The worst kind of torture.

A/N: Many thanks to Katiefoolery for betaing.

I stood on a narrow walkway. Therewere two ways I could go, but hearing a crack and grunting, I ran toward the sound.

You are needed...

I ran through several rooms until I was stopped in my tracks, frozen by a sight that will stay with me for the rest of my life, burned forever to the back of my eyelids.

Rushton Seraphim,a man I had long respected, strangling the love of his life to death.

'Lud, man!' I shouted and pulled him off her. He fought me and I struggled to hold him off, but at seeing his bondmate's limp form, he eventually quietened. His actions left little doubt as to what Ariel's true intention had been.

'Elspeth?' I called, knowing she needed help, yet afraid to let go of Rushton.

'Don't...blame...Rushton,' she coughed, 'not...hisfault...Ariel.'

I felt the bile rise in my throat at her words and the blood that splattered her clothes with every breath.

'Please...' She could only whisper now.'Help...Rushton...'

She broke off into a coughing fit and I was horrified at the amount of blood she spat out.


I nodded, and she smiled weakly, moving her eyes drunkenly to Rushton.

'Love you,' she whispered, before her eyes glazed over.

Let no one call her heartless again.

With every ounce of life now drained from his beloved, Rushton finally became docile. I loosened my grip on him and, as he made no further movement, let go of him completely.

I hastened to Elspeth. No breath. No pulse. She was gone, and I couldn't stop my eyes from tearing.

Nothing had been able to stop her. Not soldierguards, not herders, not plague, fever, Hedra, blood loss or impossible odds. Yet where all these things failed, her bondmate succeeded. My heart ached at the waste, and I looked up at Rushton. He was staring at her prone form in confusion, as if wondering what had happened.

I cried as he slowly came back to himself. Much as I wanted to shield his eyes from the sight of his beloved, I knew nothing could save him from the horror of what Ariel had made him do.

Instead, I could only stand vigil as my friend slowly returned to sentience.

It seemed to take an age, but eventually a look of grief and shock wrote itself across his face. An instant later, he held her body in his arms, crying out for her to come back. To forgive him. That he was sorry. That he loved her. Had always loved her.

Dameon had been right. I only wished that it had not taken such a tragedy to show it.

I made a promise then, as Rushton's broken sobs wrenched at the night.

Ariel would pay.

AN: That was Brydda's POV, in case you missed the hint.