This is a continuing excerpt from the play-by-email game Austin After Dark.
The beginning can be found here:
Relief, hope, and a grim sort of determination suddenly surged in alongside the overwhelming pain. She might be able to do something about that pain now…numb the nerves, muffle the signals to her brain…but that wasn’t quite at the top of her list just yet.
She glared at the silver band, telekinetically crushing it beyond recognition, just in case Mardmor returned before she made her escape.
Then with a simple thought the bonds flew from her wrists, and she was free of the restraints.
She sprang from the chair that had been her prison…
…And stumbled to her knees, head spinning and stomach churning. The spirit was willing, but her trembling body was appallingly weak.
Having viewed her hands on the other side of the restraints allowed her to view them as something not her own. But now, seeing the rough hewn appendages with freedom of movement…? It was a whole ‘nother kind of horror.
She was drenched in her own blood, and her hopelessly maimed and burned hands had begun to throb with a hellacious new ferocity in time to the revived pounding of her heart.
She was forced to delay her escape while she attended to her physical needs. Manipulating nerves wasn’t her area of expertise — her one and only foray into that province had resulted in the unintended but spectacular destruction of the Ogre’s entire optic system — but at this point she was willing to destroy what was left of her hands if only they’d stop hurting long enough to let her get the hell out of there.
She took a deep breath, and focused on numbing the damaged tissues of her hands. Ideally this would be a temporary effect, but she’d settle for permanent if that was all she could manage in a hurry.
She concentrated… Her senses turning inward, feeling out the nerves, chasing the pain to its source.
“Ahh…” She startled herself, then cried out in sudden pain, “AIGH!”
And the pain was gone.
The wounds had healed over.
She stared at her scarred, fingerless but pain-free hands for a long, befuddled moment.
No time to wonder about it now. She rose shakily to her feet, glancing over at the toppled cart and its scattered load of bloody implements. Searching briefly through the mess, she located the heavy blade that the Goblin King had used to remove her fingers. At her bidding it flew to her, then slid with slow, careful precision down between her leather belt and leather pants just behind her hip.
Mardmor might need that back. She intended to personally ensure that he got it.
Stepping cautiously across the blood-slick floor, she approached the head. “I owe you more than you know, Mr. Houseman. What can I do for you before I go?”
“Tell me it’s worth it,” he said in a small voice. “The secrets you’re protecting? They’re worth it?”
“They’re worth it,” she said simply. “Anything else I can do for you?”
“That is enough,” he said.
But it wasn’t his voice.
Rather, it was Mardmor’s.
And Casey was not standing free, she was back in the chair restrained – headband still firmly on her head.
Mardmor stood close-by, beside the cart of blades – all of them pristine.
Houseman looked on at her, sympathetic, no blood on his chin.
And she looked down to her hand. Miraculously, her fingers – they were all there.
The Goblin King smiled, “You have confirmed for me now… that you do indeed have secrets worthy of the most precious protection. Now then…”
He leaned forward, drawing up a blade.
“…If I can work that kind of pain in your mind, what do you think I can do to you for real? Tell me your secrets, Casey, and I will spare you further torment.”
Casey found that, for the moment at least, her capacity for terror had been utterly expended. In its place she felt only a dull fury, kindled by Mardmor’s smug words and fueled by her body’s restored strength and health. It had been one mind-game after another since their first meeting in the Cake & Ale this evening, and still no end in sight.
“Well,” she commented evenly, if rather hoarsely. Apparently all the screaming had been real, anyway. “At least we’re skipping that whole ‘You must believe I don’t want to hurt you’ spiel this time. I don’t think I could listen to that again.”
He arched an eyebrow at that, an amused smile playing at the edge of his mouth.
The trace of dry humor faded from her tone, replaced by a thread of cool steel. “Listen to me, you psychotic freak. I’ll keep this short, because I have no doubt that five minutes from now I’m going to be gushing blood and begging for death…or maybe I’ll just think I am, who the hell knows. Anyway, there’s nothing I can do about that, so let’s not pretend otherwise. I’m telling you right now, while I can still string words together in a coherent manner: Yes, I have secrets. Yes, they’re worth suffering and dying to protect. Do you think you and I would still be here doing this interminable song and dance if they weren’t? Do you honestly think I would have gone through all of that without talking if there were any possibility that I could be compelled to give up my information?” Her blue eyes flashed with ire and disdain. “You might as well kill me now, Mardmor, because I am completely useless to you. Or, we could keep this up for the rest of the night; I’m happy to keep you occupied in here instead of out overthrowing the world. But whatever you’re going to do, just do it already, unless you’re planning on talking me to death. And I’ve gotta tell you, I think I’d prefer the knife thing.”
“And the girl becomes a woman,” he said softly. He pondered her, “Very well then. I believe we will begin with your brain.”
He drew a vicious looking corkscrew device.
Casey blinked, her wrath faltering into startled alarm at the sight of this new instrument.
The Goblin King provided it a crank, nodding with satisfaction.
“We’ll begin…with my…what?” The last of the fierce anger drained away as dismay and fear made a dramatic return appearance. Merciful heavens, what had she been thinking to goad him like that?