Episode 9 Hex-Breaker, p.1Nicolette Jinks / Fantasy / Thrillers & Crime
Blissed Season 1 Episode 9
This is a work of fiction. All of the characters, organizations, and events portrayed are either products of the author's imagination or used fictitiously.
Copyright © 2016 by NICOLETTE JINKS
NICOLETTE JINKS asserts the moral right to be identified as the author of this work.
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doing business as Standal Publications
393 River Road Bliss, Idaho 83314
In a daze after a wraith-hunt gone terribly wrong, Brandy Silver faces one final attempt to silence her—life leeches.
The moon was dipping below the horizon when they'd arrived. A line of dark vans and SUVs pulled into the defunct grocery store. People in armed uniforms spilled across the asphalt.
They saw the bodies first, the blood growing tacky in the chill of the night. Someone was sick at the sight of bone and tissue exposed by a swipe of a wraith's claws. Others started to search for me. Despite instructions otherwise, I had removed myself from the phone booth in order to hide.
That almost cost me my life.
“If we hadn't taken our K-9 unit, you'd be dead,” Jane Dell told me for the fifth time in as many minutes. “What were you doing?”
Running from hunters and shadows. My answer had alarmed them once they knew I meant it. They'd hurried to get me to the healers. The trip to the dungeons, the botched wraith hunt, and now this frantic rescue made me feel out of control. I was a pawn nudged one square forward, used to capture the black knight. I hated revisiting that childhood feeling, and I hated even more knowing how wrong I'd been to not follow directions. I should have remained in the phone booth.
“What's wrong with me?” Over my head, the gray roof of the van spun as two people turned me on my side. A chill draft marked the progress of a pair of scissors removing my shirt down my back. Aches, cold flashes, and fever could be attributed towards the cold I knew I had and which the dungeon cell would only have aggravated. But a heart which hammered one instant and crawled the next, that was not typical of a standard issue virus.
Jane stripped off her armored vest, exposing a red t-shirt which was four sizes too big for her. She left my range of vision and pressed against a spot in between my shoulder blades. Though I knew it was blue glove against my bare skin, it felt as if the contact were happening through another layer.
“Life leech,” a man's voice said, muffled as if he didn't want me to hear. He clicked on a flashlight and added, “Yellow and red. Amazonian.”
“What?” I didn't remember ever having a leech attached to me. Consistent with what I'd heard regarding leech bites, I hadn't felt a thing when this one had latched on.
They prodded my back in various places, none of it felt in any way painful. A mild tingling when they were close to the spine, that was all. Since they did not speak to me again, I let my fingers unravel the edge of the newly cut shirt. Would I feel anything at all when they pulled the leech off? The threads which came off in my hand were short, a couple inches long at the most. As one half of my shirt dangled over my arm, I tugged it down a little more and blinked several times to be sure I wasn't seeing things.
There were holes the size of a dime cut through my shirt the way moth larvae eats through clothes in storage. Life leeches had burrowed through my clothes to get to my skin, which meant what, that I'd laid on them? The dungeon mattress had to have been infested prior to my arrival. It was the one place where I'd laid down, aside from the dirt beneath the bushes, and I doubted that I'd acquire Amazonian Life Leeches from ordinary dirt.
“How long have you had hallucinations?” Jane asked.
“Not hallucinating,” I said.
Pinching sensation in between my shoulder blades, soon followed by piercing pain, like popping the biggest zit of my life.
I squirmed and said, “Since dungeons, I don't know, half the time I've been gone.”
“This will hurt. Stay awake.”
With the next wave of pain, I moaned the low heart-breaking moan of an animal giving birth. I'd never seen a human birth, but I'd worked my adolescence on a ranch, and I'd pulled plenty of too-big or breech babes into the cold world. Closely linked with the sound was the knowledge: it's fifty-fifty from here on out if I live or die. Darkness seeped into my mind.
