CAST OF PLAYERS:
Debora Silkotch…………..Casey Gavin…………………………Human Psionic
Aron Head……………….Story/Setting/Everything Else…….Game Master
“In one drop of water are found all the secrets of all the oceans.”
— Kahlil Gibran
She was seated in a hard wooden chair, her wrists locked to the armrests.
Her telepathic senses remained dulled. She could not sense beyond herself.
Looking about, she saw that she was in a dimly lit room draped in shadow. Off to her left was a hard wood table. Dark stains colored the wood; ranching experience told her that those were bloodstains. A roll-away cart was positioned a few feet from her right. On it, an assorted number of sharp surgical objects were arranged.
Her stomach lurched at the sight of those gleaming blades.
If her telekinesis were working, she could have utilized those as a fine arsenal for attack… but instead, she found herself staring at them…
She had no idea how much pain she was capable of enduring.
But oh, she didn’t want to find out.
Terror washed through her in cold waves, until she had to clench her teeth shut to keep from sobbing aloud.
“You’re awake,” Mardmor greeted her with a smile, stepping out of the darkness. The shadows moved about him like curtains. “I suppose we should get down to business. Don’t you agree?”
He drew a scalpel from the cart.
Shakes wracked her slender body. She searched desperately for the anger and defiance that had bolstered her courage earlier, but the sight of that razor-edged blade in Mardmor’s hand drove everything from her mind but the overwhelming fear. “Please,” she whispered unsteadily. “I don’t know anything.”
“Casey,” he said earnestly, “I need you to believe two things. Just two. But I *need* you to believe them wholeheartedly.”
He drew close, his face filling her field of vision.
“First, do you believe that it is in within my power to hurt you? To make you suffer such torment as you have never imagined? To make you weep until you have no tears left to offer? To make you beg me for the sweet release of eternal death? Do you?”
She tried to draw enough breath to answer, but her chest seemed paralyzed with terror. Maybe she’d get lucky and just die from heart failure before the torture began.
Finally she managed to jerk a bit of air into her lungs. “Yes,” she breathed hoarsely. “I believe that.”
“Good,” he almost whispered, sounding relieved. “Second — and, Casey, this is very important — do you believe that I do not want to hurt you? Because I don’t. You are a profoundly powerful and intriguing woman. I would much rather share a meal with you than cause you harm. There is much you can teach me, and I dare say, much I can teach you. Why then would I ever desire to inflict upon you pain? So, my dear, do you believe that I do not wish to hurt you?”
His words loosened the crushing grip of terror on her chest just a little, just enough to let her breathe. “Maybe you don’t,” she whispered low. “But I believe that you’ll do it anyway. Because I have nothing useful to tell you.”
“I…” He shook his head. “I am sorry to hear you say that.”
In a flash, he slashed down with the scalpel with tremendous force!
Casey jumped, startled by the sudden action.
The blade plunged deep into the arm of the chair, mere millimeters from her own flesh. She pulled reflexively away from the blow, but her arm was held tightly in place. A short whimper escaped her throat before she could choke it back.
“It would take nothing but the will to do so, Casey. Pain and torment. They can be provided with little effort. Do you believe me? Do you believe that I do not want to hurt you?!?!”
She huddled motionless in the chair, head bowed, heart pounding thunderously against her ribs.
And then a window of clarity opened in her mind. She was still terrified, but her capacity for rational thought slipped back in through the haze of fear, offering her a wider perspective beyond Mardmor’s blades and the threat of unimaginable pain.
The Goblin King…the master puppeteer pulling the strings of the Talons, the Vampire Prince, presumably even Kilarothes himself…was offering to sit down with her for a little friendly conversation.
It was conceivable that she may yet escape this dungeon. What if she were to bring with her information that could change the course of the war?
What if this, right now, was her opportunity to find a chink in the enemy’s armor?
Slowly, slowly, her hands unclenched on the chair’s arms. She drew a deep breath, tried to calm the trembling.
She didn’t quite look at him. “What do you want to know?
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 might 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 might choose to inflict upon her.
She wasn’t though, not completely. She might be bound, her powers might 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.
** Grandpa? **
:: 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 grandfather 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. ** 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 made her next request easier to phrase, whether it was her grandfather or Mardmor she was 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.
Casey flinched at the unexpected shriek. Apparently even the true death hadn’t ended Houseman’s torment.
“And who was it you were speaking to just a moment ago?” Mardmor repeated.
Her eyes cut back to him, widening. “There was no one *here!* What made you think I was speaking to someone?”
“Who is Usi?” he asked.
Crap crap crap crap crap.
“I have no idea. Why do you ask?”
Mardmor smiled at her; his green eyes sparked with dark knowledge.
Houseman’s eyes fluttered, his jaw working. Eyes widening, he looked about the room, finally they fell on Casey. “I…I know you.” The head stuttered. “You drove the truck. With Falco.”
“Falco?” Mardmor asked.
Casey stared at the talking head in appalled dismay. Whoever said dead men tell no tales had apparently never been to Austin.
But a moment later she seemed to shake herself out of her speechless horror of the grisly object and pull herself together. “Um, yeah. Brandon Falco, he’s a regular customer at the bar where I work. I gave him a ride home last night.”