Rotblossom Rose (1.63R)

Welcome to the space where I experiment, my weekly serial. It is written raw, not edited at all, and mostly unplanned.

The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years. The story is a take on those ultra-violent revenge epics of the eighties where a man’s family is abused and killed, but he survives and seeks vengeance. Needless to say it is a grim, bloody tale, that deals with bad people doing bad things, so be warned.

Here is the first post of this series.

Here is last week’s post.

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The Spider’s Face contorts with rage; hatred and fear are what he wants to engender, laughter deflates him. “I will cut laughter right out of you, Rotblossom,” he growls, glistening eyes fixing her with a maniac glare. This makes Rose laugh all the harder and The Spider, abandoning composure in the face of her mockery, fumbles for a tool to make good on his promise. He whirls upon her with an implement that looks to be the bastard offspring of a dirk and a wood-saw, many toothed and vicious. He comes at her, crossing the room with ground-eating strides, murder hot in his alien eyes.

“Its too late,” croaks Rose, something in her voice stops him is his tracks.

“What do you mean?” asks  the Spider.

“Look in your tunnel,” she says. “They should be here by now.”

“No one can get into this place,” growls the Spider, coming toward her, raising his blade. “Tricks won’t save you now, Rotblossom… I know you too well…”

“That flows both ways Spider,” said Rose. “I remember who you are and what you have done to me, all of it now. I know you are rattled, ask yourself why?”

“I should just kill you right now!”

Rose laughed, “A swift death, knowing what surely creeps toward you? Gladly.”

“I will make you scream!”

“Tic-toc.”

“Raaaaaahhhh,” a scream, high pitched and feral, escaped the lips of The Spider as he dashed forward and brought the knife down. Rose felt the jagged blade tear into the flesh of her hip, but Spider was driven by rage and while the cut would bleed, it was neither deadly not especially painful. She summoned her courage and laughed at him as he drew the blade back to strike again. 

“My only regret, bastard, is that I will not get to see what they do to you.”

“There. Is. No. They,” hissed the Spider, punctuation each word with a jab of his jagged blade-saw. Rose hissed in pain and strained against the bonds that held her. The third hit struck deep and she grunted and felt hot blood rush from the wound as the blade ripped free.

“Enough of this,” snarled the Spider, raising the blade again. “You ruin everything!” The phrase echoed through Roses’s mind, dredging up memories of all the times he’d said that before in this terrible room and the terrible violations that followed before somehow transferring her life force to one of the bodies in the specimen tanks.

Why am I not mad? Rose wondered as she saw her death in his eyes, wondering how her mind could withstand the knowledge of what he’d done to her, how many times she had died and been reborn. Was she even herself anymore or just the spark of something transferred from husk to husk?

A bell sounded from another room. The Spider froze, his eyes wide with fear. He turned, still brandishing the bloody knife and sprinted toward a copper pipe fitted with a pair of goggles near the entrance to his laboratory.

Rose was feeling light-headed now, torpid as her mind turned over the riddle of her being, ignoring the screaming of her survival instincts in the back of her head. Distantly some part of her realized that the bell was some kind of alarm, but that came and went as Rose bled, wrestling with the essence of her being.

And then it came to her. All she had were her memories, that was the sum of her being. The body she wore was just as artificial and interchangeable as the various forms of her metal arm. The memories were what mattered… and as the Sorceress had before him, the Spider had given her back some of her memories. Satisfied by this realization, Rose came back to herself. She was bleeding. The Spider was saying something as he looked through his periscope.

“No. no, no. no,” he moaned. “You led them straight to me. No. no. no. no.”

Ah, yes. Them.

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Rotblossom Rose (1.62R)

Welcome to the space where I experiment, my weekly serial. It is written raw, not edited at all, and mostly unplanned.

The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years. The story is a take on those ultra-violent revenge epics of the eighties where a man’s family is abused and killed, but he survives and seeks vengeance. Needless to say it is a grim, bloody tale, that deals with bad people doing bad things, so be warned.

Here is the first post of this series.

Here is last week’s post.

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After cutting through the thick scaled hide along the spine of the long-limbed wrongblood, Rose reached her hand under the skin and down toward the stomach. It was a delicate task, since she did not want to burn her hand on stomach acids or find out what kind of parasites infested its guts. Green Wraithstone tended to be near the gullet, stomach, and sex organs of the creatures it formed in.

