Skating the razor edge of a sheer precipice, the only slave of a free people rides the black winds to preserve their freedom and their lives.
War is never a game for amateurs.
This is the complete Tales of the Zorantian Brotherhood trilogy. Volumes I, II, and III are available separately. More
Masters of Darkness could not directly read minds but they could inflict pain. Their Power could physically move the organs of his body. It began. His heart began to race until the colonel thought his head would explode with the pounding, then it slowed and slowed until he thought it would never beat again and his entire consciousness narrowed down to waiting for that next pulse and fearing it would not come. Concentrate on the pain; don’t fight it. His chest ached from fighting for air. With luck, the Master will slip and I will pass out. There was no luck, but every moment passing was a victory of sorts. This was the kind of battle he was used to: stave off defeat as long as possible. But don’t think of rescue. Or the price of failure. Then his intestines twisted and his body doubled over in agony.
Pain was exploding in his head now; he no longer had a sense of the outside world. A spider was crawling inside his skull, on the membrane of his brain: a filthy, bloated spider with long, articulated legs. He could feel each leg unfolding slowly and probing precisely as it moved. Burned as though by acid with each foul touch, his consciousness centered on the thing. He was all alone with that spider, all alone with the vilest, most corrupt being he had ever touched and it was inside his head. He screamed but the monster controlled his mouth and his lungs and there was no sound. Then, in an almost unbearable obscenity, he could begin to hear its thoughts: Fior went to see smugglers. You came back with a smuggler. Where is Fior? What is he doing? This went on eternally with the spider’s voice growing from a faint whisper to an insistent shout. He was growing almost tired enough to answer.
Then, somehow because they were becoming one mind, he could feel what the Master was not yet noticing. It wasn’t pain, so he turned himself toward it as best he could. There was a growing nothing behind him, behind Tarrask: a place of absolutely nothing. A Master of the tenth order is fully aware of everything around him, but there was nothing there: no floor, no air, no door, nothing. To the colonel, it was a quiet place where he was still himself.
Reaching deep within that self, where he was still Colonel Cully Murthoc and not the violated prey of the obscenity in his mind, he tried to gather the nothing and push it at the Master.
Master Tarrask quivered as that nothingness touched him. The colonel felt his stark denial of the possibility, his sudden terror as he realized that it was indeed there. Colonel Murthoc opened his eyes and both he and the Master saw through them together. Directly behind the gray cowled figure stood a woman clothed in midnight black. She held a sword above her head and both she and her sword were haloed in flames and in light as she drove it down through the Master’s body. Master Tarrask’s death scream echoed forever in the colonel’s mind as he felt the clean agony of the sword’s thrust. Then, he was alone in his own head again and there was peace.
He felt the bonds holding his arms give way and fell forward. Sarr’a caught him and eased him to the floor. Looking up, he could see an echo of the flames and light around her head, but she was not in uniform.
“You are a spectacular hallucination, clan commander.” He said and fainted.
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