Post Tue Dec 13, 2005 6:30 pm

Savant's Blood: Shadow of the Avatar -- Chapter 3

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Blood is never sweeter than when it
is sucked from the gashed throat of
a mewing victim...
<DIV ALIGN="RIGHT"><font style="font-size:12pt">—Hethanon</DIV>
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<div align="center"><font style="font-family: Times New Roman; font-size: 18pt;">Chapter 3<BR>
<font style="font-family: Times New Roman; font-size: 16pt;">The Dagger Stabs Deep</div>
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“Move!” Wren stumbled forward as one of the rakes of the Dagger guild shoved her.

The torch-lit corridor of Brethren Guild reeked of curdled blood, urine, and burned hair. Flaking lines of rusty-brown ran down the stone walls. So much blood spilled, she wondered how many Brethren had been allowed to live. Everywhere she saw signs of death. She’d lived here for more than a decade and now she barely recognized it. It no longer felt like the safe haven she’d come to know so well.

It had been defiled.

Her skin felt clammy from the oral caresses of the Dagger men, and her breasts felt raw from being fondled. Her scalp stung from constant pulling on her hair.

An icy hand clutched her mind and body. Grahm now dead, Vulcindra and Tarmagal gone, and she’d failed to escape. As the three thugs pushed her toward the Dagger cult’s axe-faced priest, she could only think that she’d been cursed to perish in flames.

Axe-face grinned with broken yellow teeth as they brought her closer. His black eyes flashed. His presence made her skin prickle. His malignant aura was so strong it felt like standing face first against a wall of needles.

The man’s smile faded as they pushed her close. His voice rasped like crunching glass. “Kergatha?” He grabbed her by the back of the neck and pulled. His breath smelled like spoiled milk and it sent a shudder through her. He relaxed. “Ah no, but you look much like her.” He laughed. “I met a woman who looked like you. Had your spirit. Killed several of my men like you have.” He bunched his hand in her hair and she gritted her teeth against the pain. “Thought she could kill an Avatar. I taught her different. For her trouble, she was made to live as a supplicant. We took her children.” He paused. “Unfortunately, you have nothing like that to give us. So we’ll have to take what you do have.” He let go and stepped back to size her up.

“I heard that you put three or four knives through the eye slits of some of my mercenaries. Once is hard to believe, but three or four times?”

Wren shrugged. “Give me a knife. I’ll be glad to give you a demonstration.”

He snorted. “You’re good at climbing too. Though it’s hard to credit, my men said they found you crawling on a ceiling. I’ve never heard of anyone being able to do that without claws or ropes.”

Her voice cracked. “Fear makes a lot of things possible.”

“It’s a shame to waste all that ability.”

Her chest grew tight. Please, Ishtar, give me an opening— anything. I know I’ve been bad, but not as bad as this. Each of the two rakes holding her shoulders and wrists was twice her weight. The third stood behind.

“All right, spider-girl, where is Desiray?”

“My name is Wren. If I knew where she was, it would be our rakes holding you.”

The hawk-faced man on the right struck her across the face.

Wren felt the burn and struggled, but their grip stayed solid.

“Wren?” The priest nodded. “That explains it. My Brethren source warned me about you. You’re skilled enough to have a master’s warrant yourself. Surely, you don’t have any loyalty to that bitch who’s kept you submerged in the ranks. What does it matter now anyway? Tell us where she is. Save yourself some pain.”

Save me pain. What a colossal lie. She knew better than that. “I wish I knew, so she’d rip your Ishtar-damned face off!”

The right man clubbed her in the side of the head again. The ringing in her ears continued as Axe-face frowned.

“Girl, you should learn some respect.” He shrugged his dark cloak off. “I let my men play with you, but the best was saved for last. You’re such a pretty little flower. I can’t waste a perfect opportunity.”

He moved closer.

Have to try.

The rakes held her solidly enough that she could kick the man behind. Both heels crashed low on his sternum. Wren kicked forward and caught the master underneath the chin. She lunged underneath the right man’s swing and round-kicked him in back of the knee. Her right arm came loose as he fell.

She felt a flash of pain as a fist clipped her jaw. Wren ducked another punch and brought a ridge-hand to the left man’s throat. He staggered back gasping. Wren leaped and came down with both knees on the belly of the right hand man. He groaned, arms groping without focus. Wren cracked him between the eyes with her elbow, then again.

Steel hissed through the air. She twisted. A slash of burning cut across her breast. Roll, sidestep, another hiss and a stripe of agony. The master stalked forward grinning, his yellow teeth bloody.

He growled like animal.

She feinted side-to-side as he slashed. A hand grabbed her ankle. Wren felt a flash of fear as the priest’s dagger came in. Steel kissed bone and separated flesh. She cried out and slammed onto the floor, clutching her side.

She gasped, flopping like a fish on a deck. Her limbs refused to function through the torment.

“Does that hurt? Good.” He turned the man who she’d kicked. “Are you all right?”

The man wheezed and nodded.

The master thrust his dagger into the rake’s eye. The man shrieked and convulsed on the floor.

“Worthless trash,” he stepped forward and knotted his hand in her hair. The touch of his fingers burned like fire. “We didn’t finish our discussion.”

Wren could only wail as he dragged her down the corridor. He stopped after ten paces and stood over her.

“You shall make a good handmaiden to Set.” He leered and spat a wad of bloody phlegm on her chest. “I’m sure he will find your soul as tasty as I will your body.”

Move, move! Her heart pounded.

He sheathed his dagger and unfastened his breeches.

No. Blood throbbed in her temples like the clap of a church bell.

Her legs refused to move. She tried to peel her arm away from the gash in her side. The blinded Cultist continued to scream.

I’m going to die. Explosions went off behind her eyes.

The master crouched to pin her legs.

A blast of energy surged through her. She yelled and kicked. Her toe smashed into his groin. The priest howled and dropped.

She scrambled away on hands and knees. The priest lunged. Pain shrieked down her back as his nails raked gouges down her spine. The master coughed as Wren staggered upright and stumbled away.

He screamed curses as she ran. She turned the corner as a roar of thunder blasted down the corridor. A bolt of lightning exploded into the wall behind.

She kept running and didn’t look back...