prettyarbitrary: (Fuzzy Cthulhu)
Man... Fandoms come and go, and you get used to that. But the saddest part about a fandom's fall from its golden age is looking back and missing all those wild-eyed talents that made it so great.

I hope you guys are still out there, somewhere. Here's to you!
prettyarbitrary: (Fuzzy Cthulhu)
The_Dark_Fae_by_Bluesrat

Testing crosspost of a post with images, this time. This here's a digital illustration I did of Gerald Tarrant, from CS Friedman's Coldfire Trilogy.
prettyarbitrary: (Default)

Coldfire Noir
by *Bluesrat on deviantART

I meant it to just be a little cartoon, but this really got away from me. Also it makes less sense than I was hoping, but if you like chiaroscuro, I'm apparently your go-to gal!

Tarrant does his prince of darkness routine in a convenient shadow while Damien, as usual, rocks the hard-boiled look and feels thoroughly put-upon. Secretly he hopes his stubble irritates Tarrant like burning. He'd go hop around in a filthy mud puddle if he could find one, but sadly the mean streets of Jaggonath are currently quite dry.

*slinks away in crack-addled shame*

Meme!

Sep. 29th, 2009 05:05 pm
prettyarbitrary: (Default)
Courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] alice_montrose:

Reply to this post by yelling "Words!" and I will give you five words that remind me of you. Then post them in your LJ and explain what they mean to you.

I'll also add her addition: you can also give me five words that remind you of me... just be sure to mention them somewhere in the comments. XD

Library: I work in one. It's kind of fun to be around all these books, but I don't get as much time as I'd like to nose around in them because my job requires that I, y'know, actually get things done. This particular library is ugly and labyrinthine, but huge. It has its bizarre charms.

Baking: Baking gives me the warm fuzzies. Having the whole house smelling like pie or baking bread takes me right back to my childhood, and feeding people is fulfilling.

Lucifer: I know a lot of people get bored with the good/evil thing, but to me it's endlessly interesting. Want to know a lot about somebody? Ask them to make list of things they consider "good" and "evil." Figures like Lucifer are so enigmatic that they pretty much become blank slates for the human psyche to write on. What Lucifer is to any particular generation tells us what they found evil or untrustworthy. To us, he's beautiful, strangely compelling, has no need to lie when the truth can apparently destroy so easily...or alternatively he finally caught on to the whole "God is omniscient" thing, realized the game was rigged, and gave up.

Black Jewels: A guilty pleasure of mine. A "dark" (as in, it pretends to be but isn't really) fantasy trilogy that kinda reads like fan fiction and whose main purpose is to showcase the adventures of three really hot guys with names like Daemon and Lucivar. Has one really cool female character and one Mary Sue, and a surprisingly creative set of magical laws. Sequels suck.

Coldfire: This series cemented my love for dark, psychological stories with a lot of internal conflict. It's got its problems (argh, the ending, WHY?!), and I...speaking of the ending, I remain obsessed with these books and probably will until I figure out how that ending works. But the journey here is more important than the destination. On the surface, it looks like classic quest fantasy, but look a bit deeper and it's actually world-colonizing science fiction; but beneath that, it's really psychological horror on a planet where the laws of nature bring humanity's deepest wishes and fears to life. Remember what I said about Lucifer and the good vs. evil thing? Somebody wrote that story, and I keep coming back to it. I wrote three college lit papers on these books and I'm in the slow process of compiling another one.

Written by C. S. Friedman, titles are Black Sun Rising, When True Night Falls, and Crown of Shadows. I pimp because I love.

Drawing: I've drawn all my life, which is saying something when most of my hobbies only hold my attention for weeks at a time. It's my primary creative outlet. It's alive inside me the way few of my other interests are. I feel driven to improve, to be able to illustrate images in my head I don't have the skill for now. I like portraying the imaginary because it's not real--it allows me to make and share something new, to bring life to images that would never exist otherwise. Mostly I do fantasy, but that's because I suck at drawing machines and monsters.
prettyarbitrary: (Default)
Just a thought: ever since [livejournal.com profile] alice_montrose introduced me to Within Temptation, they've been my soundtrack for the Coldfire Trilogy. It just sounds right. Especially because of Deceiver of Fools.
prettyarbitrary: (Default)
I should be swatted for forgetting to pimp this before.

