the dress, buried in the two reds, ripping it's way into her mother's body. Men on either side hacked at it, desperately trying to kill what was already dead.
"Stop!" The cry forced it's way through Judith's dry throat as she ran to save her mother, surely she could save her, stop her beast from killing the woman that cared for her. With her cry, the wolf looked up at her with it's snout covered in blood, swallowed what was in it's mouth. Then it trotted to her side and gave her an unrestricted view of it's work.
She fell to her knees, retching, no, this couldn't have happened, not today, not....
Hands grabbed her roughly and spun her around, turned her to look at her father's face, grief and rage combined to form a mask of hatred that beat at her as harshly as his fists. She fell before him and he started kicking her, screaming that she had killed his wife, calling her words that she'd never heard before. She sobbed helplessly as one kick snapped her arm, and then her father's screaming turned from rage to pain and terror. Her wolf was on him, savaging the arm he'd thrown up in front of his face. Her vision swam but she managed a whisper, telling the wolf to die, die and stay dead, dead forever.
It died, for the second time, and stayed dead.
Her father advanced on her again, but now there were hands restraining him, and angry faces. She couldn't understand why they were yelling at him, they should be angry with her, shouldn't they? But she couldn't hold on to that thought, the pain in her arm dragged her down to a dark place and she went gladly. Anything to get away from the hate in her father's face.
Judith woke later in a wagon, the bumping pace jarring her splinted arm into agony. Another followed hers and she could see her father glaring at her from it, in chains. Swallowing, she turned to her wagon's driver and was surprised to see one of Set's priests there.
"I see that you're awake, little one." His voice was kind, but his eyes were appraising her and she squirmed under his gaze. "I suppose you have some questions."
The statement was just that, an invitation to speak but not a demand. Judith swallowed and asked, "Where are we going? Why is my father chained up like that?"
The man let his regard turn to the road ahead of them, and answered without looking at her. "You've shown that you have talent that should be developed, so I'm taking you somewhere that you can be trained in it. As for your father....he shouldn't have hurt you."
"But my mother..."
"Child, there is no justification for beating a child! He will be punished, and rightly so."
She was afraid to ask, but had to know. "Punished in what way?"
He looked at her again, his smile seeming cruel in the waning light that signaled the end of the day. "Why, Set always needs more sacrifices made in His name. Your father shall find worth again in his death."
Judith couldn't speak. They rode towards Khmer, towards the setting sun, and she thought about the sister she'd left behind.
She hoped that she would at least have a place to sleep by herself, wherever she was going.
The sun beat on the heads of the onlookers like a living thing, forcing their bodies to sacrifice much-needed moisture in an effort to stay cool. Judith stood watching, dry-eyed, as her father was led up the steps to the altar waiting for him.
She had shed her last tears for him already. The night before, after constant pleas on her part, the guardians had reluctantly agreed to let her speak with him a final time before his return to Set. He had turned his face to the light when the door opened to his cell and she was brought in, but once he saw it was her he turned his back.
"Father...." He said nothing, she tried again. "Father, I... I never meant for any of that to happen, please believe me, I miss Mama, I wish she were still alive.." Babbling her apologies, begging the man who'd always been in her life to talk to her, look at her, love her, she was stunned into silence when his roar of rage cut her off.
"ENOUGH! Is it not enough that you killed my wife? Must you hound me in my final hours as well? You are a miserable child, I should have drowned you at birth! When Lenya came to me so long ago, you growing like an infestation in her belly, I should have offered to pay the priest to rip you out of her rather than use it as an excuse to wed her."
Judith cringed as he advanced, every word a poisoned dart shot at her with malice. One guard moved her out of the room while the other stayed inside, but she could still hear his voice shouting at her as the door closed.
"Did you think I didn't know what you were about? Always chanting, always spying, always ready to hurt those around you. When I realized what you were doing to Shauna at night I should have killed you, disposed of you like the rubbish you are!"