“Copin’ a feel, Rosie?” said Scarab, grinning from ear to ear in the lantern light.

“Sod yourself with a hackblade, Scarab,” she returned, though without any real ire. Other than Geb, Scarab was closer to her than anyone had been since that day on the road to Avalain. He was reliable, and kept her secrets well. After dozens of delves they shared a bond formed by shared triumph and failure, and reliance on the other for safety in the harshest of places, that few outside the deeps could ever understand.

He laughed and knelt to help, hooking the hide with a gutting knife and peeling it back. “Trolls… they always seem to smell better than the other wrongbloods, don’t they?”

This was objectively true, although Rose’s sense of smell was mostly ruined by The Rot and damage to her nose. Even she found their smell revolting, worse than the gullet of a Rockwyrm or a sewer pipe from the city above.

Trolls were what they called humanoid wrongbloods with a profusion of Green Wraithstone. While they were each different and did not constitute a species, they did share a common set of characteristics and the shorthand helped the Scabbers know what to expect, at a minimum from such a warped specimen.

“They do, but everyone loves a Good Green stone,” said Rose, pulling an egg-sized bit of Wraithstone out an holding it up to the light. Even through the gore, it pulsed green.

“Hello, beauty!” said Scarab. “That will make this dive worth it, for most of us at least.”

“We’ll make certain that Harper’s mum gets his cut,” said Rose. Scarab nodded; he knew her mind on this. Rose felt a flash of guilt at the netter’s death, but even she, backed by Geb and Scarab, could not prevent every mishap. She changed the subject, trying to avoid the maudlin. “It is always worthwhile when we get a mark on a wrongblood under syndicate territory.”

“If we can take it down,” said Scarab. “Some right fierce warped over here. They say that some of them are made on purpose.”

“My guess is that the waste from whatever processes used by the Syndicate are the real culprit,” said Rose.

“Careful, with words like that, Rosie, you almost sound like a bedrock lass,” retorted Scarab.

“I’m serious though,” said Rose. “Everyone treats the Syndicate like they are the wrongblood waiting under the bed… How much of that is just reputation? why don’t they have any real competitors?”

Not even the five nations dared defy the Alchemist’s syndicate. They held a monopoly on transmuting Wraithstne and cleaning tarnished metal that had been tainted by the bleed. There was no way, in Rose’s view that others had not discovered these processes, but no one she’d ever heard of competed with the Syndicate.

“They offer a good deal to any alchemist who joins em,” said Scarab, his face as serious as when he was sighting a target. “But its more than that Rosie. The stories of what happens to those who pry into Syndicate business are true. No one survives competing with them. No matter how well protected.”

“Isn’t that just reputation?”

“No, its not, Rosie,” said Scarab. “There’s money in it, so some fool is always willing to try. But even when there’s money and brains behind it, the Syndicate will always take them down.”

“Sounds like you have a story.”

“I do.”

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Rotblossom Rose (1.61R)

Welcome to the space where I experiment, my weekly serial. It is written raw, not edited at all, and mostly unplanned.

The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years. The story is a take on those ultra-violent revenge epics of the eighties where a man’s family is abused and killed, but he survives and seeks vengeance. Needless to say it is a grim, bloody tale, that deals with bad people doing bad things, so be warned.

Here is the first post of this series.

Here is last week’s post.

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“You don’t scare me, Spider,” growls Rose as her captor sifts through the tools of torture close-by. He picks up short, wicked-toothed saw and then discards in with a long sigh. She stares at him while he stands with his back to her, shoulders slumping like he about to deflate. 

“That’s just it,” he say after a while. “I don’t. You don’t consciously remember all of the things that I have done to you in this room. How many times I’ve violated you, cut you open, killed you and brought you back to life…”

Rose feels a knot form in the pit of her stomach. Is this what Lawch was talking about when he mentioned that he’d killed her before.

“I know who you are, Olias, I remember what you did on that day on the road to Avalain. The sorceress freed my memory: I remember everything.”

“I’ve heard that before, too,” says the Spider, frowning. “Sadly, you don’t. No one really understands the genius of what I have done here and you, who was my muse,  don’t even realize half of what I’ve done to you. We’ve been here before, Rose… tell me, does this room look familiar to you?”

“Why should it? Bastard.”

