Surfacing Ch. 23


"He ran," I said. "He did not want to suffer the wrath of anyone in that room."

"Do you think he is still alive?"

I nodded. "He was bent on escape, like with the Chaos cult, so unless something stopped him..."

I glanced at Krithannia in case she had a report that said otherwise. She just shook her head and I looked back to Gavin.

"Why do you ask?"

The two Hellhounds groaned simultaneously as the chain devil swung his legs a little more. The Sun caught the metal of the jeweled rods piercing the bald head as it tilted, seeming almost demure as it looked straight at me. The voice was husky and still contained that surreal quality as if, had I been able to watch lips move, they might not match the words I heard in my ears.

"I was promised an acolyte," the creature said. "One who understands the Art as well as any mortal can, to whom I can teach its deeper meaning and beauty."

The "Art"? My eyes flicked to the entangled Hellhounds and their fresh wounds echoing so many old scars on the creature herself. The chains even now had to be cutting into her bottom and thighs and palms, but it wasn't so much that she didn't care as perhaps she was... taking solace in the pain caused. Something of which I had had a front seat view, between Mathias and Jacob, something the Skin Hunter had enjoyed causing, very much.

An acolyte?

So that was at least part of the deal Gavin had made for this one's help snatching every magical chain from the Hellhounds. Not bad, except... I glanced at Gavin for any kind of warning about saying too much, but then reminded myself that he was no good with Court games. He had probably been brutally honest so far with his summoned one, and Krithannia provided no aid at this time.

"If he lives," I said, "he is probably several days' ride away by now."

"I have time," the devil said over the sounds of her captives. "The Herald has promised me the time on this plane to search for Mathias Briar. I only need a taste of him, from you, and I will find him myself. If it is a dead taste, I will know, and he will choose another for me to take."

I felt a prickle on my neck and looked from her to Gavin with somewhat wider eyes. Uh-oh. Had he really promised such a thing? I sensed Krithannia tense up upon hearing this.

"What does it mean, a 'taste' from her?" Jael asked behind me, finally having to set a protesting, squirming Graul down on the ground. A glance told me she was speaking to Gavin. "And how is a deal with a devil any better than a deal with a demon?"

"This is a Kyton, not a devil," my scholar said, as if he was irritated by the non-use of a proper name.

"Krithannia called it a chain devil," my Sister replied stubbornly, waving toward the Noldor.

"A common misconception of your limited mortality," the Kyton said. "I am not a devil. My people have traversed many lands in our time. The Hells in which the devils serve are among them."

"Where do you serve?" Krithannia asked quietly.

The bald head tilted in the other direction cautiously to look at her through the Sunlight, then focused low to the ground by my feet, at Graul. "I serve myself, the Art, and where I please at that time. Though I believe your little pet may have caught the barest glimpse of where we, the majority of us, currently dwell."

Graul growled then hissed some threatening air; the Kyton seemed amused.

"Do you fear the deeper depths of that realm, little drake? If only you spent more than the fragment of time to slip there and back, you could be so much more enlightened. We could show you such things that you may never wish to leave, and you would not have to die of old age. We could make you immortal."

The ancient drake had snapped his muzzle shut and wasn't going to open it again. Then Graul actually backed up to curve his body around Jael's feet - something I didn't like if we needed to move quickly - but the body language read as if he would defend her, not the other way around. My Sister seemed irritated and confused.

I had to get us back on track.

"So if that scepter was supposed to be for summoning demons," I said to Gavin, not without accusation, "and you said it might even attract a Draegloth, how did you summon something that claims to be neither?"

"Because the scepter can pull any of what we would call devil or demon to this realm, even the realm of shadows," Gavin said unflinching. "And because my Lady knew the name."

"Better the devil you know," Krithannia muttered to herself and I wondered again what she might have traded to the Shaegoth for their help... At least she wasn't pointing fingers.

"Yet at some point everything was unknown," Gavin responded with a glance at me.

If he referred to the risk he took first making a deal with me when all he knew of Drow was what Sarilis had written down, then he could not be more right. I remembered my mentors talking about "acceptable risk." Only the judgments differed on how far.

