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A Lesson in Creativity

a short story by Lexi Summer Hale

Skylark Rivertongue hung limply in the the cramped chamber's restraints. She didn’t look up as a porthole hissed open.

"Sky, my dearest," said the Red Lady of Ruby pleasantly. "It's about time we had a chat, don't you think?"

"How much longer are you going to keep me trussed up in here like an animal?" Sky growled. "I did what — augh!"

Raven had twisted a small brass dial on the wall. She watched dispassionately for a moment as Skylark screamed, convulsing with pain, before turning the dial back toward its original position, leaving just enough of a current to make the girl squirm.

"It was a simple question, don't you think, Sky? Answer it."


"Good." A predatory smile darted across Raven's lips. "Now, Sky, my dear, can you tell me why you're here?"

"You tell me! I've served you loyally, I've done as—" Skylark's voice quavered as Raven's hand moved towards the electrode controls.

"Sky," said Raven gently. "I have a code. The Syndicate has a code. Lotus has a code. Remind me, what is that code?"

Skylark glared at her sullenly. "No killing."

"Good girl." Raven patted her on the cheek.

"But he cheated you! He cheated you and he killed our people, and—"

"And you killed him," said Raven, clicking her tongue. "In express violation of my most basic rule."

"Why do you care?" Skylark howled. "Why do you care so much about the lives of people who fuck with you?"

Raven smiled pityingly, and took Skylark gently by the chin. "Don't worry, my dear. You'll learn soon enough. Just like that justiciar down in the pens has been learning for... my, it's been almost a whole year since the Battle of the Broken Horn, hasn't it? She's a stubborn one."

Skylark whimpered.

Raven giggled, and drummed her fingers on the control panel. "Don't worry. You're a smart girl, Sky." With a sudden wrenching motion, she twisted the power dial all the way to the right. "I'll find a good use for you soon enough."

Skylark howled in anguish.

"This is the thing about killing," said Raven, gently pushing herself away from the writhing enforcer. "It is unimaginative. It is petty. It is boring." She smiled. "And if there is one thing I cannot abide, it is dullards. So I expect better of my people, Sky. I expect imagination. I expect a worthwhile vengeance to be delivered against those who trespass against us. I expected better of you, and you failed me. You robbed me of revenge, of a symbol of what happens when you cross Raven Starsoul."

"Please..." Skylark wailed, the chains clanking as she struggled. "Please, you're hurting me! I'll be good, I promise!"

"Mm." Raven's lip curled upwards. "Yes, Sky. Yes, you will." She turned, and pushed off towards the porthole. "And you're going to have a nice long time to figure out why."