Rhythmic thuds sounded from behind the door as the guard who'd remained with her moved her down the hall, and she realized her father was being beaten. The last words he said were almost indecipherable between his sudden sobbing and grunts of pain.
"Oh Lord, I want my Shauna. I want my daughter."
The guard led her back to the room she shared with three other girls. He didn't look at her and she was glad for it, shamed to have had him hear....that. She didn't understand everything her father had said, but she got enough.
She walked into the tiny room, ignored the other girls staring curiously at her, and lay on her bedroll facing the wall. After a while she started shaking, crying, coming to terms with the fact that the father she'd loved, hated her, wanted her dead before she was born.
After a longer while the shaking stopped, and the tears as well. She lay there, committing his words to memory, knowing that someday she would be able to understand everything he'd said.
So now under the blazing sun, her father came to the altar, the flaming braziers on either side an open manifestation of the heat that pulsed through the desert day. She watched with empty eyes as he was laid on the stone slab, watched the reflected light flash off the knife as it descended within her hand....watched the triumphant way the priest beside her raised her father's still beating heart over his head. The body twitched, spasmed as it's blood ran down the stone in rivulets, bathing it in dedication to Set.
I want my Shauna......
The priests collected the body, and Judith took note of the direction they went with it.
..........I want my daughter.
The moon was shy tonight, absent from the dark sky. Bawdy shouts sounded from nearby. prostitutes plying their trade, the occasional scuffle. The occasional outcry as a more sinister element went about their business.
Nothing stirred in the alley where Judith had set up her altar, the remains upon it decayed despite her best attempts at preserving them. Six years had passed since his death, and they'd taken their toll. Even though she'd done her best to dry the flesh out, to stop it from rotting away, wrapping it carefully once the desert had leeched the moisture and turned his skin to true leather....even so, this was the last time she could try this. His body was falling apart, and the risk of discovery grew greater every year.
She wanted answers though. Or, more precisely, one answer. His words had been committed to memory, a scar in her psyche that remained with her always....and one thing, one thing was painfully clear.
The man was not her father.
So....who? Who had put her in her mother's belly, who was it that shared her blood? Did he even know about her? Would he....care for her?
Judith shook her head, exasperated at the distraction of her thoughts. She merely wanted to know. If he cared for her, if he didn't....it didn't matter. And dwelling on it wouldn't help the issue at hand.
Breathe in.......eyes closed, thoughts centered on the spark of undeath within the body before her.
Exhale....open her eyes and anoint his forehead with the oil she'd mixed earlier with her first moon's blood. Forehead, eyes, throat, each touch of it causing that spark to flare, come closer to the surface. Bind more tightly to her. Her blood called to him, her promise of life wrapping around the tiny remnant of self that resided in all bodies, pulling it to her, forcing it to merge with her.
Dead leathery hands scrabbled at the altar, the body twitching in reaction before her. Every time she had tried to bring him back before, he had resisted her. Of course that hadn't stopped her from forcing him to rise, move about....but the dead don't talk. There hadn't been enough of self in him to understand why she was frustrated when she couldn't get information from him, but she could feel a smugness in him when he sensed that he was the cause.
But her body had changed, ripened, and finally, two weeks ago she had produced the blood she'd been waiting a year for. Ever since her teacher had mentioned casually that blood of any type would bind the dead closer to a necromancer.
Her normal blood hadn't worked; this was a desperation measure. An experiment. A last attempt before giving up....so she had best make it worth it.
She pulled....chanted the words that would bring him to awareness, and pulled that spark to her. Into her, into her head, her thoughts, intent upon that one all-important answer.
But something was wrong. He came to her eagerly, spilled into her head like wine pouring into a goblet, filling her mind with disjointed images. Her daughter, lying broken before her, bleeding and begging for mercy. Her wife, dead upon the ground, her world shattered in an instant. Her other daughter, her bright heart, crying out for her Papa as they bound Judith's hands and bundled her into the wagon.
