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A Season Of Dragons

by P L Nunn


Chapter eight


There was blood on his armor. So much of it that even the rain wouldn't wash it away. It ran down the blades of the katanas, pooling over the guards and staining the hilts. He had taken a great many lives this night. They hadn't been human.

Ryo told himself that once more, as he scanned the muddy vale for conflict. There was no more. Only scattered still forms, impossible really, to distinguish in the dark from rocks, save for the wing that stuck up here, or the clawed limb that twisted towards the sky, one last clutching grab for life before death had come. And death had come, for the most part in the form of twin katanas that burned through reptilian flesh with deplorable ease. He'd taken the brunt of them and lost count after the first two, how many had gone down before him. Kento had taken his share though, and Sai - - but neither of them were drenched in so much blood. Perhaps it had been the last big one he'd taken down. The one that had launched itself at him, no smaller than a compact car - - the one that he'd decapitated in mid-air above his head and had the body just collapse upon him, spewing blood like a firehose gone wild until, Ryo had it in his eyes and on face and seeping down into the crevices of the armor.

Stop thinking about the feel of it. It did no good and it had to be endured anyway. Just like the bruises under the armor and the ache in his bones and his muscles from too long wearing it. He'd taken a lot of hits, plunging into the thickest of the ne'gal. But he'd no choice, but to draw them to himself and away from the hun'ra who were close to helpless before the monsters.

But the monsters littered the vale now, those that hadn't fled, and the hun'ra gathered the captives, releasing shackles, destroying pens. Pens to hold humans - - hun'ra - - it was all the same.

Ryo walked down among them, the shell-shocked prisoners, the wide eyed hun'ra who shied away from him just a little as if he still carried the vile scent of death with him. Maybe it was the katana he still gripped. He wiped it off between his armored fingers and slid it into its sheath, alongside its counterpart, and stared at the faces, who stared back at him in awe. They weren't all hun'ra, he thought. There was the cut of more modern clothing here and there, mostly children and a few women. He looked for the face of that one little girl - - the one he'd promised to protect and failed so miserably.

"Ryo!" That was Kento's excited voice from the shifting press of shadowed bodies. "I found her. I found her!"

Ryo spun, searching, trying to think of what he'd say - - of how he'd apologize for not living up to his word - - for letting the monster kill her brother and take her to this dismal place - - but Kento wasn't holding a tiny island girl, he had his arms around a dazed looking woman in torn khakis, with pale skin and vibrant red hair. Ryo shook his head and turned away, not caring about her or any of them at the moment, other than that one skinny little island girl.

Seiji came round slowly. Ever so slowly, like the gradual march of light across a shadow marred floor. Perhaps he had not been completely unaware at all - - merely so shrouded in dark lethargy as to not register the physical things around him. Perhaps he did recall, with a lazy sort of perception, lingering touches upon his skin. Strong, strong hands that arranged his body to their liking, stroking him, exploring him with critical minuteness as if he were a frog pinned down to a board, with the folds of his skin pulled back so that the curious hands of his dissector could discover all his secrets.

He felt that way, as he drifted out of the fog. Weak and exposed and drowsy enough not to fight it, even when the fingers pressed against his lips, and slipped between slack jaws to test the slick insides of his mouth. Even when they dipped between his legs and acquainted themselves with what lay there.

It was very much like - - he realized with dawning horror - - how he'd felt when she'd been in control of his body - - using drugs to keep him languid and easy to control. Himself submerged so deep inside his own subconscious that he was no more than a detached observer to the things she did with his body. That more than anything made him fight for the surface. Made him desperately try and burn off the lethargy that kept him sluggish and limp while a stranger's hands profaned him.

He became aware of shapes around him. Of deep shadows and the curving grace of bunched drapery coiled around the four posts of - - a bed? A great, sprawling bed in the midst of a forest of stark stone columns and beyond that, darkness which his eyes could in no wise penetrate. And beside him, a shifting weight that made his stengthless body slump somewhat towards the impression of a heavy hip. The deceptive light played along gold flecked skin, along the sweeping curve of wings, and the glint of sharp teeth behind wide lips.

Seiji half recognized the face. The veneer of humanity and culture that hid something entirely alien. He fumbled for a name, but his mind was still too clouded by the drug. Oh, so crafty of them - - to find another method to snare him when he refused the wine that Rowan had so freely partaken of. Was Rowan passed out somewhere, having succumbed finally to whatever was in the drink?

