Nyla Woethief

People say they'd take a friend's pain if they could. I'm not so sure; I've done it for my foes. I am Woethief. writing.exchange/@NylaWoethief

011 Breakfast with Royalty

Upon entering the arena, the King and Queen invited us to share breakfast with them. I ate little so I would not vomit when I reached the combat platform. I answered the Queen's questions with the shortest possible replies. Centin seated himself next to me and placed his hand around my right arm. Guilt slammed into me like the ceiling of a collapsing mine.

“Do you wish that I would take you back?”

Of course I want my lost husband back!

“Un-hand me!” I hissed.

Of course I cannot return to a murderer who forsakes me for any and every woman of the court!

His claws squeezed more tightly. I could not reach my weapon without arousing suspicion. Uncontrollable quivering seized my entire body. My flesh shriveled and rotted upon contact with Centin's fingers. His shame surged into my body like water from a burst dam. I clenched my hands on the edge of the table.

“Unhand her,” Faithful demanded as he rose from his chair.

“As you wish,” He removed his hand and immediately returned it to my arm.

Faithful leveled a pistol at Centin’s chest. Faithful and I could not be charged with any crime until after the completion of the duel. Centin released me. I clambered away from the table with a torn sleeve my shoulder-blade clearly audible.

A slave led me to the combat platform where the King proclaimed the rules of engagement to the thousands of spectators. My skin felt as if it were pricked with a million fiery needles all at once.

The food was poisoned.

Dizziness. Pounding head. Weak arm.

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012 The Fatal Duel

Faithful and I approached the King to partake in the ceremonial drink which he held before me. Water spilled through the gateway of my lips into my throat, but did not quell the flames inside of me. Attendants confiscated our weapons and provided each of us with an identical sword. Without my dagger, success was impossible.

“Fight as you have never fought before, Princess.”

“Do same, Prince,” I replied.

The dreadful blast from the horn threw us into a violent struggle in which neither of us wished to engage. I drew first and catapulted myself into the general area of his emotions with as much force as I could muster.

He parried my attack effortlessly. I collapsed.

“Nyl, you’re too hurt to continue. I will still surrender.”

“No,” I lifted my dagger with great effort.

“As you wish.”

His blade swung about my kneeling form in a completely unpredictable manner. When I blocked one thrust, another slash from the opposite direction ensued. I rose. All of my skill left me since I fought with the wrong hand. Blood flowed liberally from multiple fresh wounds on my face and arms, rising up in a noxious steam.

The master fighter maneuvered me toward the edge of the platform. My foot only half rested on the platform as his strokes threatened to throw me over the edge. Dizziness swirled my head round and round like a cart's wheel. One more strike and I would drop onto the floor many throses below. To my bewilderment, Faithful did not press.

I exploited a momentary weakness. My blade blasted his away, then slashed into his left side. My sword severed his arm and embedded in his side. I immediately withdrew my weapon, but the damage was complete. He teetered for a few seconds, then toppled over the edge.

My legs collapsed and caused me to plummet along with my friend. Agony tore through my left shoulder as I landed on it.

“Not mean to. We help. You live.” I muttered.

I turned my face toward Silver, so she could see the movement of my lips with her ears.

“Save him. You not let him die.”

“I can’t; my power is gone,” she wailed into the ground.

“Don't fret over me dear ones. I knew the risk. I go to my reward. Now work justice with the position you have won.”

Death wrested him from Silver while she clutched his right hand as if she could resist its unstoppable pull.

“No, Faithful, I need you. You cannot depart like this!” She wept as she cradled his limp body in her arms.

The grief of losing the only man who had ever cared for me overwhelmed my soul. Blood soaked my dress like the guilt which stained my heart.

Rough hands dragged away his body. They did not allow Silver to mourn ever he whom the crowd hated.

The crowd cheered as if oblivious to the death of the only good man in the whole world. Fiery dizziness clouded my mind. I lost control of my burning limbs. When I swooned, no one caught me.

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013 Empty Victory

I awoke to slave-girls in a frenzy to make me presentable for the crowd. The fire was gone from my body. While they wiped the blood from my face, more slaves brought an exquisite dress into the room. I thrust the nearest girl aside and attempted to exit the small chamber.

“What are you doing, Princess? We must prepare you before you are presented as victor.”

“I go as I am. Not for-get blood shed. Not for-get death.”

“But we have our orders,” the slave protested.

“Both-er your or-ders!” I screamed. “They wish hide deed. I not have it! Good man die by me. Is glor-y in my deed?”

They did not reply, so I left them all in their befuddled state.

Drying blood bound my hair to my dress. Gashes adorned my haggard limbs to match the slashes in my garments which exposed weeping wounds.

A guide led me up a flight of stairs toward the royal family. I scuffled to the King with the air of a conquered soldier rather than the triumphant Princess. My absent salute earned Centin's scorn.

“Why do you present yourself before the King in such a squalid condition” he asked.

“Good man fell. How I have joy”

Tension filled the room like steam from the vents in the uninhabited regions of the Barren Caverns. I quivered before the royal couple in fear of their displeasure. The thing I desired was accomplished. I was Princess, but it did not satisfy.

“How can you not rejoice You are being made heir to the throne,” Centin replied.

Rejoice? Faithful’s body is being carted off to some unmarked grave where he will be forgotten. His widow mourns in a pool of her lovers blood. He should stand here in my stead.

The Queen rose from her place beside her husband and approached me. My trembling increased tenfold. She placed her claws on my shoulders and dragged me into a room adjacent to the platform.


“Yes,” I stammered.

“Tell me, did you intend to kill him”

“No,” I pulled away from her.

“Did he not know the risks associated with such a contest?”

“He knew.”

“Then how can you blame yourself for his death”

“I smote his heart! I at fault!”


