Chapter Twelve, Part Two: Janus at the Tree of WretchesMature

Her laugh is not a pretty one. 

A hard-shooting spring of sharp gravel, it screws her lips upward in a rictus, revealing sharp fangs. 

“Your plans?” 

Her silvery head tilts like a considering bird. She repeats herself. 

“Your plans…yours? You thought all that was you? All of this, you?”

Hainish revels then, in the bells. 

So many bells that chime from her glorious throat. 

It is ecstasy. 

And yet, a small shade of doubt asks from somewhere… 

-Who is she laughing at?- 

Suddenly she raises the claw holding Hainish, lifting him from the bed, a snarl gathering across her muscles. 

She draws him back, dangling him like a bruised toy. 

Back, and back, and back. 

Soon he is flying. 

Soon he is against the wall. 

Two broken teeth spill from his mouth, and some blood. 

 He coughs. 

 More blood. 

The shimmer he’s been using fizzles and pops behind his ear. The small ornament he fashioned, an earring, falls away, crumbling. 

The laugh. That smirk. Her face. 

“Heal yourself, you dense little troll,” she says flatly, shaking out her fur, shedding silver scales in a brilliant rain until sterling and smooth are no longer her color, “…these children need reassurance. You’ll be my pet.” 

She is wrinkled now. Wrapped in a yellow salwar. Dark olive skin. A greasy strand of grey hair trembles from her balding pate, tumbling down. 

“You are not my Mother…” he says softly, staring limply at the floor.

The End

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