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What the Cat's Dragged In

--by Oleandre


Six months ago...

Two. Seven. Off suit. Ollie smiled and cocked an eyebrow at Lazlowe, who dealt her the hand. The hand that was universally regarded as the worst possible starting hand in the game. But if the goblin had done it on purpose, to annoy her or drop her out early, it didn't show on his face and Ollie had some experience reading faces.

The only sensible thing to do was to fold, no need to see the flop, no need for anything. Two-seven-off-suit was unplayable. Ollie, however, raised. This, dear reader, should show all anyone need know about her disposition that evening.

And then there was the drink. She took to drinking with the fierce sort of self-destruction that left many casting the girl a sideways glance. No one with a lick of sense mentioned it, however. (Early on, there was a Forsaken fellow who wasn't showing such good judgement and after he had leveled a few choice comments in her direction, Ollie hauled him bodily into the alleyway and proceeded to belabor his ribs and face until the fine line between undead and just plain dead became very blurry indeed.) Funnily enough, everyone seemed to have that "lick of sense" after this episode and no one again spoke to the girl except for the most perfunctory of conversational gambits--"Bet's to you, Ollie" or "You want another drink?"--much to Ollie's irritation. Bloody knuckles and a broken jaw, she felt, would accessorize the evening quite well.

The short of it? Ollie was in a very, very bad mood.

A myriad of factors contributed to this state of being. Not the least of which was Whitbarn. Tai hadn't asked for the specifics of her vehemence, not that she would have told him. Still, information like that didn't lend itself to making Ollie the pleasant sort of person she was known to be. It had managed to dredge up a lot of things that shouldn't be dredged, like bile rising up in the back of her throat.

Speaking of bile..., Ollie was out the door, her hands and knees pressing into the wooden planks of the dock, relieving the (entirely liquid) contents of her stomach into the Bay's water before she even knew she had stood up. She heaved herself up on her uncertain feet and recognized this as a rather significant omen to go home and collapse on her bed and sleep off the dregs of sin. However, Ollie chose not to believe in anything so abstract as omens and marched back into Josiah's Fel, dropped unceremoniously into her chair and ordered another drink from a flummoxed waitress.

Just about then, she saw a new player was sitting at the table. A human, well-dressed and probably well-moneyed. He was on the young side, barely twenty, and attractive in a boring sort of way, his manicured hands folded carelessly over his cards. He smiled at her, if she could risk calling such a thing a smile, more of a knowing and therefore unwelcomed smirk, and there was a moment of clarity in which she thought he looked very familiar, in a way that made her neck crawl... and then the moment passed. He stopped smirking at her and dropped his attention to the game.

He played cards cavalierly, as though he was not interested in the game or whether he lost the large pile of chips he sat down with. His accent was unmistakably upper-crust. From the City, no doubt. A disconcerting sort of familiarity continued to come back to her in waves, not unlike her nausea, and between this and the booze, Ollie was unable to concentrate on the game and, with an apparent effortlessness, managed to lose all of her chips quick as you please.

She stood, leaning on the table with a heavier hand than she would have liked, and turned away from the game as the man raked in his winnings from that hand. (She had thought he was bluffing, but the truth was he had no tells that she could see. Nothing at all. It was as though he wasn't even there.)

"The lady's not done, is she?" She didn't turn back to look, but Ollie could hear that insufferable smirk in his voice.

"Th' lady's lost all she's willin' to give away t'night," she threw over her shoulder, with less sportsmanship than she usually allowed herself.

From the corner of her eye, she saw him lean back in his chair and cross his arms over his chest. "Well, I hate to lose such a pleasurable competitor. How would it suit for me to buy you in for another round?"

The Universe had its rules. That's why some people died and came back and why some didn't. That's why some people could create ice at the fingertips and some couldn't. That's why there was a big, fekking whole in the center of Azeroth, and anyone who got close enough to it would not becoming back. One of those rules, the most prominent and important in Ollie's estimation was a very simple one: everything in Azeroth is for sale, but never is anything for free. It was a fact. It was the part of the threads that held this whole fel-forsaken place together. This meant that for all his manifest generosity: Mister Moneyed wanted something.

Ollie wasn't the slightest interested in what that something was.

"Thanks," she said, her surliness taking advantage of her inebriation. "But if it's all the same t'ya, I'd rather hold on too long to a goblin fishin' pole." And made what she hoped to be a grand exit from Josiah's. ("Grand", it would be empirically appropriate for the dear reader to assume, was a synonym for "staggering".)

A normally short walk back to her room was made far longer by frequent, if accidental, detours and falls to the ground. For a short moment, she even wondered vaguely if she was lost, and Ollie hadn't been lost in the Bay for eight years. So it should come as a surprise, if not a wholly unreasonable one, to find that when she finally reached the side door to the Inn, Mister Moneyed was resting casually against the wall, waiting for her.