“Not con-sole with lies. I not for-get fri-end death!”

“Compose yourself!” she slapped my face. “He will have a funeral if you desire it. Now lay aside your grief until you are in the privacy of your own bower!” she hissed through her fingers.

“What of jus-tice? Fu-ner-al not re-turn from death. Not a-venge him.”

“You must abandon this senseless display of grief for a worthless slave from Stonecourt. Everybody rejoices at the death of his kind of scum.”

So, they did not cheer my victory, but his death.

After instructing me to array myself in one of the dresses hanging along the wall, the Queen departed. I intended to disobey, but as I exited the room, a gown much lovelier than any I had ever felt wrapped itself around me of its own accord. With the touch of the strange fabric, the filthy clothes beneath disintegrated and courage filled my heart. The fabric fit so perfectly that I scarcely felt its presence.

When I emerged, the King pronounced me victorious with great ceremony and recited a prepared speech. Tears spilled from my useless eyes. The agony of my wounds and guilt prevented all pleasure. The King and Queen hated me, but did not show it. They feigned pleasure at their new daughter as they blessed the gods for bestowing me upon them.

During the celebration, the dress strengthened me and permitted me to function despite my injuries. After hours of feasting in which I embarrassed myself many times by my lack of social graces, I was finally permitted to retire. I needed rest after the anxiety and anguish of my day.

Who could feast and dance after the death of their only friend?

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014 Assassination Attempt

To liven the celebration by removing such a nuisance, the Queen ordered two half-drunk guards to drag me away from the palaces. They did so with no ceremony whatsoever. Their presence, brought more danger than if I groped my way through the streets alone. Nobody noticed me and the nonuniformed men as we moved farther and farther into the poorest parts of the city.

“Why we here?” I asked.

“Orders say take you to yer palace, girly,” the taller guard slurred. We plodded on for a while longer.

“We is here, girly.”

They stopped me outside a hovel which certainly was not a palace. Judging by the sounds of the night around me, I knew exactly where we were. Many of the assassinations and robberies I had committed occurred on this street. Waves of tangible guilt washed over me along with the foul smells of rotting waste and corpses.

They took me here to kill me. If I die now, no one will ever know.

Before I could react, a guard shoved me to the ground. The thin legs of the taller guard pinned my right wrist to the ground. The shoes were too thick for me to reach through and manipulate his emotions. The safety mechanism on his pistol clicked off.

“Don't keel her you idit. She be the Woethief. Lit 'er steal ar pain first.”

The barrel of the air-gun jabbed into my temple and soiled hands pressed against my face. The other guard's barefoot legs pinned both of my left arm to the ground.

“Do it, girly; take our pain.”

As hard as I tried, I could not manipulate them to avoid stealing their pain. They bore no anger toward me, which would have been easy enough to remove. Simple greed motivated them.

“Why should I? You still kill.”

“Yu'll liv longer if yu obey.”

An extra five minutes cannot induce me to bear your shame.

“Prom-ise I live.”

“Obey usss, girleee!” the guard with the gun hissed.

I channeled his anger into myself and he removed his pistol from my head. As soon as he did so, I twisted my wrist free and bit his neck. Howling escaped his fingers. With my newly freed hand, I punched the other guard in the throat. A bullet blew through my right kneecap.

While I clutched my emaciated leg, more thugs converged on my position. They all recognized me now and they wanted revenge for the scores of their comrades that I killed in the past.

More bullets collided with my body, by some miracle, they could not penetrate the fabric of my dress. I crawled away from the assault. A bullet shore off my right hand at the wrist. I collapsed.

Bootsteps thundered toward me. Pellets from a crank-gun whistled over my head. They tore through the bodies of my enemies. When they died, the woes I stole from them in the past dissipated from my body. The person with the crank-gun threw something into the crowd and the street filled with smoke. In their haste to flee the burning air, they trampled their wounded accomplices to death.

Massive hands cradled my helpless frame. My terror intensified as the tangible evil of my captor invaded my senses. He placed a foul-smelling rag against my face and I lost consciousness.

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015 Confronting Den

When I awoke, I found my wounds bandaged and my broken bones set with iron braces. The strange dress was replaced by a simple gown. None of my wounds hurt as much as they should and for some reason that made me uneasy.

“Who you? Where I?” I asked my captor.

I could not hear him, but a distinct fellness emanated from his person and overwhelmed my soul. Never before had I been in the presence of such a vile creature, save myself of course.

“Why you not speak?”

Still there was no answer, audible or thrummed.

The abomination neared me and a finger crossed my lips. There was no claw at the tip.

What could that mean?

Again, the finger touched my lips and I heard a slight rustling as the creature shook his head.

“You mute?” I asked.

The creature placed my left hand on his head and I could feel him nodding yes.

“I hos-tage?”

He shook his head, no.

“Why you come? To save me?” I asked, remembering how he had bandaged my wounds.

Nodding, yes.

“I leave?”

Shaking, no.

Then I am a captive. What could he want with me?

He handed me a flask of water and I drank from it eagerly. If he wished to poison me, he did already with the rag.

To my surprise, the creature withdrew from me. Anyone else would force me to steal their woes. Perhaps he did not know who I was.

As I lay against the wall in the darkness, I examined my damaged body. Both of my legs were broken in multiple places, my right hand was missing, my left was broken, and a bullet had grazed my skull. I could not escape unless the thing across from me permitted it.

Soft sniffling noises sounded from the thing's nose. In the stillness, I heard his tears pattering onto the stone beneath him.

“Come,” I called, compelled by my compassion.

The nearer he came, the more my body shuddered, causing my splintered bones to stab painfully into the surrounding tissue. I recoiled from the hatred that clung to his skin as he placed a grimy hand on my shoulder.

“Why cry?” I trembled through my lips.

