Heartweed: Chapter 31

This is the beta version of my novel. If you are a new reader – welcome. You can read from the start here.

New sections are released every Tuesday and Friday. Please let me know your opinion in the comments section. Thank you for reading.

 

Chapter 31

Harsh pain stabbed through Artie’s shoulder blades and upper arms. Her head lolled to one side and she saw that she was suspended between two of the grey-shirted fae. Her heels scraped along the ground as they dragged her through the large doorway into the main hall.
The last time she had been here it had thronged with life and colour; today is was empty – still and cold as a tomb. The torches were unlit and the setting sun threw a deep-red light through the windows. It made the walls look as if they had been painted with a thin coat of blood.
The fae guards dropped Artie to the floor. Her back striking the hard stone floor knocked the air from her lungs. Stars sparked inside her eyes.
Harsh steps snapped across the floor towards her. March leaned into Artie’s field of vision. His bone-white hair floated around his face. He smiled: a slow expression that slithered into his face.
“So you have come to pollute my house again.”
He flicked his hands at the servants and they backed away to the walls. March pulled a short dagger from his belt.
“Have you come to try and kill me, little human girl?”
He began to circle Artie, his eyes set in the expression of a cat watching a wounded bird. Artie stared back with loathing.
“Did you bring your steel knife? Take out your knife.”
Artie rolled to her knees. That one movement exhausted her and her vision swam in and out of focus again. She panted.
March crossed close in front of her. Artie reached out with a clawed hand to swipe at his legs. He stepped nimbly out of reach, then stamped hard on her hand where Artie had let it fall to the floor.
Artie screamed. Pain radiated through her hand and up her arm. She tried to move her fingers and could feel the bones grinding together inside her hand.
“Or did you not bring a weapon? Did you come here to tear me apart with your bare hands?”
March laughed in a merry pealing of bells. He slid his dagger back into its sheath. Artie snarled at him and his smile deepened.
She struggled to get to her feet. She felt so weak. The strength that the parasite had given her was gone and fighting with it had sapped her own reserves.
Artie tried to call back that tensile feeling of latent power, but it was no use. The overdose on Birtta’s meds had stripped all of her new-found abilities. The parasite lay dormant in her chest. Not dead, but not helping either. Sullen and fearful sensations emanated from it.
She stood, turning slowly to keep her eyes on March as he circled her.
“I’m going to kill you,” Artie said.
March darted in, sla[pped her and had already resumed his stalking before Artie’s shocked nerves registered the pain. She tasted blood in her mouth and spat it on the floor. Then she sprang. She forced her aching legs to push her into March. Her forearm raised to smash into his face. Her uninjured hand grabbed for the knife at his belt.
March captured her arm and inch from his face in a vice-like grip. But she had the knife now and slashed at him. The blade opened a long tear in his shirt, but failed to cut his skin.
March shoved her backwards. he fingered the cut edge of the fabric. He looked up at her and opened his arms wide in invitation. Artie stared warily. She burned with the need to bury his own knife deep in his heart. The way he just stood there said louder than words that she was going to get hurt badly if she tried.
Arms still wide, March raised his eyebrows. Artie’s legs were tiring and she wobbled. The white-haired gentry skipped forwards. He was just out of reach. Artie raise the knife, her eyes locked on his. Her legs quivered again. He arm shook from the effort of holding the knife up. March took another step forwards. Artie slashed at him. She missed.
A grey curtain was drifting downwards between her and March. I’m going to pass out, she thought with almost artificial clarity. The words rang in her skull like a bell. Artie blinked. She felt March take the knife out of her hand. he drew the blade slowly down her cheek. The pain bloomed and Artie’s vision cleared.
March stood in front of her holding at the knife. A wavy line of blood decorated the edge of it. As she watched the wavefront broke and a single drop of the bright fluid ran down the centre of the blade. Without breaking eye contact with Artie, March licked her blood from the flat of the dagger with small lapping motions.
His eyes widened and he went still, so still Artie would have believed him to be carved from marble. The sound of his voice, when it hissed betwee nthose unmoving lips, made Artie start.
“What. are you?” March’s face had twisted into a grotesque mask of rage, but Artie could feel the fear radiating from beneath it and hear the terror riding the edge of his words. “Whose are you? Who made you?”
His fist snapped towards her. He cuffed her on her cut cheek, breaking her flesh even further open. Artie fell to the floor. She caught herself on her hands, but could not muster enough energy to pick herself up.
“Guards, take her out of here. Chain her up beneath ground.”
Artie sank down. She pressed her wounded face to the cool stone. The guards yanked her up by the arms again, but now she really didn’t care. She couldn’t care, couldn’t think.
the grey curtain descended again and this time Artie let it.

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