"Lady Dawnstar – are you still afraid?"
No, she thought. No, not really. Nervous. Excited. Not afraid. Her twin brother looked more afraid than she felt; he was sitting beside the bed, watching her as she made herself comfortable on the pillows. She held out a hand.
“Come and sit by me,” she said.
He did so, slowly; she took his hand in hers and squeezed it as he sat on the bed beside her. He returned the gesture, letting her feel his strength, and the Holy power that moved in his heartbeat, in his veins. It calmed her; made her feel strangely serene as her other hand lifted the golden dagger from the cushions. It had been a gift from her father, for protection; she had never used it. She had never used any kind of dagger until she met Zahren, and he had pressed his silver baselard into her hand, inviting him to pierce the hollow of his throat. She still remembered how it felt to stand so close that she could feel his breath on her hair; to place the glittering tip of the knife’s point against the soft skin and feel it quiver in anticipation with his rising pulse. She had never been so acutely aware of all things; of the space between them and enveloping them; of his breath and hers; of his blood, his heartbeat, his life, and every single moment that it continued – right up until the point where she slid the dagger through that unguarded skin. The moment immediately after his question: “Are you still afraid?”
He hadn’t died. A “soulstone”, forged from the blood of a creature he had slain, housed part of his spirit and permitted his body to regenerate as though it were never injured. She hadn’t asked what he had killed in order to create such an item; she had wanted proof that the Darkness was on par with the Light in all ways, and he had provided it. She had never guessed that she would find herself in the position to create one herself.
Perhaps she was a little afraid; after all, she had asked her brother to stay with her. But when the cold point of the dagger touched her bare skin, she forgot what she feared. The goosebumps that appeared in response made her only aware again of her breath, slowing, and her heartbeat, rising, and the blood that rushed to the surface of the skin where it was about to spill. And more – she was aware of Mal’s hand in hers, his warmth, his closeness, and how soft she was, and how hard the steel blade. All of these things came together, and when the tip of that cold, unyielding dagger slid inside her flesh the way Zahren’s baselard had slipped into his throat, she watched at first with only wonder. And then the pain came – it grew within her like a great ache that turned to fire, and made her arch against it as her breath drew in sharply.
Then Mal’s hand closed around the hilt, closing around her hand too, as though he could lend her all his male strength. “Shh”; he whispered soothing sounds as he helped her complete it, driving the blade inexorably through, higher, then higher still.
Her knuckles were white where they grasped his other hand; they tightened more as he slid the dagger from her flesh, her nails leaving half-moon prints in his skin. His hand moved across her bare belly; she thought of Zahren’s throat again, the way the blood had flowed like a river from the wound, between her fingers, them. Now she knew how it felt; her skin being bathed by the warm river that was her life essence.
I could die, she thought, and it seemed like a dream.
Then her brother’s hand slid inside the gash in her flesh that her dagger had created and brought her back to her body with a gasp. She must have passed out; he no longer held her hand in his, but was holding her in place, his palm on her chest. There was a sharp pain that seemed to come from somewhere between her legs, but higher; and she was grasping the pillow, crying softly, trying to arch again, her body pulling away from him and back into the mattress; but he was stronger than her, and her body could not escape.
Somehow, she knew when it was over. He withdrew gently, and that second heartbeat that had invaded her body in recent months had mercifully ended. It was no longer there, in her blood; it was no longer there at all. And the warmth of the Holy Light was flooding her entire body, healing her wounds from the inside out, letting her relax back into the bed with relief. Malthorion had been worried; he had been concerned that the Light would not answer if he summoned it in the aftermath of murder. But it had been worth the risk; they had both agreed on that. Her father may well have killed her himself, if he had found her pregnant with a human’s child.
“I need the blood.” The Light was making her drowsy with its warmth; she needed to say it, before she fell asleep.
Her brother looked back at her, but didn’t answer.
His silence made her frown. “I need to make a soulstone…”
“Aemi…” His hand travelled over her skin, up her belly, then slowly around her shoulders as he lay beside her. She felt him kiss her hair as she turned onto her side, and let him curl into her, behind her. “Go to sleep,” he whispered. He didn’t know what a soulstone was, or why she thought she needed one; he knew only that he no longer wanted his sister studying at Dalaran. But he would wait for the morning to tell her that; he would wait until she was rested. And perhaps that would give him the time he needed to calm his desire to know exactly which of Arthas’ knights he needed to kill; and which of her teachers had her collecting the blood of unborn babies. His fingers stroked the skin of her bare arm absently. He would find out first what their father intended; he would advise the marriage happen sooner; and if need be, he would think of something he could say that would keep his sister safe.
His hand came to rest gently on her shoulder. She was asleep; for some reason, all he could think about was the way her hand had gripped the pillow as the blade sank inside her. His embrace tightened unconsciously. He had been remiss in his duties as her brother, he thought. But he would find a way to keep her safe now...
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