The Voracious Awakening

Chapter One: The Attendant

For many years now, Raki has lived and dwelt in darkness. The befalling night, out in the wilderness, has allowed the young warrior to be well accustomed to being deprived of his sense of sight. Back when he was still traveling with Clare, her ability to see in the deepest of darkness and to hear a whispered word half a yard away both astounded him and made him uncomfortably aware of his own inherent weakness – his own uselessness. Not enough. Raki had always thought then. Not nearly enough.

Now, he knew himself to be a fool.

All at once, he was struck both blind and deaf – so thick was the blackness of the chamber he was in. So heavy the silence that entrapped him. The air itself was both sterilized and stale, so not a whiff of any scent lingered upon it. If it were not for the sound of his own labored breath, the cold touch of metal around his bare ankles, wrists and waist, the weight of the stone table against his back, and the excruciating, mind-numbing pain that wracked his every pore then Raki doubted that he'd actually believe he was still alive – and not swallowed by oblivion.

What do you know – those damn rods are good for somethin'.

The thought would've brought a smile to his lips, if his mouth wasn't already sewn into a grim line as Raki struggled not to scream out. The pain wasn't just from the scalding fire that was washing through him, pouring out from the gray rods imbedded into his shoulder, rather with each breath dozens of little pinpricks, like bug bites on a humid day, plagued him. The pain came from the metal bands, for not only did they restrain him, but they also jabbed needles deep into his skin. Sweat leaked out from every inch of his hardened body, which tingled as he felt some of the beads of sweat drip down his left arm, over a old, familiar scar, and onto the layer of cloth that were wrapped around the base of the two pulsating, squirming rods of Yoma flesh. Raki was painfully aware that just underneath that cloth, with its needles and transparent tubes jutting out from it, the rods merged flawlessly – perfectly – into his own body. The foreign flesh already one with his own.

Up above, from the fanged mouth of one rod came incomprehensible babble – the other vomited black bile.

I wonder if Clare ever felt this disgusted by her own body. If so, it is a shame, for it is a lovely looking thing too. Despite the pain, that thought did bring out a weak smile to his face, as thoughts on her always did. The sudden sound of sizzling stole Raki's mind away from the one he sought after. Glancing down as best he could, (for he could now see, though if it was because his eyes had adjusted or because he was acquiring abilities similar to Clare's, Raki knew not) he watched as the black liquid from his arm began to melt away the rocky floor, creating small dewdrop-like holes.

Raki's eyes widened as he noticed the puddle of black over his left nipple.

"Help." The warrior gasped. The first sound he had made in hours. Then – louder still, "Help!"

Yet nothing happened. No rushing footsteps, no surprised shouts and the pool just sat there – as harmless as colored water.

It doesn't hurt me. It destroyed the floor but it can't harm me. It was then that a thick feeling of despair stormed him. Of course it won't hurt me. A hand wouldn't strike its owner of its own accord, now would it? Raki knew full well what it felt like to be miserable. He thought he had been miserable when his parents had been slaughtered before his very eyes and even more so when it turned out that his brother, the one he had sworn to protect and treasure until his dying breath after the tragedy, was the monster who did it. He had been sure that when the village had shunned him and he was wandering out in the desert – starving and alone – that he had reached his lowest point.

Now he knew his folly. He had been wrong. Dead wrong.

Not enough. Not enough! I have not changed enough! After all this time, I still need saving, I still call out for help, and to them no less. Under the metal bands, both his sweaty palms had tightened into fists. Laying here bemoaning my fate solves nothing. Accomplishes nothing! Priscilla's out there on another rampage! It'll be my fault again if there are more victims! If I find her, I'll get through to her, I know it! But, damn it, how –

The pool of black on his chest. The metal bar around his waist.

Understanding dawned and with it self-loathing. Fool! Came Isley's echo. A true warrior makes use of his surroundings!

Not wasting any more time, Raki thrust up his chest as high as he could to create a incline for the goop to slide down on. The sudden motion made all of his body scream out in violent protest, but by sheer force of will Raki held the position firm as he kept his eyes cemented on the slowly crawling black slime as it made its way to the bottom where awaited the first band and with it freedo –

"Well. We can't have that."

A moment later one of the Organization's attendants was leaning over him and scooping up the liquid in a cloth rag. With a swift flick of his wrist, the attendant flung the rag across the room. However, it disintegrated in a flash of flame while still in mid air, leaving only embers to pelt the floor. With dead eyes, Raki watched them fall. Damn. Too slow. Fool.

