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Chapter 56 : Evil is a Choice
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Nesmay felt like throwing the crystal vials of perfume and jars of silken glitter cream across the room and watching them shatter. But she restrained herself, because while doing so would serve as an instant gratification, it would also look as though she were a mere spoiled brat and she had her dignity as Titania's granddaughter to maintain. So she contented herself with scowling at items and thinking of the revenge she would take upon the Winter prince when she was free of the slave collar she wore. Oh, then he would see the wrath of a Seelie princess!
Her hands flew automatically to the collar and she fought to keep from clawing at it. Any attempt to use her magic on it or use her magic without Jarillion's permission would make the collar activate and give her fiery jolts of pain until she stopped. Any attempt to remove the collar by other means would result in it knocking her out, ensuring she couldn't remove it herself and another might only do so if they could break the enchantment, which was a master level and so strong only her grandmother might have a hope in hell of doing so. Or Queen Maeve.
Nesmay put her hands down at her sides and considered her prospects. She had few options at the moment, and none of them would give her her freedom or revenge. She had to be very careful what she promised Jarillion, for a promise made was binding for a fae and even a half-fae was subject to that rule. That was why she fought so hard not to agree to his marriage proposal, for she could not break her word like a human might afterwards. She knew that Jarillion could keep her in the fortress for a long long time, until she was old and gray, and wear away her resistance. She was frightened of him, not just because of what he could do to her, but what he might make her do . . . namely tempt her to use the dark magic that was the legacy of Voldemort.
I will not give in and I shall never give up. I am Titania's granddaughter and no measly Winter prince shall make me forsake my honor and my word, she vowed silently. She had been telling herself that ever since her arrival, though the words were beginning to feel a bit hollow by now. Her captivity was wearing on her highstrung nerves. She had never been totally without recourse to her magic before, and while once she might have thanked the gods for losing her disruptive uncontrollable human magic, now she wished for it, so she could use it to blast Jarillion off the face of the earth.
She closed her eyes and sat crosslegged on her bed and tried to meditate, to find her center and inner peace, as Severus had taught her, but it eluded her. She was too nervous, too keyed up, the specter of her blood father haunted her. How long did it take for him to go dark? How long was it before the magic took him over and made him into something his own mother would not have recognized? How long would it be before she succumbed to the same fatal taint and became a Mistress of the Dark?
The knock on the door shocked her out of her blue funk. She snapped her head about, wondering why the hell Jarillion was knocking. Had he suddenly grown some manners? Somehow she doubted it. "Come in," she called brusquely.
The door opened and in walked her cousins. "Draco! Harry! Starseekers!" she exclaimed, nearly crying with relief. They hadn't been harmed, not that she could see, and they had come to see her.
"Hey, brat. How's the ice prick been treating you?" asked Draco, smirking.
"I can't believe you're here!" she cried, hopping off the bed and running to hug them. "How did you get him to let you out?"
"Uh, that's a long story," Harry hedged, looking distinctly uncomfortable.
Nesmay felt alarm bells pealing madly in her head. "What did you agree to, Harry Snape?" she whispered, paling. For she knew, better than any, that a fae did not do favors, not without a bargain being struck in return. And Jarillion did not have a sympathetic or nice bone in his body.
Draco shut the door. "Nessie," he began, sitting down on the bed.
"Don't!" she snapped, whirling on him. "Don't try and patronize me, Draco Malfoy! What bargain did you strike with the bastard? Because he does nothing without benefit to himself."
"We agreed to become his apprentices," answered the Slytherin.
"You what? Why? How bloody stupid could you be?" she cried. "Now he has you . . . he owns you . . .Lady Bright . . .!"
"Shhh . . . it's not what you think," Draco hissed. "We made no promises, struck no bargains and signed no contracts. We just made him think we wished to learn dark magic . . . we asked him to take us as apprentices."
"And you think that will stop him from turning you into a puppet? Draco, you don't know him. He's clever and terribly wicked and he lives to corrupt people like us."
"Do you think I don't know that? You forget, little cousin, who I grew up with. My father was as evil as Jarillion and he wished me to be just like him. But I managed to survive him just fine and I'll survive Jarillion too. What's more, I'll make sure you two will as well."
"By teaching you how to play the game. To agree and then not agree."
Nesmay shook her head. "I can't lie. I can only skirt the truth. And I refuse to bind myself to him, to be his slave and plaything. I can't do it!"
"Nobody says you have to," Harry soothed, coming over to her and putting an arm about her. "Draco just means you have to . . . to pretend to agree with him."
"And learn dark magic? I can't do that. Don't you understand? The dark magic is seductive, Harry, worse than the worst human addiction. And I'm already susceptible because of who my father is. I can't risk it."
"You have to." Draco urged. "We need you to be with us, so when the time comes for us to escape, you'll be free and ready."