Awareness struck with the rocking of the van. People clung to safety bars. We hit a bump, pain flashed across my raw back. One person's scribbling on charts, catching up with voices. Another yells at the driver. Someone sees I'm awake: “You'll be fine. Seen loads of people worse than you.” He's an older fellow, I believe him. “You're Nicholas Wraithbane's partner?” I nod. There's a jolt of pain and a person behind me swears. The older man goes pale. I don't believe him any longer. Darkness seeps in.
Awareness struck with the van turning. I can't wriggle to ease the crease indented across my chest. Staring at the floor. A tickling sensation runs down my ribs. Blood and saline solution drips onto the absorptive black mat beneath wheels locked in place. The mat edges are gray, meaning they're dry. It's obvious that I've lost fluid, but why? Leeches aren't meant to leave gaping wounds, are they? Darkness seeps.
Awareness strikes. The rattle of wheels clattering in doorways. Straps strangle like the iron bars which held the test subjects as their red eyes and black veins gave way to revenant. Rolled into a room. Small, white. A room to die in. Darkness.
“He can't be a donor.”
“...rejecting all others...”
Their arguing wakes me. Paralysis. Can't breathe. A black-clawed hand covers mouth and nose, a skinny arm writhes as I cannot. Voice in my ear, “I know you from before.” My heart pounds, I try to scream, but it doesn't work. Why don't they notice? Tears down my cheek, I scream louder, all my force in it. If I can make them hear me, they'll help. Another thought: I'm not somehow going revenant? I scream. A slight vibration in my throat. I know I'm dreaming, makes it no less real. The nightmare goes on, a revenant's smoking face peers up from beneath the bed and it grins. It tightens its hand around my lips, cutting into my skin. Hot tears streak down my cheek. I try to scream again.
“It's too soon. We can't endanger...”
The face of death crowds me, taunting as it lowers its lips to pass through its own hands, muggy breath hot against my mouth. Screaming bloody murder escapes my throat as a whimper and I'm crying. Why don't they help me?
For a second, the hand becomes an oxygen mask. That second is gone, the revenant is back with a vengeance. It pinches my throat.
As I suffocate, I make out a single word.
Wet drops strike my lips, bringing darkness.
I'm somewhen else.
A world of morphing, drifting fog swirls through steep mountain peaks. Rocks shift beneath my feet on the trail heading towards palisades made of pointed sticks jutting outward to defend the homes within its enclosure from horsemen and worse. Though it's day, heavy clouds blot out any trace of the sun until it is evidenced only by a faintly shimmering ring hanging low in the west. As I near the bridge drawn over a twelve foot ditch surrounding the palisade, I see the first sign of life outside the settlement: the body of a giant bear pierced by spears. Then I see the smoke marking a big fire in the meadhall.
The sentinels watch in silence as I pass over the bridge and step through the swinging gate intended to keep livestock inside the enclosure. Though the people on watch give no greetings, it is implied. Had I been a stranger, I'd have been pelted with arrows when I placed my foot on the bridge. Yet it gives an ominous feel as mud squelches beneath my shoes through the footpaths. A cow and goat stand near a stranger's horse which is being led into the chieftain’s stables. The boy sees me and waves.
He's wearing the blue tunic which his brother had worn before him and his hair looks like the stray flax fibers which have been swept out from under the weighted loom. He's showing me the horse, a black beast with heavy hooves and scars along his hide from fangs and claws. Though the charger is tame now, he is alert and shows no fear.
The boy is about to say something, but just then the door opens to the meadhall. The chieftain emerges in his finest cloak and crown, smiling broadly, a drinking horn of wine coloring his cheeks. Behind him are two men, one slimmer and taller, the other shorter and powerful; neither tied by blood yet camaraderie binds them. Mercenaries. Not for hire against other men, but against the shadows of the night.
I wonder which one of them has afforded my bride-price as the meadhall falls away, the chieftain hazes, and the world of drifting fog swirls me into awareness.
Back in the white room, I was strapped to a hospital bed so a wall faced me. A tray in the foreground was enlivened by a still-life composition of scalpels and standard operating equipment. A trash can sat on the floor half-full with bloodied paper towels. Memory of the