Wait...no. Not Judith's hands. His hands. She was losing herself to him, to what was left of him, and she fought it. Desperately she beat at the presence in her mind, pushing it into a corner, slamming it with her own experiences. The sneers of the highborn at the uneducated peasant who'd killed her mother. The teachers who let their hands linger too much, secure in the knowledge that there were no parents to defend her. The day she watched the priests cut his heart from his body.
He recoiled at that, and she pushed her advantage, demanding wordlessly for an image, a name, something of her true father.
Lenya....so lovely, so innocent, crying in front of her. Crying because of that trader, the one that had brought the dyes that Lenya had started experimenting with. Judith gritted her teeth, furious that the woman wouldn't even look at her....even as she comforted her, held her shaking form as she wept and cried that she would never love another.
Lenya turning to her, speaking the words that drove a spike through Judith's heart. "I gave myself to him....and he left when he found out I was with child. I don't know what to do."
Turning Lenya’s face to hers, kissing away her tears even as she vowed to kill Chandler with her bare hands. Giving thanks that now she had the leverage to force Lenya’s compliance.....
Judith fell back, her vision wavering between memory and reality. Brutally she flailed against the presence in her mind, too scared to wonder why he was so very strong, when his sense of self had been so weak before. Grudgingly, bit by bit he gave ground. She cast him out of herself, shoved him away, leaving her head pounding and her body shaking. The part of her that called to the dead throbbed and burned inside her mind.
Retching, she fell to the ground, only vaguely aware that the body she had animated was still moving. Leathery hands closed on her throat, squeezing, choking, causing sparkles to dot her vision.
Judith reached into the burning parts of her mind, disregarding the agony as she used it to shred what was left of him, that spark she'd awoken in the first place. He let go of her throat and toppled over, her body following a second later as she dragged breath after breath into her lungs.
She sat up, her hands holding her head to try to keep it from pounding apart. Gingerly she rose to her feet, walked out the alley. The cutpurse she'd hired to make sure she wasn't disturbed was still standing there, and she pressed another copper into his hand in thanks. This had been such a bad idea.
But she had her name.
The wares laid out before her were of good quality, excellent, even, but Judith couldn't concentrate on them. Her attention kept wandering to the man talking to the group of dockworkers, the one with the handsome, angular face, so like her own. Chandler.
He laughed at something one of them said, clapping his back in feigned affection. How did she know it wasn't real? Maybe he had affection for the man, perhaps they were close....but no. She could tell by the practiced smile, the controlled features. His was a face that would look...odd....when it laughed without reserve. The mouth would open too wide, the eyes would crinkle up, making it less attractive. Making it more...human. Friendly.
Nobody had seen Judith's version of that face in a long, long time.
She had hidden away the last time he was in town. Oh, she told herself at the time that she was studying him, seeing what kind of man he was...but no. She'd been hiding. It had been two years since he last came, though, and she was done with her training. Nine years had passed since she came here...nine years of study and practice and never letting anyone see inside.
She had decided to go home, back to her village, back to Shauna....back to see if there was something to salvage from her life before. But first, first she wanted to talk to this man...this man who shared her face, her mannerisms. She had to know.
Finally, he was done, leaving the dockworkers to go back to his wagon, back to where Judith waited. The two guards that traveled with him were sleeping in makeshift chairs, their services unnecessary within the town's limits. It was just the two of them, and he walked to her with a welcoming smile, bowing slightly as he stopped in front of her.
"Greetings, my lady. My apologies for not seeing to you earlier, but I wanted to run off those men before they realized what a beauty stood before them." His words made Judith chuckle...if she hadn't known before, she would easily be able to tell that this man was a merchant of some sort. "Such a gem as yourself deserves fine silks and jewelry, luxurious items that will show what a treasure you truly are."