Most of the Coldfire trilogy fans on my flist already belong to the comm, but over on [livejournal.com profile] hunters_forest we are doing a group re-read of the trilogy, chapter by chapter.  I think we're averaging two chapters per week, with a discussion post for each.  Those of you who are fans and not members yet, go check it out!  We're not too far into it--just at the point where the main protagonists meet for the first time (chapter 15)--so easy to catch up.

For those of you who haven't read these books, DO IT!  You can read, and if you feel moved, go ahead and comment in the older chapter reading posts.  People are still doing that, so you don't need to feel like you're the weird one backtracking through dead discussions.

I cannot pimp these books hard enough.  They're in my top 3 greatest reads ever.  I can never quite explain why they're so good, except that they appeal on so many levels.  My favorite thing is that the setting is internally consistent, with world-building that always asks, "So what does that mean?"  Which results in a world that helps shape the societies and the people living in it.  It's a science fiction story with fantasy trappings.  The "magic" of this world--this planet, on which human colonists long ago landed--is actually a natural phenomenon, a psycho-reactive world in which humans, with all our conflicting impulses and imagination juxtaposed against rationality, find ourselves the aliens, struggling to live in a place where myth and superstition seem to become physics.

The characters are also internally consistent, and deeply developed, with their own motivations, priorities, and thought processes.  They have a tendency to break whatever stereotypes you start forming around them, and typically display a refreshing possession of common sense.  I would say that this is foremost a story about these characters, who are so opposed in many respects that just having to deal with each other is putting them through hell.  From that perspective, the trilogy rests firmly in the gothic, as they drag each other into dark psychological territory and philosophical questions.

But while there's a lot you can enjoy if you're into critical reading, they're also very fun, accessible books.  I read them for the first time in high school, when they kept me up for several nights straight. :)  Some people think the first one starts slow (well, there's the prologue, which I should probably warn you plunges straight down the well of horror...but the rest of the story doesn't skew that dark), but all agree that by chapter 15, it's on the move.

Also, there is a glorious, utter lack of smut, which at this point is a rarity in any kind of dark fantasy novel (was that sarcastic?  Surely not!).

...Okay, I lie.  Those are all great things about the books, but my favorite things are Damien and Gerald.  Sure, they both get beaten over the head frequently with the psychological torture stick (mostly by each other).  They're forced into all that philosophical existential broody stuff I mentioned before, but while they're at it, they snark and bicker at each other like an old couple or two tom cats circling each other.  They hate each other's guts, read many of the same books, and work together like a seasoned team.  Both of them display that trait so seldom found in a novel: the ability to prioritize.  Mutually assured destruction can come after they get done saving the world, which Damien is really quite fond of and, well, Gerald keeps all his stuff there.  It's like Gerald's the villain Damien was always meant to have, but the story got hauled off its tracks by some jackass who insists that he should be the bad guy.  It's sheer chemistry, and after their initial encounter in chapter 15 (they think they're parting ways, but here's a hint:  they're not), I just bet you you'll be hooked.
prettyarbitrary: (Default)
And it's not even all Star Wars.

I found a tutorial online, and since I've been getting as tired of black and white sketches as I imagine you guys are, I figured I'd try polishing it up a bit.

Villains aren't always stylish. Okay, this one's Star Wars. But he's a dorky bad guy! How can you not love him?

Sparring. The LONG-promised fanart. In the faraway times, back in the long long ago, I told some fellow Coldfire fans that I'd draw these two. Anyone who knows of whom I speak is probably gone already. For the rest of you, swordfighting!
prettyarbitrary: (Default)
Oh, ohhhhhhh, they put some new bands on iTunes. And guess what? Nightwish and Within Temptation have albums up! Omygodomygod, they're so GOOD! Go look, go look, damn you, if you haven't heard them before!

Glacialis, you're the one who's particularly fond of metal bands with female vocalists, right? GO LOOK!

