“…She rose early in the morning: Early at the break of day –
Here she spied young William Taylor, walking with his lady gay…”
The temperature dropped in the prison once more as the tap-tap-tapping of the Witch-Queen’s feet echoed across the passage. A shiver ran through the prisoners, as their bindings drew taught and held them in place.
But not the Mercenary.
Still she clapped, and tapped her feet and sang. It was just singing, after all, no threat in that.
The Thief watched fearfully as the Witch-Queen stood outside their cell, glaring at the Mercenary.
“I know what you’re trying to–” she began, but the Mercenary raised a finger.
“…Oh, she procured a pair of pistols, on the ground where she did stand –
There she shot poor William Taylor, and the lady at his right hand!” sang the Mercenary.
“Shut up, you stupid–”
“But I haven’t ended the chorus yet.”
“That’s not something I–”
“You should,” said the Mercenary, “You really should. It might help with your anger management issues.”
“Do you understand that this useless banter only makes things worse for you?”
“I believe your disapproval of my clever witticisms is stimuli for your anger, yes. Whether it makes it worse is hard to tell – after the first or second scream, everything just kind of blurs together at a similar pain-level.”
“You are such an idiot.”
The Mercenary crossed her arms, still rocking from side to side and tapping her foot, “While tempting your anger may seem an act of idiocy, it also classes as an act of defiance.”
“There’s no such thing as a clever defiance when a coward, like yourself, stands behind bars and tortures me by holding her hand in the air. If I can’t strategize my way to widen your painful butt-crack and come out relatively unscathed, I think I’d find being hurt in the process to excessive degrees: worth it.”
The other prisoners couldn’t help it. They snickered amongst themselves.
The Witch-Queen seethed, her eyes turning that dreadful black, “I know what you’re trying to do.”
The Mercenary smiled, “Enlighten me.”
“Your trying to win their favour. By singing your ridiculous songs and making them happy.”
The Mercenary looked genuinely disappointed, “And… you assumed that they were in your favour when you chained them up and left them to be miserable?”
More laughter. The Witch-Queen could hear it all around her, filling her senses, “They are criminals! They’re supposed to suffer!”
“They’re criminals? My, my… what do you consider yourself to be then? No crime is higher than treason, and you are responsible for it. But then hypocrisy was always becoming of you, wasn’t it? I shouldn’t really be surprised.”
“Besides… not all your criminals are behind bars, are they? I saw the mark you gave him.”
The Witch-Queen paused.
The Mercenary gazed at her, “You cursed him. And he has no choice but to remain enslaved to you.”
The Witch-Queen raised her hand and the Mercenary screamed. The Thief covered his ears, his eyes wide, his breathing becoming quick and scared.
“That tongue…” said the Witch-Queen, “that sharp, sharp tongue could move armies to tears for you, Mariqah. Would that they could hear you now, screaming and weeping like the silly little girl you are.”
The Witch-Queen whipped her hand to a side, and the Mercenary was raised and thrown against the bars. She lifted her head and spat, “If my army heard me screaming…” she looked at the Witch-Queen with an unfocused gaze, “they would come for you… and eat you alive for what you’ve done to me.”
“Pity that they aren’t here then?”
“I don’t need an army to eat you alive. All I need is my freedom and a napkin.”
“And, also, a tongue,” The Witch-Queen hand became bright, burning to furiously hot red. She curled her fingers and Mercenary screamed as her tongue came apart from her mouth, the wound cauterised. Mercenary convulsed as the piece of muscle dropped to the ground, her world spinning and darkening.
“Not so sharp now, eh?” said the Witch-Queen, smiling, “This should be fun.”
Her hand burned brighter.