“I want you to remember what you said about Black And White thinking.”
“That the absolutes I grew up with were wrong and there are no Pure Evils and no Pure Goods?”
“Yes. That too.”
“Which aspect did you have in mind?”
Snake kissed me on the forehead and gripped my body tightly in a naga embrace. “Esse and I are not that different where it concerns you. Your perspective is skewed by the trauma you have endured in this life. And sometimes, the cure is worse than the ill.”
I felt the scales on my back harden into metal. Esse was using the doll again. But I did not need eyes to see the metal had rainbow hues shifting across them. Snake wasn’t fighting Esse for dominance, he was working with him! I forced my rising panic to stand aside. I was frightened but I do trust Snake. I was confused, so very confused.
Snake adjusted his grip so I was mostly horizontal, facing up, held rigidly immobile with my chest exposed. “I can not sedate you for this.” He sounded apologetic. My body shuddered and I felt in two places at once. I felt Snake’s naga body wrapped around me. I saw the runewards of Esse’s chambers. Flashing mica eyes looked down at me. A granite cold hand laid on my chest.
“Enough.” Esse’s voice was cold and harsh. “This ends.” A flash of light from a swiftly moving blade. His strike cuts through skin, muscle, and bone. Quickly he opens my chest cavity and cuts out my mostly smothered heart. Holding it up, I see him inspecting it closely. “What you broke off grew back, [Snake]. Another week and it will be completely encased again. Hold her. No sedation. And she must remain in her body. Do not divert the pain.”
Snake held. The pain… I had forgotten… I couldn’t scream. I couldn’t breathe. The body that Snake held was intact, but the pain… My instinct was to bloom fire around me. Burning fire. Burn away the pain. Burn away what was causing the pain. Like my first days in the Boneyard, when Ravenwoman threw me into the pyres nearly every time she saw me. Burn. Burn it all.
The small portion of uncovered heart threw a fierce jet of plasma. Esse smiled. “I am going to remove this… substance from your heart, Weaver. Your fire can’t hurt me. No matter how you try.” He took a thin probe, wedged it between heart and hardened casing, and flecked off a piece of what caged me. He collected what came off and dropped it in a jar.
Esse was not soft with my heart. When the substance thickened and could not be flaked off, he took a wedged hammer and sharply struck the covering. I felt each blow down to my bones. My body shuddered in Snake’s grip. There was only the pain and the desire to burn everything. I did not have cognition anymore. I did not remember why I was restrained or who it was. I did not remember that chamber is warded against fire or Esse’s mastery of the forge. All I knew was pain, fire, and the singular focus to devour all eternity with flame.
“Where were you when this happened?”
“I don’t know. I fell in the Pit again. I don’t remember that week. I don’t remember leaving it. I only know suddenly I was out of it, and I was so cold inside, and I felt dead inside, and I thought my heart had ceased.”
I’m shuddering in violent spasms under the pelts in the lair. Snake is holding me loosely, keeping me from hitting my head against anything hard. My chest is hot and my heart glows through the layers of muscle, bone, and skin. He says nothing. I say nothing.
I am getting what I wanted. I know the pain is only beginning.