Bad Faith, Prologue

“No! No. You can’t do this!” Teyla Eastwind sobbed, pathetically, on all fours in the abandoned art museum she called home. “You have to stay!”

The Scarlet Somebody was already halfway out the door. Their crimson cloak and red skin seemed to lose their color as they stepped outside.. All of Teyla’s paintings The whole world did, with their vibrant oils and glimmering frames, were dull when the Scarlet Somebody wasn’t around. Less meaningful.

“Please,” Teyla whispered hoarsely.

Teyla could not see the Scarlet Somebody’s eyes beneath the eldritch fog which clouded their face, but she could feel the crushing pressure of their gaze. “You dare tell me what I can do? What I have to do?”

The avayla looked at the ground in shame. “N-no.” She took a deep breath. “I am sorry. Master.”

The Scarlet Somebody turned around. For a moment, Teyla hoped. “Tell me, Teyla. Why am I leaving?”

Teyla pulled herself up to her knees, and stared at the floor. She whispered.

“Speak up, child. Look at me.”

Teyla looked up at the clouded image of their face – gone from Teyla’s memory even while she still looked upon it. “I broke the rules,” she managed. She took a deep breath, and pulled herself together. “I used my powers for personal gain; I intimidated the former owner of this gallery, telling him it was mine now. Instead of affecting his mind, as I could have, I chose to scare him, because it brought me pleasure to do so. I jeopardized our secrecy and, most importantly, I did not use my powers to serve you.”

“Good girl,” the Scarlet Someone said. Teyla’s heart fluttered. “If only you’d had such wisdom when it counted. Perhaps you can find another teacher, one who will not love you like I do.”

The door closed. Color and light faded from the room. Teyla’s heart shattered.

“No!” she shrieked, throwing herself at the door. It was locked, magically, from without. She could feel the arcane energy in her veins seeping out through her pores, her eyes, her beak. She could feel her soul escaping and her body returning to the empty husk it was before her master imbued her with power.

“Come back! I’m sorry, master! I’ll never let you down again!” She pounded on the door, slowly and sadly sinking to the floor until her voice went out, and her cries were reduced to silence.

The door swung open, knocking Teyla painfully onto her back. Blood trickled from somewhere on her face. But that didn’t matter. The Scarlet Somebody had returned. Even when the crimson figure pressed a heeled boot into her chest, and the breath spilled from her lungs, Teyla was elated. Magic flowed through her once more.

“I am giving you a second chance,” the Scarlet Somebody said.

Teyla tried to respond, but her response was strangled. The Scarlet Somebody removed their boot.

“Thank you,” she gasped, gulping for breath.

“Will you ever disobey me again?”

“No, master.”

“Are you committed to finding eternal life?”

“Yes, master.”

“Who will grant you that life? Who gives your life value?”

“You, master.”

The Scarlet Somebody knelt beside Teyla and ran a hand through her hair. “I am sorry to have hurt you, my daughter. But you must understand that discipline is good for you. It’s the only way to learn.”

“I do understand.”

The Scarlet Somebody leaned over and kissed Teyla tenderly on the forehead. “Now, I really do have to go for a time.” Teyla’s eyes widened. “Your powers are not granted by proximity. My love, my desire to protect you, that’s its source. All I ask in return is that you continue to serve me, to live as I’ve taught you, even while I am away. Can you do that for me?”

Teyla nodded.

“I know I can count on you, child. In due time, we will bring this city to the ground, where it belongs. And when we do, you and I will emerge victorious and eternal from the ruins. And it will be beautiful. And we will be glorious.”

Teyla smiled. Even when the Scarlet Somebody was gone, she smiled. She had planning to do, and she would make mother so proud.


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