Author’s Email: email@example.com
Rating: R (non-explicit aruna and descriptions of past abuse)
Spoilers: The Fulfillments of Fate and Desire
Characters: Astarth, Flounah, and various cameos
Summary: A look into Astarth’s mind and later life after the end of Fulfillments. Sometimes, the more things stay the same, the more they change.
Disclaimer: The concept of Wraeththu and all characters and situations pertaining thereto are the property of Storm Constantine, who has very graciously allowed her fans to play with them; no money is being made from this story, and no copyright infringement is intended or should be implied.
Author’s Note: My first Wraeththu fic. (Eeek!) I’ve only read the original trilogy and about a third of The Wraiths of Will and Pleasure, so bear with me if I inadvertently commit canon murder because of my ignorance of something that happens later on in the series. Arsche and Roz appear courtesy of my good friend Mr. Powell, just because. 😉
The Wind that Broke the Door
Chapter One: Preparations
“I thought I’d never have to do this again,” I complained to my reflection as I finished applying my makeup.
Damn Quince. Of all the nights he could have decided to get fed up with everything and leave, he had to pick this one. Fallsend was packed with foreign hara (mostly from Jaddayoth, but a good number from as far away as Megalithica), and most of them seemed to have descended upon Piristil. They were mostly here for the tour, of course, followed by a late supper and a rehashing of the delectable horror of having been in the very room where the inimitable Panthera had been chained, but there were always some who’d pay the extra few spinners for a night with a genuine Piristil kanene. (Not that there were that many of us left from the old days, but most hara only cared about the brand name, so to speak, so who was I to miss out on an opportunity to profit from this?) With twelve kanene currently living in the musenda (not including myself), plus four alternates who could be called in at a moment’s notice, there were usually more than enough to fill the demand, even on busy nights—until now, that is.
I sighed and scowled, blotting away a bit of excess lipstick. Quince, who I’d been relying on to entertain whichever of the Gelaming showed up that evening for the yearly audit, was probably halfway to Jaddayoth by now, fueled as he was by alcohol and self-righteous indignation; Semiru was due to deliver his pearl any day now; Yasmeen had broken his leg the day before and was staying in the House of Healing for the rest of the week; Roz was having one of his “episodes”; Ezhno was visiting relatives in Jasminia and wouldn’t be back for another two months, at least; it was Flounah’s utterly sacrosanct night off; and there was no telling where the hell Kelis had wandered off to this time. So with only nine kanene and a full house, I was going to have to pick up the slack.
I spun around. Flounah was standing at the door, watching me with folded arms—not quite inside my room, just far enough to be mildly insulting without giving me any real reason to object.
“How does it feel to be one of us again?” he continued, then narrowed his eyes and added in an all-too-audible undertone, “Not that you ever weren’t, of course.”
“Shouldn’t you be packing?” I said, pointedly turning my back on him again.
“I have a month; my things aren’t likely to run off before then, you know—unlike yours. Speaking of which, Ezhno hid your favorite earrings under that utterly tacky stuffed dragon of his. There’s probably a bunch more of your things in his room, too, but that’s where he usually stashes your jewelry. I’ll just put these here, shall I?”
He set the earrings down on my dressing table; the gold and rubies glittered up at me invitingly. I stroked them, sighing with regret, then put them back in their place of honor in the top tier of my jewelry box. I wouldn’t be able to wear them again unless I got my ears re-pierced, and I dreaded the pain.
Ah, what price beauty? my hostling’s voice whispered mockingly in my head—a ghost from the past I’d thought long-banished. I gritted my teeth against it. I can’t remember, I thought desperately. Not now. Not like this.