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                                   by Lynne Charles

Asiel sat back in her wicker chair, exhausted. She closed her eyes and rested her head against the chair. Intense pounding resounded loudly across her temples. Weakened considerably by her efforts only a few minutes before, she now sat quietly, slowly regaining her strength. Her mind tried to block the memories of the torture she had just suffered, but her conscious will would not permit it.

Asiel suddenly sat bolt upright in bed, realizing instantly why she had awakened. She ran quickly out the door and down the stairs, trying to reach Pierce in time. Pierce was watching the intruder carefully. The man repeated his question, this time stretching out his hand toward Pierce.

"No!" Asiel shouted, running down the last few steps two at a time. Pierce, startled, whirled about to face Asiel. She pushed him roughly aside and confronted her brother.

"Aviar! How dare you! How dare you even show your face here!"

"Why, I came to get you, dear sister. You should not run off alone like that."

By the expression on his face, he obviously had little use for Asiel, holding her in contempt. His sarcastic tone evidenced the hatred he felt for her. He reached out a black-gloved hand and harshly grasped her arm. She felt instant pain as his fingers touched her, and she was forced to concentrate a healing flow on the area. Aviar pulled her violently out the door. Asiel yelled back at Pierce, forbidding him to follow them. When they finally stopped their hectic journey, near the edge of the forest, Aviar confronted his twin.

"Why do you always run away like that? Are you afraid of your own twin brother?" Hatred still sparked in his black eyes.

Asiel closed her eyes and concentrated. An enormous surge of her vitality arrived at the spot where Aviar retained his grip on her arm. The shock drove him back, and he stared at his sister in astonishment.

"So, you have refined your talents, as I have, since we were last together."

Her gray-green eyes flashed at him, signifying the deeply rooted emotion she controlled as she spoke.

"So now the odds are even." Yet, as she voiced this opinion, her own doubt crept in. Mystique was here with her master, and Asiel sorely missed the support of Intrigue, her own ally.

"Are they?" he questioned. The mockery, all too apparently reflected in his speech, became another factor to estimate in this struggle.

"You, my dear, are completely useless to me. Things which are not needed should be eliminated. However, I will spare your life. I have decided it will be much more enjoyable to watch you suffer. I will give you overwhelming pain. You will be in my constant torments. I will make you wish for the luxury of death!"

With that, he began to circle around Asiel.

"First you. I choose to hurt you first. Then I will hurt your beloved Pierce."

"No!" she shouted as she sprinted off. Aviar chased her, closing the distance rapidly. Reaching her, he threw her to the ground. He took her head in his hands and began to apply pressure to her temples. Her own healing ability spread itself at that region, even as she began losing consciousness. The pain, guided and focused by Aviar's touch, began seeping in against her defenses. Blackness engulfed her, but not before she caught a glimpse of red shadows surrounding them.

Red-suited guards pulled Aviar away from Asiel as Intrigue growled menacingly. Realizing that the percentages distinctly favored the opposition, Aviar ran quickly toward the deepening gloom of the forest, calling Mystique as he ran. Pierce ordered his guards back to the Manor, as the blackness of the forest made a search practically impossible. Looking toward the panther, Pierce knelt down by the still form of the woman, and took her hand lightly in his. Softly whispering her name, he gathered her up in her arms and strode noiselessly toward the Mansion, as the great cat followed. Asiel's eyelids fluttered, and she looked up into the determined face of Pierce.

"I think I can walk now." she stated calmly. Pierce smiled down at her as he said, "My patients are always carried." He walked on in silence, but as they neared the perimeter of the Mansion, he set her carefully on her feet. Without a word, she accepted the arm he offered, and steadied herself with his quiet strength. They walked into the Mansion, and Pierce escorted her to the Topaz Room, where she was staying.

"Thank you. I will be fine."

Intirgue sat on the lemon carpet near his friend. Pierce nodded, and closed the door soundlessly as he left. Intrigue rested his head in his friend's lap as she sat back in the wicker chair.

*   lc   * * * * * * * * *  *   lc   *  * * * * * * * * *   lc   *

In the forest, black eyes peered out of the dimness. 'Just wait, dear sister. I'll be back. And when I return...' He tramped into the heart of the dark trees, followed by his cougar.

 © 1985, 

K. Blaire, L. Charles, D. Conrad, Enad the Great, A. Mann, J. Pierce, B. C. Randolf, and T. G. Taft

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