Sunday, 6 March 2011

Pain's Embrace

“Scry for me, Neviah. Reveal to me what the pain reveals to you.”

The witch Neviah inclined her head, her dark eyes unreadable. The ruined, ragged skin of her face creased on one side in what might have been a half smile, a grimace of hatred, an addict’s fierce anticipation or a dozen darker intentions. Where her eyes said nothing her face whispered in a thousand hushed screams.

Her hands were as rough and pale as birch, the skin split and peeling to reveal raw flesh beneath. From a leather pouch she shook a small pile of white powder into one cupped hand then carefully poured some water from her tankard into it. Her eyes widened as she felt the mixture react and begin to burn her fingers, and with a sharp flick she flung the lime and water over her face, into her open eyes.

As her face began to redden and blister, and her eyes bubble, everyone in the tent flinched back, looking away, clenching their jaws against the desire to cry out, or the nausea; everyone but Lord Ephah, who had bid her do this thing. The lord looked on impassively, his gaze never straying from her, respecting her pain, revelling in it. He did not even look away to show his disdain at the weakness of his men.

Neviah rocked slowly on her crossed legs, making no sound but the hiss of a long, slow exhalation. She closed her sored eyelids and when she opened them again her eyes seemed untouched, dark but clear, intense. She spoke calmly, despite the corrosive mixture still at work on her face.

“Vengeance approaches, my lord. On his back he carries a weight of guilt that would crush other men. In his hands he bears a mighty sword; its blade is still stained from its first kill, though it has been cleaned of a hundred thousand since.”

Lord Ephah leaned forward, his pure white eyes narrowed in thought, “he has returned.”

Neviah’s breath rasped in what may have been a laugh, “yes, my lord.”

One of the generals stood forward, “who, my lord?”

“My brother.”

“But he cursed himself, exiled himself forever.”

Ephah stood and lashed out before the general could even blink, burying the dark axe Balat deep and thirstily in the fool’s chest. Not a drop of blood left the wound as the weapon drank heavily.

“Well maybe,” Ephah said coldly as the man fell to the floor, “maybe he finally realised that it was I who killed our sister, and not him.”

Neviah chuckled to herself as she licked the lime from her fingers with her bloody tongue.

Recommended Reading: Oasis Stories.
Consistently good, but check out Middle World Playground or Last Rights for starters.


  1. Ooh, that was pretty visceral. The weapon drinking blood - nice!

  2. Thank you, that's the effect I was going for! =)

    Something a bit more brutal than my usual...