Ahem. Seriously, they're that good. There are very, very few bands that can inspire me to spend the money for every album I can find, and both these groups do that. The only way I can describe Nightwish is 'symphonic metal,' and the singer will blow you away. Within Temptation is sort of...celtic goth alternative? I dunno. They make me think of wilderness night scenes, with a big moon looming in the sky. Wild and beautiful and a little spooky.

Ah, and for those of you who're Coldfire fans, [livejournal.com profile] alice_montrose some time ago made me aware of this particular song:
Deceiver of Fools )
Now tell me that's not Gerald Tarrant. ^__^
prettyarbitrary: (Default)
As many of you know, I love the Coldfire trilogy. There are, in fact, a bunch of us who obsess over the greatness of these books. So it's surprising it took this long, but the [livejournal.com profile] hunters_forest is newly created and awaiting Friedman fans.

Come to the Dark Side. Or something very similar.
prettyarbitrary: (Default)
...I hate it when that happens.

Well, because this is my LJ, and I need to get this crap out of my brain so I can stop being distracted, you all have to suffer for it. Cheers!

I finished that edit last week, and yesterday I received payment for it. Seriously huge WOOTness. It's difficult for me to describe how cool it is, how completely independent I feel right now, how like a little kid and a total grown-up at the same time. This kind of feeling is exactly what I've always wanted from my life, and now that I've finished one, I know that this is beyond a shadow of a doubt what I want to do with myself. I always had doubts, before. I've never been good with responsibility; I'm usually a little afraid of it, to be honest. But I realized today that I am good when it comes to responsibility for myself. If someone else is relying on me, that scares me. If there's someone else there to handle things, then I'll slack off. But when it's all me, just me, I'll do what I need to and feel good about it. And that's exactly what this is.

Not that I'm going to quit my day job real soon. I like having health insurance, and a steady check is way nice.

Three more days to go with this damned XML project. Will I survive?!

Oi, speaking of slacking, I have let down all my fellow Coldfire trilogy fans. Well, the ones who didn't already know. Check out [livejournal.com profile] alighiera and [livejournal.com profile] trobadora for the Coldfire goodness. Also, [livejournal.com profile] flambeau has done some new stuff.

For those of you who don't have a clue what I'm talking about: Black Sun Rising, When True Night Falls, and Crown of Shadows, by C. S. Friedman. Find them. Read them. Become slaves to their almighty goodness. Seriously. If you're a fantasy/sci-fi/horror/gothic/vampire/demon/awesome badguy/solid nuanced characterization/unique magic concept/complex surprising plot/exploration of the nature of good and evil fan, or any combination of those, you should read these. They are all of those and more, unique and stunning in my reading experience. Victoriana lovers, the Hunter is everything you ever dreamed of.

Okay, that turned out useful, if for no other reason than it led me to pimp the Coldfire books again (needs to be done every so often). I was going to apologize for blathering on about boring life stuff so much lately, and what the heck. I still will. I'm sorry for bombarding you with boring stuff so much lately. I tend to feel that if I'm going to put myself forward, then I ought to entertain people, not just memes and TMI and random bits of Stuff thrown in. Though the Friends-list praise was a good thing, and I'm not sorry about that at all.

By the way, Laylah, I'm using the notebook, and it's stellar. Among many advantages, it has the benefit of letting me write when I'm in the mood to, rather than when I'm near a computer. Why didn't people try this 'writing on paper' thing centuries ago?

I note that most LJ updates seem to happen in the morning. My daily f-list expands rapidly until about 2pm, at which point it just sits there until the next day. Isn't that interesting? Okay, no, it isn't.
prettyarbitrary: (Default)
Okay, so I was working on this, and I've totally stumped myself. Tarrant and Damien are on the verge of a particularly magnificent hissy fit, but I can't figure out where to go with this! Blarg. Anyway, I figure this piece might amuse.