There was no response, but his head grew closer to mine. Evil shrouded him and repulsed me as I tried to bring myself near to him. Our proximity caused my mind to vomit in pain.

With great effort, I penetrated the shroud and our brows touched. Instantly, a new sensation called light filled my mind. The same peace that protected Faithful's mind resided in this man too.

Why do you cry? I asked his mind.

“I cry for my sister and for you.”

Who is she? What troubles her?

“You trouble her. She comes of age in two days and if you do not accept her before then, she will die.”

Whatever do you mean? How must I accept her?

“So you understand, I will tell you who I am. I am Denrick or Den. The Duke of the Barren Caverns was my father, but he disowned me and my sister.”

That still does not explain why you are here or why I need to accept your sister.

“We have sworn ourselves as your eternal servants. You must allow her to plant her parasite in your body; she cannot live without a host to feed on.”

Why would I want that?

“As her host, you would receive complete healing and be placed under her control. You would become beautiful again and your scars would fade.”

Why can’t she just infect you?

“She will, but she needs two willing hosts.”

I will never let that monster near me! It will not control me.

“For nearly five ventings, we have tracked you and Faithful. We’ve done all we can to aid you. She only bears love for you! “

Well, since I killed Faithful, there is one less person for you to help.

“You didn’t kill him. Centin did. The ceremonial cup was poisoned. Faithful died before your blade pierced his heart.”

But he spoke to Silver.

“His fingers never thrummed.”

But I felt his words.

“He chose those words beforehand and requested that my sister relay them to you were he to die.”

How dare you claim that his last breaths were a lie?

I probed his vulnerable mind and found his words to be true. He concealed nothing from me, save one small quadrant of his mind. I wondered what it contained, but did not investigate. Relief washed over me as some alien will forced me to resign the guilt I felt over killing Faithful. Tears of blood spilled from my eyes into the bosom of my giant companion.

Why was I saved from death, yet Faithful was not? the question spilled out of my mind.

“My sister healed you, but Silver no longer possesses the ability to heal.”

Why me? I would have resurrected anyway.

“But your daughter would not. We did not swear allegiance to Faithful; we swore allegiance to you.”

Then twice you have saved my life. Why have you sworn yourselves to one so wretched as me? Will you force me to steal your woes forever?

“No, I swore myself to you because my sister did. I bore no special love for you, but for my sister I will do anything.”

And why did she swear herself?

“Because you created her.”

Created her? I asked incredulously.

“Yes. Remember your visit to the Duchess of the Barren Caverns? You were paid to heal her because she was near death. A lacerator planted its egg in her and the poison nearly killed her.”

I remember. And I also remember healing the child in her womb.

“She was not with child.”


“The child you remember was the lacerator egg. You personized the lacerator.”

How could I have? Only a bat or a spider can be personized. I don’t possess that power.

“I do not know how. I only know that you did personize her.”

You mean to tell me that I turned that cursed parasite into a person? I would never allow myself to near those obscene beasts!

“And that is why I weep. My sister is one of those 'obscene beasts' and you have rejected her. Because of your hatred, she will die in two days. Do you know nothing of all the kindnesses she has shown you?”

I am sure I have never met her. Describe her appearance.

“She doesn't look like anything.”

She is invisible?

“No, she takes whatever form you require of her.”

But I have never met her before.

“In your dreams, the 'monster' you feared so meant no harm to you. She guarded your mind. The only reason you have any volition at all and are not under Gemma's complete control is because my sister, Theila, protected you! She's the reason our minds have touched and also the reason that you and Faithful existed in one another's dreams.”

I could never love that she-devil! I screamed internally. She has tormented me so that I have never slept a night through for five ventings.

“All the evil you ascribe to my sister was Gemma’s doing. She tormented you in the guise of my sister.”

I will never love your demon of a sister!

“Tell me, did Faithful treat you as a demon when he met you or did he love you without reserve?”

How dare you compare her to me. We are nothing alike. Faithful said himself that I was lovely.

“Was I lovely when you met me?”


“But when your compassion forced you to draw near, your perception of me changed. Faithful experienced the same agony when he decided to love you and I have overcome it to serve you. You call my sister a demon, but you are a corpse ten-thousand times more loathsome than she is.”

Fury filled me at his cruel words, but they were true. I wanted to slash Den's throat, however I realized that his thoughts were not intended to hurt me, only to show me my error.

How could I not love his sister If she had truly connected my mind to Faithful's then that one act was deserving of all the love I could give her for infinite eternities.

I will accept her.

Relief swept over Denrick and the light he possessed grew even stronger than before.

“I have another request creatress. May I surround your mind? As your guard I have striven to protect you from Centin and Gemma, but it's ever so difficult when you resist my every action.”

The same alien will, not his, but one much more potent, compelled me to comply with his request. Den's consciousness enveloped my mind and placed itself as sentry to deny the entrance of harmful thoughts. In that instant, the incessant barrage of guilt and suffering from the mind of Centin ceased. My chest expanded with a full breath as the weight of Centin lessened in my body.

How could I have ever doubted you Den. For this gift, you have my eternal gratitude.

“I have merely done my duty.”

Is your sister as wonderful as you?

“I am not wonderful, but Thee', she is the embodiment of truth. No lie has ever defiled her lips. She is incapable of falsehood.”

Longing to meet this marvelous girl sent thrills of excitement throughout my mind. I blessed the God of Faithful for giving me Den and Thee'.

Denrick, I have never told my past to anyone, but I cannot bear it alone. My shame is ever so heavy.

The other mind prodded me to share and I did not wish to resist. My trust for Den was the same childlike trust which my daughter bore for me. Next to the giant, I felt like a little girl.

I do not remember ever being a child. My earliest memories are of Gemma’s beatings. She realized my powers as a woethief and rented me to anyone who desired that their guilt to be removed. She forced me out of my body and did unspeakable things through me. Do you know what it is like to carry the weight of the sin of thousands of my enemies? I wear damnation as a cloak and vice is my constant companion.

