Choices - Prologue

© 1999 by E. Liddell


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He stared at the shattered crystal that lay at his feet. Oh, no... What have I done? Lord Zoisite's going to skin me, and then they'll throw me out of here, too! If I'm lucky. They probably won't even consider it a loss. I'm even more pathetic as a youma than I was as a human.

He scrubbed his hands across his face and through his hair, a nervous gesture of long standing. Even after a year, it still made him feel vaguely sick to see his hands, green-skinned and talon-tipped as they had become when the power of this place had entered him. At least they'd let him keep his clothes. If he'd had to run around bare-chested, like most of the others, there would be no way of hiding what he had become from himself, not even for a few minutes. Not for the first time, he wondered if this had really been the best choice.

He could have reverted to his human form if he'd wanted to. He had very little control of his magics (although when he'd initially been tested, he'd been told that these would be considerable), but that much he could do. But... It wasn't that it wasn't allowed, exactly, but it was discouraged while he remained here in the Negaverse. He wasn't high enough in the youma pecking order to be posted to the Earth Realm as anything except a janitor. And he'd just proven that he was damned incompetent at janiting. Not to mention that, if he went over to the other side, she might discover what he had become. And that... No. He would not imagine the look of revulsion on his sister's face when she saw his new body.

He didn't know exactly what the sphere he'd knocked off the shelf had been, but there was nothing in Zoisite's laboratory that the Prince Consort didn't consider important. And the green-eyed man was very good at coming up with exotic and painful methods of punishment. The only thing that enraged him more than disobedience was incompetence.

The youma shuddered and bent down to gather the crystal shards together. Maybe if he at least got the rest of this place clean without breaking anything else, he would be spared the worst of Zoisite's wrath. Maybe.

The moment he touched the crystal, he felt a tingling against his palms, and realized that there had been some sort of spell attached to the thing. Some sort of spell that was still active.

Wrong decision again! They've all been right about me, I guess. Every time someone called me an idiot, or an incompetent. They were right.

<<They were wrong.>>

"Who's there?" He voiced the words as a bare whisper.

A black cloud rose from the pile of crystal shards. <<I can help you,>> the strange voice whispered in his mind.

He knew that he should have backed away, have run from the lab and summoned a General or at least a senior youma, but the writhing blackness was weirdly fascinating.

<<My power is yours,>> the spirit told him. <<If you want it.>>

His mouth was dry. He'd spent the past several months being everything short of trampled by the other youma. Perhaps this would be his chance to get back at them. But...

"What's the catch?" he whispered.

He heard/felt laughter.

<<Clever boy. You've shattered my vessel. Without some sort of container, I'm going to dissipate soon. Your body can hold me, I think. Just, given that you're already taking up some of the space inside, but that's life. It'll do until we can find something better.>>

Oddly, he found himself moved to pity for the thing. He hadn't meant to hurt anyone when he'd shattered the crystal. He hadn't meant to shatter it at all, actually, but that was a different matter. The point was that if he didn't do something quickly, he would be responsible for this creature's death. And he didn't want that. So much for all youma being cold-blooded killers... This must have been some sort of special project of Lord Zoisite's. Maybe, if I save it, he'll be inclined to be more lenient.

"Come ahead," he said, extending a hand toward the thing.

It shot forward eagerly. He felt something like a mist, but scaldingly hot, touch his fingertips. And then it was all around him, forcing itself into his mouth and nose and ears and any other orifice it could find.

It was only then that it occurred to him to wonder why the thing had been locked, bodiless, in the crystal globe. It was possible that whatever magical operation Zoisite had been working on it had simply made it impossible for it to inhabit a living shell while it was going on, but there could have been other, less innocent reasons.

<<Very good, boy,>> the voice inside his head whispered. <<I thank you for releasing me. Now don't worry. This won't hurt a bit.>>

He felt it insinuate itself into his mind and memory. No, it didn't hurt, any more than fishing through a bucket of slime for something at the bottom would have hurt, but he felt sick all the same.

Idiot! he chastised himself again as the thing pushed him down into darkness.

Goto Chapter 1


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