Had her mother truly been with this glib man? Judith allowed him to lead her to the silks, letting the smooth material slide between her fingers before looking at him. She swallowed, unsure where to start. "You must have been doing this a very long time, you have such quality items."
His smile turned smug, self-congratulatory. "Thank you, lovely lady. Did you see this shade of green? It would make your eyes look stunning."
She picked up a bright red silk instead, the color bringing back memories. "Actually, I like this one. It reminds me of the cloth my mother used to make...."
"Ah, another good color for you. It will make your skin look like smooth cream," he replied, his voice losing it's jovial tone slightly. Judith ignored his words.
Swallowing the lump in her throat, she took the cloth, and raised her eyes to meet his. "Perhaps you remember her...? Her name was Lenya."
She saw his face pale, saw the way the muscles flinched around his eyes. Saw the way his attention went to her nose, her eyes, her jaw, finding the features that matched his so well.
Abruptly he turned, shouting to his hired men to wake up, get ready to move out. They woke groggily, and he turned back to Judith as they grumbled and packed up the goods for sale.
His voice came out in a hiss, the words for her alone. "I don't know what you want. I told Lenya that I had no desire for children then, and I still don't. So don't come looking to me for anything, girl."
She whispered, unable to speak out loud. "My name is Judith."
He bared his teeth at her, leaning in close, his breath a pleasantly fragrant mixture of opium and wine. "I don't care. I have my life, and no room in it for a chit of a girl. Now if you'd been a boy, I could have used the help, but as it is..." His voice trailed off, his upper lip drawn up in disdain.
His men were fast....in the short words they'd spoken, the wares had been put away, and the men were fitting the stands in the back of the wagon. Chandler lifted himself up into it as the horses were hitched to it.
She couldn't let him just....leave. In desperation, she spoke, unsure of what she was going to say until the words spilled out. "My mother is dead."
Appalled, she shut her mouth, and he looked at her with an unreadable expression before answering. "Never contact me again, Judith."
She stood there, unspeaking, and watched as her father left Khmer. Her mind kept whispering to her, whispering again, again....again, she'd never had the father she'd thought would be hers. Again, she'd pinned her hopes on a man who wanted nothing to do with her.
Would there never be someone to comfort, rather than push away? Bah.
She needed no comfort. She turned to the Temple, walking towards her bags already packed and ready. The red silk dangled in her grasp, forgotten.
It was time to go, time to see if her village could be more of a home to her than Khmer had been. Time to see if her sister would send her away too.
Her sister didn't send her away.
The homecoming had been strained, definitely....the girl hardly remembered Judith, and only knew what the other villagers had told her. It wasn't a good tale, yet still her sister Shauna welcomed her, even if it was with hesitation.
They were strangers. Strangers, yes, but still sisters, and they moved into the hut that had stood empty since that fateful day. The rest of the village thought it cursed.
Maybe it was.
They shared whispered conversations at night, their histories, their hopes. Shauna was learning their mother's skill with dyes, and had an uncanny knack for whittling, shaping wood and other things into intricate patterns, making useful items that were a pleasure to look at and touch. Judith had brought her collection of oils and potions, spending her days experimenting with them, using some to keep the villagers healthy. Other things she made....well. She didn't share those. The villagers whispered about her, whispered about the animals they found after she'd had her use of them, but she didn't care.
She was happy.
A year had passed, a year of studying and friendship. To mark the occasion her sister had given her a beautiful pipe to hold the opium that Judith had taken to smoking, carved by her own hand from a large piece of ivory. Where did she get it? How did she....but no. Judith really didn't care.
She smiled to herself as she drifted off to sleep, her new treasure warm in her hand, her sister a warm presence at her side.
Rough hands woke her, dragging her from her sleeping pallet before she'd properly woken. Her sister's scream sounded loud in the small hut, joined by more from outside. Many more.
