Threads of Silver

Chapter 2: Damane

Leanna lay face down on her bed, sobbing. They had made her - they had forced her to wear the bracelet and cause pain, and all through she had felt the woman’s pain and fear as if it was her own. Yet that had not been the worst of it - no, the worst thing was the way she had stood there, just accepting everything that Leanna and the others had done to her. Accepting it as their right!
No one should do that, Leanna thought. No one.
She rolled over and sat up, catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror. A year ago she would not have recognised herself in the girl who stared back at her. Her hair had grown out, and instead of a shaved head and crest, dark silky hair reached nearly to her shoulders. Tear streaks did little to mar her striking beauty. I wish I was ugly, Leanna thought. I wish I was hideous, and then I would have a reason for not being able to face myself!
Wearily, she stood up and smoothed her blue and red dress. They would expect her downstairs. Opening the door, she started down the hall - and stopped hurriedly as she almost crashed into Dara, a damane following behind her, coming from the opposite direction.
Dara swept past without seeing her, but the other - Leanna stared. Dark silken hair reached nearly to her waist. An angry scowl did little to mar her beauty. Wide dark eyes, dusky skin, tall and slender - this woman could be her twin! But several years older. Her sister, then? But her only sister had died thirteen years ago.
As they passed, the gray-clad woman looked straight at her. Her lips moved, forming a single word: Leanna. Then she was gone, away down the corridor.
Don’t go, Leanna called silently. Who are you? I have to know! Abandoning her plan to go downstairs, she waited until Dara and the strange woman had turned the corner, then followed, in time to see them vanish into one of the tiny rooms where damane slept. The second room on the right of the stairs. She turned and hurried down them before anyone could see her.
That night, though, Leanna did not sleep. She waited until the moon was high in the sky and everyone else was deep in slumber, before leaving her room and slipping through the corridors to the quarters of the damane. The second room on the right. She opened the door and went in.
The other woman had not slept, either. She was seated on the mattress that was the room’s only furniture, the silver collar at her neck gleaming in the moonlight from the small window. In this faint light, her resemblance to Leanna was uncanny.
At Leanna’s entrance, she looked up. “Welcome, Leanna,” she said, a sad smile playing over her face. “I’m glad to see you again, but I wish it wasn’t like this.”
“Who are you?” Leanna demanded. “How do you know my name?”
“Don’t you know me, Leanna?”
“No! Who are you? My aunt? My cousin?”
The leashed woman shook her head. “Neither, Leanna. I’m your sister.”
“My sister is dead.” But - memories flooding back, she was a child in the palace, and a laughing dark-eyed girl who taught her to walk and picked her up when she fell, and the sweet tones of a flute playing her to sleep every night - and suddenly that was gone, and instead there were voices telling her - “Tanya?” Her voice wavered.
Tears ran down that face that was a mirror to hers, and it took Leanna a moment to realise that they ran down her own face, too.
“I thought you had forgotten,” Tanya whispered. “Is that what they said, Leanna? Did Father tell you I was dead?”
Leanna sat down beside her. She couldn’t stand any longer. “Always. He said a sudden fever had killed you, that there was nothing anyone could do. He lied to me.” Angrily, she wiped the tears away.
“I wish we were far away from here,” Tanya said, and thirteen years of captivity were in her voice.
“So do I.” Leanna sighed, and then an idea dawned on her. “Tanya - ”
“What’s stopping us?”
“I can’t - ”Tanya’s eyes widened suddenly. “But you can!”
Leanna found herself laughing. “We can leave! At night, like this - ”
“But where will we go? There’s nowhere safe. Nowhere in - ” Tanya paused, and slowly smiled. “Nowhere in Seanchan.”
“There’s a whole world that isn’t Seanchan.” Leanna felt like dancing. “Ships go to the other continent. If we can get onto one - ”
“That’s the easiest part,” Tanya told her with a cynical smile. “Some of the captains are hopelessly corrupt. A purse of gold will get us anywhere we want. And Dara and the others leave their money out in plain view.”
Leanna smiled. She should feel shocked, but didn’t. A missing purse was the least of what Dara and Morya deserved. “Then that’s what we’ll do. I’ll come back tomorrow night to talk. Father told me a lot about the countries over the ocean.”
“See you tomorrow, little sister.” Tanya’s eyes danced as Leanna left the room.

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