Sunday, June 16, 2013

A History Lesson, Part One

Spike left the Horcrux on the bench and hurried up the stairs.  Maybe I can catch him and explain.  Behind her, the slug picked it up and carried it away to hide it somewhere in the castle.

Totenberg was in the main room, seated at the table in the sturdiest chair.  He'd broken one of the spindly Heppelwhites during her first term there. He'd permanently collected a chair from Hagrid's cabin, and used that when he needed a place that wasn't on the green velvet chaise lounge.

"Have you seen Sascha?"

"Went out for walk.  More like 'stomp', actually."  He had been sharpening his boot knife with a strap and oil, honing the already keen edge.  He put it back in its sheath, pushed the paraphernalia aside.  "Something happen."  He leaned back in his chair, one arm over the back, opposite hand resting on his wrist, head cocked as he regarded her silently.

Spike took the seat next to him, toying with the leather, fiddling with the bottle of oil, string at her hands as if they were little scurrying animals acting on their own.  She turned the problem over and over in her head, toying with it the same way she toyed with the sharpening kit.

A long moment passed.  Totenberg took pity on his mistress.  "Funny thing," he said, eyes fixed on the middle distance, "that someone with such a tender heart should be set to guard the sole heir, yah?  The sole female heir, at that."

Spike nodded.  She couldn't look him in the eye; ashamed of what she had done.  And that was part of being like the Doctor, wasn't it?  Part and parcel; knowing what you were going to do would cause hurt in the name of helping.  The ends justifying the means.  She shivered.  No wonder he lived apart, with only his loyal creations for company.  Surrounded by mirrors; he never sees himself reflected in someone else's eyes.

"Caused some problems in the extended family, you being born a girl, being born later in life to you parents.  Not that you could help that, especially.  But the line of succession, the endless calculations and machinations, and you was so small.  Wasn't a strong baby. Was just a girl child, at that, a weak little girl child, too frail to hold power, never mind keep it, never mind grow it, yah?   Some talk of . . . ah, trying again, of erasing the past, you follow?"  Spike blanched, and he nodded.  "Just so.  You Uncle Vasily and coz Rezno, they louder than most.  Rezno had been first in line behind you Atyets, had had that lucky place for ten years.  Big boy, Rezno, strong like bull.  And Vasily smart.  Clever man.  Cunning man.  Full of plots and plans, that one was.

"You Atyets, though, he keep what is his close.  And you was certainly his.  His magicker daughter.  So he thought about it, when he heard the thunder in the distance, thought about it long and hard.  How to protect this wee chick?  And he thought of us, of his Hounds.

"You know how we made, right?'  Spike blinked at the sudden change in subject, but tried to follow.

"It's potion based," she said, slowly. "You drink the potion, and the transformation begins."

"Mmm. Try again, you know how we selected to be made, right?"

Spike brightened.  Everyone knows that.  "You're chosen from among the best and brightest of the warriors.  The strongest, cleverest, bravest.  When age or damage sets in, and you can no longer serve, you're given the option to retire, or to drink the Hound's Draft.  A second life, as it were, an opportunity to continue doing what you're best at.  A second life, full of vitality, power, and purpose."

Totenberg kept his face still.  He'd had a lot of practice at that, first from playing cards when he was enlisted, then after the Change while he worked to re-learn the unfamiliar muscles, where nothing was exactly as it should have been.  What a pretty fairy tale.  Do I have the right to dispel that?  To tell her the whole and honest truth?

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