After hearing the Wing Leader’s decree that Elide would be spending her nights in Manon’s quarters, Elide was sure that she would never sleep again. She was no longer AS terrified of the fierce witch, who took such great pleasure in defying her uncle and undermining him as often as possible. No, the Heir to the Blackbeaks no longer terrified her to the point where her stuttering had been genuine at points. But now Elide could not name the emotions that raced through her every time she watched Manon in action and had her body on a constant state of heightened alertness when in her presence.
And Elide had watched carefully.
Perhaps it was awe she was feeling, given that Manon knew how to dance a very careful line between a well earned amount of arrogance, and outright rebelliousness. But Elide had overheard whispers by bored and careless sentries over the weeks of just how cruel the Matron could be - even to her own grand-daughter. No disobedience would be tolerated and as much as Elide could see that the Wing Leader balked and tugged at the long leash that Perrington now apparently held, she could not openly defy him without invoking the full wrath of her grandmother and Matron. Something that even Manon dare not do.
Or perhaps these feelings were gratitude. Because only one person in this gods-forsaken decade had shown her any kind of notice, mercy, or compassion. She’d been impressed and admittedly terrified in the beginning when the Wing Leader had caught on to her deception. And the shadows had not gone unnoticed over the days following that confrontation But Manon had put herself out there by acknowledging Elide’s mixed heritage and giving her something she hadn’t had in over a decade. A choice- one that could lead to difficulties for both of them. The Blackbeak Heir had offered and Elide had accepted and tonight, despite the fear at the danger of the task given to her, Elide vowed that she would not fail Manon.
As Elide lay on her pallet in the Wing Leader’s room that first night, she admitted to herself in the darkest hours of that perhaps it was something even deeper. An emotion she was unfamiliar with and had only been told about by her handmaid. Manon was a beautiful woman, there was no denying that by anyone. She had found herself breathless when watching the Wing Leader train with her coven or as she and Abraxos had leapt from the aerie. But the rush of heat through her body as the witch warrior stripped off her leathers without a care to go bathe and then return to her room to collapse in her bed without bothering with any kind of nightclothes, had left Elide confused and very wide awake for hours as she tried to sort out her emotions and discern what the lingering coil of heat low in her gut was.
It was finally Manon, who had snapped warily at her when Elide rose to use the bathroom earlier, and now spoke into the darkness with a question that seemed to focus it all for Elide. “Have you never been attracted to someone?”
Elide was frozen on her small hay pallet. Not out of fear. Well at least not from the Wing Leader. Finally she spoke, her stuttering gone, but a hesitancy born from lack of experience still influencing her speech “I….I’ve been confined to a tower with only my handmaid for more than half my life. My uncle limited my interactions with people. I am….familiar with the concept. But no one I’ve even met has….given me reason to...to notice them in more than just deeming them as useful, a threat, or someone to disregard entirely,” she admitted, thankful the darkness was covering the heat that she could feel blossoming severely along her face.” I did not mean any offense Wing Leader.”
“It’s not a crime to find another attractive, Witchling. Besides, I deal with it on a constant basis,” the elder witch informed her indifferently. Then Manon shifted, and her voice held a note of intrigue. “Those are some interesting categories . Tell me, which was I in?”
Elide swallowed. “A-at first I thought you and the other witches were a threat. I truly was terrified of you when we first met. But then…then I realized you could be useful in my plans to escape.” She paused and then revealed a secret that the darkness emboldened her to tell the Wing Leader. “And perhaps to frustrate my uncle without fear of too much retaliation.”
Manon huffed in what sounded like amusement. “Well on that account I do enjoy my role in your grand plans. Your uncle is an entitled piece of shit who has ingratiated himself to an even bigger prick and I do so hope I get the chance to gut the spineless bastard one day. Would you like to be there Witchling?”
The brunette’s breath caught in her throat as she contemplated that. All that her people had endured because of his cruelty flashed before her eyes in that darkness and her ankle twinged painfully as she shifted slightly. It was a sharp reminder of all the abuses she herself had suffered at his hands and her fears as to how much further he was willing to go if he’d gone to the trouble to bring her here to where the poor tortured souls that screamed and begged for mercy were being turned into nightmares and monsters. She thought of Lady Kaltain and shuddered as she realized her fate would likely be something similar if not worse.
“I think,” she breathed out quietly and then paused to lick her lips. When she spoke next there was growing conviction in her words. “I think I would like to see the fear in his face on the day he must atone for all the wrongs and injustices he has inflicted on those he was supposed to protect but instead trampled and broke in his bid for power.”
Manon was quiet for a moment, seeming to savor Elide’s growing confidence. “Would you kill him, given the chance?”
“I do not know. For all that I hate the man, I have never taken another’s life and I do not know if I could,” Elide answered honestly.
“Then that is a question you will need to ponder Elide Lochan because you are the rightful Heir to Perranth and a Blackbeak. War is upon us all and if you wish to escape this hellhole and join your rebels, I can guarantee you will be faced with that decision and your life will likely be on the line.”
Elide was quite for awhile after that, contemplating their brief discussion. But then curiosity got the best of her. “What is it like?” she asked into the silence.
“What is what like? To kill someone or fuck them?”
Elide choked on air and Manon chuckled….actually chuckled and Elide nearly started choking all over again. But she also felt a strange surge of pride that she had garnered such a reaction in the normally grumpy and stoic Wing Leader.
“Go to sleep Witchling. Those are conversations for another night and you have kept me up long enough,” Manon ordered firmly, but Elide heard the note of…fondness that tinged the words. And something immediately loosened in her chest.
“Yes Wing Leader,” she replied obediently and settled deeper into her blankets.
Despite realizing she still had much to sort out over the coming days, Elide Lochan found herself falling into a deep sleep, knowing that for the first time in nearly a decade, she was safe.