"Whatever yer sellin', I ain't buying it," she slurred, unable to even summon up a disarming and crooked grin to accompany her words.

"I'm not selling," he said calmly. "I'm searching, and I've been led to believe the Tong can help me find what I'm looking for."

Ollie almost laughed then. She was drunk, she was broke, and she was of a choleric mood. Of course, a client would seek her out then. It was more the ridiculousness of the situation than any professional courtesy that made her stop and lean against a wooden support beam.

"Whatsit yer looking for?"

His smile returned, knowing and frustrating, "It's not a what so much. It's a who."

She nodded, her head bobbing with a drunken exaggeratedness, "Ah, one o' those. Sure, we've got plenny experience findin' folk. You'd hafta arrange a meeting wi'a superior, though, t'discuss details."

He chuckled, a noise so soft that it might have been carried off on the wind. "Dear girl." Had Ollie been sober, she might have been amused by such an appellation from someone so much younger than herself, "I'm not interested in hiring a criminal organization. Especially one that has already unwittingly given me the information I desire free of charge."

Ollie's head swam and she tried to concentrate. Did she let something slip that she shouldn't have?

"No, the girl I'm looking for used to be a servant in my home and before taking her unsanctioned leave, she killed my father, the late Lord Elcovar." The words hit Ollie like a bucket of icy water, sobering her immediately, which meant that she went straightaway for the sword at her side.

Too late, though, did she realize there was another presence besides the two of them. A large presence, standing directly behind her and with a startling swiftness, there was a crack! and pain blossomed instantaneously from the back of her skull.

She heard the man say in his soft, amused voice, "And I think I have already found her." Then everything went dark and she heard nothing at all.

There are many different types of pain, each unique, each special. One would never, for example, confuse the pain of a broken toe that had healed slightly wrong and therefore be a source of endless irritation in a shoe that was too big with the pain one might get from consuming a three-day-old fish from an open air market, raw, with a side of Skindle's fel chili. These two pains would be nigh impossible to mistake for one another. Unique. Special.

In Ollie's case, however, the pain from too much drink, that gnawing, pins-and-needles, wish-you-would-just-die sort of pain, and the pain from being blackjacked across the back of the skull, with something not nearly as soft and cuddly as a blackjack, had merged and reformed so that they were no longer two separate and detestable sorts of pain, but instead a terrifying amalgamation of pain, much like the abominations kept in Undercity. Except it was all happening inside of her skull. Fuzzily, she thought it was quite the rude thing that she appeared to be tied to a chair and therefore unable to do the proper and obvious thing and kill herself, just to ease that sort of pain.

She settled for a long groan.

"Ah, awake are you?"

In the back of her mind, wending its way through the bursting synapses of pain, there was a niggling thought that the voice was the harbinger of nothing particularly pleasant, so despite her better judgement, she cracked her eyelids open.

This was a mistake. Not only did the light in the dimmed room seem to insinuate itself in her eyes and proceed to become jagged and sharp as broken glass, but seeing the man, proud and regal behind a large desk, brought back the events of the previous night, before her untimely and forced lapse into unconsciousness.

"I must say, it was a merry chase for sometime and then you had the good manners to join the Tong." He laughed and shrugged his shoulders. It was a "what good luck" shrug, Ollie knew, as she had made similar shrugs many a time. "Imagine, here I've been searching for what? Four years? Five? And then there you were, Oleandre. Smith, was it? Well, yes, I suppose few people in your line of work would ask for identification, let alone previous references."

He stood, running his hand over the finish of the desk as he did so. Ollie was finally willing to widen her peripheral view enough to take in her surroundings. A library, perhaps? A rich man's study? She looked at the man who was sauntering around the desk to stand in front of her, and decided to amend that statement: a rich, arrogant man's study.

"I wonder, then, how long you were in the criminal game before you joined up with the Tong. You clearly showed an aptitude for it, even when a girl a seventeen. Tell me, did you enjoy killing my father? Ah, yes, I can see it in your eyes. You enjoyed that very much. And from what I've heard since I finally managed to track you down, is that your generally well-liked by pretty much every piece of scum from here to Kalimdor. So, you must be rather good at the baser occupations." The way the man said baser brought with it connotations of something far less wholesome than just those associated with a blade-for-hire and a thief. If Ollie was in a better state of mind, she might even be offended by such connotations.

"So," she croaked out. Her mouth felt dryer than the salt flats. "Is the plan to talk me to death?"

He smiled then, a small quirk of the lips. "Ah, cheek. A good sign. It'll make it that much better when you break. My father did always say that you showed so much... spirit." He chuckled, "Oh, didn't like that, did you?" He made a motion and a swift shadow descended over her. The shadow belonged to a man, but "man" didn't seem to cover it really. What do you call someone who was roughly the size and shape of a house? The house then knelt in front of her and began removing her shoes.

