February 25th, 2013 | Published in Dragon Wars
“Are you okay, Laxmi?” Andrew asked in concern while they waited for the others to arrive. “You don’t look happy.”
Laxmi looked up from where she was staring into the cup of tea that sat untouched on the table while she twisted a servette in her hands and worried at her bottom lip with her teeth.
“No,” she said finally. “I really don’t want to do this. I mean I do, but I don’t. The rest of my kind – the ones who lost their moral compass – they have to be stopped. But I don’t want to see them banished back to that place. It’s horrible and dark and painful. They don’t deserve that. Even if they had control, they wouldn’t deserve that.” She shook her head angrily. “I’m pretty certain they made it that way deliberately.”
“This is the prison you escaped from?” Matthias asked and she nodded. “You make it sound like Hell.”
“It is Hell, Matthias,” she said bitterly. “Or as good as. After all, Hell is the name for a dimension designed to imprison and torture forever, isn’t it?”
“I suppose so,” he said. “Are you sure the torture bit is deliberate?”
“It was designed by Xantaria, my idan,” Draylian said, interrupting. “There’s a very good chance she would do exactly that. She’s not very forgiving and views anything she perceives as weakness as a moral failing.” He pulled a face. “And she perceives pretty much everything as a weakness.”
“That’s a fair description of Xantaria,” Lyrrekka said. “She’s twisted: one of those people you want to call insane until you realise that’s probably insulting to mentally ill people. Still, I’m surprised her allies let her do something like that. Most of them aren’t really as bad as she is…” She hesitated. “Unless they didn’t realise what she’d done. She good at hiding such things.”
“That’s interesting,” Matthias said. He looked around to check that everyone was there. “Now why don’t you tell us the rest?”
Laxmi nodded and stared at the servette in her hands. “The thing you have to understand is that the prison works by a form of sympathy. It resonates with us and draws us into it. Even when we escape it we’re drawn back so most escapees who don’t have a host body yet stay just inside the cracks, waiting for a chance to steal one.”
“But you didn’t steal yours?” Matthias said.
“No! Yes…” Laxmi shook her head. “It depends on your perspective. I was trying to save her from the others when she drowned and…” She trailed off. “Well, it was like I told Andrew. I didn’t want to waste it. I didn’t realise she was still in here or I would have tried to revive her. Please believe me!”
“I believe you,” Matthias said. “So, Simon was right. She is still in there?”
Laxmi nodded. “Darlyryan checked. She is… or should that be I am? We’re so mixed up together that we’re effectively one person now. Except… well, Lanaria feels terrible about it but Laxmi doesn’t because she’s just glad to be alive. Now that I’m aware of it, it’s confusing.”
“I’ve heard of being of two minds about something,” Matthias said. “But never that literally. But back to your people: I gather the way to get rid of them is to make them succumb to the pull of the prison?”
She nodded. “And to do that you need to know how to sever their links with their hosts.”
“Which is what you are here to tell us?” he asked.
“Yes, precisely,” she said. “We’re pretty much immune to physical attacks, so you’ll need to use your powers. In the early stages of possession, cutting the threads will work.” An image of a shadowy creature wrapped around a human and attached to them with several shadowy threads appeared in their minds. “Some of us who have retained some ethics never go beyond this stage, jumping from host to host before they do permanent damage. If the person is fully possessed, the only way to evict them is to render the body unusuable.” She shuddered in distaste. “Which means exactly what you think.”
“Kill them?” Matthias asked.
“The body anyway.”
“I see. And what exactly is the prison like?”
Laxmi didn’t reply aloud. Instead she projected a sensation of dark and noise and pain at them. Andrew swallowed a sob and heard Karen give an horrified gasp beside him. Hell, it seemed, was a fair description.
“I see.” Matthias tone was flat. “Is there any way to confine possessed people without sending the one possessing them back there?”
“Huh?” Laxmi looked at him in surprise. “Oh, yes, with the right frequency of wards I’d think so. Why?”
“Because I don’t want to send anyone there if I can avoid it. So we need a stopgap measure until we sort something better out.” He gave her a solemn look. “How did you not go mad?”
Laxmi stared out of the window and shook her head. “I really don’t know,” she whispered finally. “Do you want me to show you the frequency for wards to detect and confine us now?”
“I think you should drink your tea and compose yourself a bit first,” he said.
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