The Second Sdhlain: Sdhlai 4

Consciousness did not return all at once for Erif. It trickled back, drop by drop, quiet notes impinging on the roaring silence of non-awareness.

First, the cold. It did not suffuse her as it should at such depths; only the tips of her wings, the bottoms of her feet, seemed to be exposed. This caused her to start more than anything else; a deep jolt of fear ran through her as she contemplated the possiblities, more and more conscious of the environment around her.

She tried pulling her feet up, and the cold dissapated. It must be some product of the force holding me here. She tried retracting her wings as well, but they seemed bound in their unfurled form.

She tried turning her head, but it would not move. Wiggling her fingers worked, but changing the position of her arms did not. She could breathe easily, which meant that her torso had some small degree of latitude, but she could not turn or twist. Whatever held her there did so with force but not pain. Such technology stood far beyond the reach of the Tel, but she had no delusions; whoever held her here (Elof, she recalled, as more and more returned to her) had abilities that her people merely dreamt of.

Then consciousness stole away from her again, and she slept.

She awoke to a sight of incredible ugliness. The face that covered her field of vision did not have the soft fur of the Tel only two arcs of white hair above the silver eyes. The eyes . . . the eyes had no discernible pupils, just a solid featureless silver surface.

It was only later that she noticed Elof never blinked.

The man stared intently at her, either not noticing that she was looking back, or not caring. She coughed, more as a test than from any real need, and Elof started.

"Ah. I see you are awake."

His face split with a grotesque smile, all teeth and not in the least encouraging.

Erif fought to keep the tremble out of her voice. "Will you let me out of this . . . whatever it is?"

The man grunted. "Later, perhaps. Not now. Now, you must eat."

He slapped something on her chest--she could not look down to see--and grinned again.

"There. That should do."

Erif wondered if the man was insane. Surely he knew that that Tel did not eat through their stomachs? Some of her consternation must have shown on her face; his smile faded, replaced by a hard look, a stony stare made more powerful by his unnatural gaze.

"It's a dermal patch. It will release all of the necessary minerals and nutrients into your system, replacing your need to eat. You will still be hungry, to be sure, but you will not die of malnutrition or starvation."

He stepped back, and reached into a pocket of his deep purple robe. A remote of some sort appeared in his hand. His stare never left Erif's face.

As he turned a knob on the remote, he said, "This, on the other hand, could very well kill you."

The deep black unconsciousness returned.


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Last Updated: 2003.01.16.1519