Oh, please, let it not be so. Let him have realized before it was too late and summoned the armor to let the mystic energies of Strata burn the poison out of his system. And let him wonder what was keeping Seiji.

A long nailed hand ran lightly up the inner side of his arm, which lay over his head, then down to the hollow of his armpit, and past his ribs. The face came down, long, dark hair trickling Seiji's skin, and lips and tongue traced a trail down the center of his chest. Then the lips found one flat nipple and fastened upon it, catching tender flesh between predator's teeth.

A hand slipped under his back, lifting him up to meet the assault and there was nothing he could do to stop it, save whimper in frustration. More so when the teeth bit down with sharp tearing pain, drawing blood he was sure and suckling that like mother's milk.

The pain brought Seiji a little closer to autonomy, and he stubbornly lifted a hand, weakly pressing it against his accoster's shoulder.

Sarag'sa. There, he'd recalled a name. Sarag'sa who'd offered a trade for him and relented all to easily when Rowan had turned it down.

The ne'gal chuckled at the resistance, casually capturing the wrist and twisting it cruelly behind Seiji's arched back. He lifted his head and stared down, a faint smear of Seiji's blood on his lips, an entirely hateful, smug look in his reptilian eyes.

Stop . . . Did he say that, or merely think it. Seiji couldn't be quite sure. He wasn't functional enough yet to form coherent sentences. It hardly mattered though, since Sarag'sa didn't stop. Since Sarag'sa moved his mouth down Seiji's flat stomach, biting and nipping as he went and zeroed in on the flaccid flesh between Seiji's legs.

Oh, god - - no. Seiji gathered the energy to try and twist his hips away, but the hand on his wrist twisted it sharply, threatening to wrench his arm from its socket, and the other hand caught hold of his hip, nails biting into the soft flesh, holding him immobile while the mouth descended and swallowed him whole. It could have been Ryo down there, at his most earnest and eager and willing to please, but between the drugs and the pain and the fear Seiji still couldn't have achieved a hard-on. All he was was limp flesh that the ne'gal holding him down worked in his heated mouth, suckling and licking and biting until helpless tears began to create channels down Seiji's temples and his body began to jerk and spasm each time teeth pierced skin and too warm blood began to leak, only to be devoured by the monster that caused it.

He became aware, gradually, of his skin burning from other marks, perpetrated upon him before he was aware enough to realize it. The soft inner skin of his thighs, the curve of his buttocks, his shoulders, the skin of his throat just below the throbbing pulse of his jugular. He'd been played with and not kindly, while he was unawares - - now that cognizance had returned, there was something in the glimmer of the ne'gal prince's eyes that hinted that the game would take a more serious turn.

Where were his robes and the mystical orb? He tried desperately to find its presence, but it was too far away to draw on its power, which meant that he'd been taken a good ways from the baths.

Sarag'sa let go of Seiji's wrist, shifting to settle between his sprawled legs, leaning down over him, close enough that his hair brushed Seiji's shoulders.

"Are you back in the land of the living, little Shak'natari?"

Seiji blinked up, focusing every ounce of his will into transferring thought to spoken word. "You lying - - son - - of - - a bitch!"

The ne'gal prince tilted his head, brows knit, as if he were uncertain to be offended or amused.

"You - - promised us safety." Seiji hissed, getting better at the whole talking thing.

"Ah. No. I promised the hun'ra safety. You are no hun'ra. Therefore you do not qualify - - you are game." That said, the ne'gal apparently thought his point made, for he grasped Seiji's jaw and swooped down, forcing a too long tongue into his mouth. Seiji gagged and struggled, furious and gaining strength because of it. The weight of the ne'gal was more than his drug tainted body could toss off, but he still knew a few tricks. He worked his hands up and dug his thumbs into the dragon prince's eye sockets, a sensitive spot apparently, for the ne'gal hissed and drew back, raising an arm and lashing back with an open palm that cracked against the side of Seiji's face.

The world went distinctly dark again, and when it came back he was on his stomach, face pressed into the pillows, hips drawn back tight against what felt to be an appallingly impressive erection. Fuck.

Seiji panicked. Just flat out panicked and began to twist frantically in efforts to escape. The nails bit into his skin, drawing blood, and the thing that nudged between the cleft of his ass promised a great deal more pain.

