The bitter cold whipped against Aimee's face. "My cloak, sir. Please!"
"It is of no matter, Aimee'," Teltirray hissed, impatiently. He disliked waiting, especially when a stupid girl like Aimee' slowed him down. Although even he had to admit that she was less stupid than most. Her beauty, like flawless amber, attracted him to her, and he had known so many months ago that he had to possess her. He had arranged with the idiot at the orphanage to "tutor" her, so long as all record of her existence disappeared off their books. If she died, there would be no investigation. He knew that. He had paid good money for that little "feature."
He smiled. "Feature." The convenience of sloughing off one of these simple creatures was something he would easily pay for, just to be done with it. Especially in these later years, now that he had found a route to power that once he had only dreamed of. For that route, though, Aimee' was almost entirely used up. Her body could not withstand the pleasures he sought for much longer, although he had to admit that both Bethsany and Darynn had trained her very well, for although his need for violence had increased a great deal, so had her survivability, just by her strength. He would call on their services again to train the next one.
Aimee' was sobbing silently as he hauled her through the snowbound streets. "Silence, girl!" he snarled at her. That insufferable noise would drive him mad after too long, and he could not bear to hear it. "You will have plenty of tears when we get home."
"Sir, please. I cannot!"
"Oh, you certainly can, Aimee'. Because I so will that you can."
"I said shut up!" He released her long enough to slap her across the face, then grabbed her by the hair and pushed her in front of him.
They reached his small, round home soon enough, and the doors opened to let him in. "Good evening, sir," his chamberlain said.
"I will be in the upper chambers tonight, Ricar. See to it that I am not disturbed."
"Of course, sir." Teltirray watched, pleased, as he bowed and walked away, his back stiff and strong. Men were like that, he thought, strong. Even the ones who could not do magic deserved his respect far more than the soft, pathetic forms of the lesser sex, although the magic-less always deserved to be the chattel of men like him.
He led her up the flights of stairs and into his bedroom. "Remove your clothes."
"Do it!" he growled. "Or I'll flay the skin from your bones."
Aimee' looked away, and Teltirray saw her jaw clenched in anger. He smiled to himself, knowing that she was helpless to do anything. She would submit to his whims. She removed her boots, then slowly undid her pants, picking up one leg at a time and sliding out of them. She tossed the scarf aside, but as she removed her shirt she hesitated. Teltirray saw a curious smile cross her face. "You're dawdling!" His anger grew as she hesitated longer, but finally she threw her tunic aside with a snarl. Teltirray laughed. "Is my pussy kitty angry?" he asked, soft and sarcastic. "Get on that bed!"
She hesitated, and he swore. Without a word, he thought his favorite spell in her direction, simple Pain and she buckled over, agonized. Her stomach would tie itself into knots fighting the pain he was feeding her if he didn't let up. Finally he did. "Now, get on the bed, Aimee'."
"You'll kill me anyway," she gasped, looking up at him.
He backhanded her. Although a mage and not a warrior, he was still a strong man, and she staggered back, landing on the bed. He reached down and snatched her right wrist, wrapping a black band around it. "I could make it more painful, you know," he growled.
"It already hurts!"
"I'll make it worse, you weak bitch!" He turned her over, and although she fought, his strength made her less than a rag doll, and he affixed another black band to her left wrist. "Take her," he said to the air, and the bands pulled her into the air. She whimpered. "That's it," he smiled at her. "That's it. Try and remember the spells Darynn taught you. Try and use them. Save yourself as much as possible. It'll just make my pleasure last longer."
Aimee' concentrated. She tried to find the spells she knew, and in the back of her mind they were marshalling to her defense. Chants flowed from her lips, soft and sensuous to her tongue as they healed her wounds and eased her pain. "Good," Teltirray sniggered. "That's it. Make it last longer." Her chest heaved as she breathed, gasping the words to spells that might make her last one more minute. She felt his hand caress her belly, her thighs. More bands went onto her ankles, and Teltirray spread her legs apart. His magic glued her to the wall over his bed like some obscene statue. She had spent more than one night like that, over his head, forced to sleep that way for his amusement. His hands touched her almost gently. "Say goodbye, Aimee'."
She looked down at him, holding her voice for a moment. All she said was, "Goodbye."
Teltirray grimaced, taking up a heavy, knotted scourge in his hands. "Now," he said, "Scream for me." The wall behind Aimee' grew warm, and she felt the flow of magic through it. She didn't know what the magic was, but she could feel it coursing into her, as if seeking something within her. It wasn't just magic... it was alive. It was looking for something within her, but she could almost feel it's frustration and she knew it didn't know how to find what it was looking for.
