For the previous part of this story go to A DEATH NOT REGRETTED .
Didisus and the other visitors...escorted by Thronite guards...were conducted the next morning to the Arth University, where the greatest masters of the art of "witchery", necromancy, and other Sagin-fostered magicks are housed. Statues of traitors lined the walkway to the university, who had once been living men...before they were sent out to stare at a gorgon. It was named Traitor's Walk. They all seemed to be screaming or crying, trying to avert their stone eyes.
Then they passed through a gate in a silver-glowing wall so thick that the gate was more like a tunnel. Suddenly the guards stopped short, as a woman strode forward, and they raised their hands in an unfamiliar salute, as they reached the inner courtyard, the baily before they reached the complex of buildings that made up the university. To one side was a huge tower that did not glow of its own light, but had torches scattered on various landings, and on its flat top.
She turned to the newcomers, and smiled. Didisus didn't like that smile.
"Ah, newcomers. Glad to have you. I am called Nightflame, perhaps you've heard of me."
They had indeed. She was perhaps Dahnmaya's premier general, and like him, ageless. She was not as old as Dahnmaya by several centuries, but she was old indeed. She was blonde, with long hair and sable battlegear on.
"You are just in time. Let us ascend to the Bloodtower."
They followed her up a winding stair, that circled and recircled the great tower. The steps themselves were stained red, a rusty-red that spoke of bloodstains. As they walked, Didisus would sometimes glimpse a wampyr, gibbering in anticipation, who flocked around the tower, hoping for...scraps. The stairs were leading to a flat area atop the huge tower. There was a statue of Sagin to one side, tall and mocking and smiling, facing a brazier whose flame lit up the top of the tower. A long shadow was thrown by Sagin's shadow. Chained to the left of the statue was a three-headed cerebus.
On a black bloodstained stone, was tied a naked young man, tied spreadeagled with bonds around his wrists and ankles, and he was struggling.
"As you may know, Sagincraft--which the ignorant call witchcraft--is not a discipline as much as it's a supplication, a covenent between ourselves and the mightiest of the Kaanho, Sagin Shadowfather. It is purchased...with a price."
She whetted the knife. Didisus looked at the young man, and wondered what was his crime, his offense. Meanwhile, Nightflame continued talking:
"Fear is like a sweet wine to Sagin, and the blood and death delights Thron, his kin and ally. So sacrifices are made..."
The man was beautiful in his way, and his eyes were strangely light, so light a brown they were almost golden.
Nightflame lifted the knife high. "This man is a C'Donite sympathizer, and thus an enemy of Dahnmaya and all our realm. There is no doubt of his guilt...The Book of the Flame was found hidden in his room.
"Each of you, someday, will wield this knife. It will be a rite you must go through, to grow in Sagin's power. So study my technique today." There was a cerebus chained to the wall. The knife plunged down, and cut off his genitals with three practiced cuts, and each head was tossed a piece, which were swallowed with a hungry gulp. What was most frightening, perhaps, is how matter-of-fact she was about it, how obviously she had done this thousands of times. Didisus' eyes grew wide and her face white.
The man screamed, and Nightflame smiled.
"You have lost your manhood. Never will you act the man again. You are bleeding, bleeding, bleeding...and any pleasure you had there is now replaced with screaming pain. It's a pitiful sight to see...so let us then take that sight away."
Deftly with the knife, she plucked the eyes out and tossed one each to two of the heads, while the third growled. His screams were even greater now.
"The light is gone now. You are in darkness evermore. Where is your C'Don now? You are now seeing Sagin's realm, the darkness of which he is master. Do you have anything to say...?"
The screams stopped. The man said,
But then Nightflame grabbed the tongue.
"No. I don't think you have anything to say."
Then she sliced out the tongue and tossed it to the third head. His mouth welled up with blood.
"Hmmm. Sexless, blinded, tongueless. But you can hear me. Now...no longer a man, no longer able to see, no longer able to speak...a fetus who will never grow up...how would it be if I just left you like this? Would your C'Don save you? Or would he...cruelly...leave you to live life forever, in this horrible condition...till a ghoul finds you, and,figuring you are half-dead anyway, starts to gnaw on you...yet you cannot scream. You have no tongue."
There was thrashing. Nightflame started to stomp, and the stomping grew lighter and lighter, as if she had walked away...but she really was right there. Tears trickled down eyeless sockets.
And then Nightflame lowered the knife into his heart.
"I am not being merciful." She spoke as a teacher to some interested students. "He was at his highest pitch of terror, thinking he would have years of living in that condition. He didn't know his death was coming...but obviously we are not going to feed him for years. Wasteful. It was a good sacrifice."
She smiled, lifting the heart up in one bloody hand...and then she threw it in the shadow of a statue of Sagin. There was no sound of it hitting the floor. It was like the darkness swallowed it.
Didisus heard retching sounds, and one had passed out. But though she was fighting the taste of acidy bile coming up in her throat, she was determined not to show any sign of weakness.
Nightflame nevertheless said,
"There is no shame in feeling sick or faint. But let me show you...stick out your tongues. I am going to put one drop, no more, of the sacrifice's blood on your tongues...much less than you would swallow inadvertantly from a nosebleed. Swallow it, and see what happens.
The bloody glove's finger touched Didisus' outstretched tongue, and she swallowed it, bracing herself for the bitter, strong taste of blood...but with it, felt a rush of strength and power, a high she had never experienced before. Even those who had fainted or vomited looked envigorated and empowered.
Nightflame smiled, a smile of a shared addiction, of initiating virgins to a pleasure they had not dreamed of before. Thronite guards threw what was left of the body to the cerebus to devour.
They went back to the barracks. They were all chattering, full of nervous energy, some even wishing they could witness another sacrifice.
But that night, Didisus was haunted by a dream of golden eyes looking at her, pleading...
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