"You fucking, honorless monster - -" He gasped, failing miserably at his attempts, and only causing the ne'gal to shred more of his flesh in the process. The blood was trailing down his legs and he hadn't even been penetrated.

"You call me game. Doesn't that imply some sort of sportsmanship? How much sport when you have to drug your prey just to get the upper hand? How much honor is in that?" There was salt in his mouth and he hoped it was blood and not tears, because he couldn't deal with the indignity of that. The prospect of rape was bad enough without him losing what was left of his own dignity in the process.

"Honor?" the ne'gal's rough voice hissed down at him, the pressure of the thick glans at his tightly clenched opening letting up. "There is no honor for such as you, shak'nor." The ne'gal leaned down, his breath hot upon Seiji's back. "Only obedience. And the pleasure of your betters, no?"

"No." Seiji snarled, trying to lurch upwards, failing.

"You want to make sport of it?" Sarag'sa whispered, the anger in his voice replaced of a sudden by interest. His tongue flicked out and swept up Seiji's spine to his neck. Seiji shivered, despising the feel of it as much as he despised the feel of the thick member pressed so tightly against his ass.

"All right. I think I would receive enjoyment from a little sport. I would find pleasure in hunting you down and gutting you like the game you are. Is this your wish, little Shak-natari?"

Dare he hope? Was this a chance for escape? "Like this?" Seiji asked. "Where's the sport if I can hardly stand?"

"It will wear off shortly. The cold will wake you fully."

"The cold?" He asked, a moment before the thick arm around his waist tightened and he was jerked up, tight against the body behind him. There was a bunching of muscles and the snap of leathery wings and the ne'gal launched himself and Seiji from the huge bed, surging upwards with the powerful beat of wings into the darkness that the tops of the columns disappeared into.

Vertigo assaulted him for a moment, though he'd never suffered from it before. Perhaps it was the disorientation of the drugs, or the loss of blood or the feeling of ascension in the pitch blackness. Pitch blackness had never sat well with him. But then there was star light above and cold, cold night air and the ne'gal burst forth from the opening in the mountain and sailed out over the night darkened range beyond the pass. Seiji clung for dear life, senses swirling awake as adrenaline spiked.

And then the arm loosened and the support was gone. Just gone and he was falling. Falling towards darkness and frigid cold and death. He shut his eyes and clamped his lips tight, thinking that the least he could do was meet it with dignity.

A child sobbed, alone and ignored amidst the freed hun'ra. She crouched in the mud, small hands to her face and cried. Ryo knelt next to her, hesitating to touch her with his bloodstained, armored hand.

"Are you okay?" he asked, shaken by the helplessness of not knowing what to do to make her stop. She didn't look up at him. Afraid perhaps, of what she might see. He bit his lip, tasting coppery blood that might, or might not have been his own and laid a hand on her small shoulder.

The girl flinched violently, head snapping up to stare at him. Maybe it was her - - maybe not. In the rain and the darkness, it was hard to tell. Her clothes were ragged and torn, though they could have been the one's the child on the island had worn.

"Do you remember me?" He asked. "From the field?"

She stared, blinking, gasping for breath between her sobs.

It was the helmet. The helmet had frightened her the first time. He swept it off, shaking hair out of his eyes. "Do you remember?"

"You - - you were there when the boogy came - -"

He nodded, a sudden tightness forming at the back of his throat. "I - - I'm sorry - - I didn't protect you. I tried - -"

She stared, large eyed, frightened - - hopeful - - just maybe hopeful that somebody had come to take her out of this nightmare. He hoped he could. He gathered her up, a small, shivering body against hard, wet armor and she wrapped skinny arms around his neck, and pressed her face into his shoulder. Trusting him when he'd already failed her once.

He vowed he would not again.

Seiji hit ground. Only it wasn't ground, it was water and it didn't pulp his body so much as encase it in shocking, debilitating cold. Like liquid ice that stunned him momentarily into incapacity, until his lungs complained for lack of air and he spasmed into a sudden and frantic fight for the surface. He reached it, and gasped for welcome air, lost in the darkness until his eyes began to adjust ever so slightly and he made out the shadowy, not too distant outline of the closest shore. It took a little effort to get his limbs to moving, the cold ate at them as much as the drug had, but self-preservation made him put forth the effort and soon enough he found the shore and crawled up onto it, collapsing past the water, curling fetally upon rough grass. His teeth were chattering, his limbs shaking so bad it was as if he were ceasing. There was no warmth to be had and no mystic power source to call upon to grant it to him.