The night was chill... )

As I sat there pondering the last line, suddenly an image popped into my head of Tarrant, with a bad case of bedhead, a bathrobe draped over pajamas, and a cup of coffee steaming in one hand. Granted, that's probably difficult to see if you're not wigged out from exhaustion late at night, but there you are. I could have Damien laugh in the man's face from that image...but they really should both stay on the boat. Any suggestions?
prettyarbitrary: (Default)
Hmmm. I may well regret posting this tomorrow, but in my current brain-fogged state, it doesn't seem *too* bad. Anyone who comes across it, let me know what you think. I'd say the basic idea is okay, so if I can get some good suggestions, maybe I can improve it. Also testing cut tags.

Fandom: Coldfire Trilogy, by C.S. Friedman
Characters: Tarrant/Damien Vryce
Rating: PG-13

Notes: Set quite near the end, when they finally get that little bastard Calesta. Spoilers...sorta. Heh. Oh yes, and written by C. S. Friedman, not mine, boo hoo, I wish I'd thought of them.




Last Thoughts )
prettyarbitrary: (Default)
If anyone's reading this, and you're a fan of the Coldfire Trilogy, check out
Cold Fire: a Coldfire Trilogy fan site. See what you think, maybe submit something!

Cheers!
prettyarbitrary: (Default)
Reciprocity


A fan fiction about the Coldfire Trilogy, set between When True Night Falls and Crown of Shadows, during the last month of the voyage home. The Coldfire Trilogy was written by the spectacular Ms. C.S. Friedman, and I am receiving no money for this. Cheers!



After everything they’ve been through, Tarrant and Damien Vryce race home to prevent the demon Calesta from destroying the Church, human civilization, and everything they hold dear. With his only companion a cold undead sorcerer, Damien feels he carries the burden alone, and it weighs.




Waking in the dark, Damien’s head throbbed from his latest nightmare.His blood felt frozen. One month until they reached their destination, that was all he had to endure, but right now he felt like this agony would never end. He tried to tell himself that one made the sacrifices one must, but he knew that two years ago he would never have thought so. Why did he even argue with himself over his morality? Alone in the darkness, he must admit he was tainted beyond acceptability to serve his Church as a representative. Another chill spiked down his spine, and he pulled his cloak around himself as he headed onto the deck, hoping he might find more warmth up there.

He smiled without humor when he stepped outside, seeing that the only other person currently there was Tarrant, cold as the ice in Damien’s blood. Hell, he was the ice in Damien’s blood. Nevertheless, the priest walked over to him near the rail, obscurely desperate for even illusionary human companionship. The undead sorcerer turned to him as he approached, tilting his head to give Damien a look that seemed almost…understanding. But he said not a word.

Damien stood at Tarrant’s shoulder for a time, staring out at the moons reflected in the ocean waves. Then, abruptly, he felt himself losing control. He turned a little away from his companion and put his hands to his face. It was too much, all too much! He’d borne so much on his shoulders, paid so many prices, and the decisions he’d made… They had lost every brave soul who had tried to help them, and there was no one human left to turn to. No one left to help him carry this weight. All he could do was try to keep his weakness from the cold man at his side.

He couldn’t hide from Tarrant, though. The adept turned sharply toward him as if he knew what Damien was feeling. But Damien desperately, desperately wanted him not to see. The Hunter’s customary contempt, or his rarely offered pity, Damien wanted neither of them. The broken-hearted priest was shocked, then, when he felt a comforting hand fall on his shoulder, cold as the heart of winter. In his smooth voice, the Hunter said gently, “Keep faith, priest. God won’t leave you so easily.”

Damien wanted to shout at him, or laugh, but he couldn’t control his own voice. For a while, he could only stand there with his head bowed into his hands, fighting back the tears accumulated through the last few years.

Eventually, he mastered himself enough to face Tarrant. Still unwilling to look at the man directly, Damien muttered at his feet, “I thought you gave that up long ago.”

The other replied, “I should know better than anyone, shouldn’t I? If I didn’t believe in God, priest, I wouldn’t be here now.” He paused for a moment before quietly continuing. “This is hard on both of us. Believe me when I tell you I know exactly how you feel. For all that you’ve endured, you know what I’ve had to go through. Neither of us…” Tarrant faltered, and stopped. When he spoke again, his voice dropped as if he were speaking to himself or saying something difficult. “Neither of us would have gotten this far alone. And it’s far too late for us to pretend that we don’t rely on one another.” He took a breath. “There is no one else, priest. And I…I need your faith as much as you need my power.”

