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Prologue arc

The sound of drums in the distance is the only thing keeping her from drifting back into the void that encompassed her mind. Her ears are virtually perched, keen on discovering just what the source of this nuisance is. Her eyes, on the other hand, are not entirely in on the ordeal. They want to remain shut and slip back into the state of torpor, like the majority of her brain does. Gods, her brain just started to expand and contract like crazy. At least that’s what it feels like. It pulsates while a stinging sensation simultaneously perforates it. It is too late to drift back now, no matter how much she tosses and squeezes her lids shut. She is now partially awake and aware of the car-crash hangover she has. It seemed like such a good idea to down that last bit of brandy before crashing yesterday, but by then, she had already entered the drunkard’s haze. Many ideas that aren’t so good may suddenly seem like they are and she knows that all too well. This was how she woke up yesterday too. And the day before that.

Regret is as common as morning breath and craving for some good, old H2O is to her. But she won’t let it get the better of her just yet. For now, she’s going to settle for making some grumbling noises while restlessly tossing. She can feel hair covering her face, messy as usual. Contrary to the nickname her comrades have given, she doesn’t consider herself a sleeping beauty. Not at all, actually. Judging by what her attendants have to say when she wakes up, and what greets her in the mirror, she is anything but. An extensive routine, accompanied by some chardonnay, is required to keep up the façade she maintains around others. For what would they say if she suddenly turned up in the dinner hall looking like something that came out of some fatso’s asshole?

The illusion needs to remain intact for the time being. On the outside, at least. In her nest, she can wear what she wants, style her hair like she wants and eat whatever the hell she craves. Which is what she intends to do today. She feels no sense of rush at the moment, knowing that her idle day has an vacant schedule to be filled with some white wine and maybe fruit liquor too. Perhaps even the gnarled sun would start shining soon and poke her in the eye, forcing her to actually get up and deal with whatever the day brings.

But it doesn’t. Instead, the beat of the drum grows in intensity, the echoes increasing in volume. Good grief, her head hurt. The loud noise certainly helps her realize that. The drum is suddenly accompanied by a loud creak, the sound of wood moving, before momentarily stopping. The prelude of the melody is over now, the verse is about to be played. It is initiated by a soft voice. “Milady,” it says with all its androgyny, hesitant as ever. “I do not wish to disturb you, but I bring urgent news.” It seems like the dream world is to die early today, much to her chagrin. Her lithe body twists under the comfortable garments of linen to face the source of the speech. Every ounce of her body, sans the head, is covered by a duvet. Her eyes sourly part, locking with the figure standing in the exposed doorway. Poofy locks of hair obscure the view, but she makes her face as toxic as possible to make her displeasure perfectly obvious.

With acid and dried spit she responds, hopefully sounding as miserable as she feels. “What news? Can’t it wait? I’ve not even had a pick-me-up yet.” Heavy limbs pat the forehead. It’s warm and riddled with sweat from the tropic night. The drums start to play again as the white-haired individual cautiously approach her. Something, a liquid substance, splashes in a container they carry. “I know, milady,” they say with all the caution they can muster, as they hover over her. “That’s why I brought you some.” She snorts at the dry reply. Conchita had always been the practical of her two servants, something which certainly came in handy in situations like these. Hands push her into an upright position, back against the multitude of pillows dotted around. The bottle is tinier than she’s used to, but it will do for now. Greedy fingers wrap around the black flask, nearly ripping it out of the hands holding it in place. With nimble movements, the eager woman unseals the bottle and brings it to her mouth. Bittersweet sherry splashes in her mouth before it travels down her esophagus. It leaves behind an undesirable aftertaste, so she takes another chug. And then another. By the third there is barely any liquid left.

The warmth spreads through her abdomen, causing some of the nausea to vanish. It will take quite some time for it to take full effect, but this will do for now. With some water, she would be good to receive whatever news her attendant held. Her eyes idly drift towards the young person clad in scanty clothing, still impeded slightly by her recent awakening. “I need some water,” she moans, accompanied by a voice crack. Damn, her mouth didn’t handle the sudden moistness well. The white-haired person nods solemnly and heads towards the table nearby, where a carafe filled with what’s hopefully liquid H2O is situated. The black-haired woman blinks for what feels like a second, still riddled with the fatigue of oversleeping. “Here, Lady Helena.” The androgynous voice is suddenly in her proximity. Helena’s eyes drift open, gazing straight into her servant’s blue ones.

“Thanks.” She mutters as she grasps a goblet and brings it to her mouth. Fresh, but not particularly cool, tasteless liquid pour down her throat as she empties it in a single go. She forgets how good water really is sometimes. Too bad it is inferior to its solid form – ice. Nothing beats ice and alcohol. “So, news, you say? Did the Demon Hag hatch some scheme or what?” Poison drips from her tongue as it tends to do. She brings the goblet closer to her servant, who then proceeds to grab it. The response is a gesture – a shook of the head. “No, milady,” Conchita initiates with a pause. It seems as if her attendant is attempting to figure out just how to phrase themselves. They bite their lip and cross their arms. She raises an eyebrow, pondering just what about this could be so difficult to phrase. “Not that I know of, at least.” They finally concede, still not having fully informed their mistress about the news. Tapping her finger in defiance to their hesitancy, Helena suspects that this would speed up things.

“It just seems like the news is that the pixie has caught some crook and has summoned us for dinner.” Her suspicions were confirmed, but at what price? Mundane news? The flickering finger stops in its tracks. She could just as well go back to sleep at this point. It wouldn’t matter if she shows up or not if they’re just going to eat dinner. “Why did you wake me up for this? I’m not that keen on gatherings, you know.” The raven-haired female reaches for the duvet again, prepared to pull it over herself again. “The Mistress Maricia will be joining the feast.” The hand stops dead in its tracks. The woman’s eyebrows arch beyond that of what they usually tend to. That is the only sign of surprise on her face. “Really now?” Bafflement is in her voice, although just barely. Long nails begin to scratch her scalp as a sign of annoyance. Now she had to get dressed and up from bed. “What a pain in the ass.”

The other hand starts to unbutton the purple pajama top while the fingers still scratch furiously, trailing down her neck. “Do you want me to fetch your black gown, milady?” The young attendant, ever on stand-by, appears to be ready to spring forth on her command. Guttural noises emanate from within her throat as a response. “Nah, not yet.” She brings the arm down and slides the top off. Her bare torso, alongside her red guild mark, is now in plain sight. “How about a quickie first?”

End Chapter 4.

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