Aoife Sancha Bihar
Current alias: Nadya Vodi
Former gadja name: Nicole Vadash
"Dance." The Lord of Deep Winter flashes a broad, wicked smile. His mouth is full of too many teeth, somehow, every one of them long and sharp, and for at least the tenth time I wish his glamour could work on me. I've come to hate the sight of that monstrous grin, in the past hour. His consort, a willowy, beautiful Sidhe, echoes his smile. Her name, as near as I can translate it, means "knife in the night who slays her lovers." I think it suits her.
I look to the cobwebbed corner of the great hall, where the musicians are gathered—a ragged band of mortals, some of them preserved beyond telling by the magics of this Court. One, a wizened gaffer with a Stradivarius fiddle, is of the Blood. He is my only friend in this nightmare.
"Czardas," I whisper to him without sound. He begins, a single thrumming not that expands into a trill. I bow my head, loosen the tension in wrists and ankles and hands and body. When the trill turns with a flourish into something that can truly be called melody, I bring myself up, straight and tall, lifting my head to follow the current of an upraised hand. This dance always begins with pride, with passion, with the unrestrained improvisatory music that has remained with our People through centuries of traveling the world.
When it lands, the backhanded blow snaps my head to the side and sends me sprawling. If I saw Lady Knife move at all, it was only for a split second, a blur I could not understand. It takes several seconds to press my hand to the stone floor, to push away its embrace and lift my head. I taste metal, and lick it from my lips with a bitter smile—for the Blood is why they've taken me, that and the knowledge they believe I possess.
Nothing is broken, and I begins to rise, to lift my gaze. I stand straight, as we always have, and try to find my center. In the Kingdom of Winter, I cannot sense my allies, my spirit guides, but I take comfort in thinking of them, and find the pride within me.
"Take her to the northern dungeon," says the Lady's indifferent, beautiful voice. I feel something crumble within me, the house of my soul collapsing inward in fear, but I will not show these creatures defeat or weakness. As they grab me by both elbows and pull me backward, I school my features to calm and never take my gaze from the Winter Lord, not until the great sagging doors come between us.
Then the real nightmare begins. That, I won't speak of.
I never had the knowledge of the Seed to begin with, and to this day I am glad I could not betray that secret. To my shame, though, I danced the Zapaderin for them, when I was capable of dancing again. The old man, Laszlo, watched me with sadness in his eyes as he played. He never judged me, never showed disgust, though I hated myself for giving in even that far. The dungeons taught me to hate myself: for my weakness, for every sign of defeat, for every victory they won over my pride (and there were too many of those to count).
Once they had accepted me as one of their mortal toys, I began building the road of my escape. I slowly reeled in a lover, one of the least and youngest of the Unseelie Knights. When Laszlo argued with me, I took him into my confidence, and offered to take him with me, but he refused. There were ravens, in the winter country, and some of these became my allies. I sought what help I could, from those creatures I knew could be bought. Never trusted—only Laszlo could be trusted, and in the end his aid was the deciding factor. If he lives, if he still makes his glorious music in the Halls of the Winter Lords, I owe my life and freedom to him.
Stolen apples and stolen bread bought my passage through the marshland of the autumn trolls, across the bridge from the Fae Realm to this one. I left the realm of Faerie with next to nothing: the dress I wore when I was first taken, ragged from the years, and my few scraps of draba.
And, of course… my freedom, the greatest of treasures.
This place I've come to is an unfamiliar shore—though my family moved through America, we never came this far south. It's taken days of scavenging, but at least I've found clothing, a place to sleep, a few hiding spots, the bits and pieces I need for making signs. And cards, for those will be the easiest source of support for now.
Today I tie my messages along the boardwalk's edge, for any fellow traveler to read. If a kumpania exists here, perhaps they will read the old signs.