A vision of my skin being flayed off and my bones being replaced by gears made me struggle against my bonds. I could feel the black glass of the Dvergr. Fadreel felt like the slimy bottom of a fetid pool. I felt no others nearby and wished for Zat or Vytar or even The Owl. I couldn’t loosen my bonds and my fused teeth blocked my voice.
He pushed me back on to my back. Something clicked, he moved the table from the room and down the hallway. The Dvergr followed us, chanting. We went into a lifter and it sank. Sweat pulled along my back and dripped from my hair into my eyes. I would rather be ashes blown into the wind than turned into a machine-man.
Fadreel opened the lifter doors and pushed me out into a short hallway. I could smell water and minerals. I felt other persons. One I recognized as Stygand. Another one felt familiar to me, but I couldn’t figure out who she could be. Not Rhaenan, thankfully.
We entered a large cavern with a lake. The lighting, dim and flickering, reminded me of the swirling dome over the city. The flickering came from a column of wires. It connected at the bottom to a gibbet-type cage made of plas. Another cage stood open and receptive next to it.
Fadreel stopped the table and pulled out his thin knife again.
“Hold still,” he said, not looking at my face. “This won’t take but a moment.” He sliced my clothing off. My belt pouch he peered in.
“Why do you have sand in your pouch?”
Sand?
He poured some sand out and tossed it at me. The rest he dumped into the lake, along with my pouch. The lake waters churned for a moment and then stilled. A greasy film settled on the lake. I figured this was the water source for the entire city and I wondered that more people had not fallen ill. The sand settled into the crevices of my skin, itching and then burning. I felt sorry to see the last of my mother’s magic go. It had served me well. I wished she were there – at my end – so that I could apologize and gain her forgiveness.
Fadreel showed me a long metal wire ending with a clip with retracting teeth.
“This goes on your nads, so don’t expect to sire any children, my lord.” He laughed.
The bite of the clip caused me to scream through my teeth and trash about.
“I did say to hold still.” He placed cloth with physicker’s assistant over my mouth just long enough for my body to stop resisting, but not long enough to knock me unconscious. I wish it had. I guess his mechanical parts made him stronger, for he flipped me onto my stomach without straining.
“Generally we start with the brain, but I’d like you to be as aware as possible during this process, so we’ll start with your sacrum.”
Another bite at the base of my spine, followed by more, moving upward toward my neck. I realized then that I would not be turned into a machine, I would be apart of a larger machine, providing power from my life force. I would be drained to death and the tossed on a pile to be incinerated. I wondered how long it would be before Captain Vytar looked for me – or Rhaenan – and how Fadreel would explain my absence.
As if reading my mind, Fadreel said, “Your Captain Vytar has been arrested, by this point, as a traitor. You’ve been kidnapped by Vytar – assisted of course by your lovely Nord mistress – and in a day or two, reported killed. I will, of course, be very upset.” He gave a practice sniff and laughed. “I plan to attach your mistress next to you. She made such a fetching boy. Maybe I’ll let her dress as one when I use her. I cannot tell you how much more stamina I have now that I’m mechanical in that area.” He tugged on the wire attached to my nads and I screamed again.
Laughing he left me for a moment to confirm with the Dvergr priest.
Oh Rhaenan.
The chanting grew louder. Fadreel stood me up and moved me over to the edge of the cage.
“Now watch closely,” he said in a cheerful voice.
He put a spike through the base of my skull and my world exploded.

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