The pain of my many injuries faded slowly away. It wasn’t the same as the regeneration that my Gift had given me, but it was a damn sight better than nothing. I could care less about the reality of being injured as long as it didn’t hurt.
I was still blind, but I could see after a fashion. It was as though I was looking through frosted glass or a waterfall at small fires. Two before me were dying embers and one very close to me was a roaring bonfire. A sound like shattering glass interrupted the relative silence of the room and Rakk’s voice thundered in my ears.
“-will rip the flesh from your bones!” He was shouting. Ah. Gem’s barrier must have failed. Did I kill her? I’d barely scratched her…
“Oh, by all means.” I said, my voice echoed with power that I hadn’t ever experienced before. “Flay me.”
“What did you do to them?” Rakk sounded astonished, his tirade abruptly stopped.
“The same thing I will do to you.” I bluffed, since I had absolutely no idea what was going on.
A group of small flames and some larger blazes were approaching quickly. “You’d better hurry if you don’t want to be here when Vlad’s goons get here.” I said
Those fires seemed to be associated with … strength or power, and I was pretty sure that our little exchange earlier had set off some kind of alarm. These things running our way must be people, I had little doubt of that.
“I will kill you.” He said, “You will die by my hand.” Then the flame of his Power vanished down the hallway.
The flickering flames came around a corner that I couldn’t see and shortly a quavering voice asked, “What the hell happened here?”
“Not sure.” I said, “I heard some sounds of struggle and felt my way over here but I can’t see what happened. Can you tell me what is here?” I felt around with my hands as if reaching out for the speaker. I could see his flame. It wasn’t worth my trouble.
“There are … things that might have been bodies on the floor.”
A group of small flames and some larger blazes were approaching quickly. “You’d better hurry if you don’t want to be here when Vlad’s goons get here.” I said.
Those fires seemed to be associated with … strength or power, and I was pretty sure that our little exchange had set off some kind of alarm. These things running toward me must be people. My suspicions were confirmed when shouts of anger preceded the arrival of a pack of idiots.
“What the hell?”
“On the floor!”
“Hands behind your head!”
“No sudden moves!”
The cacophony was deafening. I managed to summon a trembling lower lip and a quivering voice, “I don’t know what’s happening!” I wailed, “Where’s Vladimir?”
“What the fuck? I thought this chick was supposed to be some kind of badass.” A gruff male voice said, “Why don’t she have any clothes on? The hell’s going on here?”
“Dunno Sanzo, but I wouldn’t mind finding out.” Another voice said, and a hand ran down my back and cupped my ass. I managed not to elbow anyone in the face, but I’m sure my face reflected my revulsion. A chorus of crude laughter followed.
“You moron, get your hands off the girl, what’s wrong with you?” Sanzo said angrily, “The boss said she’s off limits and only a complete idiot crosses the boss.”
The others stopped their chuckling and shuffled uneasily. The hand hastily withdrew and I stepped closer to Sanzo. His voice was the loudest and he seemed to be in charge… and he burned like a campfire instead of a candle. The snack I’d had when I bit Gem had served to whet my appetite, and he smelled like dessert.
I reached for him, grabbing him easily in spite of the fact that he was stepping backward quickly, trying to avoid my touch. “Oh please, what’s happening?” I said, “Please tell me, it’s so terrible being here alone and blind with all these horrible sounds all around me.”
“Well. I’ll give ya the horrible part.” Sanzo said, making a halfhearted attempt to fend me off. “Whatever killed these two melted them into piles of sludge. Just who were they anyway?”
“I don’t know.” I said breathily, “How can I ever thank you for rescuing me?” I pressed myself against him, suppressing a shiver of disgust at touching a man. Damn, I thought I’d ditched those feelings. My words set off a rumble of amusement through the assembled goons.
“What precisely the fuck is going on here?” An urbane voice cut through the voices of the men. “You aren’t trusting this devious cunt are you?”
Sanzo shoved me away, “Of course not boss. She’s freaking out and I’m not far from it myself. Look at this shit. It’s like they melted or something.”
Vladimir was a cloud of blackness amid the bright fires of the others. That was strange; what was wrong with him?
“Yes. How odd.” Vlad didn’t sound overly concerned, “Who were they?”