Denrick wept with me as I recounted my story. With my words came vivid mental images that seared themselves into his memory forever.

She committed murders and all manner of crimes with my body as her puppet. If I was caught, she left me to be killed. When I awoke from death I bore a new outer body and the guilt of my own murder. Why am I the only one for whom death is not permanent? A favorite activity at the public houses was to hang me from the ceiling by my hands and throw knives at me. Whoever cut the rope could give me their woes without charge. Most of the time I died from poorly aimed blades. I have done so much evil. Can you still befriend me, now that you know who I am?

“I can love you. You have told me nothing I did not already know.”

Denrick released me from his firm hands and in the fortress of his mind, the dreams of agony which oppressed me could not be found. I slept in peace for the first time in my life.

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016 Nyl Awakened by Crystal

“Mother... Mother, it is time to rise.”


“Get up silly,” an innocent, feminine voice ordered.

I opened my eyes in the same meaningless gesture which I performed every morning. The same nothingness greeted me.

Who are you? I asked the voice in my head.

“Why, your daughter of course. I'm Crystal Comfort.”

Pleasant shock reverberated through my mind.

You have never spoken to me before.

“Den and Thee’ taught me to. Aren't you proud of me?”

Of course, darling. I just never expected…

“That your daughter would be so intelligent.” Den interjected. “Theila and I have been training her mind since her conception.”

“Den says I must wait a long while before I am born. Is that so?”

Yes, dear.

As quickly as her voice entered my consciousness, it left as sleep silenced the infant.

Den, how did you?

*“Theila's mind is very potent. She believed it would benefit you to meet Crystal, so she worked until we both had contact with Crystal. It was impossible to introduce you to your daughter until you allowed me to engulf your mind. I hope you are not displeased.”

Of course not!

“I have more gifts for you, Nyla.”

Den took my right hand tenderly and placed it onto a small stone embedded in my skin just above my breastbone.


“My sister gave this stone to you when she departed from you last night.”

She was here? I interrupted.

“She was your dress during the celebration.”

My dress? I interrupted again.

“I told you she would take any form you required. She was also your dagger during the duels and the bandages which healed you.” He stated as if her actions were perfectly normal. “Please try to concentrate. The stone is the Orderer Stone. It was born with you.”

What does it do?

“It will order everything near you. Your clothes will never appear wrinkled or soiled and so on. What else would the Orderer Stone do?”

And my hand, how did it grow back so quickly?

“I poisoned you with my sister's venom while you slept. Now I will present my other gifts.”

Fabric rustled as Den reached into his pocket. Two small, indescribably beautiful things emerged with his hand. My eyes stung with the sensation that one of the things created.

What are they?

“This is a starlet. A relic of my mother’s race. It is light,” he held up the stinging object.

When I could no longer endure the stimulus, I slammed my eyes shut.

Does it always hurt this much? I slowly reopened my eyes.

“No, you will grow accustomed to it in time.”

The thing moved along his hand and hovered above my fingertips as he released it. Fire surged painfully across my skin, but unlike the fire of legend, it did not consume me. After the initial pain subsided, warmth filled me. Blurry images formed before me for the first time.

As I concentrated, Den's face became the first distinguishable object in the room. It surprised me, he bore no resemblance to any of the other inhabitants of my homeland. He looked like me. His hulking form came into focus and filled a third of the cavelet we occupied. Another object, exactly opposite to the starlet, rested in his hand.

What is the other gift?

“This is an unstarlet. It is darkness and silence.”

When I touched the unstarlet, frost formed on my fingertips. The light and dark spheres circled around each other, like two combatants preparing for a duel, before resting on opposite sides of the Orderer Stone.

Tears spilled from my eyes, given sight by the gifts of Den. I threw my arms around his neck and wiped joyful tears from my face. I couldn't remember the last time I was happy.

After a simple meal, Denrick surprised me again with a question.

“Nyla, may I braid your hair and prepare your adornments for the celebration?”

I doubt that I have enough to braid, I thought as I reached back and felt new, thick, healthy hair.

But how do you know how to braid hair?

“I learn every skill which you or my sister learn. Thee' loves to make herself and others beautiful. I take pleasure in what pleases my sister.”

By all means, you may help me.

Denrick knelt behind me and with his thick fingers, he nimbly wove my hair into an elegant latticework, aided by the Orderer stone. Never once did his giant hands falter.

While he worked, I questioned him. You seem to know a great deal about me? Did I have parents or was I created as Thee’ was?

Pain filled his mind as he remembered something unpleasant, something he dreaded to tell me.

Speak, Denrick. I can endure anything you must say.

“I know little save the events of your birth. To protect you from harm, your mother fled with you in her womb. Starvation and disease afflicted her while she fought to keep herself alive long enough to deliver you into this world. In her agony, her mind snapped. As her time to give birth approached, a bat-person recognized her and aided her in birthing you. But this bat was treacherous. Once you were born, the bat threatened to kill you if your mother did not grant all of her powers to the bat. Your mother complied to save you. Then she died. I know nothing of your father.”

The bat was Gemma, was she not?


Loathing for that creature who abused and oppressed so sorely caused me to dig my fingernails into my palm till they drew blood. I desired vengeance ever so sorely.

But if my mother possessed power, then why have I so little? Should I not have inherited it?

“Your mother was delirious when you were born. She tried to pass some of her power to you, but it was tainted with agony and thus you are Woethief. She didn’t intend to curse you.”

Then, there will be no escape from this terrible burden?

“No, your gift cannot be removed from you.”

And it is all the fault of that filthy Gemma. I swear to you I will…

The potent will crashed into my mind in her abhorrent, fiendish body and violently snatched the end of my terrible oath from my mind before I could complete it.

