the night world three

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"I say we roll for how many days he takes to die," said Pierce, taking a pair of dice from his pocket. His ascetic face was pale with excitement and his eyes were hot. "I mean, this is our best catch of all, the most verminous vermin ever. I say we definitely take our time with him."

They had already whetted their appetites on his blood, in order of precedence, of course. Raven had bought a cleansing wipe, for which she received due applause, and they had moved the now-catatonic Steven's head back, back, back, to expose the throbbing lines of veins and arteries in his neck. And then, one by one, they had chosen their feeding points. Canines had once again grown long and sharp and delicate-translucent at the curved ends, like a cat's. And then the quick dart at the target, like the striking of a snake.

But unlike a snake, they were not here to inject poison but to delicately pierce-the thicker the artery, the greater the need for delicacy. Jez hit the carotid at the perfect angle, so that, in raising her fangs, she felt the double spray against her palate of the delicious copper-flavored blood. It trickled down her throat tasting thin and sweet and intoxicating and different. Maybe it was her imagination but human monsters had blood that tasted unique. It took her a moment in her pleasure at having made the perfect strike to realize that she had held out her hand and that someone was grasping it. Swallowing a mouthful of the heady red stuff she had glanced aside to see what she expected-it was Morgead. He had taken so little from the jugular that she had anticipated him taking an extra turn-and he was, but with his fangs clamped solidly into thick blue veins at the wrist. Together, they drank the nectar of immortality, their hands tightly clasped.

Not that it meant anything of course-her and Morgead. It was always more delicious to share a meal with a blood brother or sister-especially if the meal's mind was as repellant as this one. She and Morgead had linked their thoughts together, exploring the outer layers of each other's minds instead. But only the outer layers. That was perfectly within the traditions.

It wasn't as if-Jez laughed lightly, knowing that her eyes were liquid silver now, shimmering with the faintest hint of blue-she were in love with him. Lovepairs-well, they had all means of enjoying their meals together, mixing kisses with mouthfuls of the sweet-smelling red wine tapped straight from its living vessel. Lovepairs playfully picked the humans with the most beautiful auras, using senses humans didn't even have. A beautiful woman might have a dud of an aura, whereas a plain one might have a life force that would go off like skyrockets when it was tapped.

But they weren't a lovepair, and all they had was this monstrous vermin, now waxen-faced, unable to move a muscle, but able to see and hear-and feel. The time had come to finish him.

"I agree with Pierce," Thistle was saying, laughing her high, childish laugh. "He ought to suffer at least as much as his victims."

"As all his victims put together," Raven said, licking the last flecks of red from her lips and fingers.

"He'll never hold out long enough," Val said. "But we could try. It's the least we can do," he added. "Har har har."

"How much did you take?" Pierce asked with superior scorn.

"Well, O Fearless Leader?" Thistle was looking at Morgead, "Favor us with your orders . . . please?" She smiled prettily.

Morgead's face was grim, almost haggard. "I saw things in that other room that you didn't," he said. "This vermin deserves more than anything we could imagine doing to him."

"Then it's unanimous-oh, wait, Jez hasn't said. Jez?"

"No," said Jez.

For a moment there was utter silence-Jez and Morgead had been trading the leadership for years-and a single word from her carried a lot of weight. But then Thistle laughed again, a tinkling sound.

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