But as she looks around, Rose is struck by the truth of The Spider’s words. She is familiar with this room, this chamber of horrors; the more she looks the tighter the knot in her stomach becomes. Flashes of insight flit through her mind like the ghosts of nightmares. The tools of torture in particular draw her eyes, a hammer, a metal pear, a barbed scourge and a vise call out to her like old, unwanted acquaintances. How could she be so familiar with this room and these tools.

“What have you done to me?” she rasps.

“… Everything,” he answers. “And that is the problem… the joy of it is gone, Rose, don’t you see? When I first started down this path I figured I would keep you after Lawch and that chasm-eaten sorceress were dead. But after years of this, I was ready to move on. I hoped to let you go gently, by letting the sorceress finish you. I never dreamed that you would survive Lawch and manage to kill her.”

Rose wrestles with his words, smothering in confusion; was he mad or was she? “What are you talking about?”

The Spider laughs. “This used to be my favorite part… let me show you, one last time.”

And he turns and looks her in the eye, a predatory smile spreading across his too-symmetrical face and warming his cold, fathomless orbs. She is fixated by that gaze, waiting for whatever grim command he will speak.

Instead, still watching her, he walks over to one of the larger specimen tubes and pulls off the dust cloth covering it. Inside, floating in the liquid, attached to a metal umbilical cord is a woman’s body. Rose’s mind, her very essence tries to edge away from the recognition, from accepting what she sees. Lawch was not lying. But the features are too familiar and the memories come flooding back.

The Spider laughing as he rapes her, on that day and a hundred times since. Being vivisected on this very table. Dismembered. Disemboweled. Cooked. Dissolved in acid. Madness eats at her sense of reality.

“This body was to be your next replacement,” says the Spider. “I honed you into a weapon, Rotblossom, but I’ve had my fun and you’ve served your purpose. You finally killed Lawch. I’ll admit you are still a unique specimen, I’ve never met anyone who could be brought back and transferred to a fresh body so many times… but I’ve learned what I can from that as well.”

Rose struggled and thrashed as her own memories assaulted her. Reflexively she tried to tap into the reservoir of The Blue that was house in her metal arm, but she could not. She was alone with her nightmares.

“It gets worse each time, I think,” said the Spider. “There is a limit to what even you can take. I think this time I’ll watch and see if I break you. It will be interesting to see if you give yourself a stroke or of you warp first.”

A parade of images and memories, each worse than the last assaults Rose, an endless litany of torture and humiliation wrapped in despair. With no narcotic calm her heart races, trying to break free of its cage. She feels herself descend into darkness, being consumed by the abyss, as Spider and all of the others laughed at her.

But in that dark place she hears familiar laughter among the damning, torturous voices. Kraggor. Lawch. She clings to these sounds like a falling man grasping for an outcropping. She knows they are dead, knows that there are names on a list that she has crossed off. And she remembers that the Spider is not the only one with a contingency plan.

The look on his face when she begins to laugh at him is worth a gallon of The Clear.

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Rotblossom Rose (1.60R)

Welcome to the space where I experiment, my weekly serial. It is written raw, not edited at all, and mostly unplanned.

The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years. The story is a take on those ultra-violent revenge epics of the eighties where a man’s family is abused and killed, but he survives and seeks vengeance. Needless to say it is a grim, bloody tale, that deals with bad people doing bad things, so be warned.

Here is the first post of this series.

Here is last week’s post.

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“Have you ever gone deeper than this?” asked Rose, staring down a jagged split in the rock, into the abyss far below. 

“Once,” answered Geb, after a pause. “Not many came back, chief.”

“You don’t have to call me chief, Geb,” said Rose, meeting his eye. “You taught me how to do this…”

“That’s kind, Rose,” said Geb, shrugging. “But you were born to this, I’ve never seen a better Sniffer and I never had the run of success that we have had working with you.”

What if I told you that you are my inspiration, that the way you wear responsibility and seek the good in the darkest place in the world is what I want to emulate, thinks Rose, looking at Geb. Ten years have only made him more handsome; a few more grey hairs, a few more scars, same easy smile.

“Don’t jinx us,” calls Scarab from across the fire. Many of the camps in the deeps are small. She has long given up on the idea of privacy down here. “I’m almost ready to retire.”

“I’ve never heard a more famous set of last words that that, old man,” retorts Geb.

Rose smiles as Scarab mutters a lazy string of curses at his friend. It hurts a little, because of the rot, but she does not notice.

