Midnight Star, part 1
Magical aptitude, perhaps, Sekkyro' thought to himself as he stalked through the manor. But who wants to be a mage when he can have cold steel at his command instead? Certainly not him. The swords on his hips glittered with reflected heat to his vision, marking each drow as he passed, each one skittering to stay out of his way.
And little wonder, that. He was marked for a beating after his latest transgression: refusing to go to the city, to the wizards' school, despite his demonstrable ability in magic; and he was on his way to receive it with ill grace - as he always did. At least (Lloth alone knew why) it hadn't come to the snake-headed whips of the sister-priestesses yet. There was always that.
Staring down the door guards until they scuried aside much like all the other drow he'd passed, he stalked in through the door, facing his Matron's cold glare with a smirk. Perhaps his attitude only made his punishment worse; he didn't care. Sekkyro' was long past caring how hard or often he was beaten for his insolence - Arkan had not yet been refused permission to teach him, and so long as he could work blades with the house weaponmaster, he was content to kneel and take the Matron's abuse as often as she cared to vent her spleen on him. Even when, as of recently, it seemed to come on a weekly basis. After all, the arrogance and expectations of drow women, their anger at any transgression, their pride and haughty demeanour made it all the more savoury to bring them to their knees in fear. Sekkyro' was a great fan of bringing drow - preferably drow women, but any would do - to a fuller understanding of their frailty on this mortal plane.
Without waiting to be ordered, idly wondering how many of the sister-priestesses in the House would be able even to find the courage to whip him, he stripped off his shirt and knelt before the Matron's chair. He knew the disturbing sight he presented to drow eyes - black-skinned, as black as any drow from head to toe, even his hair an ebon queue down his back in sharp contrast to the normally white hair, his frame more strongly muscled, even now as a youth, than most seasoned drow fighters. The only pause in his shadow-hues came from the serpents tattooed in silver up his arms to twine their tails - one pure silver, the other only an outline - at the nape of his neck, disappearing beneath his hair. His serpents, his sign; a defiance nearly half a century old, the source of his first lashing - when he had been in truth the arrogant pup Arkan still named him - without even the strength to back his rebellion. The matron had thought to beat it out of him then, teach him to bend spirit as well as knee, to never wear a sign other than the moon and blade that marked house Slyan'ssun, but she had succeeded only in laying the seeds of hatred in his soul, feeding them with every mark of the lash.
Those scars, like every other he had earned in the half-century since, had been a lesson well-learned in patient fury, a lesson that had brought him in slow, painful steps from the pup he had been to the man he was now. Still a youth by drow standards; he knew that the distinction was merely a technicality. He was a hunter born, bred to roam the fathomless tunnels of the Underdark. He cared nothing for the drow outpost or the city it guarded, only for the chance that patrolling gave him to hunt, away from the ceaseless law of the Matron and the constant need to reassert his independence of her teachings.
"What shall I do with you this time?" the matron hissed, breaking into his reverie and facing him with a determined anger. He shrugged, letting his smirk fade into an expression of studied nonchalance.
"Beat me bloody, like you do every week, so that everyone knows you're angry with me. Then piss off, and let me get back to patrolling. I have better things to do than play your petty games." At her indrawn hiss of fur, he steeled himself against the crack of the whip, letting out no sign of the searing pain as it came down across his back again and again, each lash undergoing a transfiguration from agony to raw, cold anger. This pain, opening up the barely-healed wounds of the previous, meant to break his spirit and devour his soul, would instead train him - forge the weakness out of him, make him a weapon without emotion, without mercy or sympathy or grief to get in the way of his hunting. This pain was as vital as the pain of being struck with the flat of Arkan's blade - and like that pain, it would be repaid in blood one day. Those who knew or any flaw in him were the ones who would forge it out of him - and then they, too, would be expunged from his life as neatly as the stroke of a knife.
After a while, he ceased to notice the matron, the bite of her whip no more painful than a fleabite, her fury finally expending itself on the coal-black back before her, sending rivulets of blood down the silver lines of his tattoos. He remained kneeling, gathering his strength until it was clear that she was done beating him, and then stood, flinging his shirt over his shoulders to stop the worst of the blood, walking out without a word. He made it as far as the training room before the loss of blood and pain combined to overcome him. He sat, then sprawled out on his stomach, waiting for the dizziness to pass.
When next he was aware of his suroundings, rough hands were cleaning and bandaging the welts on his back, not being over-careful to avoid causing him pain. "Go back to your room, boy," Arkan's voice growled, sounding as angry as he always did when Sekkyro''s insolence earned him a sound drubbing by the weaponmaster - an event coming more and more infrequently as Arkan found it increasingly less easy to administer. "Go back and get some rest. No lesson today; we'll see about tomorrow."
To be continued...