There was the sound of wings overhead, and the fleeting shadow of something large passed by. Seiji started, aware of his vulnerability, in plain view upon the shore. He forced his limbs to unfold, forced himself to his feet, no matter how badly he shook and staggered for the woodline beyond the shore. There was pain in his body beyond the cold. Fresh bruises and cuts that stung at the cold air. An ache between his legs that he hesitated to think about. He paused, shoulder to a tree and slid a hand down, gingerly to touch himself, feeling the damage, the welts of teeth marks, the tears in flesh that still seeped warm blood. He drew his hand away, clenching his fist, thinking that the ne'gal's suggestion of hunting him down and gutting him had been more than some idle threat. The monster would as soon feast on him, as fuck him. He needed a weapon. If he could get his body functioning and could find a weapon, then he had a chance.

And where the hell was Rowan and why hadn't he realized that Seiji was sorely overdue?

It had taken Rowan a little while to find the room. He was usually so good with directions. But the dark stone halls were oppressively similar and they tilted alarmingly sometimes so that he had to stop and press his head against the wall to stop them and then he lost track of which way he'd been traveling down the hall in the first place - -

- - oh, it was humiliating, to be so turned around when he was sure that the path to the baths had been a relatively straight forward one. Where were the pretty servant girls when he needed them? He might not have turned their presence away even after they'd led him back to the room, what with the lingering ache between his legs and memory of how slick and smooth Seiji's skin had been still fresh in his mind. Seiji was just - - dangerous, he thought. Even when he wasn't consciously trying to be. Even when he was being an arrogant prick, he just made a body take pause and wonder - - and remember what it had been like to roll about with him, vying for just who was going to top who - - and sometimes winning and sometimes not and not minding either way.

Sai was so much easier. Going from Seiji to Sai had been coming home after a whirlwind, four star trip around the world. Oh the trip had been fantastic, but exhausting and a body was never so glad to be able to just sit back and relax, feeling safe enfolded in the comforts of home. But still, a body remembered the trip fondly, and took out photos now and then to bring back the memories.

Stop thinking about Seiji, he told himself. It wasn't helping him focus. It was just making the ache between his legs twitch and plead for attention and he wasn't prepared to give lost in the halls of this ne'gal fortress.

After a few more turns, he thought he had the right door. It was unlocked and inside was a room that just maybe was the one they'd left. It wasn't as if it had a lot of telling features - - stone walls, a bed and not much else. No one else was present at any rate, so Rowan staggered in, pressing the door shut behind him, then made his way across the floor to the bed. His knees hit and he folded face-first down upon it. He lay there for a while, head spinning, before lack of air forced him to shift and turn to his side, then onto his back. Oh, God, but he was drunk. And it had come upon him so damned fast. Ne'gal booze had a kick like a Clydesdale.

And a warmth. He giggled, now that he was alone and the sound of it wouldn't embarrass him. Put an arm over his eyes and laughed at nothing in particular - - or maybe a great many things that were all jumbled up in his mind. Like the look on the face of the gatekeeper when the sheer, intimidating height of the wall hadn't stopped Rowan from clambering up to his perch. Like utter indignity on Seiji's when Sarag'sa had asked if he warmed Rowan's bed. Oh, that had been priceless. If he'd had a video camera, he could have died happy - -

- - even happier if Seiji hadn't put a stop to what Rowan had been working towards in the pool. Seiji had said they'd regret it. Maybe. Maybe not. It wasn't like Kento wasn't thinking about nailing Sai - - if he hadn't gotten around to it again already out there in the wilds. And Sai might just have let him, because Sai loved Kento - - the same way Sai loved Ryo and maybe even Seiji - - but not, Rowan had been assured, the same way he loved him - - and felt sorry for Kento and didn't want Kento to feel alone - - so therefore it was all right for him to spread his legs for him and give him a taste now and then of what he was missing out on.

Rowan stopped smiling. It wasn't all right. No matter how he looked at it, no matter how altruistic he tried to be - - he just couldn't convince himself that sharing Sai with anybody was all right. The one time, maybe - - because happily or no, he'd been in on it too - - and maybe - - just maybe he'd needed to patch things up with Kento more than he'd need sole dominion of Sai. But for it to linger . . . it was just going to eat at him. So maybe fair was fair and thinking about tumbling Seiji, even though Seiji wasn't thinking the same of him - - was justified and perfectly okay and he wouldn't regret it a damn bit.

