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.As the conduit prepared, the flow and power of the One became evident.Focus grew clearer and stray thoughts vanished.Lighting a series of candles slowly and deliberately helped sharpen the senses even further.By the time the salt circle was drawn upon the floor, the conduit felt steady and calm.Kneeling in the center of the room, the conduit spoke softly and clearly, invoking the power of the One, using the shared memory of the universe to recall a time when the One had been all that existed.Surrendering to that ancient power took little effort.Within moments, the conduit had become the One, light and dark, void and existent, perpetual and ephemeral.The power of the One flowed from the moonlight, through the conduit’s skin, into muscle and bone and blood.Using those tools, the soft wax could be manipulated.A crude body emerged from the shapeless mass.Cutting the bloodied part of the handkerchief away from the clean portion, the conduit wadded it into a ball, then formed the wax around it as though the ball was a small, beating heart.Then, with care, as the knife pressed defining lines inward, a face took shape atop the poppet.With the blood of the father and the Rider’s token as a guide, the likeness was made from the heart of the universe, a rudimentary but compelling copy.Taking the round coin, the conduit pressed it into the chest of the poppet.Hard.Until the wax squeezed through the small hole.With a smile, the conduit picked up the wire.Now it was time for the fun to begin.Opening to the darkness of the universe, the vast unknowable expanse, the seed of hatred grew.Evil tendrils of malice spread from heart to fingertips, flooding every sense until naked skin slickened with sweat.Tension built from temple to toe, from heart to groin, pulsing and quivering in this fragile human form.Bodily fluids surged as muscles trembled.Every breath was ragged as the late night air suddenly felt cold and sharp against the fevered quaking body which raged in the night.Shaking fingers picked up the barbed wire.Lust for power, hunger for revenge, fury, and scorn all combined in a roiling angry wave of hatred as the conduit began to gleefully inflict pain.∞Octavia watched Korbin with a measured degree of concern.He’d begun to sweat, even though the cold stone floor in Eliam’s office sent a chill from her feet all the way up her legs.Because of the late hour, they’d managed to get into the house without being seen, but she wondered how long into this mess before Eliam demanded Korbin return the key to the back door.The two men had a curious relationship.They seemed distant in some ways but like brothers in others.She wondered if it was simply her Kilovian upbringing that prevented her from understanding the subtleties.Although she’d had Talmoran clients, she hadn’t spent more time with them than necessary.Korbin shivered and mopped his brow.“Are you all right?” Eliam asked, as though noticing for the first time that his friend wasn’t himself.With a wave of his hand, Korbin dismissed the concerns and gestured for Eliam to continue.“I’m fine.It’s just a headache.”Eliam nodded and continued to talk, but Octavia wasn’t listening.Her skin prickled and a familiar buzzing passed over her body.Her stomach clutched as she realized what was happening.Just as she turned, Korbin winced and tugged a leather thong from around his neck.“What’s happening?” she asked, her tone sharp.“Where does it hurt?”Korbin shouted, “Holy eight, that burns!” He pulled on the thong, but it caught on something.“Hold still,” Octavia said and she knelt in front of him and opened his shirt.Muttering an oath of her own, she pulled her hand back.The token around his neck was blistering hot, and his skin was growing an angry shade of red all around it.He continued to pull, but the token wouldn’t budge.“Don’t,” she said.“You’ll only pull the skin away.”Panic built in his eyes, and she put her hands over his.“Shh, I know it hurts, but you must stay calm.” She turned to Eliam.“I need a knife.The sharper, the better.”“What’s wrong?” Eliam asked.“Now,” she barked and then softened her tone.“He’s being attacked.I need the blade, quickly.”“Right.” Eliam leapt into action, opening a cabinet door behind his desk.“Korbin,” she said, turning to stare deep into his eyes.She put her hands on his face.“It’s going to get worse.Much worse.You must be strong.”His eyes wide and face covered with a sheen of sweat, Korbin nodded.“Okay,” he said through gritted teeth.The redness on his chest deepened and spread further.Eliam hurried to her side and handed her a small knife.“All I have is this letter opener.Will it do? Or should I get something larger?”Silver.Perfect.Not as sharp as she would have liked, but it would do.“It’s fine.” She took the blade and muttered an incantation to bless it with the power of the One, cleaning it physically and spiritually.Korbin moaned through clenched teeth and his eyes rolled back.“That burn is bad,” Eliam said.“Should I get water?”“No,” she said sharply.“Water will only make it worse.I need rags.Clean ones.” Not daring to wait another moment, she sliced the blade down her left arm.She clenched her hand and opened it, then repeated that many times over.The cut stung, but blood flowed as desired.Eliam dashed to the hall and shouted something she couldn’t make out.She focused on Korbin and the dark power centered around his token.With all her concentration, she poured power into her arm.Placing her hand over the token, she stood so her body would be higher than her arm and the blood would flow more freely.The ruby liquid ran in rivulets down her fingers and over his chest, dripping onto his shirt and skin.When Eliam returned with a bundle of clean rags, he gasped.“Dear gods alive.”A twitch of annoyance fluttered through her, but she brushed it away.She couldn’t afford the distraction.There was a reason conduits rarely worked in front of others.She could hardly demand he leave his own study, but she needed him away from her, lest he break the focus required.“I need a green apple,” she said.“And a narrow red cloth, a black pouch, and fifteen flawless hairpins.”“Hairpins?” Eliam asked.“Now,” she told him, maintaining eye contact with Korbin.“Okay,” their host said, scurrying away.Korbin smiled through the pain.“An apple?”“I panicked,” she muttered.“You could have just told him to wait outside.”“Bah.He is a Talmoran Dul.I am but a foreigner.” She paused.“Shush.”“Yes, Senne,” he replied with a grin, which faded in an instant.He cried out, arching his back.“Damn him,” Octavia grumbled.“He works fast.” She didn’t want to be impressed, but she couldn’t help it.She recognized the method, of course, but the precision was impeccable.She felt more certain than ever this was the work of a man.Although female conduits certainly had the capacity to be vicious, this attack had a blunt force that she associated more with the power men wielded.“Who?” Korbin asked, his breathing labored [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]