"In a way," he continued, only half paying attention to the ministrations of his hired mass of flesh. "I should thank you, really. Had it not been for you, who knows how long the prior Lord Elcovar would have lived? How long it would have been before I could succeed him." The house had finished with her shoes and tossed them idly off to the side before producing a hammer from some place that Ollie could not see. "Make no mistake, there was never really any love lost for my father. Not by me and certainly not by my mother, so well done there. But if the man taught me but one thing, it was not to tolerate servants who stepped above their station."

Just then, the hammer fell down on Ollie's largest toe with the sort of force usually reserved for moving mountains. Flesh and blood and bone were reduced to a gristly slurry. She tried not to scream, she really did, but the pain was so quick, so intense, that it couldn't be helped, and so, despite her best wishes, the scream ripped through her, tearing its way out of her throat harsh and loud.

"Consider this to be your first lesson in the concept."

For the proceeding three hours, Ollie learned just how many different types of pain there were in the world.

Five months ago...

The realization that no one was coming for her wasn't a very hard leap to make. Ollie knew she was something of a madcap, and so the first few weeks, she hadn't thought the family would miss her.

That wasn't precisely accurate, as they probably would in fact miss her or wonder what she was up to, but Ollie was known to scarper off in the past with some plan or wild reason and unless there was a job to do, no one would try to contact her until she came back. So, she bided her time, waiting for the cavalry.

After a month though, she began to have her doubts. Perhaps there was no trace for her family to follow? Had anyone suspected ill-dealings that night? Had anyone seen the man leave after her into the night? After a month with no word, would they think she was just dead?

Ollie shifted, the chains that bound her clinking in the dark as she did so. There was no light down here in Lord Elcovar's dungeons, which meant it would have been very hard to tell what time of day it was, if not for the fact that Ollie's life had become a perfect schedule. It had already been a few hours since she had her pain session with the Lord and his giant of a man, Balthazar, which meant she was sticky with her own blood and she throbbed with angry, residual pain from head to toe and through every joint. But the priestess, Elia'diareth, had not come yet to heal her. So, Ollie placed the hour at early evening.

The priestess was something of an anomaly. The night elf was kind, sympathetic and highly devout in her worship of Elune, and yet she was entirely unwilling to stop Ollie from being horrifically tortured on a daily basis. Ollie had asked her once, her voice riddled with equal parts of confusion and pain, and the answer had not failed to surprise her.

"I'm answering Elune's call," the priestess replied, in her soft, soothing voice. "Ah, that answer surprises you, yes? But Elune believes in justice as much as She believes in mercy, Miss Oleandre, and in this work, I am fulfilling Her will. You must know that it is nothing personal."

In many ways, this scared Ollie more than Lord Elcovar and his man did. Revenge she could handle, zealotry was something else entirely. This led to another question that had nagged at her: if the goal was simply to hurt her and to exact some revenge, hadn't that been done already? And if so, why was she still alive? There wasn't any heat or anger driving Elcovar's actions, he was as punctilious as he was cruel, so it wasn't exactly a passionate crime, and he said himself on many occasions that he didn't even like his father. So, what could possibly be his reason for dragging this out for a month already?

The answer came as though pulled out of the nether. His methods may be different, but Elcovar was just like his father. He was a sadist and he was deriving pleasure from Ollie's pain. He would draw it out, and continue to draw it out, until she had no more pain to give him.

So in the cold, dank cell, her arms and feet heavy with shackles and her breathing labored as she was rather sure she had more than one broken rib, she began to wonder another question. When would it finally be enough? When would he let her die?

In that place, she wrapped her arms around herself and, knowing that no one was coming for her, she despaired. Crying as she had not done since she was sixteen years old.

Four months ago...

He was changing the routine. Ollie couldn't help but think this was a bad thing.

She was pulled from her cell and new chains were clasped around her feet and hands and then she was dressed.

Ollie was a fine enough hand with a needle and a thread to tell that the dress was made of a shoddy material, and the lace that trimmed it was cheap, but far worse than either of these things, which wouldn't have bothered her even if she hadn't been wearing rags for the past few months, was that it was pink. A florid, violent pink, a little girl's pink on a woman who had never in all of her life worn the color. Elia'diareth, with a careful hand, painted deliberate and precise circles of rouge high on her cheeks. And the whole affair was topped by a little pink bow, that was gently placed in her hair.

She felt ridiculous, of course, but a wary little hope sprung in her mind that ridicule was the goal. Elcovar wished to embarrass her? Well, that seemed a far cry better than the time he cut out her tongue, after the long and virulent string of curses she placed on him, only to have the priestess tenderly place it back into her bloody mouth and use her blessings to heal it clean. Compared to that, Ollie felt that she could certainly wear a dress, no matter how awful the color.

