Reigning in the sixth chapter. It makes significant changes to how things went down in the original incarnation of Nell and Culvir in Ki-Rainelle. It also introduces a new edge to their primary conflict. I hope you enjoy it.
Two Hunters, Part 6
“It doesn’t look good.” The medic pulled two fingers close to his face. “At this rate it’s going to get infected.”
“I know it doesn’t look good but—“ Nell bit her lip. She hadn’t left the chair next to Culvir’s bed since he had been placed there. “What sort of infection?”
“He’s not going to turn.” The city guard’s medic shook his head. “I’ve seen ritual infections before. This isn’t one of them. His life is in danger, that’s all. If that infection gets to his heart he’s done.”
“What can we do? I can’t just let him die.”
“We would need to bleed the wound, keep fresh blood moving through the wound… but from the looks of things, he doesn’t have blood to spare.” The medic frowned and brought himself to a stand. “It doesn’t look like he gets much choice in the matter.”
“He’s not going to die.” Nikidas watched quietly, his hands balled into tight fists.
“Blind optimism isn’t helping anyone kid.” The medic glanced back. “I’m going to get a bleeding pan. It’s worth a shot.”
The room fell into silence as the Medic’s steps faded in the hall. Nikidas’ shoulders sagged a moment before turning his gaze to Nell. “It’s going to be all right. If all he needs is blood. I have plenty.”
“That’s sweet… but it’s not how it works.” Nell sighed. “He’s not a vampire.”
Nikidas glanced around the room for the first time. Everything about the room had been draped in pinks and reds in a truly gaudy fashion. The shattered remains of a pottery vase broken in the scuffle lay in the corner. The rich soil stood stark against the greens of the fern’s destroyed home.
“You don’t have to stay.” Nell said, he hands were clasped around Culvir’s pale hand. “I can take care of Culvir.”
“Yeah, but who’s gonna take care of you?” Nikidas said, flushed.
Nell blinked at the boy, to call him that had been a crime really. He had been young, yes, but he had intense features and maturity plain on his face. His understanding of the severity of Culvir’s plight sat plain on his expression. Nikidas had known loss and recently.
“You two just fought a vampire lord… and won! You have to be tired.”
Nell nodded weakly. “I am. But I’m always tired I don’t typically sleep well.”
“More reason you should try.” Nikidas approached and put a hand on her forehead. “You’re going to make yourself sick. Let me go and get you a drink.”
“Ah… I’d like that. Thanks.” Nell smiled at him genuinely.
Nikidas beamed and hurried out of the room.
Nell let her eyes drift to Culvir, his eyes were shut, he rested peacefully. She couldn’t contest him being tough.
“You… really don’t listen well.” Culvir said. One of his eyes opened slowly.
“You’re awake.” Nell leaned forward. “For how long?”
“Not sure. That kid woke me up… trying to carry me.” Culvir let his eye fall shut again. “He’s not very good at walking carefully.”
“You were playing possum then?” Nell stood up looked down at him. “Look at me.”
Culvir opened his eyes carefully. His eyes were unfocused.
“Can you see me? I was worried sick.” Nell stroked his face.
“Why. It’s your fault I went out at all. I’m right as rain; just have a headache from you cheap shotting me.”
“Don’t lie Culvir.” Nell sighed. “You’re dying, aren’t you?”
Culvir winced, a pain worse than the hole in his stomach pulled at him. He did all he could do, nod quietly.
Nell lowered herself to the side of the bed and moved her hand from his. It settled just over his wound. Blood had seeped into the bandages holding him together like a damaged doll.
Culvir fixed his eyes on hers.
“Does it hurt?” She traced her fingers on the bandages. The slightest pressure coaxed enough blood to stain her fingertips.
“No,” he said.
“Don’t lie,” Nell said, her voice strained.
“I wish I was lying. I can’t feel anything.” He eyes shifted to him fingers. “Press harder. I need to know for sure.”
“Please.” Culvir narrowed his eyes.
Nell nodded weakly and pushed two fingers firmly against the wound. Blood and pus oozed from the bandages but Culvir’s expression did not change.
Reality hung in the air like putrid smoke, thickened by the silence.
“It smells like death.” Culvir sighed. “I’m sorry.”
“What are you apologizing for?” Nell pulled her hand back and carefully wrapped her fingers around his.
“For dying, I should have noticed the threat… and now I’m paying for it.” Culvir fixed his eyes on hers. His hand twitched in hers.
“We’re paying for it. And you’re not dead.” Nell squeezed. “Can you feel that?”
“Yeah.” He smiled wryly.
Footfalls in the hallway drew Nell’s attention.
“Where’s the drain pan?” she said, confused.
“I found something better.” The medic stepped aside and gestured into the room.
“Who’s with you?” Culvir said, his vision blocked by Nell. “I hear footsteps, and they aren’t that Nikidas kid’s.”
A fluttering sensation of hope appeared inside Nell’s stomach and quickly clenched.