"Escape? With this on me, I can go nowhere past the castle gates," she gestured angrily at the collar about her neck. "And the only hope I have of getting it removed is to agree to his proposal and he can go screw himself before I'll do that. Or become what my father was. Severus said . . . he said evil is a choice, and I'm not choosing it."
Draco sighed. The overwrought girl was not getting it. "Look, Nesmay. Forget about damn Voldemort and listen to me. Can you do that? Good. I'm not saying you have to agree to anything, just pretend to. Make up your own terms for him and see if he'll bite. He obviously wants you for a reason, I know it's twisted and sick and I'd love to cut off his nuts for it, but you can use that weakness to your advantage."
"Yes, by staying away from him." Nesmay snapped.
"No, by driving him crazy," corrected Draco. "Have you ever read Homer's The Odyssey?" At Nesmay's blank look and Harry's startled one, Draco rolled his eyes. "All right, I forgot you didn't have a classic education in Greek mythology. Look, Odysseus' wife, Penelope, was left running his kingdom when he was lost for ten years coming back from a war with Troy, and she had dozens of suitors wanting to marry her. She didn't want to marry them, for she loved her husband and was faithful to him, but she couldn't refuse them outright because they'd start a war and take her outright. So she devised a plan. She agreed to choose a suitor after she finished embroidering a tapestry of her husband's life. But she made sure she took forever to finish it, by picking out all the embroidery she'd done on it every night, so it was never done, and she kept the suitors at bay till her husband came home and won back his kingdom. Now, if a mere Muggle woman could do that, why can't you? The fae are the best at telling half-truths that I know."
"You want me to pretend to . . . to accept Jarillion's suit and then pretend to learn dark magic?" she repeated incredulously. "I can't do it."
"Sure you can. Just tell Jarillion that you can't marry him or get betrothed until you've mastered all his dark secrets. And then you can play dumb and keep forgetting how to use the dark magic or something." Draco encouraged.
"It won't work."
"Because once I choose to use the magic, who's to say I'll be able to stop? Don't you see what's in me?" she whispered, her voice full of fear and self-loathing. "My father was one of the worst of your kind and what if I've inherited his taste for darkness? I've always sworn to never be like him, and now you're asking me to learn dark spells?"
"Learning's not the same as using," Draco pointed out. "And you're not going to become a dark wizard because of your father. Mine was one too and I turned away from the dark path."
"And how long do you think you can keep up this charade in front of Jarillion? He's not stupid, Draco, just obsessed. How long can we last before the darkness takes us?"
"Long enough for Dad and Sarai to come for us," Harry spoke up then.
"Do you really think they're coming?" Nesmay asked in a small voice. "How could they ever find us? This is the Trackless Waste, no spell can pinpoint our location and you've lost your amulet. Or did Jarillion take it? I don't see it on you."
"I don't know where it is. I think it fell off before they captured me," Harry admitted. "But don't count out Dad and Sarai, Nesmay. They'll find us, even if it takes them years. Trust me."
"And trust me to keep us safe," Draco assured her. "I learned deceit from a master. You won't go dark."
"So you say."
"You're too young to be so cynical," Draco remarked.
"I know what I know," Nesmay shot back. "If you're going to promise me something, promise me that you'll kill me before I become another Dark Lady. I'd rather die than become him."
"No!" Harry cried.
"Promise me," Nesmay ordered. "Or I won't make any deal with Jarillion at all and he can keep me locked in this tower till hell freezes over. Promise me, Draco!"
"I . . . I don't . . ." Draco began, looking deep into her eyes. In them were determination, fear, and a kind of desperate, all-or-nothing courage. He saw that she would not change her mind, and everything depended upon her having free access to the fortress. "All right."
"Have you frigging lost your mind?" Harry screamed. "How could you promise that?"
Draco grabbed his furious sibling and dragged him to a corner of the room. "Because I'm going to make damn sure I never have to follow through on it, you dimwitted dinglebrain! Now quit flipping out like a girl!"
"Hey! I heard that!" Nesmay cried indignantly.
Draco glared at her. "That'll teach you to eavesdrop then."
Both Harry and Nesmay flashed him looks of extreme ire.
Draco winced. He hated the role he was forced to play, but someone had to do it, and as a Slytherin he had plenty of practice in being hated and mistrusted. Not that Harry or Nesmay hated him, but he could sense that right then neither of them liked him. "Get ready," he ordered sternly. "You have to be convincing when you tell Jarillion you agree to the betrothal if certain conditions are met."
Nesmay trembled. "If this fails . . ."
"If something happens to her because of your stupid promise, Draco, I'll make you regret it for the rest of your life," Harry growled.
"Which won't be too long, since I'd turn my wand on myself before I'd use it on her," Draco said icily. "Once I'm dead, my promise is null and void."