Geb, still laughing at Scarab’s response turns back to her. “Have you ever given any thought to what you are going to do when all of this is over, Rose?”

“I don’t give much thought to that,” says Rose, her stomach knotting. “I wouldn’t want a deep wolf to catch me day-dreaming.”

“Well, I’ve paid off my debt with The Spider,” answered Geb. “I’ll be a wealthy man soon…”

“Just fishin’ for disaster with talk like that,” groused Scarab. “Deep wolves can smell a scabber about to retire.”

“Miriam got out,” said Rose. “She did well. Sold maps on Chim street. Had a nice little house. Died in her sleep and had proper funeral, she did. We should all be so lucky.”

Both men nodded.

“As I was saying,” continued Geb. “We’ve been making a good profit since Rose took lead, even with The Spider robbing us blind.”

“Speaking of which, why are you still with the old creep, Rose?” asked Scarab. Geb winced, looking around as if The Spider might appear.

“It’s personal,” answered Rose. “If you hate him so much, why don’t you leave? You were paid out before Geb.”

“I’m here for you and for him,” said Scarab. “As long as you two are still delving, and not acting crazy, I’ll tag along. Don’t let it go to your heads.”

“That was practically a marriage proposal coming from the likes o’ him,” said Geb, chuckling. “Anyways my answer is that I’d start a business, something simple in a nice ward that ain’t too expensive. Settle down, you know?”

Rose forced a smile and nodded.

“Gods man, you are determined to bring us ill luck, the ropers will have us all this delve,” groused Scarab. 

They all laughed and the delve went well.

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Rotblossom Rose (1.59R)

Welcome to the space where I experiment, my weekly serial. It is written raw, not edited at all, and mostly unplanned.

The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years. The story is a take on those ultra-violent revenge epics of the eighties where a man’s family is abused and killed, but he survives and seeks vengeance. Needless to say it is a grim, bloody tale, that deals with bad people doing bad things, so be warned.

Here is the first post of this series.

Here is last week’s post.

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“Always have a contingency, Rotblossom!” exclaims the spider as he looks down at her.

Rose struggles to move, but only her toes and fingers respond. Every ounce of will and all her hate amounts to nothing as he looms over her, grinning like fucking Cackles, but twice as ugly.

“You thought you could beat me?  If it weren’t for me you would have died a dozen times by now. I have manipulated you from the start. You have no idea…”

He laughs again, a uncontrolled edge creeping into it, which was somehow more terrifying, like spotting a Rockwyrm looming behind a pack of Deep Wolves. The Spider bends over, grabbing Rose and lifting her with surprisingly little effort.

“I had the strength of will and foresight to defy a sorceress and a bandit king, Rotblossom. What makes you think that you could ever beat me in a game like this?”

He laughs again, jostling her. Desperately Rose wiggles her toes and the fingers of her real hand, trying to regain control. If she can just keep him talking…

“You actually recognized me, I believe, but were too slow to act. And then I ensnared you, and I have been using you ever since. It took five tries for you to kill Lawch…”

The rest of the sentence is lost as the implication hits Rose. What does he mean? Lawch said something similar.

The Spider pauses. Rose hears the sound of a key in a lock, followed by heavy gearborne doors grinding open. She could not see much with her face hanging just above  the Spider’s belt but the room is large and filled with laboratory equipment including dozens of man-sized specimen tanks. It smells like the heart of the Syndicate fiefs; the Sorceress had told her the truth about the Spider’s illicit alchemical experiments as well.

“We’ve been through this dance before, Rose. It is a shame that I will have to make an end of it like this. We could have gone bedrock together, but you never could learn to appreciate me. Not once in any of the lives I have given you.”

Rose’s mouth worked. She wanted to scream at him. To call him a rapist. to call him a murderer. To tell him that she remembered.

Rose is dumped into a chair and feels cold metal bands slam shut around her wrists and ankles. It feels oddly familiar and panic grips her. She can barely breathe and her mind swims. Hope drains from her like blood from a sliced artery.

“Your subconscious remembers this place,’ says The Spider, grinning. “It is a pity that this will be our last waltz, my dear. We have had so much fun here over the years.”