A tall man walked into the room. Strong armed, broad chested, and wearing the fakest looking smile she had ever laid eyes on. Short blonde hair, groomed to tidy order, framed a square face lined with handsome features.
He started to approach her. Nell’s first instinct was to run, but she knew better. Culvir was counting on her.
“Sonnie!” she said with forced enthusiasm. “What are you doing here?”
“I’m here to save your boyfriend, of course.” His smile broadened: a snakes smile, lined with lies.
“Well… he…:” Nell looked back to Culvir. She offered a pitiful look, one part helpless the other part apologetic. “He’s not my boyfriend. He’s my partner.”
“Oh I see.” The unnatural strain left Sonnie’s face while his eyes narrowed.
“Culvir. This is Sonnie Daie. He’s a practitioner of the light.” Nell drew closer. “He can save you.”
Culvir’s eyes widened with realization. He mustered a weak nod.
“I will admit, healing isn’t exactly my expertise, but I should be able to do something.” Sonnie gently and deliberately pushed Nell aside. “Well I suppose that’s somewhat misleading.”
Nell nodded quietly. It had been some time since she had seen Sonnie. Judjing from the last time she had seen him, there had been little hope to believe that this service came from the kindness of his heart.
“Nell.” Sonnie stared at her. “When I finish, you’ll have to cauterize the wound. You can handle that much can’t you?”
“The hotter the better. I’m going to remove the infection and put things back in order. It’s not going to give him any lost blood though.” Sonnie calmly turned over Culvir and put his hands out and began to chant. Runes of light formed around him.
The ‘words’ of the mantra weren’t words at all. They were whispered sound, little more than wind. It had been a natural gift to be able to use them and very few could be taught their word. His mouth shaped the words quickly and brashly but only a dull hiss escaped his lips.
Culvir screamed into the fabric of the bed. Pain wracked his body as the light stabbed into his flesh and pulled out putrid strips of blackened entrails. The cloth bandage that held him together tattered and ignited under the heat of the light. It vanished into nothingness, leaving no sign of ash.
The corrupted flesh folded upon itself and packed into a tiny ball. Culvir’s wound laid bare, torn open while the bleeding and held in unnatural stasis. Light contained blood with a thin barrier. Sonnie reached out and closed his hand around it. A flash of light erupted in his grip and it vanished from the world.
Nell’s eyes widened. The light started to fade at Culvir’s back and blood began to ooze. She blinked in realization and searched frantically until she laid eyes on her Arch-wand. She dove and stumbled clutching it close to her before she came to a stand.
“Sorry. This is going to hurt.” Nell winced and evoked white hot flame at the point of the wound.
Culvir gasped as pain took his ability to scream again. A roiling plume of black smoke came from his back at the point of impact. The smell of seared flesh filled the air.
Nell let out a small sigh. “He’s going to be all right?”
“He’s going to live.” Sonnie said firmly. “I didn’t say anything about ‘all right’. I just tore out the bad part of his stomach and welded it back together. I’m not a healer.”
Culvir grit his teeth and pushed his arms to his side. He worked off pure adrenaline, turned himself over and gasped. His eyes clenched shut and willed himself to stay conscious.
“I’m fine. I’d say I’d had worse, but that would be a lie.” He steadied his breathing and fixed his eyes on Sonnie. “Thanks.”
“None needed.” Sonnie straightened his face and glanced over at Nell. He draped an arm over her shoulder and pulled her close. “How long has it been?
“Two years I think,” Nell said, she squirmed against his strong grip.
The Medic stepped over and eyed Culvir. He ran his hand over his skin. “Mr. Daie is right. You’re not out of the woods. You’re going to need weeks of bed rest and lots of liquid. “
“Three days.” Culvir said. “That’s all I can afford.”
“Bullshit.” The Medic shook his head. “Weeks, you heard the man; you’re missing a part of your stomach now. You need to let it strengthen. It’s a small wonder turning yourself over didn’t spill your guts all over the bed.
Nikidas hurried into the room with a tray with pitcher of clear water and several glasses. “I heard shouting… Is everything all right?”
“Good. Water.” The medic flagged over Nikidas. “He needs as much as he can.”
“Win would probably do him better.” Sonnie shrugged. “You’re going to want to flush remnants out of his system.”
“But you just purified him.” The Medic looked back, confused.
“You think it’s that easy?” Sonnie frowned. “The light is temperamental. If he wasn’t a fine upstanding citizen it would have likely killed him as quickly as it saved him. But I’m sure a perfect innocent angel like Nell wouldn’t grieve so if he wasn’t. That is the sort of risk I would take for her.”
Nell’s stomach lurched in time with a gentle squeeze on her arm. She looked up to see Sonnie smiling down at her.
“Can we have a chat? In the other room?” Sonnie moved his arm and gestured.
Culvir’s eyes turned to Nell briefly before he took a glass from Nikida’s tray. He had not been keen on the idea of being helped, even if every slight movement brought him pain.