Of course, that was before she was led upstairs by her chains and brought into Elcovar's study.

It hadn't changed. Not at all. The desk, the lamps, even--dear God--the carpet were the same since she had last stood there. Suddenly, Ollie was transported back those long fourteen years ago, standing here as she once had, and catching sight of herself in the mirror, in her frilly, girlish dress and rosy cheeks, only served to make the illusion complete.

Oh God, not again, she thought, as she stood frozen in the doorway. No, no, no, not again. That, that would be worse than any amount of pain.

But nothing happened, except for Balthazar tugging forcefully on her chains, reminding her she had stopped, and he led her to a corner of the study and locked her chains to an iron clasp embedded in the wooden floor.

After that, she was ignored. Balthazar took post by the door and the Lord wrote letters and went over accounts at his desk and Ollie stood in tense anticipation. Every time he cleared his throat or turned a page, every time Balthazar shifted his weight, she was sure they finally remembered she was there, unfinished business.

Three hours passed like this, with Ollie terrified that there would be some unrecognizable signal and the hell she left all that time ago would come back for her. Three hours and nothing at all to either relieve her fear or fill the cup of it so resolutely as to spill over in unbridled hysteria.

And then the door opened and an older woman breezed in. "Tyrone, darling, that gnomish girl at the laundry does not know how to press silk. I mean, honestly, how hard can it be? See this dress? Five hundred gold wasted! It's just ruined! This simply will not do. I want Maria back."

Ollie recognized her immediately. Lady Elcovar was left mostly unchanged by the years.

"Hello, Mother,"he replied, looking up from his accounts with an indulgent smile. "And you can't get Maria back. You had her sent to prison for stealing your pendant."

"Oh, that silly thing!" No, no, I've found it. It was in the back of the case all along." She didn't look particularly sheepish at this admission.

"Well, I'm rather sure her punishment has already been exacted, Mother. Most likely took her hand a month ago. Stealing from a noble is a heavy charge."

Lady Elcovar sighed exaggeratedly, "Then no doubt she wouldn't be at all decent a laundress any longer."

It was then that the flighty woman finally saw Ollie, "Who is that?"

"Hmm, oh. That's our new servant girl."

The woman peered at Ollie shrewdly, but she was shocked to see that there was no recognition in the older woman's eyes. "Why is she in chains?"

"Ah, well, she's a criminal," he said, leaning back in his chair and smiling broadly. "I bought her indentured, very cheap."

Lady Elcovar looked scandalized, "Tyrone! A criminal? What will the neighbors think? What if she steals from us?"

"Don't worry, Mother, that's what the chains are for. Think of her as a particularly spirited horse. She only needs to be broken."

Ollie glared at him venomously, but was unwilling to risk his ire by saying anything. Thus came the stinging realization that his metaphor was only too apt. He was breaking her, wearing her down, turning her into a docile, trained creature.

Well, she refused. She was Ollie, after all, card sharp, deadly blade, and a tiger claw of the Grey Tiger Tong. She wasn't about to lose to a sadistic bastard of a nobleman like Elcovar. Not without a fight.

Three months ago...

Ollie began to live for her routine.

After Elia'diareth had healed and left her, she would rest. She thought she did so for about four hours every evening, but it was hard to tell here in the pitch dark. Then she would train.

She didn't have as much movement as she would like. She could extend the full length of the seven by seven foot cell, but one ankle was attached to the wall by a length of chain and her hands were kept together by another, but this only meant that she had to become stronger, more cunning, more adaptable. She would start with the exercises that Dern had taught her when he was training her to fight and steal. Then she would do what she could to improve her strength and endurance, she would do this swiftly and silently, testing herself against the noise of the chains around her. On a good night, there was no difference in noise from her sleeping in the pitch and her jogging in place in the pitch. She would then trace the entirety of her cell, so she knew every length of it by touch. With nimble fingers, she felt the lock of her chains and the lock of the door. She knew what she needed to get to open them both when the time came.

Then she practiced more, until she was so exhausted by her practice that it was an effort to move at all. That was when Elcovar and his man would show up. Some days, there would be torture, but she wouldn't scream. She wouldn't whimper. She wouldn't speak at all. Fortunately, her body was too tired to put up much of a resistance. Some days, there would be the dress. Those were the days that she was taken upstairs to be demeaned, and these usually ended in torture anyway. She refused to speak. She refused to work. One time, the Lord said she was to scrub the floors and she did not move. Balthazar broke all of her fingers trying to force them around the brush. Then he broke her nose by slamming her face into the marble. She didn't scream. She didn't speak. She didn't work.

