I – A Transaction

It started innocently enough. But rum was pointless. Then she ended up in the plaguelands trading rare spider venom to a guy for a few chunks of processed poppy sap.

“It’s all dreams wrapped in pretty ribbon.” The guy was human. He wasn’t afraid of her, which made Verthilde scared. Humans who ran from her were annoying enough, and those who tried to kill her worse. This was something new.

“We’ll see.” It looked less dreamlike and more lumplike to her. She bowed and took a step back.

“Moment. Verifying. Stay there.” He’d unstoppered the bottle, dipped a small knife into it. With a whip-cracking motion, he threw. A dog she hadn’t noticed before burst from the underbrush. It covered ten, twenty yards–ears back, little eyes intent on them–before it listed to one side and began to spiral around the field.

The man returned her bow. “Pleasure doing business.” He’d only taken a few steps away before he disappeared from view. Far beyond annoying. She mounted her horse-shaped collection of bones and pointed west. The dog convulsed in the dirt nearby.

She just wanted to turn up the brightness on those maddening images that flickered through her mind. Her memories. She hoped.

When she’d first become conscious, her world was the val’kyr. The charnel house. Her torn, bloodstained clothes were as unsurprising to her as her dried face and flesh; she simply knew nothing else. Then her world grew to include her Queen and the Horde. Some people talked of old lives in Lordaeron, of the horror that was The Scourge. Had she lain dead too long to remember her life before?

And then, the images. When her mind unfocused, when she was idle and staring at nothing they started to come. Fragments. Here there was molten glass. There was a carriage. A festival? Market stalls. Maddening fragments. If she tried to see what else belonged to the festival, it slipped away. Her reverie broken, nothing remained. If she tried again to relax and think of nothing, she thought too hard to think of nothing.

Days later she’d be staring at waves after clearing out a murloc village and more impressions. Fall leaves. The taste of a turkey leg. A warm hand on a bare shoulder pulling her–nowhere. Gone again.

They would not cohere, these fragments. More of them came to her, a riot of mismatched bits pieced together by a blind mosaicist.

So now, by candlelight, she set a lump of dreamstuff on the charcoal in her looted silver censer. It was quieter in Brill than it would have been during the day; the living were less likely to be riding through. She sat at her desk and pushed what remained of her hair back with one bony hand before swinging the censer idly. She watched the reflection of the candle flame slip across the silver surface. Slowly her quarters filled with the smoke of dreams.


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