He slid his hand inside his robe, pressing his palm against half rigid flesh. Even after morose thoughts of Kento banging Sai - - his erection still hadn't entirely dissipated. Whatever was in the ne'gal wine - - he liked it.

Since Seiji had declined to scratch his itch, Rowan sat about taking care of it himself.

The trees rustled and Seiji whirled, bringing the wrist thick limb he'd found to bare. Something came at him out of the darkness and he swung, low and hard, hoping to bypass defense and take out his hunter's legs. He connected, evicting a satisfied grunt, before the wings unfurled and the body lunged forward, and it was all Seiji could do to backpedal out of the path, jamming the jagged end of the limb upwards in hopes that his attacker would impale himself upon it. The one end of the stick jammed into ne'gal flesh, the other impacted the ground and the weight of the monster came down and snapped it cleanly in two. There was a hiss of pain and the ne'gal jerked back, giving Seiji the time he needed to scramble out of easy reach and hurl himself towards the cover of bramble and vines that the ne'gal with his wingspan could not easily penetrate. He twisted past tightly grown young trees, and interlacing bramble and briars, tearing his skin in his flight, feeling no pain, numb as he was from the cold. His breath fogged the air before him, and his sweat turned icy on his skin.

Find another weapon. A stick, a rock. Anything. That was the pounding essence of his thoughts. His focus was beginning to narrow to that single objective, panic and exhaustion and cold eating away everything else. His foot caught in a root and he went down, scraping his shins, gouging the palms of his hands deeply. He scrambled to his feet, darting blindly away from the sound of pursuit, only he couldn't hear the pursuit anymore over the pounding in his ears. And he was so cold it was starting to make his limbs betray him - - and Ryo was so warm when a body was cold at night. You didn't even have to press against him to share in it, sometimes you could feel it a handspan away. You could feel it in his breath on your skin - - but it was so much better to press against his back and have it invade you that way, flesh to flesh - -

Seiji was on his knees and he didn't remember getting there, bent over his knees, arms wrapped about his ribs, trying to fight away the cold. It was raining. When had it started raining? It had been cold before, when they were traveling here - - but not this cold. How far up the mountain had Sarag'sa taken him. Had he glimpsed snow in patches on the peaks visible through the trees. He half laughed, thoughts dissembling again, wavering and unsteady. If this went on much longer, the ne'gal wouldn't get the chance to kill him, he'd fall prey to exposure.

"Shak'natari . ." A whisper out of the darkness. Seiji's head jerked up a second before the ne'gal lunged out of the darkness and claws raked across his back. He gasped, knocked forward, back a burning pain. His attacker didn't give him the chance to turn and fight. Sarag'sa was upon him, and Seiji caught one distant, pain-filled glance of a face and a body that didn't wear the human facade that the ne'gal prince had chosen to wear when he greeted them. The thing that bore him down had the snarling, reptilian face of the monster that he truly was. Then Seiji's forehead hit the earth and a ne'gal knee drove into his back, knocking the air out of his lungs. He was jerked up, seeing spots in the darkness, gasping for lost air, and swung around like a doll, then slammed into the rough bark of a tree.

He went limp then, on the verge of passing out, no longer capable of defending himself and that utter submission perhaps forestalled the next blow. He felt his body jerked close, felt the teeth press tight against his throat, felt bone pierce skin and then pull back, leaving a trail of fresh blood down his neck. His head lolled, his body did and the ne'gal hoisted him up, scenting down the front of his body, taking in the blood and the sweat and the fear. Seiji managed to focus his vision and saw a long, tapered snout, slanted eyes beneath thick ridges of bone, limbs that bent the wrong way, and a body that was thick and corded with muscle that in no wise followed the mold of the human body that Sarag'sa had sported before. And the flesh that sprang forth from between his thighs - - it wasn't human either. Not in size, not in texture and not in shape. Roughly scaled, it bowed intensely making it almost crescent shaped. The head was flared with fleshy backwards pointing ridges, that would slip inside its chosen receptacle easy enough, but would greatly impeded easy exit.