Eventually, she would go back to her cell and wait for the priestess. She would answer the priestess, softly and politely, if she asked Ollie a question, as she still held out hope that Elia'diareth might possibly become her ally and help her escape. Then she would eat her bread and drank her water and again she would rest.

Her will was honed and sharpened. She existed for three things. She existed not to break. She existed to live. And she existed to hate Elcovar with all the hate in her mind, soul and body. These three things would keep her going until the answer came.

In the meantime, Elcovar tried to find new things to hurt her with. One time, he voiced that he thought she had become inured to the presence of those she saw every day. So he invited a friend over.

His friend was another nobleman, Lord Althius Montarch. Althius found Ollie's punishment a hilarious thing and would try to join in the game. He had a sharp tongue, harsher than Elcovar's and would try to upset her with words. She ignored them. He tried to hurt her, but his violence was an untried and undisciplined thing. It rolled off of her. Once though, he had grabbed at her inappropriately. (I will leave you, dear reader, to decide what might be considered inappropriate at this stage.) And she spat in his face.

She was beaten for that, harder than usual. They branded her in places, with a poker from the fire, and then sliced open her flesh to brand her again. She didn't so much as shed a tear.

That night, she smiled as she drifted into sleep. She smiled and thought of home.

Two months ago...

Lord Elcovar was getting angry. Nothing he did seemed to anger her. She could tell his frustration and even through the worst of it, she smiled a little, knowing that their dynamic had shifted, if only by a little. Elcovar was not entirely in control anymore.

The Lord held the torch, while his man slammed her head into the wall again and again.

"Honestly, Balthazar, I'm not sure it's worth it anymore," he sighed theatrically. Balthazar stopped and let Ollie slide down the wall. She felt blood flow down her forehead with the steady, slow throb of her heartbeat. She couldn't see straight.

Balthazar, of course, said nothing.

"It's like she doesn't even care anymore." He handed the torch to his man and kicked her stomach. She wretched a little, but it was instinct and therefore didn't count. Both of them seemed to know this. He knelt down next to her and wiped her hair out of her face. In any other circumstance, the gesture might have been mistaken for "tender". "What am I to do with you, Oleandre? When you won't even try any more?"

He smiled then, "Maybe, I'll just give you away, if you won't be pleasing for me any more." He rubbed his chin and watched her, "You know, Althius took a liking to you. Honestly, I don't know what he sees in you, but his tastes are far more... eclectic than mine. He's mentioned many times what he would do if he had the opportunity, in graphic detail. Would you like that, Oleandre? Would you like to be Althius' toy?"

She wasn't thinking. This was partly due to the bashing her skull had taken. It was partly due to fear. But mainly, it had to due with the fact that she hated the Lord so very much. Instinct had taken over. Elcovar was close now, leaning over her, and far more quickly than he could even register what was happening, she had the chain that linked her hands together around his neck, and she squeezed. Elcovar kicked and scrambled, his fingers clawing at her neck, but she was stronger than he was, much, much stronger.

Unfortunately, Balthazar was far quicker than his bulk would suggest and had she been thinking, even at all, she would have remembered that from the night on the docks. Before she had the opportunity to do any real damage, she was flung across the room, landing against the opposite wall with a fleshy thud. Elcovar was coughing and wheezing, hand clutched to his neck, trying to catch his breath. He watched her, his eyes filled with an evil menace, and there... under it all, there was fear at all. Ollie giggled a little, she was delirious and it made the situation ridiculous, laughable. Eventually, she was doubled up, holding her bruised or broken ribs, choking on peals of laughter.

"You find that funny, Oleandre?" His eyes held a malicious glint.

She finally managed to catch her breath and stopped laughing. She just looked at him with a bemused smile on her face, a mirror of the smirk that he often wore.

Balthazar looked at his master, questioningly. "Do it. Tell the priestess not to come tonight and give her no food nor water." Then he turned and left. He wasn't even going to stay and watch. While Ollie didn't mind, she felt that this probably boded poorly for her.

She smiled up at the giant man from where she was leaning on the floor. "You know, Bal, when this is all over... you're going to be dead."

Balthazar cracked his knuckles and began.

One month ago...

Elcovar had a charm new sport based on Ollie's display of defiance. It was a very simple game and the rules were a little hazy at best. It was called "Choke Oleandre until she passes out". Well, I'm sure, dear reader, that you can figure out the basic premise from there.

It hurt, yes, but on the whole scale of things that caused pain, this was more or less a minor one. The passing out bit was nice too, because it meant that, for a while at least, the games would have to be paused. Ollie thought he only did this in an attempt to reassert his dominance, remind her that anything she might do to him, he could return a hundred fold. Ollie only saw it as a display by a weak little boy, trying to prove he was something different. She wasn't very impressed, and sometimes it was hard to keep from laughing out loud at watching Elcovar preen around her broken body like a peacock. Today, she was in the dress, in the study, and while Balthazar held her shoulders, the Lord pressed his thumbs into her throat.

