Chapter 40: Exploring the past

Hello internet fam,

Chapter 40 of Lead Heart is up! Please comment with any suggestions or improvements!

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During Leliana’s 11th birthday, she’d asked Brutus about her parents for the first time in 5 years. He was surprised to say the least.

“You think you have parents?”

She remembered him prancing around theatrically, opening cabinets and upending shoes. “Mummy? Daddy?” She still felt the drop in the pit of her stomach remembering the look in his eye when he stopped.

“You don’t have parents, idiot.” He sneered. “And who told you it was your birthday anyway? You don’t have that either.” The 3 week beating she received at the hands of his enforcer afterward almost had her believing it, too. Almost. Each time Leliana let go of that precious part of her mind, it exploded to the surface. Haunting nightmares blasted her for weeks at a time. The fair, the candy, the house of mirrors. Her parents’ smiling faces.

Well, she never saw their faces, but she knew they were smiling. She had a family. More than 10 years of “training” had never eclipsed the sliver of hope she had locked away.

One day, fate knocked.

Brutus briefed her during a morning workout about a mission. A test. Rivulets of sweat disguised a stream of tears falling to the floor while he shoved his face with everything in sight. “The mission is easy.” He said. “Some sovereign-city or another is losing control of the villages outside its walls. One of them is built on the other side of an infested crater. You drop in, behead the people, you fly out.”

He’d never even stopped eating while he sentenced those people to death. It made her sick. She’d called him every name in the book, and a few she invented, and in no uncertain terms had turned down the mission.

That was fine, he said. No problem. I’ll bomb the town instead, and you can spend the night with Executioner’s hammer instead. Leliana’s memory got a bit hazy after that, but she was suddenly standing over a disemboweled guard in a cell missing a door. That’s when she made her break, taking a few of her favorite toys and scattering into the wind.

Atreides took the story in silence. He contemplated the possible ramifications and, more importantly, the implications held within her story.

He’d heard of the mercenary laboratory of course. They were oft used as a covert weapon when unique solutions were desired. They changed identities almost yearly, but it was always the same people.

“Did they perform any surgeries on you?” He ventured. He’d never imagined they were haphazardly implanting experimental hardware into children.

“Did they? HA!” Leliana pulled down the front of her shirt, revealing a straight, white scar running the length of her breastbone. “Got cut open so many times my body started preemptively fixing itself. Woke up mid-op one time, knife buried under my lungs.” She shuddered against the ghastly memories. Then giggled. “Spewed so much blood after he jabbed an artery, Brutus almost died choking on it.”

She was laughing so hard remembering her former tormentor turning blue in the face that she missed the glance the Protector shared with Kahlin. The lean alchemist leaned thoughtfully against the wagon. “I knew Lilith had some weird ambitions before I left. I was part of chemdiv though.” He spread his hands wide. “What she’s been up to since, is beyond me? Sorry Atreides.”

Leliana’s smile froze. She didn’t see the Protector glance at her. Fury at hearing that woman’s name coursed through her as she lifted the small man by his neck. “I’ve heard that name before.” She sneered. “You worked for her?!” She ignored the hands gripping her own. “YOU worked for such a monstrous, slag bastard, evil, conniving…?!”

“I…It was a long time ago.” He rasped. “I left when they-” His eyes bulged as she squeezed.

The fear in his eyes felt good, she could almost see Brutus standing there. See his fat little head exploding his disgusting brain into paste around her fists. She wanted to…

She was suddenly keenly aware of the men surrounding her. Bristol and Carkus mere inches away, both stayed by the outstretched hand of their superior.

“Kahlin is not your enemy, child.” Atreides’ gentle voice was commanding. “Put him down.”

“I…I didn’t…” She felt like an idiot. Killing the wrong guy wasn’t going to do her any good. Leliana put him down. She blinked as a blade nicked her throat, Kahlin sheathing it in one fluid motion. “Sorry.” She said lamely.

All save Atreides retreated to the others. Her fears about his judgment intensified with his next statement. “To leave you with a team of war brothers would be to endanger the team itself, I fear.” He shook his head. “I acknowledge your strength, of course. But strength, untamed, will always be more harm than help.”

“But you can help me, right? Tame it, I mean. I got a little carried away with your man, but…” Her arms hung in the air helplessly. She watched a series of emotions march across his face, before settling on grim.

“Whom would you have me pair you with? The war brothers can ill afford to watch their backs in the field, it’s true. Those who have not taken the robes would likely stand little chance were you to lose control. Would you risk their lives for your sake?”

Risk their lives? She thought.

He opened his mouth again. Before he said anything, a blood-curdling scream pierced the night. It was unmistakably human.

The Protector’s vision shot into the distance, unfocused for a moment. “Come with me.” He decided. “I may find a place for you yet.”

Author: keyboardcouple

A couple who write and learn in front of their keyboards.

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