Rose’s eyes dart around the room. It is large, with a vaulted ceiling. Copper pipes, glass tubes and sterile white lights crowd the ceiling. Beside the chair that she is trapped in is a table full of instruments, blades, syringes, and other devices of pain and mutilation. Some of them stir her thoughts as she spies them. What has he done to her?

The Spider picks up a syringe filled with a milky liquid and pushes the needle into her skin. Rose struggles, but cannot move.

“Usually I just hypnotize you and lead you down here,” says the Spider. “I haven’t had to use drugs since the first time…”

He sighs. Then shakes his head. The expressions are recognizable and yet alien in him, like watching a puppet without strings.

Rose gasps as her throat clears and her tongue regains feeling.

“Fff-FUCK YOU, SPIDER!” she howls.

He laughs.

“Good, good. It’s always better when you can scream,” he says. “Shall we begin?”

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Rotblossom Rose (1.58R)

Welcome to the space where I experiment, my weekly serial. It is written raw, not edited at all, and mostly unplanned.

The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years. The story is a take on those ultra-violent revenge epics of the eighties where a man’s family is abused and killed, but he survives and seeks vengeance. Needless to say it is a grim, bloody tale, that deals with bad people doing bad things, so be warned.

Here is the first post of this series.

Here is last week’s post.

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Rose felt a stab of fear as not one, but two men with crossbows appeared, aiming their weapons at Edward. Her brother remained unaware of the danger, drunk and singing to himself after a good night at the dice table. No doubt the shadows held no danger in his mind in the afterglow of such a victory. Could she blame him, after all that her brother had suffered?

She was ready for the first crossbowman, hidden near the position that he was set in. The second was on a building across the from the gambling den, unreachable by sword.

They moved, and that was it, there was no time to think about tactics. There was only action and momentum.

She slid out of her hiding place and lunged, taking the first crossbowman in the back even before he could loose his bolt. He jerked as her coilsword punched through his clothes and upper vertebrae. He fell like a sack of coal, jerking, paralyzed. The motion of her attack drew the attention of his compatriot man across the street who stared for a moment, perhaps taken aback by the silver skull mask she wore, flickering in the dark. His hesitation lasted only a moment, before fear spurred him to life his weapon and take aim at her.

But Rose was already moving. Momentum was on her side and time was not. She let go of her coilsword and drew a knife with each hand. The first flashed through the air, poorly thrown, and meant to distract her target. He flinched as it sailed past his head, spoiling his aim. Th second knife was thrown with care and he did not see it coming. It caught him squarely and he fell back tumbling down to the alley below. It was not a fatal blow, but he was out of the fight for a moment at least.

Shouts down in the alley alerted her that the rest of the thugs were after Edward. She heard a below of warlike rage from her brother and the ring of steel as he gathered the crossbow for the man at her feet, still in his death throws and fumbled a bolt into place. Then she leaned out and sighted the weapon.

She saw Edward, cape thrown back standing bold as two men with needlespears faced him. They men were confused that he was still standing and he took advantage of this, closing swiftly, sidestepping a jab and thrusting his coilsword into a man’s shoulder. The thug gasped and pulled away.

“You’ll never take me, bastards!” roared Edward. He was right, Rose thought, but he did not realize a third man was coming up behind him. That was the one she shot. The bolt leapt, hitting the man squarely. He grunted and Edward expertly turned, skewering him and activating the coilsword. Even in the half-dark the results were dramatic as blood splashed and he collapsed in a wet heap.

“Fuck!” exclaimed the nearest man, and instead of attacking, he turned and ran, pulling his wounded friend with him.

Edward turned back to them and ran a few steps before stumbling, muttering, and holding his head. Rose found a bolt, hand cranked the crossbow, and then looked around, making certain the fight was over.

“That’s right cowards!” roared Edward, drunkenly. “Tell them Edward Redshire sent ya!”

Rose looked down at her brother and felt a stab of pity. She should never have left him alone with the old man.

Then people began spilling out of the gambling den, armed guards and patrons ready for a fight. After a tense moment Rose realized that they were going to help Edward, and she relaxed. Disaster was averted… but it was only the first of many over the years.

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Rotblossom Rose (1.57R)

Welcome to the space where I experiment, my weekly serial. It is written raw, not edited at all, and mostly unplanned.

The world is partly based on the background of an unpublished Steampunk game that I worked on with a few friends, which has grown in my mind over the last couple of years. The story is a take on those ultra-violent revenge epics of the eighties where a man’s family is abused and killed, but he survives and seeks vengeance. Needless to say it is a grim, bloody tale, that deals with bad people doing bad things, so be warned.