She squirmed instinctively, thrashing a little as she was suffocated, and then her eyes fell on the letter opener. She'd seen it many times and knew it wasn't sharp enough to really work as a weapon, but usually the Lord put it away in a locked drawer. It'd never before been in her reach.

Not that it was currently, as she was shackled and held down. But the idea was there, and Ollie could have kicked herself for not having thought of it already. It would work, with a little luck on her side.

Then she went unconscious, her struggling stopped and her hands went limp at her sides. Elcovar gave her one final squeeze and released her. Balthazar let go of her shoulders and stepped away.

"She's not lasting as long as she used to," Elcovar said, with a note of disgust in his voice, as he wiped his hands off on a handkerchief. He sighed and sat in a chair by the fireplace, "Bring me some wine."

Balthazar moved quickly and silently to acquiesce and there was a long, thoughtful quiet that pervaded through the room. The Lord swirled his wine and took a small sip, "You know, Balthazar, I think this game is almost at its end. I would have thought the girl to make a nice trophy, a reminder of what should happen to someone who crosses an Elcovar, but she's being quite stubborn on that end."

He took another sip, and brushed off his impeccably clean sleeve, "I'm starting to grow bored of all of this. Soon, I think we'll just have to kill her and ... maybe we can start over with someone new." His eyes lit up as he thought of this and looked into the fire, continuing in a soft, thoughtful voice. "Yes, a real screamer would be a nice change."

Balthazar said nothing, but neither was he expected to. He stood over his Lord, always ready.

Neither of them noticed when an unconscious Ollie slipped the letter opener into her sleeve.

The locks on her chains were immeasurably frustrating with the letter opener. Ollie felt that this was due to the anticipation of what would come next and nerves, because of every rat that scurried by or every creak in the dungeon, she was sure the priestess was coming early and she would be found out.

Finally, though, she was free. Free in a small increment. Free of the chains at least. There were many doors and much bloodshed between her and true freedom, but the first step was done.

A few hours later, the sound of a distant door opening interrupted the next step: sharpening the letter opener on the rough stones of her cell. It would have to do.

There was some movement outside of her cell, some shuffling, some whispered prayers in Darnassian, before the cell's door opened.

"Miss Oleandre, I do hope that the Lord did not deal with you too harshly today." Elia'diareth stopped in the doorway, torch in hand, looking in the place where Ollie should be laying, but wasn't. "Oleandre?"

It should be said at this time that Ollie had debated long and hard about whether she wanted to kill the priestess. While she hadn't actually been helpful, she was kind, the only kind thing in Ollie's life these past months. But it had eventually come down to one, indisputable fact.

Ollie would not allow anyone who knew what happened to her here in this house to live. That said, it wasn't really a choice at all.

"I hope you have said your prayers, priestess," she murmured gently, as she stepped from the shadows behind her and pulled the rough hewn blade across the night elf's throat. It had been easy, so incredibly easy. Easier than anything had any right to be, killing the priestess.

Dear reader, may death never come for you as willingly and practically as it did in that foul cell for Ollie and Elia'diareth. It is not pleasant or right for things to be thus. It is not well done. But well or no, it was done, and Ollie eased the woman's body to the floor, her life's blood pulsing out of her neck, her mouth bubbling and frothing with unspeakable prayers.

Ollie did not dwell on this, her mind was already to the priestess' weapons. (Every day for five months, the priestess had set something by the door before entering, and the only logical assumption was that it was something she did not want Ollie to get, and the thing that they would not want Ollie to get would be weapons.) She had known a few priests who carried daggers, which would be very workable indeed, although Ollie preferred swords, but she had never once heard of a priest carrying one.

Two sticks. Ollie's lip curled in disgust. Two sticks were awaiting her outside of the cell: a staff and a wand. What the fel was she supposed to do with such inferior killing implements? She threw them back to the ground and went back into her cell for letter opener, it would have to serve for at least a little while longer.

Ollie fell into the shadows and crept her way out of the dungeon. Here on the precipice of freedom, she was cautious, oh so cautious, knowing that if she was caught and thrown back into the cell... she wasn't sure she'd survive long enough to make another attempt. She crouched on the first floor landing which led down to the basement dungeons and listened.

It was dark, but Ollie wasn't exactly sure what time it was. Was it so late that everyone would be asleep in their beds already? It seemed too much to hope. She crept down a hall, taking a familiar path. First, she would check the study, if for no other reason than she was certain where it was. She had most of the lay out to the first floor in her mind, but the second was nothing more than a mystery. She pressed ear to the door, but heard only silence, she focused, her senses keen, listening for the scratch of the Lord's pen.