Teltirray was smiling at her, his eyes alight with madness. "It's a demon," he said. "A friend. It... supplies me with the knowledge I need. The cost, of course, is you. Not that I mind." His smile twisted into an ugly snarl. "It needs your pain, Aimee', but eventually even that won't do. Then, it wants your life. But it doesn't know how to find it." He looked down at the whip. "Pain is also his map. And this... this will show him the way."
He shouted as he brought the whip down against her body. The blades of black leather crashed against her belly and she grunted in sharp pain. The whip fell again, the tails landing hard against her thighs. She squirmed, holding her tongue in, trying not to scream. The presence within her turned, seeking. The whip came again, against her chest. Ugly red streaks grew from her skin.
As Teltirray struck her, harder and harder, he began cursing her. "I let Darynn teach you too well how to handle pain." His efforts grew harder as he slammed the whip into her skin, torturing her, giving her all the pain and suffering he could inflict. The presence within her lived on the pain, enjoying it as much as it seemed ready to enjoy her death. She could not afford to give in.
The whip was too persuasive. She bled from a dozen tortured slashes, the crimson fluid coursing down her body. Darynn had told her, once, about how precious blood was, and Bethsany had talked about the magic of menstrual blood, and she herself knew what it meant to drop it to the soil. The whip fell again, and finally she screamed.
"Yes!" Teltirray shouted as he whipped her. "Scream, Aimee', scream!" She did. She twisted and tore at her impenetrable bonds. Teltirray's face was covered in sweat, his muscles bunched, the whip flying over his head to strike at her body again and again in long, angry slashes. Aimee' cried and screamed as the tears dripped off her chin and the blood streamed down her body and dripped from her toes onto Teltirray's pillow.
As she screamed, her body fighting without her control, her mind came oddly to peace. The demon was coming for her soul, now, and she found she could live with that. She opened her eyes.
In the background, she heard the sounds of the whip and the screams of her mouth, but in her eyes she saw only a door. A curious, oaken door, encarved with runes, and at the center it read, simply, Aimee' She knew where she stood, and she knew there was no reason to fight. She threw the door open and waited for the demon to come for her.
It came. A green, ugly thing, shaped like a man with the head of a cow and the muscles of some corrupt machine, it charged for her, its face lewd and grinning.
But as it lunged for the door, she felt a coolness about her throat, and then something... someone blocked her view. A sword of icy blue flickered in her vision, and a squeal of indignant pain echoed out in the corridors of her mind. Then the body in her way was gone, running after the demon it... she had struck with the sword. She was dressed in leathers of the same cold blue of the sword. Aimee' looked out, wondering what she was staring at. The sky was a light grey color, and before her spread a cold, flat, sheet of dark grey ice. In the distance, two figures fought, the woman with the sword, and the green and hateful demon.
The demon sprang for the woman, and the woman blocked the airborne monster with an easy swipe of the sword. The demon thudded across the ice. "Girl!" she shouted at Aimee'. "You must kill Teltirray! I will not be able to hold this creature forever!"
"I don't know how!"
"Yes, you do! Now go!" The woman gestured, and a blue bolt flew at Aimee', striking her body.
She looked out into the world. Her vision was blurred, and Teltirray was panting, holding the whip in one hand, but he was not hitting her anymore. "Why don't you die?" he screamed at her. "Die, you stupid bitch! Die!"
He looked at her, his eyes fixed at her. "I'll make you hurt so much the demon will be sure to find your soul. To the Dark with whips." He reached forward, his hand on her belly, and began chanting. Aimee' recognized the spell, The Pain That Will Kill and accepted it into her body. Her nerves began to burn. Teltirray had used this spell on her before, and she had learned, if not to enjoy it, to at least understand it. And as the pain reached into her soul, she heard the clash of claws and steel within. She grinned at Teltirray.
"Die, damn you!" Teltirray's eyes narrowed as the sweat poured from his balding head. "Die!"
Aimee' refused to die. She refused to let him win. As she accepted The Pain That Will Kill she recognized the sensation. She knew that spell. She had seen it in a mirror once, as The Pleasure That Sings She had seen it a long time ago. In a book. Darynn's book. She knew how to use The Pleasure That Sings. And in knowing, she saw the differences between the two spells. With an almost casual, contemptuous thought, she turned Pain inside out and claimed it as her own.
The look in Teltirray's face turned from hatred to shock as he felt his hand burn. Flames erupted in his imagination. Surely he had to be on fire! He backed away from her, feeling The Pain That Will Kill for the first time directed at his own flesh. He screamed as the pain became instantly more than he could bear.
Aimee' had no trouble maintaining the spell. It didn't matter anymore if the power she needed to kill him killed her as well. His demon was busy, his power expended, his concentration ruined. She had him. She stepped away from the wall and fell to the bed, crumpling to her knees. In her soul, sword and claws clashed. And she knew who wielded the sword. It could only be. Myr.
"That necklace!" Teltirray shouted. "Bethsany! That bitch! I'll kill her when I'm finished with you!" He leapt for, his hands upon her, grabbing for her throat.