The hands didn't let her get her balance, instead yanking her and pushing her out of the tent, shoving her to the ground. Several huts were burning, casting dancing shadows against the scene...the running, screaming villagers....the men falling on them like wolves, slaughtering some, pulling others down to slake their lusts, and, overlaying it all, the roaring of the flames that licked at her village.
She took that in briefly, and then her vision was filled with her sister falling, barely missing Judith to land on the ground next to her. Men surrounded them...four? five?....firelight and their own twisted expressions making them seem demonic.
Her shift was torn from her, and weight suddenly pressed her into the ground, heavy grunts sounding in her ear. The pain of his entry was almost lost amongst everything else, but still Judith bit and fought, furious at these interlopers, furious that they would come and ruin what she had come to love. The man above her roared as her teeth met themselves through the flesh of his shoulder and he pulled back, leaving a bloody chunk of muscle in Judith's mouth, that she swallowed before his backhand rocked her face to the side.
Her vision swam in a starburst of light from the blow as he rutted over her, then cleared enough to see that Shauna was undergoing the same treatment. New rage coursed through her....her sister was little more than a child! Shauna’s piteous screams and pleas for them to stop met with laughter from the man on top of her, and another joined him with her, taking her in the mouth while the first one continued between her thighs.
The beast on top of Judith finished, quickly replaced by another, and she struggled desperately to move away, move to her sister. It was obvious that Shauna couldn't breathe, apparent to the most casual glance that her struggles were for air now, rather than escape, and Judith begged for her, begged for them to let her go, let her live.
She felt it when Shauna died, felt that familiar spark of non-life flower in her sister's body as the man at her mouth grunted his release and moved away, too late, too late. Judith howled her grief into the night air, the loss of her sister beating at her mind, that spark calling to her, promising dark things, things she hadn't touched on since she left the temple.
She welcomed that promise.
The man still on top of Shauna realized she was dead and cursed his companion, increasing his tempo to finish while her body was still warm. Judith’s body rocked with the movements of the man thrusting into her, but she ignored him, ignored all of them, and called to that spark inside her sister, fanned it into a cold flame that filled the dead body with Judith’s will.
It felt so good....it had been so long...the pleasure of using her power warred with the grief coursing through her, until Judith thought she would split apart from it. But her sister was dead, and her tormentor still plunged inside her, and it was so easy to have the body's arms slide over his, raise it's abused mouth to his neck, and bite, bite hard until the man's screams gurgled in his throat, until blood poured over Shauna’s lifeless face. Death spilled into him as his blood spilled out, and Judith coaxed it, whispered to it, pulling him back to do her bidding.
The man on top of Judith was panting, face twisted in approaching climax, oblivious to all around him until Shauna’s hands wrapped around his neck, tearing at the skin there, ripping it apart. He shouted, rolling off of Judith, rolling away to confront his enemy, his eyes bulging at the sight when he did.
Free! Judith sat up, fighting back a wave of dizziness, watching in vicious glee as her sister and her sister's tormentor knocked the man who had been using Judith down. Her eyes narrowed, and that part that he had thrust so eagerly into her was ripped away, blood spilling down his thighs, eerily similar to the blood smearing Judith’s own....and if there was more of it, well that was fitting. There should be more, every hurt done to her, done to her sister, deserved ten times as much in repayment. The man shrieked, his eyes on his manhood lying forlorn on the dusty ground, trying to reach for it, trying to....but the two dead things pulled at his arms, pulled them until the bones separated from his shoulders with an audible pop, and his shrieks grew even louder as he fell to his knees, only held up by their grips on his now useless arms.
Judith stood, swaying, and walked to the man. She was running out of time, the chaos in the village had kept the attackers from realizing that some of the cries were from their own men, but that couldn't last much longer. Still, she wanted to draw this one out, and she took the dagger that her dead servant gave to her. They still held his arms, and she reached down, grabbing his beard and yanking his face up to look at hers. His eyes were wide with pain and fear, and she felt her mouth stretch in a cruel smile, delighting in his reaction. He deserved so much more.
