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The Neth Tiev came in and cleaned the chamber.  They were slaves, whatever alliance they had been in had not treated them kindly.  Tsung Pathet of the Blue Tiev Manat stalked through them, scattering them like children before an angry adult as they checked the iron manacles holding the wolf and the silver skewers that held them in place by piercing through the wrist and ankle bones. There was news, someone was coming, probably one of the Couranth from the chatter.  For vultures, the Couranth are just as fastidious as the Tsung Pathet are brutal, and it was time to have everything ready in the chamber.  There would be "trickle down" from the confrontation between the leaders, no one wanted to draw attention at lower levels.

From the grunting of and about theTsung Pathet and the discussions of the warlocks, and with the Neth Tiev as slaves, this was an incursion of the fallen.  Ever since Wakanda had banished Upharsin's darkness in the return, the fallen were damned as well. Self sold to chaos, with the long night ended.  They had hope only in this world, and some burned in it.  The Neth or Iron Tiev had once been men, trading on their ability to work with iron and not be burned, they had taken to handling raw chaos.  But chaos had burned them on every world they and their septs had turned to Upharsin and maybe one in five could withstand the magnethi taints.  They faired no better than other men in their dealings with the other fallen.

The Tsung Pathet were squat, like the old dwarves, in build, though taller.  Looking at them they seem like thick, squat, men.  They had held to the deep ways and all of them drank deeply of the well of chaos.  They were barren, like many of the fallen, but when they died they were able to breed themselves anew, though they could be driven into mindless rages that survived death and rebirth.  Each of the elemental clans had its own secrets and own ways, and each traded and stole the souls of the fallen to restore and build their numbers.  The Blue Pathet was tied to the air and the sorcery of tapping or draining live.  Having them here was a bad sign.

As bad as knowing that one of the vulture lords was present.  The Dire had been a clue, a vulture lord was another. But the Neth Tiev knew only meaningless gossip and their fears.  It was enough warning.

I knew I'd have to let the word have voice.  I'd held as much pain and rage and anger as I could but if I didn't speak soon, I'd merely get eaten. I'd suffered too much to let one of the Tiev Manat eat me or a Couranth vulture lord bind me.

When you heal quickly, you can let things happen, and do things that seem impossible. The Tiev had just checked my bounds when I could hear the vulture let loose with some sort of magic to get the attention of one of the Pathet who thought to cross him. I didn't need to guess who they were arguing about.

I pulled my hands and feet from the fastenings.  Bones broke and flesh tore and I fell into the fire below.  If I had not been a shapeshifter I'd have killed myself with the effort.  If I had not known real pain, the manacles they cuffed me with and the skewers they used to hold them in place would have stopped me. As I rolled out of the fire, my wrists and ankles healed and as my skin came back together, I could use my claws.  The first thing to do was to cut a break in the magical barrier that surrounded me -- right at the door.  It wouldn't keep me in, but it would hold any magic I wanted to use, and with a cut in it, it would actually help me focus any force I decided to call.

The vulture lord stepped into the room, several Pathet at his heels, submissive since he had shown them who was the boss. I greeted him with the word. All the power and pain and unvoiced rage I had stored up as they tortured me and as I burned escaped with the word and he and all those with him were shredded by the power and the flames.  Without the word, even with the lychanthrope magics, I wouldn't have healed from all that fire they had used to torture me.  With it, I had stored up weeks of burnings to unleash.  It slew the vulture and burned the Pathet with him past rebirth.  Let their septs howl.

Then I needed to move.  I didn't know where I was, but it wasn't a good place to stay until someone showed up who could tell me.  I was sure there would be more hostile magic for the word to swallow and return in the great shout.  I had scoffed at it as a gift, but I was beginning to understand how it might be just what I needed.

Now, which way to turn when I stepped from the room?  I needed to get free of this structure and into the wild lands that I hoped were outside of it.  There I could get my bearings and find out when and where and which I was.  I might even risk reverting to my human form and eat something besides my anger.   

Copyright 2005 Stephen R. Marsh and Heather N. Marsh
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