Kitty crawled her way back to consciousness. A dull ache bashed at the back of her eyes, and her tongue was thick and heavy in her dry mouth. She was naked, fur slick where she’d been sweating and she twitched when she didn't feel the comforting weight of her stilettos Hissing she sat up slowly and got her bearings. From her patch of warm hay she recognized the small room littered with shelves and tables laden with bone carved statuettes. Bottles filled with an assortment of unknown liquids and herbs. Charms and omens alike hung from the low stone ceiling all swaying gently despite no wind in the air. From the far wall a fire crackled in a stone hearth. A white furred behemoth of a Diamond Dog rested before it, curled into a tight ball. He must have heard her sit up because his head rose and his unnaturally blue orbs fixed on her.
“Up I see,” a voice with a very slight Prench accent called from a corner of the room. “Finally, hear I'd thought you'd sleep till the Reckoning.”
Kitty looked to its owner. A chocolate brown unicorn sat in a wicker chair in the oddest position, her hind hooves dangling off the edge. Svelte with generous curves in all the right places with a beauty rarely seen outside the courts of the Nobility. Eyes of like molten gold crinkled merrily around the edges as Esmira pulled a loose strand of honey blonde mane from her face and set the book she was reading down. In a chilling breath of air she appeared beside the bed without so much as a glimmer from her horn. She placed a hoof on Kitty’s forehead.
“Fever finally broke. Good. I thought the cure would have had the last of you.”
Kitty plopped back into her bed. “How long...?” She rasped before Esmira pushed the rim of a wooden cup to her lips. The refreshing water cold as ice greeted her tongue. She downed the mug like a shot of whiskey.
“I’d gather a week or so.” The witch snatched the cup away and filled it again from a big jar. She handed it to Kitty who snatched and downed it as quick as the first. “Was nearly dead from that poison, and almost lost you again to my spells.” She filled the cup a second time, the water following the first two just as fast. Celestia, was she thirsty!
“Now I’ve been wanting to ask.” Esmira said. “How in shadow’s name did you get poisoned and by Meadow’s Tears at that. This particularly method of death is not cheap by any means or easy to come by. So tell me how does a thief such as yourself find herself dying of a Noble’s preferred choice of killing?”
“Was cut,” said Kitty a little less thickly.
“By what the Duke’s razor ambition?”
“Some bastard who’s probably ash by now.” Kitty tried to stand, limbs shaking under her. “Where’s my stuff?’
Esmira tipped her head to the small trunk by the fireplace. Specter's tail wagged slowly as Kitty passed him on quaking libs, her wing brushing the big brutes fuzzy ears. “Would you like to know what I also found mon cher? Oddest thing really. “ The witch held up a swatch of dark cloth. “Was attached to your coat when you came in.”
Kitty started pulling on her many layers of clothing. “What is it?” She eyed the cloth suspiciously.
“Well that’s the funniest thing. I have seen it before but I never knew a humble thief such as yourself would warrant watching from the royal guard.” Esmira slapped the cloth onto the table, her voice growing sweeter with every word. The fur on the back of Kitty's neck stood on end as magic crackled through the air. Specter growled. “This is used by their intelligence officers. The sort of thing they use to track traitors and criminals of the most dangerous caliber. Since the Shards became established the spell has been tweaked a bit- more mercurial enchantment you see- but the base spell is identical and just as easily manipulated. From their point of view you’ve led a merry chase through the Hearthland.” Esmira strutted, not walked, but strutted toward Kitty, hips swaying seductively. Kitty resisted the urge to pull a knife on the unicorn as her eyes widened, cold dread screaming at the back of her mind. She slumped against the wall. Fuck me raw. “Like say someone who uses dark magic for instance. So please do tell me how one such as you gain the attention of the Shards.” Her head snapped up.
“I didn’t know!” Kitty pushed the raw fear now clawing at the pit of her stomach down. “Some jerk off was following me, he must have put it on me. I didn’t know about that and I sure as hell ain’t dumb enough to lead the Shard’s here. Felt the poison doing its thing and I rushed here, honest. Pull the memory’s from my mind if you want!”
“Oh, I have.” Esmira giggled and stepped back much to Kitty’s relief. “You wouldn’t be alive if I’d found you’d tried betraying me. Resources are scarce enough as is without a foolish need to satiate my desire for revenge. Besides,” she held up a bulging satchel of coin, Kitty’s coin.” You paid really well.” Before she could say anything Kitty watched as her hard earned money vanished. She felt some of her fear recede, replaced by frustration. The witch glanced curiously at the cloth. “You’re not dumb enough to lead the Shard’s here intentionally but I never knew you were dumb enough to steal from an alicorn. I assume that is why you were being followed, unless your friend Talon has been found out that is.”
“Shit,” Kitty muttered and strung her stilettos into her wings. “I need to leave.” Kitty made for the door.
“Easy mon cher,” Esmira said sharply, holding Kitty still. “You’re still weak, and I’ll be damned if my work is for nothing. Knowing you you’ll kill yourself by pushing forward with the usual gusto you have in spades. Don’t give me that look I’m not going to stop you but take this.” Her magic pulled over a pair of vials full of a clear liquid. “Drink one now and the other when you wake up next. It’ll restore some of your vitality until your body can fully recover. Take it easy or I swear to the shadow I will bring you back from the dead and take my bits worth out of your hide.”
Kitty slid one into her coat pocket and pulled the stopper with her teeth. It was bitter as all hell and reeked like a week old corpse but she felt ready to go ten rounds with Maudlin’s finest whores. “Hey, you got something that’ll let me know when I’ve been hit by an enchantment? I don’t want this to happen a second time. You can put it on my tab.”
“Hmmm,” Esmira rubbed her chin and began riffling through her charms. “You’d need an all sight charm. No. No. Definitely not. Ah!” She plucked a round chunk of bone with eldritch etchings all over it down. “This will get warm in the presence of enchantments. Look through it and you’ll be able to see the magic thread binding them, be warned it saps your own magical reserves to power this portion of the charm’s function.” She pulled it just out of Kitty’s reach. “Ah, ah. This is by no means cheap to make. It’s dragon bone and from rare breed at that, Wyrm. For such a priceless thing I won’t accept money.”
“The hell you want for it?”
“A favor.” Esmira’s smile turned predatory. “One bound by magic. I call on you for it and you’ll be compelled to answer. Whatever I ask you will do without question. What do you say?”
Kitty rolled the idea around in her head. She’d heard of some sick murderer, the kind that likes to play with his food, being bound to the witch like that she had him butcher his family and then sliced his own throat open. Piece of shit deserved it of course but still it was up in the air what Kitty would be asked to do. “Fuck…” she muttered. “Fine. I’ll pay.”
Esmira grinned wide. “Wonderful!” She held out her hoof. “Give me your leg.” Just as Kitty raised her leg the bite of cold steel flashed just above her hoof. Esmira’s magic pulled up several drops of blood from the wound and from the dagger Esmira held aloft. An oval crystal vial floated over. Etchings in the same silvery script as on the all sight charm rested on the clear, smooth surface and the stopper was a crescent moon. The etchings glow crimson when the blood was poured into it. “And it is done.” She held it up gazing into the depths like some crystal ball. “Specter will ensure you safe passage through the Greymoors, wouldn’t want my investment absconded with. Pleasure doing business with you.”
Yeah, yeah.” Kitty snatched the charm from the air, flicked her hood up over her ears and walked out into a chilly rain.
A Nightmare Takeover AU
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