For the first time, I saw something in Thee' that I never believed possible. Tears of blood formed in her eyes as she pitied me for the hatred I suffered from. Then she vanished.

“You wish to kill Gemma?”

Yes, I wish to kill her. How can I not hate her You cannot deny that she deserves death.

“What will her death achieve?”

It will free me from the guilt I carry.

“But it will bring on new guilt. Guilt would drive you mad as you lived on knowing you killed the girl that Faithful loved.”

I cannot just forgive her. No power in this world is strong enough to remove my hatred.

“You are right, Nyl. You are powerless to overcome your hatred.”

Despair seized my hearts and ripped them out of my chest. The fangs of despondency gnashed my soul into a steaming pile of gore.

Is there no hope? My soul is so very hideous. The thoughts of what I wish to come upon my enemy are enough to cause your God to damn me ten times over!

“There is hope. There’s a greater Woethief than you, the Son of Faithful's God. He’ll bear not the feelings of guilt as you have done for others, but he’ll bear your actual guilt so far away that it will never be found again.”

If he is so powerful, then why would He condescend to visit me. What payment must I give him that he would perform that kindness?

“He delights in making helpless rebels his friends. There’s nothing you can give to earn your salvation.”

If there is no payment, then how must I get him to remove my guilt?

“Believe that he is able to remove it and forsake your wrongdoing.”

How can I forsake my evil? I am transgression? How can I shed my desire for vengeance?

“He is more powerful than your evil. He will aid you.”

What will become of him if he takes my evil?

“He was murdered to bear your damnation in your stead. He was innocent of all transgression, so that wretches like us can receive his perfection.”

What good does a dead man do me?

“He’s no longer dead. God resurrected him to prove his satisfaction with the sacrifice. He reigns over all worlds and demands the worship of all.”

But if he died for those of this world, then are we not excluded? We are of a different race from the others.

“All worlds and all peoples descended from one initial world. Salvation is available to all.”

Den and I continued our conversation for another hour. I learned many things about my world which startled me, but nothing was more intolerable than him telling me that I must give up my hatred. I deserved revenge against my enemies. Forgiveness was impossible!

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017 The Other Princess

I entered the great hall with Denrick in tow. No one noticed us, but all drank in the gorgeous form of the new Princess. With my untested powers of sight, I did not recognize the creature on the dais. We pushed through the crowd to the foot of the dais despite the protests of the guards, who dared not confront Den.

I sprang onto the platform and stared into the faces of the royal family. The Queen let out a loud tremor of dismay.

“Not so dead, am I?” I asked as I struck the Queen’s face with my palm.

Blood dripped out of her mouth as she slammed into her husband's chest.

“When you try kill me, not send drunk men.”

I turned to my replacement, Silver. My eyes blazed with the light of the starlet and heat emanated from me, keeping any guards from intervening in the confrontation.

“How dare you? You said you change!”

“They said you were dead. I only did what they told me to do.”

“I sure you glad. You con-spire to kill me.”

“No, I swear to you that I did not know.”

My hands encircled her throat. Fire flowed from me onto her tender skin. To ensure my revenge, I paralyzed the mind of Denrick so that he could not thwart me.

“Why I trust you? Your pow-er is back.”

“You have no reason to believe me, but I speak the truth. They forced me to do this. Sharpshooters have rifles trained on your head. Let go of me before they kill you.”

“You are burning me, please let go,” her mind pleaded.

I probed her mind to determine whether she spoke the truth. As I did so, I encountered three other lives, innocent, unable to speak, but only to send simple emotions to their mother's heart.

“Please, Nyla, it is for their sake that I do this. I must protect Faithful's children.”

And what of my child? What of the opportunity you cheat her of?

“I didn't choose this. If you do not release me, they will kill you. Please give me the chance to make this right.”

I hated her, but for the children of Faithful I released her. The flame around me receded into my starlet. As soon as I relinquished my grasp, Silver tackled me to the ground and drew a pistol. The shot that ensued did not strike my chest, but felled a sharpshooter who intended to kill me.

Another bullet blew the gun from her hand along with two of her fingers. I threw her off of me. With the addition of Denrick’s senses, I located the enemy. The starlet hurled from my fingers and struck the heart of the shooter. As my weapon exploded, it incinerated my foe and sent fragments of his armor into the crowd.

My starlet returned to my hand. When I stooped to raise Silver, she tried to crawl away from me. I grasped her bloodied palm and her missing fingers rejoined her hand as the blood that tarnished her clothes receded into her veins.

Why did you save me? I asked.

“Faithful wanted me to.”

She scurried away as soon as I released her hand. I unparalyzed Den and stomped over to the Queen.

“Two time you try kill me and last night you said I your child!” Flames danced around my hand ready to consume her flesh at my order.

“You are no daughter of mine.” She spat in my face. I admired her bravery to defy me, the wielder of her chief fear.

“This girl, who has so grievously disrupted our celebration, is unfit to be Princess. She entered the tournaments contrary to the clear rules which stated that the victor of the duels would become son of the King and Queen. Nowhere did the rules permit her, a girl, to compete, thus she is ineligible for heirship. The widow of the man she killed has been made Princess in her stead.” Centin thundered into the giant vibrator for all the crowd to feel.

“Rule not say I must be man. I won fair,” I shouted. “You take re-ward of my fight, since I a girl and un-ani-mal,” the long words hurt to say.

Silver's hand closed around my wrist. “Please, don't put yourself in danger. I'll do all I can to help you, but provoking Centin will only make him hurt you.”

“And what do you suggest?”

“I don't know. I'll find some way to fix this.”

Do not fail me. Were you not with child I would slay you.

Guards surrounded Den and I and pricked our backs with their spears.