If she wasn't listening so intently, she would have never heard Balthazar behind her.

She leapt forward, just as the giant lunged for her, and turned about, lashing out with the letter opener. She caught his arm, ripping through skin jaggedly, all the way to bone. He grunted wordlessly and wheeled back in surprise. Ollie smiled. For five months, she had dreamed of drawing the giant's blood.

"Hello, Bal, I was hoping to see you."

The look on his face skittered from surprise to fear to resignation. Again, he lunged forward, and this time Ollie let him ride her to the ground as she forced her letter opener into his side, twisting it.

He gasped and caught himself with his hands, allowing Ollie to slither out from under him, now slick with his blood. She leapt to her feet, assuming a defensive stance, and stared down at him. "Tell me one thing, Bal." She took a small step forward, angling her weapon down, "How long did it take for Elcovar to break you?"

The man glared up at her, fury, revulsion and yes, there was even envy there plain to see on his face. Then his head bowed and he lifted two fingers.

"Two months, eh? Just as I thought. So pathetic." He didn't lift his head and the whole bulk of him shivered a little. "Take a small comfort then, Bal, in the fact that you won't survive long enough to know what my family would do to you if they found out. At least this way it will be over quickly."

True to her word, Ollie struck swiftly, piercing him straight through to his heart with the letter opener and again twisting the blade as the giant shuddered in his death throes. All and all, she decided, the man suffered only a little less than he probably deserved.

Ollie walked up the stairs. Her step was light and she felt hopeful. With Balthazar out of the way, she couldn't help but think that she was going to succeed.

The first three rooms were empty. The fourth was Lady Elcovar's bedroom. If I've already said that it was an easy thing to run her blade over Elia'diareth's throat, then there is nothing comparable to say when Ollie plunged the blade into the old woman's chest. It probably isn't a pleasant thing, to kill an old woman, but you wouldn't know this to see Ollie's face at the time.

Another hour went by with Ollie slipping through the shadows, from door to door, hunting down Elcovar. When she finally found him, he was slumped in his chair, with a few empty wine bottles, singing softly to himself.

"My brother's a mission'ry worker. He saves young ladies from sin. For five gold, he'll save you a redhead. Oh God, how the money rolls in, rolls in. Oh God, how the money rolls in."

Drunk.

She grinned widely, This is gonna make it that much easier...

"Wakey, wakey."

Groaning. Coughing. "Where am I?"

Ollie stood, looking immensely pleased, and checked on her little campfire, "We're in the jungle." She unsheathed a knife the size of her arm, she swiped it off of a caravan and it was a discernible improvement over the letter opener. "I thought maybe we should talk a little."

And for the first time, Elcovar opened his eyes. The sight made him wish he had just left them closed. She wasn't lying, they were knee deep in thick foliage, and from where he lay, he could not see any roads or other signs of civilization. And then there was, of course, his sole companion. Ollie had blood smeared across her face like some kind of troll, her arms and legs were mostly bare and they too were covered in splatters and whorls of blood. Elcovar vaguely wondered whose blood it was. Her grin was sharp, her teeth too white, her lips too red, the whole thing giving the impression of incredible pain. It seemed like a dangerous sort of smile.

Panic was beginning to rise in the back of his throat and he tried to push it back down. "You escaped."

"A copper to the smart man." She slapped his knee with the flat of the blade. He tried to squirm a little, but found that the woman tied a mean knot. "Now! If you haven't figured it out already, we're getting to the end of things here, and here's a hint: things don't exactly end well for ya."

He glared at her with a defiance he did not feel.

"So, before we get started, I have a couple of questions for ya. Now, I know what yer thinking. If you answer my questions, what does that get you? And the answer is absolutely nothing." She gave him an over-effusive thumbs up. "Nothing. It won't go easier for you, it won't be over more quickly, and heaven's forbid, you certainly aren't going to leave this little clearing. Either under your own steam or in a pinebox, no sir. You'll rot in this felforsaken little square of land until some gob thinks to dig it up for iron or gold, you got that?

"But, I thought to myself, I thought, 'Ollie-girl, here's a boy who likes to see himself as a villain.' Well, then, myself supposes, 'What does a villain enjoy?' And wouldn't you know it, but I came to the revelation that what a villain really, really wants to do is a little exposition. So, sport, you can think of this as a present. I get to ask you a couple of questions," her smile slipped, and only a hard, flinty look was left in its place. "And you get your fucking exposition.

"How's that sound, hmm?"

He just stared up at her.

"It's okay. That one was free, you don't have to answer that." Her voice grew softer, "First question, do you know what your father did? Why I killed him?"

Without realizing it, he was nodding his head, "Yes."