The movements were not human either, but quick and powerful, as the ne'gal bounded out of the trees with Seiji in its grasp, then took two leaping bounds before launching into the air. Up past the trees to the rocky cliffs and he came down, flinging Seiji to the hard ground. Seiji sprawled, groaning at the rock his back came up against. He tried to shift away but the ne'gal was on him, jerking him up by the neck and slamming him down upon a slab of rock. It wrenched his legs apart, pushing between them, claws biting into his buttocks as it parted his cheeks.

"No - -" a strangled cry and a last desperate attempt to fight, before the ne'gal grasped his hair and slammed his head back against the rock and his body stopped fighting altogether and merely lay there passively while the misshapen head of Sarag'sa's sex ripped past any barrier of defense that his body had. He couldn't even scream. Just lay there while the beast seated itself and felt his body rocked to and fro as Sarag'sa worked the length of his cock up into his bowels. The reptilian face lowered over his own, with its crocodile grin and its beads of dripping drool.

Seiji passed out.

He came back and it wasn't a beast that rutted over him, but the face of a man. A gold scaled man at any rate. It didn't reduce the pain. He'd been torn too badly for that to recede. Torn all over, so that the stone he lay on was wet with blood.

"Did you like the sport, little shak'natari? Little ka'rath?" Sarag'sa asked.

Seiji went away again.

He came back again, less cold. Less pain.

"You impressed me. You blooded me." A voice in his ear. A hand that spread something warm and numbing over his back. He was on the bed again, surrounded by its columns, surrounded by its darkness. He hadn't the wherewithal to keep his eyes open for long. So he shut them again and let the hands soothe his hurts. Even let them part his buttocks and smooth the salve there. It took away the pain.

Blackness again.

"You made it hard on yourself. But you need learn respect. Have you leaned?"

Seiji blinked up, wondering how much time had passed. His muscles ached. His head did. His skin was oddly numb in places. Sarag'sa, so human save for the wings and the tiny scales leaned over him, fingers in his hair, skimming the soft skin at his temple. He couldn't recall what the lesson was.

"Where's Ryo?" He murmured, his throat bone dry. Wasn't Ryo supposed to be here? Where was here? Oh. He thought he remembered. He didn't like the recollection. He shut his eyes and cringed.

"Ryo?" Sarag'sa whispered. "Oh, your Kan'tara - - will he contest me for you, do you think? Or will he see reason and make a sacrifice for the good of the hun'ra?"

Contest? Seiji wondered dismally, mind drifting to Ryo's last words to him. To Ryo's uncharacteristic anger. To Ryo wishing him harm. Oh, he'd seen it in Ryo's eyes. Ryo wanting to hit him. Ryo wanting to do more and none of it sexual. He felt sick. The nausea rose in his belly and it had nothing to do with the flashes of nightmare from the mountainside. It had to do with the look in Ryo's eyes that he'd tried - - tried oh so hard to pretend hadn't been there. Distaste. Aversion. Hatred.

Seiji turned, gagging and the ne'gal prince let him hang his head over the side of the bed and dry heave, then drew him back when he'd finished and wiped clawed thumbs gently across his cheeks, catching the wetness that had formed.

"You are so very lovely." Sarag'sa licked the tears from his finger. "Even bloodied, you stir my loins. There are not many who thrive so well under abuse. There are not many who would have survived it. Where was your armor, though - - that you banished into the neitherrealms when you came?"

Seiji wasn't incoherent enough to reveal that particular bit of information. Better to fake a faint and lay there passively while the hands that had recently shredded his skin, laid claim to it now with gentle caresses.

"A girl will come to you with salve for your wounds." Sarag'sa whispered at his ear. "Your robes should hide them well enough. You'll come to me tomorrow after dusk and attend me again - -"

Seiji's eyes snapped open. "The hell - -"

"- - or those pitiful hun'ra captives that will be fleeing up my pass hoping for speedy exodus from the minions of my blood kin - - will be prey themselves. Trapped between my wall and the cliffs, they will be easy, helpless targets."

"They won't be helpless." Seiji said softly, hoarsely. "Believe me."

"Oh, your Kan'tara and your natari-shaman - - we shall see. But what matter if they manage to fight their way past my gates, if I freely open them and aide my brother in hunting them down. All of them. The only reason he has not before this, is because I hold this pass. Perhaps I should ingrain myself upon his good graces and beholden him with it. What think you?"

He couldn't think. Not rationally. Not at this moment when the earth had crumbled out from under his feet and left him balanced so precariously upon a last remaining sliver of resistance.



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