Damien squeezed his eyes shut, feeling them sting again. He laughed a little, bitterly. “Just us. Yeah.” He inhaled a deep, shaky breath. “We just do all we can, right? And if we don’t, Calesta devours us, and the whole world with us. God, Gerald, how do we carry a burden like that? What if—“

Tarrant cut him off. “There are no ‘what ifs,’ Reverend Vryce. We do what we must, and what we can. We have no further choice.” He smiled with no real humor. “If we fail, you won’t be here to worry about it. Take that as consolation.”

A bit more controlled now, Damien turned back to look at the moons. “Four years,” he murmured. “God, I hated you then.”

The Hunter watched him from the corner of his eye. “And now you don’t?”

Damien shrugged uncomfortably. “I don’t know. We have so much else to worry about.”

“You have some foolish notion of ‘saving’ me, don’t you?” Damien’s eyes jumped back to Tarrant’s face, a little startled. The adept snorted lightly. “Of course I know. I prod through your hopes and fears every night when I feed you a nightmare. You’d be surprised at how little you keep from me, priest.” A corner of his mouth twitched. “Or maybe not. Still, it’s a ridiculous idea, you know.”

Damien lowered his gaze to the waves. “Maybe,” he answered quietly. “Maybe it’s just my way of making excuses, not having to blame myself for the things I’ve done. But then again,” he glanced sideways at his undead companion, “you never do know what will happen, do you? Four years ago, you wouldn’t have…” The adept’s expression hardened, and Damien cut himself off.

“No.” The Hunter’s voice sounded tight. “Four years ago, I would not have. And you might pay a terrible price for that mistake.”

Damien shrugged, forcing himself to remain casual. “Well, it opens up a bit of choice for you, doesn’t it? Maybe it won’t be so bad.” He smiled suddenly with an honest smile. “I know you, Hunter. I’m sure you’ll find your way out of it.”

But the Hunter scowled. “You know better than that. I’ve told you before; I don’t regret what I’ve done. Without that, your ‘redemption’ doesn’t mean a damned thing.”

Damien took a breath, intending to argue, but found he had no energy for it. “Maybe.” The priest sighed. “The way things are going, chances are good it won’t be an issue anyway.”

“Hmm.” Tarrant’s molten eyes narrowed. “I haven’t lived this long in order to hand myself and everything I’ve worked for over to a demon.” He turned to look at Damien. “And neither have you. If you find yourself lacking in motivation, priest, consider the simple fact that surrender is our only other option.” A cruel smile spread across the Hunter’s face, and his voice dripped sarcasm. “If you choose to take that option, you might find me merciful enough to grant you a quick end.”

The silver gaze swung disdainfully back to the sea. “But probably not.”

Damien felt his lips compress. The man certainly knows how to make me angry. But Damien understood why. Anger would keep him from thinking about the futility of their mission. Looking at his companion more thoughtfully, a faintly amused thought ran across the priest’s mind. Here is the greatest protector of the Church.

Having unexpectedly received what he came for, Damien turned to leave. He stopped after a few steps as it occurred to him to return the favor. “Gerald?”

The Hunter’s eyes flicked over to him, a touch surprised.

Lips twitching, Damien continued softly, “You know, He might be more understanding than you think.” He grinned as the other man glared at him. “Or maybe we’ll see each other in Hell.”

After that, Damien turned and headed quickly back to his room, satisfied that Tarrant would be far too angry at him to think about anything else for quite a while.

prettyarbitrary: (Default)
Fandom: Coldfire Trilogy, by C.S. Friedman
Characters: Tarrant/Damien Vryce
Rating: PG-13

Notes: Set during Black Sun Rising after the group arrived in the Rakhlands.