"And you know the organization I'm in, yes?"

Again, he nodded, "Yes."

"Okay, so here's the real question, the thing that I'm dying to know," she smirked at her own word choice, "Knowing these two things as you did, why in the name of Azeroth did you come for me? Why risk it? Why bother?"

He felt a rage bubbling up. She really didn't know? His voice rose and by the end of it he was screaming, spittle flying from his mouth, "Because I wasn't going to let House Elcovar lose to some fucking whore!!"

He strained and thrashed against his ropes until he was out of breath and all the time, she just stared down at his prone form, smiling.

"Well, let's get started then, shall we?"

Dear reader, I worry that what comes next is far too gruesome, even for our little story. Pen should not be put to paper in the sort of exacting detail that Ollie displayed upon Lord Elcovar. So, instead I will tell you someone else's story of this same night:

There was a Stranglethorn troll named Monblai. He was the strongest warrior of his tribe, the most cunning fighter. In a few years, he would be named chief. Everyone knew this. On this night, Monblai was hunting panthers. The meat was the freshest and bloodiest meat. The hide was the warmest and softest hide. The tooth was the sharpest and strongest tooth for an arrowhead. Monblai was very good at hunting panthers, and he was silent, and he was patient. Except on this night, while hunting, he happened upon Ollie and Lord Elcovar. And when he went back to his tribe, with a quaking voice, this was the story he told:

Tonight, a demon goddess haunts the jungle. Her teeth shine like night stars after the moon has been devoured. Her hair is wild and matted, snarled around her head like a crown of chaos. Her limbs are like the sea in a storm. Her skin is red with fresh blood and it pools into her footsteps, killing all the plants there like a plague. In her eyes, I saw a madness that will bring the end of the worlds.

He shook his head then, trying to release the memory and drew in a shaking breath.

I thought I have known many deaths. I thought I have seen much of fighting and violence. But I now I know that I have seen nothing compared to the death that evil spirits can bring. There is a demon goddess in the jungle and as I have seen she preys on the men who have tried to take this jungle from us, but still, tonight I will go nowhere near her.

And on this night the trolls of the Stranglethorn shared a nightmare of Death wearing the shape of a woman.

Yesterday...

"Excuse me, gents. Can a girl sit in on a hand?"

Chuck had swept her into a rib-cracking hug before his chair had even finished hitting the floor. "Ollie, you thrice-damned, pox-ridden, troll-doxy daughter of a whore! Do you have any idea how scared we were? How worried? I swear, Geoff was ready to garrote me where I stood, carryin' on as a mother hen and the like."

Pretty Geoff smiled up at Ollie with genuine happiness in his eyes, "It's true. Ollie-girl, if you ever go off like that again, I think we'll have t'just hunt ya down and kill ya to stop from the worryin'."

"And that wasn' sactly the worst of it, was it?" Chuck continued, having gained steam, "I thought that elf was gonna fekking murder me. Your 'family' came rollin' in here, askin' questions, scarin' the gobbos half out their wits lookin' for ya. You've no idea the trouble you put us all through."

Ollie laughed, "And here I thought you lot would be thrilled to know I wasn't callin' in debts no more."

Chuck frowned at her. It was a serious frown and it looked strange and foreign on his face. Gods above was she happy to see that friendly face, "Ain't a jokin' matter, Ollie. Where th' hell have you been?"

And for a short moment, she thought of telling him. The whole truth of it, dirty and awful as it was, just so someone might know, just so someone might put their arms around her and let her cry until she had no more tears left. A burden shared is a burden halved, right? But then the moment passed, and again she was sure of it. No one would ever, ever know.

She gave him a sad little smile. "Sorry for worrin' ya, Chuck. I had to go back to Turner's for a spell. My... well, my da died."

"Oh, Ollie. I'm sorry, luv." He hugged her again and, though a lie, she allowed herself to dwell in his sympathy for a moment.

"Yeah, tough break, darlin'," Geoff added, standing up and pulling a chair out for her, a show of chivalry the boys had long since left behind.

"Thanks, I mean it," she said, sitting in the chair. "But I'm good, I think. At least I got to say goodbye."

Chuck smiled sympathetically and took to his seat again, dealing her hand, "Ya know, it's funny. Don't take no offense or anything, but I always kind of thought ya were havin' us on 'bout all that Turner's Point business. Couldn't really picture ya as the small town girl sort, even as a kid."

"Ha, that is funny," she replied, forcing a smile, forcing a laugh.

Geoff pushed a pint across the table to her, "Well, here's to your da then."

"Right," she said, raising her glass. "To th' recently passed. May he find beyond th' veil exactly what's coming to him."

If either man thought this was a strange toast, they said nothing. The three raised their glasses, took a healthy drink and then set into a serious game of cards. Ollie was home at last.

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