Sorry about the long wait between updates. Between both stories and life, it makes things difficult. :( However, I vow to never let this story go a month without an update! (-coughcough-)

Disclaimer: Why, loves, don't you know by now that it's torture for me to repeatedly admit that I own nothing?

Made of Blood

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"You have to do something about her, Richard," Logan said sternly after several moments of silence had ensued. The two were sparring as they often did to keep in touch with their sword-fighting skills - not that it was likely either of them would ever have to use them, of course. It was really more to have something to do, and because, well, as such important members of society, it seemed barbaric to not be a decent warrior.

Richard jabbed at him, but it was easily parried.

"What do you suggest I do?" he snapped. "I can't let her go; it's treason, what she's doing, and I can't have her rallying up the peasants." He wiped sweat from his brow.

Logan shook his head, thinking. "Switch hands!" he called and, both beind right-handed, each of them moved their swords to their left to battle with their weaker limb. "What are your options, then?"

"Keep her here," he said flatly. 'Sentence her to death' hung silently within the room, and neither pretended that it had simply been forgotten.

"Not that I'm encouraging something else, Rich, but..." he trailed off for a moment. "Well, why do you care?"

Richard stopped and, on cue, Logan followed suit. Running a hand through his hair, the young king scowled fiercely. "I don't know, damn it!" He through his sword in a fury and it slid across the marble floor until it smacked into the wall.

"No need to take it out on the weaponry," Logan muttered dryly. "Are you planning on holding her forever, then?"

"I don't know," he repeated, his voice sounding hallow. "I just want to speak to her, but whenever I even think of her, I get so angry." Richard clenched his fists.

His friend frowned in response. "I think that maybe -"

He was cut off as Marcus ran into the room, nearly out of breath. "The girl, she - she -"

"She what? Escaped?" the king demanded sharply, his eyes flashing.

"No," he gasped, "she broke the window. Her wrists..." There was no proper way to say it, so he didn't attempt one. It hardly mattered because Richard was already jogging out the door, roaring for someone to fetch the castle medic as Logan followed.

The servants bustled as several all went to follow their leader's orders at once.

Richard's mind had a single path as he reached the room and tore open the door, though that path had no specific name. When he got in there, he immediately spotted her hunched over on the edge of the bed, cradling her wrists but making no attempt to stop the bleeding.

"You fool," he growled, crossing the distance and yanking her hands away. "You idiotic fool!"

She looked up at him and, through the haze of blood loss and pain, there was a sort of triumph in her eyes. It was enough to set him off without requiring words.

"I ought to let you die!" Richard's voice was so loud that the room seemed to quake with it, but even as he spoke he was tearing off his cape and pressing it to her gaping wrists in an attempt to stem the flow. "You could burn in hell and bewitch the devil rather than me!"

Raven didn't look bothered by his attempts to "save" her, and instead she steadily replied, "You are mistaken, King. I've been in hell for two days now."

He cursed under his breath but didn't reply, calling Logan over to put pressure on one side so that he could adequately put pressure on the other.

"You're wasting your efforts," she claimed, a smile gracing her lips even as they turned an odd shade of purple. "They've been cut for minutes, now. Too much blood is gone and too much will continue to flow."

"Shut up!" he snarled, not bothering to look at her. "You know nothing of medicine, and I won't let you die until it's by my own order! I am the king!"

"Surely you cannot be so vain as to think that you rule death itself?" she inquired blandly, blinking away spots. "Your land extends far in every direction, but I'm afraid that is an area that it will never reach."

Had they not all be covered in blood - the blankets included - and were she not the source of it, he would have slapped her hard enough that she would have felt it for days. Luckily, the physician appeared before he could further entertain such thoughts.

"Keep pushing down on her left," the man instructed, all business. He removed the fragment of cloak and examined the side Richard had previously been taking care of. After a few mere seconds, his face darkened, but he refrained from commenting.