Krithannia herself had proven more than capable of these risks, so I wondered about that phrase coming from her. Was it something from among the Noldor as a whole, for example? A mindset reflecting a slow-changing society, refusing even the lateral shifting that my own City tended to do constantly? Better what you know than what you do not; this reminded me somehow of Tamuril's punishment. I wondered.

I shook my head back into the present, because the Kyton still watched me. "You never answered my Sister's question."

"You were not ready to listen," it said back.

I exhaled. "What do you need from me to track Mathias?"

"Ah, yes. You are a psion, correct?" the Kyton asked, either missing or ignoring the tightening of my mouth as I wavered about the answer. "From you I need only a little piece of his performance. Show me what he has done that I should wish to find him. Make me feel it."

Krithannia shook her head, holding a closed fist to her lips with her elbow braced on her other hand. "Not a good idea. She is not trained and we can't afford to have you lacerate her mind further, Kyton."

Deep amber eyes seemed to smolder as metal clinked with her movement. "Lacerate her mind? How crude. I may not be able to introduce her properly, but I could bring her enlightenment from the constraints of flesh and tears."

Jael and Graul both grumbled their apparent agreement with Krithannia, and I frowned, indecisive for the moment. I could admit to myself I did not want to mind link with this thing, but Gavin had promised something which I knew needed to be paid. Somehow.

When none of us spoke, the shadow creature shifted forward and uncrossed his ankles, placing feet on the ground and standing up from the chain swing he had made. Other chains still draped and looped around the lean, graceful body, hooking and catching at the leather stitched into his skin and making small musical sounds. The Kyton was taller than any of us, barely edging out Gavin for height— something I had not realized from a distance.

"And just to say," the Kyton continued, "it would be an even poorer idea to deny me what I am due."

"The Noldor did not question the agreement," Gavin stated, shifting not one finger-width from where he stood despite the creature's threatening movement. "She questioned the method. Is there another way?"

"You were confident enough to make the suggestion, Herald," the Kyton said to him, the teasing voice chiming like the chains, "so certain she could provide what I would need."

"She can," Gavin said, maintaining that utter confidence in my ability which honestly surprised me. "She has guardians who are overly protective. If there is another way, present them with the choice and let her make it."

The Kyton considered, rubbing the pad of a finger over an exposed hook and drawing a bead of red blood in the process. If it was a matter of choosing the lesser of two unpleasant things, I decided to wait to hear the choice even though my instinct told me that Gavin had already chosen it for me.

"If I cannot experience his Art," it finally said, "then she must. She will tell me the details and leave nothing out. In turn, I must act out this Art upon her."

Oh, shit. Gavin was right. I did not imagine that veil of hooks would play too well with my netherparts, never mind the whipping I knew would be involved.

"I'll make you feel it," I said before Jael or Krithannia or anyone could say anything else on my behalf, setting down my pack where I stood.

The corners of the Kyton's eyes crinkled a bit as if in a smile and she nodded, taking a step toward me. My heart picked up despite every attempt to keep it level. In response, the flexing, pumping hearts strung around the Kyton's waist beat faster as well in time with my own, and the creature purred.

"If you would, Sirana," Gavin interjected, beckoning Night-mare forward, "put Soul Drinker into her mouth. She will hold it just outside the circle."

The distraction from my fear was welcome enough, but I remembered the dagger taunting me about that just a day or so before. "Um..."

The necromancer was not endlessly patient; he sighed. "It will be fine. I am not distracted with a complicated ritual this time, and Innathi found me fairly frustrating to deal with, as I recall. It is the best we can do. Let the mare hold the dagger over anyone else, do not bring it into the circle."

Yes. Probably the best idea.

The relic itself was sulking and silent as I slipped the sheath between Night-mare's carnivorous teeth, and that action alone made me smile. The image of Soul Drinker actually wielded by an undead beast of burden was worth any future complaining. I also decided to detach my spider pouch and thread the leather thongs into her mane, reassuring them. My heartbeat was almost normal when I faced the Kyton again; the hanging hearts had slowed to a dull throb as well.

"I did not see all of the Art, from beginning to end," I clarified.

"All the better," she said calmly, reaching out a strong, mottled hand to invite me into the circle. "This is but a taste to whet my appetite. If I am pleased with it then I shall relish his full performance later from his own hands."