"I'm sorry," Nesmay sniffled. "It's because of me we're in this mess."
"Now don't try and take all the credit, Nessie. Harry and I were getting into trouble like this long before we met you. Ask anyone." Draco joked. He squeezed her hands. "It's really Jarillion's fault, for not taking no for an answer and being a prick. Which is something he's going to regret, or my name's not Draco."
"Don't let me get lost."
"I won't. If you'll do the same for me."
Her hand closed over his. "All right."
Harry's closed over the top of hers. "We'll all look out for each other."
Nesmay gave them a thin smile. "And may Fortuna favor the foolish." She hugged both boys for a long time before squaring her shoulders and saying in her best queenly tones, "Tell Prince Jarillion he may attend me, my lords."
Both Harry and Draco smirked at her haughty tone and sketched her bows. "At once, Your Highness."
"You are dismissed," Nesmay said, pretending to look down her nose at them.
They departed, and she clasped her hands together and prayed they were doing the right thing. Please, please, let him not suspect, let him believe that he's finally won me over.
Five minutes went by, then ten, until she heard the slight scuff of boots on the tower stairs. She knew Jarillion was deliberately being noisy, since a fae can move like a ghost when he wishes. He wanted her to know he was coming. She shivered all over, then mentally steeled herself to play the role of enlightened captive.
Jarillion threw open the door with his usually disregard for privacy. "Hello, princess. Your cousins tell me you have finally come to your senses." He eyed her critically.
Nesmay dropped him a quick curtsey, careful to keep her eyes down, so he wouldn't see the hate shimmering in them. "I have, my lord. My . . .cousins have convinced me that accepting your suit would be for the best . . .if you will agree to the following condition."
"A bargain, my sweet?" chuckled the dark fae, sounding like an indulgent lover. "What terms do you set?"
Nesmay bit her lip, then said breathlessly, "I would ask first that you wait till I'm of age to . . . to make me your wife in truth."
"Is that all?" Jarillion seemed very amused.
"No. My second condition is that you also wait until I have learned certain arts fully. You are a prince of the Unseelie, a master of the dark. It would not be meet, my lord, if you married me before I became a Dark Mistress. A marriage should be of equals, do you not agree?"
"Why the sudden change of heart?" Jarillion asked suspiciously.
"B-because my cousins told me that compromise is in my best interest," Nesmay said carefully. "I hate being locked up, I need to feel the sun and wind on my face. It's been driving me mad being stuck in here. If I agree, you said before you would let me out. They told me of their own decision and said I would do well to follow their example. I trust them. They have always tried to give me good advice. Will you accept my terms, Prince Jarillion?"
"You're a haughty little piece, aren't you? Like grandmother, like granddaughter, I suppose. I shall enjoy taming you to my will, Nesmayallindra." He smiled, an eager sadistic smile that made her blood run cold. "I shall teach you to enjoy obeying me, of becoming my betrothed. Y Your father's blood will out. Like calls to like and dark to dark. Yes, I accept your terms. By the time I am through with you, sweet, you shall be a dark princess to rival my ancestor Maleficent. And your cousins shall be lieutenants my dark army."
His hand darted out, grabbing her chin and jerking it up. "Now seal the bargain, love, and kiss me."
Nesmay blinked back tears, for Jarillion's fingers dug into her skin like claws. She stood on tiptoe and kissed the Winter prince lightly on the mouth, feeling the familiar tingle of a bargain struck and accepted. She struggled to hide her revulsion and gave him a quick smile.
Jarillion pulled her to him and kissed her hard. She fought to keep from screaming. Then he released her so abruptly she fell backwards. "Your first lesson, my dear." He chuckled mockingly. "I like my princesses eager. Now quit sulking and come down for supper. I tire of only redcaps for company. Afterwards, I shall teach you how to summon the dark magic, along with your cousins. We shall see who has the most potential for destruction." He turned to leave. "Make sure you dress appropriately. Wear the blue dress in the wardrobe."
Then he was gone.
Nesmay clasped her knees to her chest and whimpered, "Grandmother, forgive me. Severus, forgive me." She had done it, but her triumph left only the taste of ashes in her mouth.
Evil is a choice, and she had willingly placed her feet upon the dark pathway. She only hoped it would not consume her, or her cousins. She rose then and began to dress for dinner, hearing her father's mocking laughter in her head. My daughter, indeed!
I apologize for not updating for so long, but I was trying to finish my Christmas fic Season of Warmth and also had to finish a story for a fic exchange before Feb 14th. Now that all my previous commitments are met, I will have time to work on updating all my current fics.
Thanks to all my loyal readers for your patience and please drop me a review so I know you're still reading this.
Next: Baba Yaga sets her own conditions for Severus and Sarai . . .what will her help cost them?
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