After their little talk, Tarrant rallied enough to manage on his own, perhaps bolstered by the promise of Damien’s offering. More likely, Damien thought, he just hated the thought of someone having to help him. The fae’s currents needed no more than a cursory reading to locate a cave about two miles along the shore, and the even weakened Hunter could go that far without collapsing.

They reached their destination after half an hour. Outside the shelter, the little group began unpacking their supplies. Senzei gathered driftwood for a small fire. Damien instructed them to strip the horses of their gear and rub them down. Before they could set watches, though, the Hunter walked over and stopped just far enough away to signal no intention of helping with chores.

“I need to speak with the priest.” He addressed Ciani and Senzei, but waved Damien toward the mouth of the cavern with a gesture so peremptory that, at any other time, Damien might have leapt at him in rage. As it was, Tarrant stood arrogantly enough, but he looked so exhausted that he wasn’t fooling anyone. The adept turned his eyes to Ciani and continued, “We won’t be long, but please don’t interrupt us.” Puzzled, she nodded.

Damien took several steps past Tarrant, then turned to wait for him. The priest didn’t trust that the man could go ten more feet on his own. As ever, however, Tarrant surprised him, brushing past with straight if unsteady steps. Following, Damien cast a reassuring look over his shoulder at Zen and Ciani before the cavern’s dark mouth swallowed him as well.

Inside, he had to pause and let his eyes adjust to the near-darkness. After a moment, he picked out Gerald Tarrant leaning against the rough wall, his eyes fastened on the priest as he entered. Damien tried to tell himself it was only the lack of light that made them look so black. Still, the adept watched him so intensely that Damien found it difficult to look away. He circled uneasily around the man, and sat on the sandy floor at his other side.

Tarrant slid down next to him with a rustle of cloth. Startled, Damien looked at his companion. The man’s face was drawn and gaunt. He’d gone so pale he seemed to glow in the dark. “Can you manage?”

The Hunter offered a strained smile. His face looked ready to crack from it. “I’ll have to, won’t I?” He closed his eyes for a moment, summoning energy. “The first step will give me strength for the rest.” He opened his eyes and looked at Damien again. This close, the priest had to shake off a sense of vertigo as Tarrant’s eyes seemed to draw him in. God, the man looked so hungry. Damien shivered at the thought of that hunger focused on him. What was he getting himself into?

The Hunter seemed to know his mind. “Second thoughts, Vryce?”

Damien steadied himself and shook his head. “No. Just…getting ready.” He lied to bolster his own courage, he knew. The idea of being bound to this man for the rest of his life was sinking in at exactly the wrong moment. But he’d already made his decision, and would not turn back.

In a voice that seemed to crawl out of the darkness surrounding them, Tarrant replied, “I can smell your fear.”

Damien felt a chill twist down his spine, closed his eyes to avoid seeing the other man’s expression. He knew how unnerved he sounded when he asked, “Just…what do we do?” Please, let’s just get this over with.

Tarrant nodded. Damien felt him shift closer, felt the cold of the Hunter’s skin almost touching his. “I need your blood.” The adept reached into a fold of his garments and brought out a knife. “The cut should be deep enough to bleed freely, but you don’t need to really injure yourself. Your arm would do nicely.” He held the knife out with a slightly trembling hand. “I assume you would rather do it?”

Damien took the knife from his hand. He rolled up his sleeve, laid the metal against the flesh of his forearm, then hesitated. He felt the Hunter lean against him, eager for sustenance, and before he could lose his nerve Damien pressed down with the blade in a quick jerking motion. The Hunter grasped his wounded arm, and Damien dropped the little knife as he flinched from the shocking cold. In the ancient sorcerer’s grip, the priest noticed that at least one of them was shaking. His head spun so badly, he couldn’t be sure if it was himself or Tarrant.

The Hunter paused with his head bowed, his fingers digging into Damien’s flesh while the undead adept fought for restraint. Finally, his eyes flicked up to meet the priest’s and he said, in a ruthlessly controlled tone, “This will be…unpleasant for both of us. I need you not to fight me, you understand? I don’t have the strength to control myself and you.” Damien believed him. He put his head back against the stone and nodded, his entire body going tense with the effort not to fight as the Hunter raised Damien’s arm, bent his head and put his mouth to the wound.

