“Mom,” Kuvasei said, “you once told me that doing bad things was okay, if it was to protect the ones you love….”
Astoreth’s heart sank. She had known those words would come back to haunt her… but somehow, she hadn’t expected it to happen so soon. She hesitated before answering.
“‘Okay’ is not the word I would apply,” she said slowly, tentatively. “…acceptable. One does what one must do.”
That word, ‘acceptable,’ seemed good enough for the young rogue. “I spent six hours torturing her,” she said bluntly, the harsh words echoing faintly off the cobblestone. “I remembered, Mom, how you told me she would eventually hurt Bree… and it was enough for me. I tied her down and I carved her up. I cut off her fingers… her lips…”
Sejia Stillhart dead. Vaguely Astoreth realized she should have been celebrating. Instead, she found herself staring helplessly at this strange girl with gore on her leathers and a drink in her hand who shook as she walked unsteadily around Stavier’s small Dalaran apartment and spoke of torture; staring at this merciless child harder and harder, and trying to find her Kuvasei inside. She glanced at Lia, standing awkwardly across the room, and at Westel, looking like he wanted to be anywhere else. She looked at Stavier, who calmly and silently poured himself another drink even though Astoreth knew he had to be screaming inside.
“Mom — ” the word brought Astoreth back to what Kuvasei was saying to her — “Mom… I made her pay for every moment of pain she ever caused me. Every single moment. And I loved it….”
Astoreth stood perfectly still, staring at her glass, and noticing that the knuckles of the slender fingers wrapped around her as-yet untouched drink had turned white.
“…I did good, Mom, right?” The girl’s voice was low, pleading, as the adrenalin began to wear off again; her bright eyes shone and flickered with near-hysteria beneath the blood-matted hair falling in her eyes. “Just like you and Stavier would have done. Right? Tell me I did good….”
Astoreth looked up at the paladin standing across the room, still as death himself. No, she wanted to scream at the child. Not like Stavier. Stavier doesn’t torture. “You did as I might have done,” she finally managed. As I never wanted you to do.
“I wanted you to be proud of me,” Kuvasei said.
Of course I’m proud of you, Astoreth wanted to say, but the words she’d said so many times before caught in her throat now.
She had no memories of Kuvasei as a small child. Still, what she had came back to her. Observing as Kuvasei practiced her table manners, or walked through the house with a book on her head. Watching the slip of an elf reading laboriously from a children’s book to an approving Ashmaw. Washing Kuvasei’s hair. Scolding a flour-covered Kuvasei and her friend over a food fight. I’ll always be proud of you, she’d said once. But how could she could she be, now…?
Liealia saved her from answering immediately. “I’m proud of you, Kuvie,” the huntress interjected. “But this, her, was the only time this is acceptable. Understand?”
Kuvasei frowned. “No, I don’t understand. If it happens again, I’ll do the same fucking thing.”
Astoreth recognized the look on Kuvasei’s face. Like mother, like daughter.
“Will you teach me now, mom?”
The words brought Astoreth up short again. Kuvasei’s eyes pleading. She knew what Kuvasei was asking – will you teach me to kill. To move in the darkness, to be more like you. No, Astoreth wanted to scream again. What have I to teach you? What legacy have I to give you? Hands too bloodstained to hold your innocent baby. A spirit so selfish that you do it anyway. I made these choices so you wouldn’t have to.
But… is that why she went back to Sejia? she wondered. Because I wouldn’t teach her what she wanted to know? Is that why this happened?
She looked over where Stavier had stood, but the paladin had stalked from the room. Her gaze fell on Liealia, who appeared torn between cheering for Kuvasei and crying for her. She has already lost so much to Sejia and her ilk – to those like me. She looked at Westel, and remembered the feel of another faithful lover’s still-beating heart in her hand. How can I teach her?
She thought of Cearalaith – not the Argent Champion of today, but the child of a dozen years ago. She thought of Breelyn, and Laurelia, and of a scrawny adolescent hiding behind a silken couch.
…how can I not?
“We will see,” she said.