In a suck of magic, Mourn dropped into existence very suddenly right behind Krithannia, startling me and Jael the most. He landed similar to how I had seen him that first time in the Warpstone forest— except he had no weapons drawn this time. That difference alone told me he had some understanding of the negotiations and it wasn't simple luck in the timing. Graul and Krithannia had probably told him most of it.

"Hold," the half-blood said, a bit out of breath as if he'd been running far and fast but looked straight at the summoned being, his tail whipping twice behind him. "My contract with Sirana is threatened by this."

The Kyton folded his arms, intentionally pressing some of the spikes into the biceps as an expression of impatience. "Tsk tsk, another overly protective guardian, I see. Why do so many of them doubt you so easily, my dear?"

I blinked. Well...

"Your deal is not broken, Dragonchild," he continued with the clink of chains. "She has agreed to fulfill my price on behalf of the Herald."

Mourn's ears and tail expressed his own distrust at this, but Gavin offered in his more usual, neutral tone.

"The bargain is for Mathias Briar, Mourn. I only need Sirana's help to offer the Kyton the correct direction in which to seek him."

"Why?" Jael demanded suddenly from behind us.

"She has witnessed the man at his core," Gavin said without missing a beat. "And she has the ability to convey it in a way I cannot. Do you seek now to interfere?"

Mourn looked at Gavin when he shook his head, but turned his attention to the chain devil when he spoke. "No, I do not seek to interfere. But I will be there while she does. No negotiation."

The veiled creature tilted its head this way and that, studying the hybrid as my bodyguard stepped up protectively behind me. In a strike like viper, the Kyton called forth one of his chains to send it right at me. I ducked and rolled before I thought anything at all and I was vaguely aware of Mourn shifting his weight in a spray of dust beneath his feet. I heard the familiar sound of chain wrapping, binding, snapping as I rolled to my feet and spun around in a crouch.

The hybrid had jumped between me and the chain and he currently had it wrapped around his thick forearm, finished with a solid grip in his own fist to relieve the worse of the pull on his arm. It was taut and, for whatever reason, the Kyton did not let go of her end to make it dance further, and they were locked in a bit of tug of war for several long seconds. Red blood drops fell from the hybrid's arm onto the edge of the vague, black line beyond which Gavin and the creature stood.

"That is enough?" Mourn asked.

"Indeed, it is generous," the husky, satisfied voice drifted from behind the veil. "Come forward and welcome."

The chain unwound itself from Mourn's arm as if fully sentient, slithering back to its mistress, or perhaps master, as I came to my feet. I recognized a successful challenge when I saw one so I was already moving forward by the time Mourn looked over his shoulder at me. I managed to catch his non-bleeding arm and encourage us forward to join Gavin and the Kyton. None of the three who remained behind could feel entirely at ease, but Mourn had answered their call and it must be enough whether they liked it or not.

Curious that I had not thought it necessary at first but perhaps...

Gavin moved to make space for us while I tried to decide how to begin this from a dead stop. How did I normally begin? Usually there was sex or violence involved, just as often both, but my blood was always pumping when it happened. I had to make this immortal, sadomasochistic artist want to seek out a mortal, sadistic predator, but that desire was not burning bright inside me at the moment. That had something to do, no doubt, with too many bloody, metal spikes and hooks swinging far too close to my skin.

"Do you know what this feels like?" the Kyton cooed, displaying the chain with the hybrid's blood in its palm.

It stood much closer and loomed above my head, though Mourn at my back was taller still as I felt surrounded just between the two of them. Maybe that was the Kyton way of flirting.

I said, "I hadn't until recently."

"Did you cherish it?"

"Not really."

"Wielded by a Hellhound?"


"Boorish approach, I know. What about the whip or the lash?"

Several faces flashed at once in my mind during a very intense period of my life: Rausery, Qivni, Thena, Jaunda, Kiren, Lawret...

"That I am more familiar with."

"Are you? May I see your scars?"

I smirked. "My people are vain. We do not keep them."

The amber eyes curved enough in a smile to look like twin setting Suns. "You keep them. They are only not visible. Show me, psion."

I shook my head, not enticed in the least. "No. I'm here to show you Mathias."

"Hm. So you are." The Kyton detached a short, strong switch from its grisly belt and handed it out toward me. "Shall we begin before we who are without black hoods like yours are Sunburned?"