Here is the first post of this series.

Here is last week’s post.

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The red-tinged glow of wraithstone lamps casts the metal passage to the Spider’s lair in a sinister light. Rose cannot help but see every new node, switch, or join as a potential trap. It takes an effort of will to banish the thoughts of flesh-melting acid and bone-crushing deadfalls dogging her every step. She had to appear confident in this little game she was playing with The Spider, not revealing what she knew of his betrayals. He was watching her every move, fingers poised to activate his defences, waiting for some sign that would reveal her true purpose. If she fails, he would kill her, but Rose carries the one thing that the Spider would risk everything for: proof of the Sorceress’s death. The Spider’s need and arrogance will be his undoing. Hopefully.

The tunnel seems much longer than usual, which she tells herself is to be expected considering how far The Spider has extended his contraption. But what if he is just toying with her, sending her round and round in circles until he tired of the game. Rose pushes the thought away, but it is hard to keep cool. Rose desperately wanted a hit of The Blue to steady her nerves, or even some alcohol, but she knows that the Spider is watching her. She needs him to think that he has the upper hand, that he is still in control.

The tunnel shifted and changed, swallowing Rose like a massive, if sterile, Rockworm. It would be easy for her to disappear down here. A bead of sweat formed on her back, trickling down as she crawled.

Then, abruptly, she sees another door, the familiar round hatch that always leads into the heart of the Spider’s Lair. Without hesitation she turns the valve and slides down into the belly of the beast, eschewing the brass-runged ladder, as is her habit.

“Hello, Rose,” the Spider’s voice is like a knife twisting in her. She is unprepared for the surge of hatred and it takes all of her self-control not to snarl. She wishes that she could have smuggled a knife or some kind of weapon in, but her metal arm will have to do.

“Hello, Spider,” says Rose, meeting his gaze. His eyes are as flat and predatory as those of his namesake.

“You said you have proof of her death?”

Rose could hear the hunger in his voice and she knew then that she had made the right play. He needed this, and his need made him as weak as that girl in the house on the road to Avalain, so long ago.

“I do, but first I want to know why you didn’t hold up your end of the deal Spider. What happened to the plan?”

“You have no right to question me, Rose. Show me the proof or you will suffer.”

Rose felt a thrill of excitement now. The Spider’s need robbed him of his detachment, making him seem almost human. She had power here, now.

“No.”

Their eyes met. His hands twitched and he began to weave his metal threads. She did not look at them, knowing now what that motion portended. Funny, Rose had always thought he was drugging her.

“Come now, Rose,” said the Spider and he said the word.

Rose froze. Even now, the word pulled at her, like a ships anchor dragging her down into the deep. A command implanted in her head through years of hypnosis. The web that the spider always wove with his little metal strands.

“No,” she said again.

The Spider froze, eyes wide.

“You wanted her to kill me,” said Rose. “But you misunderstood the nature of her relationship with Lawch, Spider. For all of your plans and your schemes, you failed to see the obvious. She was bound to Lawch, not controlling him. He used love to lure her into a gilded cage, but you could never understand that, could you? Once I killed him, she was free, she was grateful.”

“But you have her ear?” he gasps.

“It was the price I asked of her to do this. For a man who gave me a new body you must realize that it was not hard paid for her, just a little pain. You saw what you wanted to see though. You dared to dream that your plan succeeded better than you hoped. Just as I let my ambitions blind me to who you really are, Olias Neatze.”

The Spider scrambles out his chair. “You remember.”

“I do,” says Rose, advancing on him, her metal arm balling into a fist. And she does, now. He has always been in her visions, her dreams, screaming through her subconscious. That is why she hates him so. he was the man holding her daughter on that day, the key to their little house. Had he worked his magic on Janiye as he had Rose?

“Stop this, Rose. Don’t take another step toward me,” says the Spider, leaping into another Room.

“I am going to enjoy this,” snarls Rose, lunging at him.

And as she passes through the threshold she feels as sharp and sudden pain and falls to the floor. Is it one of his traps? She hits the ground hard fighting the darkness encroaching on her, unable to move. The Spider turns her over.

“I am impressed that you managed to overcome the conditionning, but you really didn’t think that you could kill me in a body that I made for you, did you love?”

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