"Let me die," Raven murmured, her fevered eyes boring straight into his own crystal-clear ones. For a moment, the medic hesitated, wondering if he had the right to force life - or death, for that matter - on anyone who didn't want it. However, his decision was quickly made for him.

"If she dies," Richard growled, his voice laced with sincerity, "so do you."

A single nod was the man's only response as he quickly got out an already-threaded needle.

"Will you not wait until she is unconcious?" Logan inquired, clearly the only one concerned with such things.

"By then, Advisor, it will be far too late." With that, he got started, working almost impossibly fast. Richard held her arm steady even as she writhed, clenching her teeth in dillusional agony.

Within a minute he was done with the right and getting to work on the left. The stitches were not, by any means, a pretty sight - they were jagged and uneven, but, to give deserved credit, they were tight and sure to hold. Raven, by that point, had slumped over and was being held up by both men.

"She will wake up?" It was almost more of a statement than a question, but the underlying threat made it necessary for the aging healer to reply.

"I give it a four out of five chance," he responded wearily, using a wet cloth that some servant had been smart enough to grab to gently wipe the blood from his handy-work and the rest of her skin before wrapping both wrists with thick bandages. "You must rinse these in hot water at least twice a day, and be thorough no matter how painful. If you don't, you risk infection, and not even the lord himself could bring her back from that."

Richard nodded once, frowning. "You aren't going to stay?"

"I was at the bedside of one of your guards who has been run through with an arrow in the arm," he informed him. "I must get back to him, Your Highness, and even if something should go wrong here, there is nothing more I can do."

---

It was hours later before Raven's eyes fluttered open. She found herself in bed - the same bed she'd been in for the past two days by the looks of the room, though the blankets were different. A dull ache that became an intense burn the moment she concentrated on it made her glance down at her wrists and grimace, though she couldn't see any thing through the white fabric that was tied there.

The movement of her head alerted Richard to her rise from slumber and he turned from the place on the wall that he had previously been staring at.

"Tell me," he said, his voice void of all emotion, "why I didn't kill you."

She didn't reply.

"Tell me why I didn't just let you die. I would not have felt guilty; you'd done it to yourself."

Again, silence.

"Will you answer me?!" he shouted, glowering at her. "What trickery is this? Do you know me? Are you playing with my mind? Tell me at once!"

"I have done nothing," she said, closing her eyes in defeat. She was stuck here, bound to the world of the living for who-knew-how-much-longer. "And I do wish you had just let me."

"Of course," he muttered. "Of course you do." The irony was not lost on him. He had wanted to kill her, but she had begged him not to - so he spared her. Now, she had wanted death, but he had insisted on her living; so, again, she remained alive.

"I will die," she promised. "And it will be by my own hand, not by yours. I won't allow you to end me, but rest assured that I will, in fact, find a way to end myself."

"Are you so comfortable with death?" he asked incredulously. "I have servants and slaves that have lives much worse than what you live in this room. They have even less freedom, and yet they live on. What makes you think that you're special? That you suffer more than they do? If you're so strong, why do you break so easily?"

"I never claimed to be strong." Her voice was empty. "And that is precisely their problem. Once you taste freedom, you can never let go of it. It is intoxicating, and if it takes death to provide it again, so be it."

For several minutes, neither spoke, until finally, with an odd tone, he murmured, "Are you a witch?"

"I am not," she replied simply.

"What, then, are you doing to me?"

"Are you sure I am doing anything? Perhaps it is you doing something to yourself." The pain was worsening at a rapid speed and he could nearly see the color draining from her face, though he doubted she would faint again.

Richard leaned over, gripped her chin firmly, and pressed his lips to hers. She froze, not responding in the least and instead waiting it out, and he surprisingly did not move to deepen the embrace in any way. Once he had pulled away, she stared at him vacantly, but he offered no explanation.

Without another word, he stood up and left.

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Hmm. I can't really decide what I think of this one, so you guys will have to let me know.

With love,

-~- Tears of Insanity