“You are a fool, Nyla. Do you really think you can resist me.” Centin struck my face with his claws. Blood spattered onto my dress and the force of his blow sent me into the spears of the guards. Three blades protruded from my chest and drove me to my knees. Silver thrummed a scream into the ground.

Why do you hate me so? My mind shrieked in agony.

“I hate you because of all the pain you have inflicted on my people. You will not go unpunished.”

When he mentioned the pain I had inflicted, he really meant the transgressions he had transferred to me or the abominations Gemma had committed through the instrument of my body. He hated me because he hated himself.

“Please, just let her go,” Silver pleaded.

Centin disregarded her entreaties and lifted me by the throat. His mind compressed around me, preventing me from using my starlet to resist. My pleas to Denrick yielded no help as hordes of guards pinned him down and mercilessly bit at him with their poisoned fangs.

I pleaded for help to no one in particular, sure that no help would come. Centin crushed down on my my mind, since the unconscious Den no longer protected me. Blood filled my lungs and black spots filled my vision. Just before death could claim me, Theila confronted Centin's mind. Her dagger-like hand plunged into the chest of his mind, causing him to retreat from my head.

Thee' engulfed my body in hers and slashed her way through the men who emaciated her brother. Despite her slight form, her blade-hands wreaked unbelievable carnage among her enemies and caused all to flee from her presence. She dragged her wounded brother across the hall with the spears still embedded in her back.

She laid down cover with a crank gun to keep the guards away, but more soldiers pressed in through the entrance of the hall. All manner of projectiles slammed into her shelled body. A stun grenade fled from her hand into the mass of her enemies and incapacitated many of my foes.

“Nyla, if you wish to survive, you must make all of them forget their fear.” Her fiendish voice commanded.

All of them? But there are thousands present.

“I will aid you.”

But it will hurt so!

“There’s no other way to save Comfort.”

I concentrated my mind on the terror around me. With Thee's empowerment, the horror of those who surrounded me flowed into my soul, outweighing the pain of the blades in my back. Before she disappeared, Thee' removed the spears from me and buried her fangs in my neck. Agony seized me as her venom coursed through my veins, replacing the blood pooled in my lungs with stinging liquid. She departed before I could thank her or allow her to plant her parasite.

Den lifted my head and cradled me against his chest. I clamped my hands to his wrist like a vice and tried to keep from biting my tongue out.

Everyone stared at us and the corpses in perplexion.

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018 Safehouse?

Den carried me out of the hall.

Congratulations, Nyl you certainly made a mess of that situation.

Who said that?

You did.

What? I don’t understand.

I am Woethief, your other half.

Den, help! I don’t know what is happening. I tightened my grip on his collar as if I would fall. He didn’t receive my thoughts.

Relax, Nyl. I do not wish to harm you.

Who are you? I asked the unfamiliar voice that separated me from Den.

When you received the Orderer Stone, your mind split. We are both Nyla Woethief, but because of the Stone’s long absence our mind broke once it was returned.

Let me speak to Den?

“It is true Nyl; I am sorry. I didn't know it would happen,” he informed me.

My head drooped onto my breast. Even attempts to aid me failed. I could not blame Den or Thee’ of course; they did what they thought was right.

What are we to do now?

“Now, we wait. My sister will surely rejoin us and then, if you are still willing, she may plant her parasite.”

Of course we are willing. Nyl and Woe said in unison.

Den’s constant backtracking and zagzigging, brought me through parts of the city which I had never visited. Many of the buildings were carved from solid stone rather than formed from crumbling blocks. When Den set me down, we entered a tunnel and spent another ten minutes maneuvering through the labyrinth. My guide never faltered.

He said little as we journeyed. I loathed myself for the pain my actions brought him. Though Thee's venom brought partial healing to his body, I knew my actions disappointed and angered him.

After assuring himself that no one had followed us, he pulled me into the street. I stood in front of a small house with attractive carvings on the lintel.

“It is modest, but I believe you will be comfortable.”

He led me by the hand into a two-room apartment. Food and various supplies lined shelves along all the walls and a faucet stood in the corner.

You have a faucet?


You have a faucet!

Tears of joy spilled down my face as I rushed toward the object of my excitement. In utter bafflement, I stared at the device, unsure of how to operate it. Den twisted the knob. Water spilled into the basin. I twisted the knob until it poured at its greatest pressure.

The cool liquid felt so good on my skin as I splashed it onto my face.

“Are you trying to flood the house?” Den asked as he rubbed his hand on my hair playfully, forgetting his anger. My braid realigned itself instantly.

I shut off the water and leaned back into him. My head barely reached his stomach.

Thank you ever so much. I have never known such luxury.

Sadness filled his heart. He pitied me for the squalor I had lived in previously.

“I must leave you alone for a while. I advise you to remain inside.”

Where are you going?

“I am a guard for a prominent storehouse. Once you are restored to heirship,” he spoke as if it were a certainty. “I will be able to guard you at all times instead of protecting crates of loaf-plant.”

But what of your wounds?

“I'll manage; I've had worse.”

When can I expect Thee’?

“When she is ready.”

When will that be?

“I haven’t the faintest idea. She does as she wills and I do not pretend to understand her actions. Everything she does is purposeful, but I am too dull to understand her strategy.”

When you come back, buy something nice for her, Nyl requested.

“I will. Eat anything you please. There are fresh linens on your cot. The latrine is behind that door.”

Once he changed into fresh clothes in the latrine, he departed.

“One last thing, you will not be able to speak to my mind until my watch is over. It takes too much concentration on my part.”

I understand.

I surveyed the lovely, little house. To me it was a veritable palace. The cot was so soft and there was another faucet in the latrine.

This is wonderful! Everything is so beautiful in this little place! Nyl exclaimed.

The furniture is sparse and well-used. Den clearly has little money. Woe commented.