Aimee' panicked, and in her instinctual reaction her knee came up solidly between his legs. Pain redoubled pain in Teltirray's belly, and he doubled over, grabbing at his crotch, his eyes closed with suffering. "And, now, Master Teltirray, it's over." Seizing a heavy candlestick holder from the bedside, she smashed it down on his head. He grunted in surprise, but seemed unable to summon any more than that to his defense. She struck him again. Over and over until his skull staved in and his heart stopped beating. Then, in her own blinding pain from the suffering he had inflicted with the whip, she collapsed, falling off the bed and onto the floor.
She crawled, slowly, to her cloak, pulling it over her. The magic had stopped, and with it her strength had fled. She had only one thought now, one thing to sustain her. Sobbing softly, she opened the door and limped down the stairs. She escaped through the service door in the kitchen.
The snow bit bitterly into her feet, making her wince as she walked, but she never slowed down. The cold ate at her through the rough, thick wool. It didn't matter. Her tears grew stronger, yet in the dead of winter even the hardiest thief dared not go out, and she walked across the city, block after frozen block, unmolested and alone. Finally, her pain reaching blinding proportions again, she found the door she sought. She collapsed in front of it, moaning softly in pain as she scabbed her knee on the icy stone, and pounded on the heavy oaken door with the flesh of her palm.
A rustle within, a questioning inquiry through the door, a familiar tickle of magic. Then, the sudden rush of bolts being thrown and wards being broken. The door threw open. "Aimee'!"
Darynn reached down and picked her up, carrying her inside. The door closed behind him. "You must be frozen!"
She suddenly realized that he was holding her. With a whimper, she threw her arms around him and held onto him for her life, realizing that she was safe, finally. Tears broke out of her again, and his arms surrounded her while she cried her final cry, letting out the last year of pain and suffering, giving it to Darynn, and then to the past. "He's dead," she gasped at one point. "He's dead."
"Are you sure?"
Aimee' nodded. "I... I crushed his skull." A snarl crossed her pretty mouth as her eyes searched Darynn's face, looking for confirmation. "I dropped him to the floor with Pain and then I took the candlestick and hit him again and again and again until his blood and his brains ran over the bedsheets! He's dead, Darynn, he's dead!"
"Certainly sounds like it." He gave her a gentle squeeze. "You're bloody all over, Aimee'."
"Hurts," she agreed softly. "I... I need to get clean. And my boots. I forgot to take the laces out of them. I need to get back..."
Darynn recognized that kind of logic as belonging to someone in a great deal of shock and confusion. "No, Aimee', you don't. You need to come with me."
"Is dead, remember?" He smiled gently, a smile that hid his fear within. "Come. Come with me."
"If... you're sure it's safe?"
"Very," Darynn replied. "Come."
She finally agreed and followed him. He led her into the bedroom, then through to the bath. "Sit," he said, indicating the large wooden tub. She complied. He drew warm water for her, and did his best to clean the wounds that crossed her belly, breasts, and thighs. The dried blood softened with the water and slowly he exposed the beautiful girl who lay hidden underneath all that running redness. With a few gentle spells he closed the worst of her wounds, the ones that still wept blood and serum.
He found himself wondering what she would look like in the throes of passion, or even the pain of whips when the whips were lovingly administered. It was the first time in decades he had considered a woman as a companion, and the first time ever that the idea actually appealed to him. Yet, it wasn't Aimee's femininity that appealed to him so much as it was her raw, inner strength. She had killed Teltirray, to hear her say it. And within, he believed her. He was as sure as she that Teltirray had come to earn what he deserved.
And, curiously, her shape appealed to him as well. The effect was indescribable. Something new, he realized, and he did not reject the thought. It did not bother him that he found someone beautiful just because he was unfamiliar with her kind of beauty. "Sir?" he heard her ask.
Looking down, he realized that he had cupped her breast in his hand and was fondling her gently. "My apologies, Aimee'. I was... distracted." Yet, he could not imagine what he would do with her. Actually, he knew full well. He just could not imagine a balance to it, the kind of balance he found among men, where each could fulfill both roles, as taker and giver, with a woman, even though he knew full well that most people lived lives of such imbalance every day. "There will be an investigation, you know."
She nodded, her eyes barely open. "I know. I wonder what will happen?"
"I do not know." He stroked her wet and glistening skin, so red and dark, and found himself wishing he could touch more of her. What more did he want?
Then, he remembered. And he smiled. He wanted her to undress in his presence and say that she wanted him. To be as forward, as forceful, as gleefully hungry to bed him as any boy or man Darynn had ever had. For that, he could wait.
He helped her out of the tub and dried her off. She stumbled a little as she walked, but she finally and successfully navigated her way to a bedroom he showed her, and finally he pulled the blankets over her and she was asleep.