Rogues and Renegades

The non-competition version (because the non-competition world has no damn WORD LIMITS). So, i'll post the rest of the story here. if I win anything (highly doubting that, btw) i'll transfer the chapters to the other movella. But I don't know. I write stories because I love doing it XD Cover by Secrets Unfold.


13. 12

Mariqah gritted her teeth. The gashes in her back were long and deep and hurt more than she reckoned they ought to. It wasn’t the gashes themselves, of course. It was the healing process.

God, it hurt.

The Witch-Queen found pleasure in torture, it seemed. Each morning, she would whisk into the dungeons, ‘punish’ Mariqah in front of a thoroughly traumatised bunch of in-mates (some of these were serial killers, so it was really something to have managed to freak them out), and then leave – putting some sort of regeneration spell on her, so that Mariqah was fit and ready for a new day of torture. The process of regeneration took a full day.


That’s what the Witch-Queen had begun calling her.



Mariqah’s hands were bound to the floor, stuck together. Her feet were firmly planted on the ground. It was the most undignified position Mariqah had ever been imprisoned in, she noted; amid the terrible, terrible vengeances she was planning in her imagination.

She needed to stop doing that.

Mariqah needed to stretch her legs. The mechanism by which the chains worked were similar to Tostig’s cuffs. Only, Mariqah could feel that these chains and links were reinforced. But the premise was the same: Magic was trick-able, through process.


Mariqah tried to put away the murderous thoughts and tried to focus on what she knew about magic. In her travels through the Grey Havens, she had met many scholars of magic, and all of them had different theories as to the origin of it. Some said that it was the spirits of dead elves, under the control of a person with great power. Others said it was the essence of extinct magical creatures, like dragons and fairies. In most opinions, magic was almost exclusively necromancy. The weakest opinion was that magic was a separate entity, with a mind and form of its own, that combined with a physical being and possessed it.


Mariqah doubted that last one.

The Witch-Queen was very much her stupid self.


Regardless of the correct origin, as Mariqah had told Tostig, this all meant that magic had a level of sentience. In terms of Tostig’s cuffs, the binding was such that it was as if a person was holding Mariqah’s hands together whenever she got violent, and letting go every time she resumed peace. The more she toyed with it, the more irritated it got with her. Eventually, it didn’t matter what Mariqah was thinking, it became more of an issue of what Mariqah was saying. It had gotten bored. It had become stupid. And so, it had been tricked.

But the binding in this cell… it was much stronger – maybe the equivalent of five or six people holding her in place.

She needed to find calm. As such, even thinking about magic, the hold hadn’t loosened. She’d become much too angry and bloodthirsty with the Witch-Queen. This needed to change. Mariqah had an idea, but she needed to take it slow and be patient with it. If she didn’t, she might just end up reinforcing the binding further.


She sighed and closed her eyes, trying to relax, ignoring the pain and the itchiness. She removed the Witch-Queen and the prison from her mind (and her pale-faced cell-mate who was shivering in a corner and staring at her).

What did she loved the most in her world?

There was her sword, but she put that to a side for a moment – along with her mercenaries and her fortresses and the idea of brutally murdering the Witch-Queen.

Something simple…

She thought of a horse. She smiled. It was brown, strong, untamed. It whinnied to her in her mind’s-eye. Then she thought of her late husband, Darim. His lankiness, his feigned innocence, his silly smirk he put on when he was right that always made Mariqah scowl. How she missed him. And she thought of singing. The shanties that the lads back at home sung when they were marching or when the were working. The rhythm, the tales the songs told, the harmonies… Already, she could feel the binding relax.


And, just like that, she had a plan.


Her voice was croaky from all the hoarse screaming she’d done moments ago, but she opened her mouth all the same. Her eyes still closed, Mariqah saw a scene build in her mind. An old tavern, a woman – herself – standing in the doorway and rider on horseback – Darim – racing to meet her. It was dark, and a pale moon hung in the black, imaginary sky:

A soldier lad came here last night, with riding he was weary;

A soldier lad came here last night, and the moon was shining clearly.


Bonny lassie, will you gang with me? Bonny lass, will ye lie near me?

I’ll get all your ribbons free, ere the morning there I leave ye.


She takes the trooper by the hand and leads him to her chamber.

She’s giving him some wine to drink and his love it flared like tinder.


Bonny lassie, will you gang with me? Bonny lass, will ye lie near me?

I’ll get all your ribbons free, ere the morning there I leave ye.


They had not been at it an hour, an hour but scarce a quarter,

But the drums came sounding up the street and then the beat was shorter.


For an ‘up, up, up’ a colonel cried. An ‘up, up, up and a wither.

For an ‘up, up, up’ a colonel cried, ‘the morn’s our battle day then!’


Bonny lassie, will you gang with me? Bonny lass, will ye lie near me?

I’ll get all your ribbons free, ere the morning there I leave ye.


When will you come back again, my own dear soldier laddie?

When will you come back again, and be your bairnie’s daddy?


Oh, hold your tongue, my bonny wee lass, never let this parting grieve thee!

But hither cows grow oxen bows, bonny lassie I’ll come see ye!’


Bonny lassie, will you gang with me? Bonny lass, will ye lie near me?

I’ll get all your ribbons free, ere the morning there I leave ye.


The chains let Mariqah go. She sighed in relief, and – slowly, slowly – stretched her legs out and raised her arms high. But she didn’t do anything too drastic, like clap her hands or tap her feet.

This was only the beginning.

She looked to her cell-mate leaning against the iron bars of their cell, and adopted the friendliest accent she could think of – Irish, “You a’right, mate?”

The cell-mate started at her, like she was a raving madwoman, “What was that?” he said, his gittering gaze almost fearful.

“The song? Did ye like’t?”
“What the hell…?” he said, furrowing his brows, “You got tortured today. Like none of us have seen before. How can you sing like that? And why are you talking funny all of a sudden?”

“I don’t know. Maybe I’m crazy.”

There was muttering among the other prisoners. A worried muttering.

“Or maybe,” Mariqah continued, “It’s my way o’ showin’ my enemies that they can’t really hurt me.”
“Are you mad!” asked her cell-mate.

“Your back and front is split open with wounds, woman!” called another prisoner.

“Well, it wouldn’t be very effective if I can still manage t’be happy as a horse set free, now is’t? Eh, lads, lasses? What’s the fun in torture if it ain’t actually makin’ me angry or, at least, sad? Why not forget about all the bad things that happen here, just let’t be until ye can manage t’find some way t’stop’t, and be grateful for the calm times in between instead? It works for me and, I dare say, I think I might be the worst off in here.”

There was a pause.

“What’s say I teach you a song or two, eh? T’get our Witch-Queen’s feathers in a ruffle?”

Another pause.

Someone murmured, “I could do with a song…”
Then one after another, the prisoners were nodding and calling for a song.

“A’right,” said Mariqah, “You lot can join in with the chorus, okay? It’s pretty easy, but the places are all in the Earth-realm, in a place called Ireland:


In Branbridge town in the County Down, one morning in July…

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