Even poverty is better than the slavery I knew.

We will not starve. He has a month’s supply of food on those shelves.

I rested on my cot under a snug wool blanket. Perhaps life could become good even if I did not become Princess.

Desperate pounding on my door broke me out of my musings. I clutched a pistol and opened the door a crack.

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019 A Chance at Revenge

“Let me in, please!” a frantic voice pleaded.

I sensed the pain in her words and the aura around her.

“Please, they'll kill me.”

I opened the door just enough for her to stumble in and then bolted it shut.

The figure swayed and I brought her over to the nearest cot. Blood poured from a gash in her throat.

She has two minutes tops.

I removed the scarf from her face to survey her wound, Then, I recognized her. It was Gemma! I wanted to kill her or maybe let her die.

This is my chance. No one will know.

She recognized me too. Terror filled her eyes.

If I let her die, I am not the murderer? The shooter is, Nyl suggested.

I closed my fingers around her throat to quell the bleeding or throttle her; I did not know which.

Do you really believe that?

Agony from her wound coursed into my body. I squeezed tighter.

What will I do?

“I hate you!”

She could not resist as my nails dug into her flesh. She was helpless, at my mercy. Her eyes pleaded with me to spare her,eyes identical to my own.

I wanted her dead. Then I thought of her children, Faithful's children. I lacked the strength to save them from myself.

God of Faithful. I cannot forgive her. She has wronged me sorely. Give me power to forgive and I will serve you evermore.

Fire from my starlet cauterized the wound, quelling the torrent of blood from Gemma's neck. Flames danced on her flesh. It was the only way to save her. I stole her torment.

Her eyes closed.

“No, I not hate you. Please stay.”

God! Save her. I cannot bear for her children to die.

I wielded the power of my Orderer Stone against the wound. Exhaustion seized me.

It's too late! Nyl screamed inside of me.

No, we must keep trying.

I slumped to the floor and laid my head on the cot next to hers. Utter enervation kept me from continuing.

I know I do not deserve your forgiveness. I know you can save me from myself. I know you can save Silver. I need you to be my Woethief.

My hands convulsed with agony. but my hearts experienced freedom from the hatred that enslaved me. Blood spilled from my eyes onto the face of my enemy. Patches of life returned to her sallow face where my tears fell. I cried and cried until blood covered her entire face.

Her dread-filled eyes fluttered open.

“How soon will you k... it be before you k-k-k-kill me?”

I stooped to examine her more closely. Terrible burns from the starlet-fire marred her face. I placed the unstarlet against the blistered flesh and the scorchmarks froze away until only perfect, silky fur remained.

Fear still plagued her pretty face. I smoothed away a stray lock from her brow and my Orderer Stone removed the blood that soiled her clothes.

“I for-give you.”

“Please, don't play with me. If I am to die, make it quick.”

“I for-give you,” God empowered me to forgive her, just as he forgave me.

“What? Why why you would forgive me? I don't deserve it. If you kill me here, no one will ever know.”

No one will find out. Den is not listening to our mind. We can tell him that we were defending ourself. Woe suggested.

I do long to be free from her guilt.

Denrick's words that I could not be forgiven if I held onto my hatred surfaced in my minds.

God give us strength. I cannot resist ourself on my own. I want your peace.

I squeezed her hand and smiled at her. “I love you. How can I kill my Prin-cess.”

Did you really just say that? Nyl asked. You just acknowledged her usurpation as legitimate.

It was not her fault. Woe observed. *Her children deserve it for Faithful's sake..

What of Crystal.? She deserves a better life.

Den and Thee' will provide her a better life. She needs no power and riches, she needs their tenderness and affection.

The fully healed Silver got off of the cot and prostrated herself before me. She lifted my left foot and placed it on her head in the ultimate form of submission.

“I swear mys...”

I raised her to her claw-feet. “No, I for-give at no cost.”

Where did that come from?

“B-b-but that that's impossible,” she stammered.

“Yes it is.”

I embraced my new friend, something I never imagined doing. I marveled at the power of Faithful's God; he reconciled the bitterest of foes and conquered my murderous hearts with his love. Could he change Silver too? Or Centin?

Tears decorated Silver's cheeks. Then, I realized just how much she resembled me. Faithful did not lie when he said I was lovely; he modeled his bride after me. That knowledge stung and somehow made it easier to sympathize with her.

“Who shot you?” I asked.

“I don't kn-know. It was terrible. They captured me and dragged me away from the palace. I broke away and they shot me as I ran. Faithful's children almost died.”

I pitied her. The loss of Faithful was an ever-present pang in both our souls.

“Why you come here?”

“I just banged on the door. I didn't know it was yours. I needed a place to hide.”

“Do they know you here?”

“No, I got pretty far ahead of them, so they didn't hear me.”

“You safe here un-til we bring you to pal-ace.”

“But they might return.”

“You have own guard.”

“Not any I can trust.”

“What of your gang?”

“They wouldn't take orders from me. I am a different person now.” She stared at me ponderously, then declared. “You will guard me. You are sufficiently skilled.”

“Why should I risk my girl to help you?”

“Because you are my slave and I order you to.”

She definitely is not a different person!

“What right you have to tell me?”

“You are still my slave.”

“No. Faith-ful said I free.”

“Faithful said he would release you after the duel. He never did, so naturally I inherit you from him.”

I could not refute her logic. I cast my gaze to the floor.

Why God? I did the right thing. I forgave her. Why this?

“Nyla, it won't be like before. Don't you hear that I am protecting you. As my maidservant, no one will be permitted to harm you. I can shield you from Centin.”

She shielded her emotions from me so that I could not know if her motives were false. She placed her hand on my shoulder, but I brushed it off.

“I for-give you, not trust you.”

I regretted the words instantly as I sensed the pain they caused her.