I stared at the rod; it was about as wide as my thumb, black, stained, and as long as the shadow creature's forearm. I felt Mourn tense behind me and though I had clear memories of something similar being used on my back and my buttocks, even on my pussy before a Feldeu would get jammed deep inside while my skin burned, I also remembered just as clearly the infected, oozing wounds beneath a young, hybrid slave's harness, for which he was not allowed use of the pads his Prime had given him. Not for weeks.

*No,* Mourn whispered to me.

The brief, warning flash of a Priestess-Matron brandishing a whip was something I had not seen so clearly since my first time becoming tied with Mourn in Augran. And he stood right behind me, his aura beginning to push out as he felt threatened. It was not me being tempted to share only my own memories, but his as well.

There had to be another way.

I shook my head to refuse the switch and removed my gloves to pull out my sapphire and hold it between both my hands, the hearts on the Kyton's belt beating quickly once again. The gem felt warm, nearly hot as it did when exposed to high magic levels or was on the cusp of being used.

*Lick my ear,* I signed with one hand without looking behind me, closing the blue stone in the other.

Gavin gave me a very odd look, readable even with his skin now darker than mine, causing me smile as Mourn helped me out by leaning down and extended the tip of his tongue. He gently drew along the edge of my right ear, from lobe to point, slow and lingering. I loved how he could make it tingle, as if his spit was some kind of elixir.

I spread my feet a bit and signed, *Tail?*

Far less confusion from Gavin this time as the dark, prehensile limb coiled itself around my left thigh in answer, coming from the inside and curving back around to the front, constricting and shifting up before the tip fluttered playfully along my crotch. Soon it few much firmer in stroke as his tail continued to shift.

Without my having to ask, the hybrid touched the back of my neck and my hair, massaging my shoulders where he could before sliding his hands down to squeeze my ass. All the while, I could hear him drawing in my scent through his teeth when he wasn't tasting my skin. He pressed a bulky erection into my backside. Then he willingly relaxed his aura.

*...Oh, goddess.*

It was nice to feel Mourn was fully on board with this particular method of building focus and concentration. It would still take something a little bit different from me, though, to push this in the right direction.

I remembered Mathias performing for Jacob, going to him to torture him before returning to me again and again to fondle between my thighs, which I held wide open before the Witch Hunter. The Skin Hunter pushed his thick, Human fingers inside and drew out, smearing my juices over my labia and making it easier to tease my clit before he entered me again. I kept this at the fore of my mind as I sweated even more beneath the hot Sun, but I knew I would made progress when Mourn began to mimic that touch with his own.

At some point in my daydream, my bodyguard had undone one side of my pants to loosen them just enough, and his big hand was down inside now, touching and cock-blocking his own tail. He teased my opening with one large finger, then two, not pushing them inside because of his claws but collecting more than enough slick fluid to do everything else. My mouth hung open as I gripped my sapphire and focused on breathing; I trembled further when he licked and nipped my ear and my neck.

It felt good. Really good. My gut flared with heat and, similar to past times when I had been close to Greyland influence, my womb became hotter in response.

At some point I remembered to open my eyes and look up again. The Kyton watched patiently enough, curious about my methods, perhaps, but I could tell that nothing had really begun for this one. It was unaffected by the show, even though I was on the verge of cumming. That was when I drew the tiny blade from beneath my bracer and changed the grip so the sharp point was aimed toward myself.

Instantly, I had its attention. I humped harder against Mourn's hand until the first wave of pleasure rose up to overwhelm me.

"Oh!" There!

The sapphire sizzled in my hand as I took hold of the smoky pearl bonded to my left ear, stretching the lobe to place the edge of my blade beneath it. I sliced once, the initial sting blooming into fiery pain which encompassed my whole ear and part of my head. I screamed equal parts in pain and orgasm.

Mourn clutched me to him, keeping me upright when I would've fallen and I held out my blooded fingers, my palm cradling the sapphire and the pearl with a morsel of my own ear still attached to it. The Kyton emitted a sound of metallic glee and gripped my bare hand, mashing those three things between us. The leather thong around my neck snapped as the creature drew me closer, as Mourn again played tug of war to keep hold of me, and I saw that same, third eye in the blue-grey forehead. As I'd seen with Pig Eyes.

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