This is a continuing excerpt from the play-by-email game Austin After Dark. Part 1 can be found here.
He seemed pleased, leaning back.
Drawing another implement from the cart, he asked: “Do you remain a maiden?”
It took her overwrought brain a moment or two to make sense of the question. When his meaning sank in, the shock spread like numbing ice through her soul and body. She looked up at him now, stunned blue eyes wide in an ashen face. “You said you didn’t want to hurt me.”
“You misunderstand me,” he responded. “While I will admit you are pleasing to the eye, my interest in you is far from carnal. Please answer the question.”
Her eyes dropped to the utensil in his hand.
There. At last, a flicker of anger licked though the ice in her chest. It was the weakest of flames, beset all around by cold fears…but still enough to revive the possibility of courage within her.
His interest may not be carnal, but he intended to use her just the same. In some capacity, he believed that she or her powers would further his cause in this war. He thought he would coerce or seduce her into aiding him, maybe even into joining his cause. Like the Talons, like Bronwen, like Kilarothes.
Like Percyndi, maybe. A Duke’s daughter could be a valuable addition to Mardmor’s covert army. Casey wondered if the rest of the missing Fae were of noble birth or influential station as well.
She resisted the urge to tug at her bonds. She hated how helpless they made her feel, how utterly vulnerable to any assault Mardmor may choose to inflict upon her.
She wasn’t, though, not completely. She may have been bound, her powers may have been taken from her, but she wasn’t completely helpless. She was still herself, she still had choices. She could betray the trusts that had been placed in her or not. Ultimately that was still up to her.
She forced herself to sit up straight in the hard wooden chair. She couldn’t do anything about the chalky pallor of her skin or the trembling that still shook her, but damned if she was going to let Mardmor see her cowering in her terror any longer.
“Yes,” she said bluntly, in a voice as steady as she could make it. “If I understand your meaning, I ‘remain a maiden.'” She hesitated, then strove for a more conversational tone. “That was quite an impressive feat, persuading the Red Talons to ally with Prince Bronwen. No one saw that coming.”
Even as she spoke, she was searching within herself for the elusive portal to Other Memory. It was possible that accessing the ancestral plane was a separate gift, unrelated to her psionics. Or that Mardmor didn’t possess knowledge of that particular ability, and so hadn’t thought to block it.
:: Yes, babygirl. I’m here. :: At once, her Grandfather’s voice calmed and soothed…
Relief flooded through her. But a moment later it was tempered by instinctive caution: this could be her grandpa, or it could be another of Mardmor’s deceptions. Casey resolved to phrase her questions in terms that wouldn’t compromise her allies, just in case.
That was going to make her first request rather tricky. While she was carefully composing the words, she skipped ahead to her second request. **Someone told me that time passes differently on your plane. He said I could spend an hour there, while an instant or a week passed in the physical plane. I…I don’t know if you can ‘see’ where I am, but I’m probably about to be tortured for information. If that happens, I’d prefer to be somewhere else for the duration…with you, for instance.”
:: Absolutely, honey. You can come here. I’ll watch after ya’. ::
**Thanks, Grandpa. I’ll give a holler when I need you. Probably a really loud one.** A new thought occurred, “or maybe there’s someone in there that has some special knowledge of this war?”
:: The war? With this Goblin King? I dunno, but I’ll check around. ::
She paused, considering his statement. That makes her first request easier to phrase, whether it’s her grandfather or Mardmor she’s actually talking to. **I guess you’re up-to-date on my situation. I need to ask one more thing. Usi knew my mentor in his youth; maybe he knew his parents or grandparents as well. I don’t know if…you all…can communicate with one another, but is there any way for you to get a message to him? To my mentor, I mean, to fill him in on everything I’ve learned about the war since we parted ways. There’s a good chance I’m not going to survive this, and I’d hate to think it was all for nothing.**
:: No, sweety. We’re all contained within you. We can speak to each other and to you… but never outside of you, unless you allow us to take control. ::
Well, crud. **Okay. Thanks, I’ll probably be back in touch very soon.**
She returned her focus to her physical surroundings.
Mardmor was staring at her, brow furrowing. Suddenly, he looked about the room. “Who were you speaking to then?”
“You. I said it was impressive, the way you managed to ally the Talons and the Vampire Prince.”
“No,” he grew annoyed, “You were speaking to someone in your mind. Who was it?”
“You’ve completely blocked my psionics,” she reminded him, frowning slightly. “Trust me, if I get them back you’ll be the very first to know.” Right before your brains start leaking out your ears, she resisted adding aloud. “Besides, even if my telepathy were working, I can’t read through Sanctuary’s walls. And there’s nobody in here but you and me.”
He scowled, muttered something. Then cocked his head, “You cannot use your mental powers through the walls?”
She shook her head. “Something about them blocks me. Upstairs too.”
“Interesting.” He carried a black box with a silver lid over to the table across from her, setting it down.
Her stomach turned over at the sight of the familiar box. Did he want to show her Houseman’s head again, or was there something even worse in there this time…?
He opened the box, laying the lid aside. Drawing Houseman’s disembodied head out, he set it atop to the table.
Her mouth twisted in revulsion. “You’re becoming quite attached to that thing, aren’t you? I hear they keep better if you boil them down.”
Another item was produced. It was a long black spike, glistening in the dim light, set on a heavy dark wooden base.
“I’ve heard the same,” he answered as he skewered the head atop the black spike, “But then, they’re not generally so conversational after you’ve boiled them.”
“I’ve got a recent acquaintance that would say differe–” She broke off abruptly as the grotesque trophy started showing signs of life.
A gurgling could be heard, then…
“Aiiiiiiiiiiiiigh!” The head that was Houseman screamed.