For the first frozen second, it wasn’t too bad. He merely had to deal with the horror of an undead sorcerer drinking blood from his body. But in the next second, Damien realized why Tarrant had warned him not to fight.

Damien felt something begin to crawl into his veins, the Hunter’s poisonous cold creeping into his wound as if it were a live thing. The sensation reminded him of hideous things. Damien gritted his teeth and tried to force back the images the power called to mind as it writhed inside him, remembering great worms wriggling out of the soil in the Forest, burying themselves in the dead horse’s carcass… Damien began to shudder uncontrollably, trying not to jerk his arm from the man’s grasp.

The power twisted through his limbs as if it swam in his bloodstream while the Hunter sucked and licked greedily at his wound. Damien had to choke back on his instincts to tear his arm out of the Hunter’s grip. Tarrant’s icy influence numbed his body as it spread through him, twitching slowly toward his heart. The tormented priest tried hard not to wonder, could this kill him? Tarrant had said he wouldn’t do that, but what if he couldn’t stop himself? Damn it, the man hadn’t asked for trust!

The ice reached Damien’s heart. For a moment, the two men felt their awareness shrink to encompass only one another. Gerald Tarrant sensed only the person he now drew nourishment from. Damien Vryce could feel nothing but the terrible cold that invaded his being, and the man whom it was part of. As he lost sense of his own numbed body, his awareness of Tarrant grew, as if the frigid tendrils were actually extensions of the Hunter’s own being plundering his. Deep inside, Damien thought he felt something move. Then everything twisted, as if he weren’t perceiving with human senses anymore.

For one drugged, eternal second, Damien could feel the Hunter’s mind inside him. The ice of the Hunter’s nature, the slick foulness of the man’s inner being slithered up and caressed the priest’s soul. It seared him from the core outward and erupted in a throat-wrenching scream that Damian somehow had just enough presence of mind to stifle by biting his own hand. He only let a soft moan escape.

At the same time, Tarrant finally released the priest’s wounded arm, letting it fall into his lap. He sat not a foot away, staring into Damien’s eyes, evaluating whatever he saw there. Damien released an enormous sigh and leaned back, nearly collapsed, against the cavern wall behind him. For a few moments, he couldn’t summon up the ability to speak.

Eventually, he looked at Tarrant. “Please tell me we’re done.”

The adept nodded. Damien was perversely pleased to note that he looked somewhat shaken as well. The man’s voice, however, was completely smooth. “We’re done with this. Only one more thing. Tell Senzei and the lady not to wake you. I need you to sleep till you wake naturally.”

Damien nodded unsteadily. “That shouldn’t be hard.” He hesitated, then gathered himself to stand. Uncertain how to react after that experience, he avoided the subject (and the Hunter’s eyes) by binding his arm, then by looking around the cavern. Then something caught his attention. He turned back to Tarrant with a surprised expression. “How long did that take? It’s still dark outside.”

The adept glanced up, nodded again. Wearily, he answered, “We’ve been here for perhaps ten minutes.” At the priest’s incredulous glance, he replied, “I know. It feels like hours.” He made to stand, and Damien automatically offered a hand up. Tarrant took it, demonstrating his persisting exhaustion. Damien thought he felt an odd tingle where their palms met, but perhaps it was his imagination. “Time has little bearing on that sort of ordeal,” the Hunter continued. “Come. We don’t want the others to start wondering about us.”

The two of them headed toward the mouth of the cave, but Damien stopped his companion with a touch on the shoulder. Tarrant turned to regard him.

Damien began, “When you said this was potentially deadly for both of us, I thought you meant…” He waved a hand vaguely, “…as a weapon. If one of us used it.”

Tarrant shook his head slowly. “No, priest.” He looked away, and spoke quietly. “The touch of your humanity is as much a threat to me as the touch of my soul is to you.”

Tarrant paused, and Damien thought he was finished, but then the other man turned back to meet his eyes. “For better or for worse, priest, we’re both bound now.”

As they walked back toward the little oasis of camp, Damien tried not to think about the meaning of those words.

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