Her blade sliced up his belly, spilling his innards out in a steaming mess of gore. She left him there, alive but dying, trying to shove himself back together.
Moving through her village, her two dead companions trailing behind her, she could see more, more bodies, more living targets for her anger. They needed to die, all of them, every one...all of those that lived while her sister was dying, all those that didn't come to her aid when she was choking for air. The dead stirred as Judith passed by them, her grief a monstrous thing that called to them, commanded them, until she came upon the center of the village with a full dozen behind her.
The village center....where the raiders had gathered those they would take with them, already in chains. Broken, pathetic creatures that Judith had called friends for the past year, creatures that took her help and smiled at her in thanks for it. But where had they been when Judith needed help? When Shauna......
Behind them a bonfire raged, the raiders tossing various items upon it to burn while they drank all the alcohol they could find in the village. There wasn't that much, and they fought over the meager gains like curs over a bone. This? This was what her sister had died for?
Rage burst inside her, bringing her to her knees, unable to think or move or do anything more than hate. But her dead companions, those whose bodies belonged to Judith now, they moved....some to the raiders, to bite and stab and terrorize. One went to the line of sniveling villagers, grabbing the last one and dragging him shrieking into the bonfire, the chains that held him to the others dragging them along too, though they wailed and pulled, trying desperately to halt the steady progress as the dead man hauled the chain hand over hand, pulling them in one at a time. By the time he was too charred to continue, the ones who had died in the fire had joined in, and the slow pace ensured that those frantically trying to escape could see the bodies of their friends and family working diligently to burn them alive.
Raiders ran about screaming, hacking at dead people, then dying and rising to kill their companions. Darkness crowded in at the edges of Judith’s vision, exhaustion eating at her, but grimly she hung on, needing to know, needing to make sure....needing to.....
She woke to sunlight and the smell of rotting flesh. Icy needles stabbed at her head, agonizing reminders that there was a price to pay for overusing her talent. Gingerly Judith sat up, a hollow feeling in her stomach.
Had she really killed them? All of them? Looking around, she could believe it. Bodies littered the ground, the remains of the bonfire mixed with charred skeletons.
There was no home, it was all a lie. No sister, no family, nothing. The empty feeling inside stayed with her as she slowly made her way to the hut she had been happy in, one of the few spared from the bonfire, if only because it was on the edge of the village.
Judith gritted her teeth and pulled on some clothing, almost leaving before she saw a pale item on the floor. Her pipe. The one Shauna made for her....the only gift she'd ever received.
With an oath, she grabbed it up, scowling.
Khmer was a long way to walk....but she had no place else to go.
She started walking.
She knelt before the men, seething inside. Three years of this hell....three years of taking whoever was sent to her and smiling and simpering and biding her damned time. Three years of trying to convince those sanctimonious priests at the temple that she'd learned to control herself, that she wouldn't repeat the same mistakes she'd made before.
Yes....next time I'll cover my trail better.....
"And after reports we've received over the last year, we have come to the conclusion that your time spent in the Dirked House has been effective, Judith. The monies received for your services have finally reached the point where they can compensate for what you destroyed, and your demeanor has improved drastically."
Bah...she kept her face calm, kept her shoulders relaxed, as her thoughts beat inside her head. What she destroyed!! She had touched no property, the raiders had been the ones to put the torch to the village buildings, but she'd been held accountable for everything. Not only that, but since there wasn't anyone left of the village, the 'monies' went to line the pockets of the very men before her. No wonder they'd kept her here so long! Fat, lazy, greedy bastards, using her body and lining their pockets from the men who grunted their release into her!