What if her wound was another ploy to kill me like her seduction of Faithful?

I longed for Den's return.

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020 Nyl Becomes Silver's Guard

Silver poached a loaf-plant from a nearby shelf and nibbled while she sat on the cot. In nervousness, pumped my hand on the grip of my pistol.

How soon will they attack? Thee', if you can hear me, I need you.

Silver eared the pistol.

“Is not for you. Foe might come back.”

“How will you get me to the palace.”

“My guard choose la-ter”

“I told you they didn't hear me come in.”

“I not take chance.”

“Then, I'll hold one too.” She reached for a rifle hanging on the wall.

“No!” My starlet flared up with my fear.

She sat back down.

“I wasn't going to hurt you.”

To mitigate the risk of her killing me, I snatched the rifle from the wall and slung it over my shoulder.

“You wouldn't actually use that on me, would you?”

I did not know. We glared at each other. She still believed that I would avenge myself and murder her.

When the temptation was more than I could bear, I pressed the pistol into her palm and turned my back to her.

“You can trust me,” I said over my shoulder.

“You can trust me too.

I whirled around.

“No, I serve you on-ly un-til I buy free.”

While we stared into each others' eyes, a crash sounded in the doorway. A malicious presence burst into the room. I twirled and fired my rifle. The bullet penetrated my enemy's shoulder.

I covered him with my gun as he clutched his shattered arm. My starlet hovered just in front of his face.

“What you do here?”

Killing you of course.

“Which of us?” Gemma asked with her pistol leveled at his chest.

“You, Princess,” he spat.

“Well, you certainly didn't do a good job.”

I squatted in front of him.

“How bad arm hurt?”

“Not much, I'll manage.”

“Nyl, you're too close. He'll cut you!” as Silver spoke, he lunged for me with a knife. He pressed the blade to my throat.

“You move and she dies!”

Silver clicked the safety off on her pistol.

“No, I deal with this,” I pleaded with my eyes.

My unstarlet brought such utter cold to his body that he dropped the knife from the shivering.

“Tell me what I want and you go free.”

He released me and I kicked away the knife.

“Who sent you?”

“I dddondon't knnoww.

I placed my palm on his forehead.

“Do you speak truth?”

“Yes, please, I'll do anything. Just don't kill me.”

“Why you attack her?”

“Some people are not glad about, they are angry about her, the Princess. They wanted him to win.”

“Who they want win?”

“Ankor. He has powerful friends. They want both of you to killed be by me,” fear caused him to jumble his words.

“You alone?”

“Yes, but there's a attack planned around the coronation.

“You tell me any more about?”

“I don't know any details. I swear on my honor I don't.”

“You have no honor!” Silver landed a savage kick on his stomach. My glare at her ensured a second strike did not occur.

I placed my hand on his shoulder. He shrieked like a child. After several seconds, his agony shifted from him into my exhausted mind. Silver helped me to set and bandage his arm.

“You for-get all your past in re-turn for life.”

“Yes, anything, just let me live!” he wept.

I stole his shame and the memory of his life, except for pleasant memories of his sister. She would help him to build a new life of honor.

“Leave in peace. Go to your sister.”

He scurried off with three hands to support him instead of the usual four. Silver raised her pistol and placed a bullet in the back of his head.

The man's shame fled from me instantly.

“Why you kill him?” tears gushed across my face. “He no more a threat.”

“I don't take unnecessary risks.”

“I took risk with you. You be dead if I not help.”

“And I am very grateful for that.”

“His sis-ter will be cut to quick with grief.”

“What do I care? I must protect myself and my children, not a thug's sister.”

“Do not for-get, you are queen of thugs.”

“Gemma is dead. Do not ever remind me of her!

“You said you change, but you still mur-der. I for-gave you. How you not do same to him?”

“Why should I let him go? I owe nothing to him or to you. You were obligated to save my life. Never forget that you are my slave forever and that there is no price I will accept for your freedom!” Her fist slammed into my jaw. I silenced out.

An aura of terror jerked me out of the silence of unconsciousness. Silver curled in on herself in the corner of the room to hide from Den.

His upraised star threatened to obliterate her at any moment. To receive direction, he jerked his head toward me.

“What did she do to you?”

We were attacked. The assassin fled, Woe evaded.

“What did she do to you?!”

She was upset, she didn't mean it, Nyl lied.

He wanted to incinerate her and all of her memories which plagued me. He had waited five ventings for this opportunity.

Don't hurt her! She's with child.

“Do you think the truth?”

Yes, please don't harm her.

The star retreated to his chest.

I staggered over to Silver.

“He not hurt you.”

“Get that cursed unanimal away from me.”

I ignored the racial insult, which included me just as much as him.

“He my friend. He just want to help me.”

“Tell her that if she ever hurts you again, I will ruin her. I will expose her crimes to the entire kingdom.”

I cannot threaten her, Woe objected.

Why not? She certainly deserves it, Nyl countered.

We forgave her, Nyl. I cannot harm her now.

“Very well, Mistress. I only desire your protection.”

I know.

He wrapped his arms around me and joy permeated my soul.

I did it today; I forgave her. I surrendered to the greater Woethief.

Gladness filled his heart as the memories of my encounter with Silver entered his mind.

“I have prayed for this for so long,” He smiled, ever so slightly. Instead of experiencing pain like with all others, his happiness flooded me without diminishing for him.

Den turned to Silver and held out his hand. She squeezed his fingers with her own trembling ones, as a sign of goodwill.

After packing arms and clothing for me and himself and disarming Silver, the three of us made out for the palace. Thee' would handle the transport of the rest of the goods to another safehouse later.

Den kept himself between me and Silver. He protected me from her and somehow I must protect her from a myriad enemies while also protecting Comfort.

“Trust in God, Woe. He is a better guard than I.”

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