23. You’ve Been Forgotten

“I’ve wanted so much to get to know you,” says Tereus. “To share a meal, or the occasional smoke, or a drink. We both hold commands, after all. We’re powerful among our people. I’ve wondered if you felt doubt and regret about what happened — the troops you lost.” 

They’re sitting side-by-side on her little cot. Her wrists and ankles are tightly lashed to it. Because she’s small and slender and they’re not too far below ground, she’s cold. He sometimes covers her with a blanket, sometimes leaves her to shiver. It’s one of the many factors he controls. Inglorion feels the cold, and is weary of it. It takes energy for the body to warm itself, and she eats only when her forces her to.

As he sits there smiling, she feels the warmth of his body. He’s so much larger, and he’s dressed in silk and wool. His brocade cloak is draped over the chair. It’s gorgeous, thick, still warm from his body heat. It smells of cedar and tobacco.

He smells of tobacco, wood smoke, leather, and of the snowy outdoors. There’s some other scent, too, something sweet and milky. Almond, perhaps — something no Drow would recognize.

He rolls a cigarette, explaining, “I don’t often smoke. It’s a filthy habit. Sometimes you need a little filth, though. You know that.” He lights it, takes a drag. Once it’s burning, he offers it to her. She turns away sharply. “No? I should think it would comfort you — a small pleasure, a way to mark time.”

He exhales a plume of smoke slowly, sensuously, blinks with animal satisfaction. She watches his hands, now that they’re occupied with the stage business of smoking: Tapping off the ash, bringing the cigarette to his lips. His hands are strong, accustomed to handling a team of horses, a bow and arrow, a longsword. She feels his vigor and masculine bulk. It sickens her. He’s at home in his own body, savors his strength and grace and ease. He can crush her, and he takes comfort and pleasure in this fact. Power is fundamental to his experience: A happy, unexamined premise.

After a time he says, “Today is an important day. I’ve been wondering what to do with you. I can’t let you go — you’re an enemy combatant, in the middle of hostilities. You’ve told me nothing of value. The time has come and gone to ransom you. I’m sure you can see the problem.” His smile is infinitely sweet. “I’ve come to a decision, which I executed this morning. I did a little accounting trick to make you vanish. You’re off the books. There’s no record of your location or identity anymore. You’re mine.” 

It’s an old tactic, as old as interrogation, war and spycraft. You might as well give in. You’ve been forgotten. You’ve ceased to exist, but you will still feel pain and fear and humiliation. There’s no reason to resist anymore.

He continues in the same confiding tone, “I had no real plan. It was an impulse, a whim. You’re of no use to me, and yet here you are. A live woman. I’ll have to feed you and care for you indefinitely. I truly don’t know why I did it.”

He’s silent for a moment, charmed by the smoke and his own ingenuity. “It doesn’t matter, really. I’ve always wanted a pet, and now I’ve got one. You’re not my type,” he says demurely, “And I don’t imagine that I’m yours. But you’re mine more than any wife could be.” He shifts the cigarette to his left hand, and reaches out with his right, touches her hair lightly. If her eyes were closed, she wouldn’t feel it. She pulls away with a reflexive whine of disgust. 

“Yes, very likely,” he says. “And that may never change.” He strokes her again, and this time she feels his palm and fingers against her cheek. “You’re not my type, but I admire you.”  

It’s the oldest trick in the book. She’s used it herself. You’re entirely in my power. No one knows where you are. You’ve been forgotten. No one will come for you. No one will miss you. None of it is true — it can’t be.

He turns to put out the cigarette on the stone floor. The curve of his neck, his massive shoulders and biceps, the grace of his movements. His blond hair, coarse to Drow eyes. The smell of leather, tobacco, woodsmoke, snow, and something sweet and milky. She feels sick, actually trembles with nausea.

She feels real terror now.

He leaves.

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