The hidden features revealed nothing of what the man may look underneath the cloth that covered his scalp and the lower half of his face, but his eyes were clearly visible, and they alone seemed to mock Raki. Especially considering his next words, "Please do not attempt this again, it is unwise to try to resist us in your current state. In all likelihood without our aid you would swiftly lose your life – and your humanity." A storm of words, all unsavory, though a few witty, flooded Raki's mind at that. But his strength had left him from the movement he had forced his battered body to take and the call he had screamed out earlier. Never before had he been in such a sad, sorry state, and, of course, it was all his own fault. Isley would be ashamed and Clare – Clare

Raki's eyes snapped open (when had they been closed?) with a glare, "Go to hell." He snared.

But the attendant merely shrugged, the leather-spaulders on his shoulders heaving up and down, and peered at the convoluted rods jutting out of him. "Though this is indeed a fascinating development. It seems we must tightly wrap the openings with cloth regularly, or perhaps build a barrier between your left arm and the rest of your body." then the man pulled out a stick with charcoal markings along its side from one of the many belts around his waist. He held it up against the rods. "Hmm." He said as he lowered the measuring stick. "Projection A has shrunk by one and a half inches, while Projection B has shrunk by a full two inches. It seems you are reaching a equilibrium more quickly than anticipated."

Warily, Raki eyed the man as he traveled along the tangled coil of tubes that spanned the floor. The tubes themselves ended at a line of vats that extended out of a side wall – five in total. On each were metal valves, clogged up by wooden stoppers. To the first of these the attendant went, pulling out a cylindrical vial from a different belt this time. The man crouched down to hold it under the valve. The attendant examined the fluid intensely as it flowed out of the vat and into the vial. The moment it was full, he closed both the valve and the vial, holding the later up close to his eyes. "Good news." He said, turning his head back towards where Raki lay, "Your vitals are stable. You'll live for today, at least."

Raki's anger from before was still fueling him, so, despite his condition, the warrior managed to part his lips and wheeze out, "Why – " A cough, his sore body suddenly jerked up again. Pain. Raki let out a breath and then started over, "Why are you saying this? I need not be informed."

"Orders." The man said simply, as he went to the next vat.

Just then, Raki remembered a time where he and Isley had been sitting together. He, with his blade in his lap, clearly in a meditative trance and young Raki collapsed in a heap, body heaving like a blacksmith's bellows. The Silver Eyed King just opened his eyes and asked him, "Boy. Did you know I once had men who would follow my every word?" Raki looked up at him and Isley peered back down, his inhuman eyes stern and fierce, "How many do you think were there?"

At the time, Raki was more exhausted then he had ever been before. Yet still he said, "I don't know." His eyes were bound to the vaulted ceiling, one with intricate carvings of flying men and courteous beasts in sable garb. The rug felt nice against his back. "Many?"

"Aye." Isley's gaze lowered down to his sword, but otherwise he did not move. "And how do you think I get them to obey me?" Raki was thinking of it, but the older man did not wait for an answer this time. "I remind them, every moment, that I am the one who holds the power – not they, and that I may use that power in whatever way I wish."

Now, Isley's voice resounded in his soul. I am the one who holds the power – not they.

The metal braces around his ankles and wrists now seemed uncomfortably similar to manacles.

The attendant now held all five vials, one from each vat, in his grasp and began to carefully slide them into a pouch on one of his belts. Once he was done, he glanced up at Raki, "How are you feeling now? Are you hungry at all? Do you feel any pain?" What's with the sudden questions? Raki couldn't help but think. But, understanding the look in the man's eyes, even if it was shadowed by the cloth above and below, Raki forced himself to give an answer.

"I hurt everywhere, but I'm not hungry."

A odd look suddenly flashed behind the man's eyes, but he said nothing more than, "I see." With that, the man began to walk, away from the vats and away from where Raki lay outstretched on the stone table too, and, with each step, he got closer to the edge of darkness, to the place where Raki could not see. "Since I am part of the retrieval unit, everything I have done up to this point has gone beyond the scope of my duties. A proper researcher aid should be here momentarily to wrap up the projections and to take a sample."

And, just like that, he was gone. There was no sound of a opening door or any retreating footsteps. Just silence and darkness.