“Of course,” Nell said. She walked out of the room, Sonnie close on her heels.
They stepped into the next room over.
“A vampire hunter? Really.” Sonnie smirked. “I thought you were kidding about that.”
“I wasn’t,” Nell said, “You know the reason as well as I do.”
“Hand it over.” Sonnie held a hand out.
“I mean that choker. You’re going to be paying me back for this. And I don’t like my servants wearing collars.”
“S…Servant?” Nell’s eyes widened.
“You didn’t think this was free did you? Would you prefer the word ‘slave’?” He laughed. “Now, hand it over.”
Nell complied quietly, freeing the clasps and set it in his outstretched palm.
He snapped it around his burly wrist. It proved a loose fit, but he fixed that by pushing it up his arm a bit. His eyes fell on her neck; he reached out and moved aside her hair to get a better look.
“It’s worse now. Does that make you a bad hunter? Or is it you just fall to old habits?” Sonnie scowled at her.
“Sorry,” Nell said, “I’m still a little soft.”
“Shall we pick up where we left off? Or are we keeping this formal? What’s that hunter mean to you Nell?”
“I told you… he’s my business partner.” Nell said eyes averted.
“And I saved his life. Remember that.” Son put two fingers under her chin.
“Thank you for that.” Nell turned her eyes up to him. She remembered when she loved his eyes. They were golden colored, almost the same shade of his hair. Now he had become a selfish man that viewed her as a commodity to be bartered. She closed her eyes as he drew close.
This is for Culvir. He needs to live.
She braced for the worst. What did he want from her? Would he really just take what he wanted?
“You must really think so little of me.” Sonnie said. She opened her eyes to see him scowling. “You think I am some sort of beast that would resort to force. Don’t you?”
“N…no. I was just—“
Sonnie pinched her cheeks, silencing her with a firm and swift motion. Sonnie didn’t need a weapon to be dangerous. His fists were his weapon. The only reason he had been a disciple of the light, because of birthright. Sonnie typically used the light to cause harm, not heal.
Not in a cruel monsterous way at least, the light acted his means of defense in a cruel and twisted world. Worse still the light had a way of amplifying all things, even corruption. When Nell met Sonnie he had been noble and pure. They were in love once. But his heart turned cynical and cruel and he left her when he found she had been with many before him. He likely forgot that he abandoned her, not the other way around.
“You’re more beautiful than I remember,” Sonnie said, “I was a fool.”
“It’s fine, really.” Nell said, his hand relaxed and he pulled away.
“If you want to repay me, you have to listen to what I say. Everything I say. If I say jump, jump. If it isn’t to my liking, you’ll be punished. I don’t owe you details you should be able to figure on your own.” Sonnie jabbed a finger at her. “I shouldn’t have to take what’s already mine.”
Nell gaped at him. Real anger flared within her.
“You should know something before you say another word,” Sonnie said, “His life is in my hand. The corruption is still inside him. In part. Just enough that I can put the rest of it back if I find the need.”
“You wouldn’t.” Nell swallowed hard.
“I probably won’t have to,” Sonnie said calmly, “But I’m a cautious man.”
“Why are you doing this…?” Nell reached out and grabbed his shirt.
“I have my reasons.” Sonnie narrowed his eyes at her. “My conditions are simple. Follow my orders and he lives. My first order is that you have no further relations with Mr. Culvir. You can lie to me all you want, but this—“
He held up his arm bearing the choker. “— is something close to his heart. It is all I need to make that link even at great distance from him. If you sever that bond his life will no longer be in danger. It’s as simple as that. I won’t be able to harm him. It will be in your best interest to follow that order.” He smiled wryly.
“I see.” Nell glanced off. “You’re out for revenge then. For me hurting you, is that it?”
“Revenge?” Sonnie’s smile faded. “No, that’s not right. Not against you anyway. This is for your own good. This is my own brand of helping you, bitter medicine.”
He stepped forward and slipped his arms around her waist. “The things I have seen. The Things I have endured. I have tasted the torment you endure Nell, and I can cure it. I have found the way to save your life.”
Nell looked up at him alarmed. “What?”
“I came to Terra because I knew you would be here. I came here for you. I will save your life, and in return. You will give it to me.”
Sonnie’s hold on her remained loose and delicate, but suffocating somehow. His eyes were honest. He spoke the truth. She put her head against his chest. His heartbeat lingered steady, calm, and even. What had he found? Perhaps something that could save her.
He had already saved Culvir. Maybe there was truth in his heart as well.
“Culvir is what is important.” Nell said distantly. “If you want to stake some sort of claim on me for saving him, I won’t argue. But I’m not going to abandon my duties.”
“I don’t expect you to.” Sonnie let out a low chuckle. “In fact, it is directly related to your salvation. You have a score to settle with a certain Vampire Lord do you not? How does that go? An enemy of my enemy is a friend?”
“You…” Nell’s eyes widened.
“Helos, must die.” Sonnie whispered the words in her ear sweet as a summer song.