Calm. Calm. It would do no good to sabotage her own efforts over the past year, when she'd finally realized that the only way out of this situation was to make them believe that she was a docile little kitten. For the first two years she'd railed against her fate, and developed a taste for hurting others....they could have killed her at that point, and she knew that she was lucky when instead they reserved her for a very select group of clientele. But that reflected poorly on her with the justicars....so she had changed her tactics, become the biddable, docile little slave girl they seemed to want her to be. Bah! They were idiots to think that she would ever truly submit....her dreams were filled with visions of their prolonged deaths, of desires to raise their corpses up again to continue tormenting them....if only she could.
His voice droned on, and she cursed herself for letting her thoughts distract her, turning her attention back to him. "....remove the block from using your powers, and allow you to seek your own destiny. Go to the Temple, they are expecting you and will perform the ritual there."
She was being released? Her powers returned? Elation spread through her, pushing out the rage that had filled her so thoroughly before. Free! Not only of slavery, but free to go where she would, to choose a different path....and she knew exactly where she was going. She'd heard things during her years of slavery...heard fearful whispers of a Set-worshipping sect that had taken some of the most promising people deep into the Purple Lotus Swamps.
She sat still, docile, as her manacles were removed, rubbing at her wrists afterward, the skin there lighter than the rest of her body. Her gaze lifted to the man who'd spoken, his companions silent around him. Biting back her first choice of words, Judith said the safe ones instead.
"Thank you, Justicar."
Agony ripped through her head, the chanting priests standing on either side of her, uncaring of her screams. They were killing her! Her head would split open, spilling her brains over their pristine violet robes, and she would be glad, glad, if only it would make the pain go away!
Blistering heat, dazzling lightning running through her head, burning her inside, burning away everything.....only to be replaced by the blessed coolness of death, soothing, sending tendrils of cold snaking their way through every bit of her. She'd forgotten what it felt like....only once in the past four years had she opened herself to this, and now it overwhelmed her, clasping her tight in it's embrace, pulling her into a different darkness.
Judith woke to the sound of voices murmuring, and she stretched, reveling in the lack of weight at her wrists, in the way her thoughts didn't shy away from the pull of death that was so much a part of her. Yes. Yes.
"She wakes, Master." A voice intruded on her, and she opened her eyes to see a priest approach, a slave girl following him. Judith was glad to be out of her own chains...she raised her eyebrow to the man, wondering what he wanted even as she took in the small private room she'd slept in.
"Our priests have brought you to judgment by the Great One, and He has spared you." The priest's lip curled back in a sneer, his eyes full of contempt. "You are free to leave. I would suggest you go far away....He may have seen some semblance of worth in you, but you'll have to show it elsewhere. It's been made clear to our Temple that you are not to serve in Khmer." He turned to the slave girl. "Clean her up, take care of her and get her out. She's to have enough provisions to keep her for a week, and that's it."
With that, he turned and stalked out.
Judith grinned at his retreating back as he shut the door, and let the slave girl tend her. He was one who had enjoyed her body more than once, and now.....now she had been cleared by the Serpent God Himself.
She turned to the slave girl with a cruel smile, reaching for her wrist. She would not mark the girl, but there were so many things she could do that wouldn't leave visible evidence. Things that she hoped would irritate the priest, at the very least. She wouldn't be returning to Khmer for a good while anyway.
She took her time. The girl's pleading quickly turned to ragged screams, and then broken whimpers.
Returning to the site where her adopted father had been disposed of that time ago. Reaching within herself and allowing the feeling wash over her she brought herself into a trance.
Before she knew it the decomposed skeletal remains stood before her awaiting her commands. Smiling Judith commanded the remains of her adopted father to follow, when it complied her smile grew even wider.
“Yes daddy, come with me, let us show those that would follow a god the errors of their ways!”
Leaving town that night with remains following her Judith ventured out learning more about herself as she went. Over the span of just a few short months she left behind a trail of dead wizards she had seduced only for the pleasure of killing them and stealing their most prized of possessions, their spell books.
Life was good.