“We don’t know boss, that’s what I was trying to figure out when this girl started-”
“I don’t care.” Vlad interrupted, grabbing my wrist. “You’re coming with me. Right now. The rest of you clean up this shit and repair that door.”
He pulled me along and I slipped over whatever was on the floor as we left. Things that didn’t have any power or life were still invisible to me and my Gift was still conspicuously absent. I looked directly at Sanzo as we left and gave him a vulpine smile. He took a step backward from me and my grin grew even more predatory.
I made sure to wipe my face clear of any gleeful or confident expression before turning to look in Vladimir’s direction. “What is going on?” I demanded, “You have no idea what it’s like to be blind like this.”
“The others did not notice in the heat of the moment my dear Renyovalia, however the blood on your lips did not escape my notice. You’ve been quite naughty haven’t you?” His grip was painful on my arm, but I found that I was able to tolerate it.
Whatever had been done to me was gradually being influenced by what I’d eaten and likely by the strange ability my body still had to preserve itself in spite of being dead. I wasn’t about to let Vlad know about it though.
“You’re hurting me.” I said, sounding defiant but weak even to my own ears. I was a little too good at this subservient thing for my own taste.
“Good!” He shoved me forward and I stumbled with my hands out in front of myself. I was less worried about actually getting hurt than I was about looking foolish. Of course I needed to worry about injuries now that healing was an uncertain thing. I had to find out how things worked before it was too late.
Vlad had reined in his temper and was once more casual and calm. “Now it is time for you to tell me what happened.”
“It was Rakk, Gem and Dog. They found me and decided to torture me for some reason” I said, not seeing any real reason to lie. “Can I have some clothes?”
“Why were they torturing you I wonder.” Said Vald, “Some people are good at holding grudges I suppose.”
“Well I did kill quite a few of their friends before the Reapers-”
“Why aren’t you injured then?” He said, moving toward me in a sudden burst of speed. I only barely managed to keep from flinching away.
“Gem was healing me somehow. She splattered her blood on my face and then touched me… she said it was a secret she had been keeping.” I said, “Please can I have some clothes?”
“No, you will remain nude. It’s the easiest way for me to ensure that everyone who sees you knows precisely who you are.” He said with a chuckle at his own cleverness.
I started feeling around for a chair, but he grabbed my bruised wrist again, “We aren’t done yet Renyovalia. What happened to them?”
“Why don’t you tell me?” I retorted, “I’m blind, remember? I don’t even know what country I’m in, much less state, city or building. Shit, the only way I knew them is because of their voices. Dog started to gurgle like he was drowning, Gem started stabbing me and then Rakk ran away and your goon squad showed up.”
He was silent for a few long moments, but then let me go. I fumbled for a wall and found a chair. There were small flickers that faintly outlined inanimate objects; I assumed they must be the life force of far away things that were only barely visible to me.
“Damn.” He muttered, pacing the floor as though he’d forgotten I was there. “I will have to take steps to keep the other disruptive elements don’t come into contact with her before I’m finished.”
I realized that he didn’t think I could hear him at all… and that meant my hearing was becoming even sharper than it had been when I had full control of my Gift. He continued muttering and I kept listening.
“That room isn’t secure enough. I’ll bring her to the lab. Nobody goes there anymore and there’s nothing she can get into as handicapped as she is.” Vlad paused in his pacing and I assumed, by the outline of his body turned to look at me.
“OK my darling, I am going to bring you to a place where you can’t get into any more trouble.” He said.
“Do you mean where nobody will find me?” I said trying not to sound as annoyed as I felt. “It’s not my fault people want to kill me.”
“Yes… well… not entirely your fault.” He said, amused. “I’ll get someone to stitch you up down in the operating room.”
“Stitch me up?” I said, truly puzzled.
“Can’t you feel it?” He asked, “I thought you would be in agony, although it seems this amount of damage has overcome what your brain can still process. Honestly, I doubt it will do much good since you can’t really heal but at least you won’t be falling apart… and there’s nothing we can do about the eye.
I touched my leg where Dog had bitten me and still felt the jagged lacerations. My trembling fingers found the wound in my abdomen and the ruin that had been my eye. “Oh no.” I whispered, feeling truly terrified, “What did you do to me?” All I could remember was Hex and how the wounds he had sustained before he had re-awakened stubbornly refused to heal.
“I?” He said genially, “I merely found you and brought you here.”
It took all I had to not scream myself hoarse.