Edit: I’m getting an error when logging in to Patreon right now to post the chapter over there as well. Apologies and will try to get it uptomorrow!
After the darkness of the dragon’s lair, Haradeth was glad to be back among the Sylvani. Having spent so much time in human cities, he’d come to associate the word city with harsh lines and straight edges. The organic lines of the Sylvani structures appealed to him on a fundamental level. It was like being back in the forest, but with the overall sense of bustle and life that he did enjoy about human cities. And without the filth. That was nice too.
“Where’s Bix?” Haradeth asked the empty air.
A shimmering image appeared in the air in front of him, an almost perfect recreation of the tiny Automaton if not for its translucency. “Oh, it’s you,” she said. “I was getting ready to stab someone for interrupting me.”
“But you’re…not going to stab me?”
Bix’s mechanical eyes whirred and narrowed. “That depends. Are you wasting my time?”
“You wanted to know when we’d brought everything back from the lair. Everything’s done, you can disable that portal stone now.” It was so remote and far away from everything else, they didn’t need it active. By disabling it, the Alohym wouldn’t be able to use it against them – at least, not without a full day’s worth of effort to reactivate it, which would give them plenty of time to know something was coming.
“Oh, good. Mostly. I did want an excuse to stab you.” Bix’s eyes relaxed. “Come down to my little home, would you?”
“Are you going to stab me?” Haradeth asked, already walking. The image floated alongside him as he moved, although Bix’s feet didn’t move.
“You’re going to let me stab you. Very different.” Bix delivered that in the prim tones of a child correcting a minor misspeak by their parent.
Haradeth stumbled. “Why would I-”
The image vanished. Bix clearly expected him to come, regardless of any objections he might have.
What’s worse is, she’s right. Sheer curiosity would be enough for Haradeth to go visit her right now, even without the very real possibility she’d stab him without permission if he didn’t go down there as soon as he could.
The winding path down to Bix’s lair had less of the elder Sylvani than Haradeth had seen on his previous trip. There were only a couple, their forms morphing constantly in response to stimuli Haradeth couldn’t perceive. “Did you find her?” one asked. “The lady wearing the stars for a gown and with suns in her mouth, she who swallows worlds. Has she been found?”
“Um…no,” Haradeth said. He knew these poor souls were too mad with their condition to properly understand the world around them, the question was so coherent that he felt bad ignoring it.
The elder made a wet sound, like someone sighing their last breath as they sunk beneath a bog. “She will be found, or she will find.”
“Absolutely,” Haradeth nodded in agreement, smiling at one of its eyes.
That seemed to satisfy the Sylvani ender, and its form twisted into an almost perfect sphere so it could roll away. “But who will find her first?” it asked, rolling along the ground.
Haradeth was glad it didn’t seem to want an answer to that. Especially because something was drawing his attention right now, something far more pressing.
The smell of blood.
Haradeth picked up his pace until he was half running in that direction. It was coming from Bix’s sanctum, and the smell was so strong it was almost overpowering. “Oh good,” Bix said when Haradeth threw open the door. “You made it.”
Haradeth stared in openmouthed horror. Synit was down there with her, but had been laid in some kind of glass coffin. She wasn’t moving or breathing. Her eyes were open, and didn’t even twitch at his arrival. “What did you do? For the love of the Light, Bix, you killed her!”
“Did not,” Bix said. “I just halted all metabolic activity and biological action after draining a great deal of her blood. And no more consciousness either.”
Haradeth could feel bile rising in his throat. “Bix, that kills living beings. You…you were supposed to help her.” He’d barely gotten to know the half Sylvani woman, and he’d certainly not been friends with her, but he hadn’t wanted her to die as part of some experiment by Bix.
“Oh Light. Your eyes are leaking water. That’s a bad sign.” Bix sighed. “Fine, spoil my fun. She’s not dead. I put her in stasis until you were free, because I think I can fix her. But I need to stab you to fix her.”
“Wait…what?” Haradeth said.
“We – and by we, I mean me, because I’m amazing – can put life forms into a stasis. It’s like sleep as far as your mind is concerned, but it’s more like being frozen solid. No metabolic activity, no growth, no aging, but at the same time no decay or damage occurs. It’s reversible. We do it when our medical…I mean, we did it…” Bix smacked the side of her head. “Faulty driver. It’s something we do when there are too many broken organics to fix you all at once. Let’s us get to fixing others when we have time to focus. Sometimes we also do it for illnesses we don’t know how to fix. So once I’ve stabbed you, I can just reverse it, and she’ll be fine.”
Haradeth stared at Synit. “You…” He shook his head. He didn’t know exactly what faulty drivers meant, but given how his brain was bouncing in a thousand directions, he had a feeling he could empathize with the sensation. “Why do you need to stab me?”
“Because I want your blood.” Bix waited and again sighed when she didn’t get the reaction she was hoping for. “You’re becoming less fun. Maybe I should do some surprise stabbings to keep you interesting.”
“Please don’t,” Haradeth said weakly.
“No promises. But right now I want you to let me stab you so I can take your blood.” Bix stood up on her tails and began to move along the room. “The Alohym rewrote her…you won’t know that word. Or that word. Or that one. Damn it to Shadow. Okay, so organic beings have little words written in their meat. They are what make organic beings work. These little meat words were rewritten by the Alohym to have both human and Alohym meat words. Like a document written with both our language and yours mixed together. Is your brain processing this so far?”
“I think,” Haradeth said. “It would be very hard to read a document written in two languages, though.”
“Yes, it would!” Bix said excitedly, like he’s just grasped an important point. “That’s why she’s so broken. When she was growing, her body was trying to read two different sets of meat words, and that didn’t work well for her. So her body is badly made, like a house that was built by someone who was following instructions written in two languages, and they only knew a handful of words in one of the languages.
“I can fix the damage to her structure, but she will lose a lot of blood. I don’t have access to Alohym meat words, and I’d need a blend of Alohym and human meat words anyway. But you’re a godling, meaning your meat words are in a state of constant flux. I think I can use your blood to keep her alive while I cut her up. And then she’ll be able to function without being in constant pain. Then I can stab her by surprise and it will be fun. Oh, and she’ll be in less pain and all that too, but really, the stabbing is the important part.”
Haradeth sat down on one of the chairs. “So…how are we going to get my blood safely?”
Bix smiled up at him. “See? And you doubted you’d let me stab you.”