Chapter Two

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Silky softness.

The scent of floral perfume.

Slowly, like a swimmer surfacing from a long swim in deep, dark water, Guin began the arduous process of waking up.

The softness was fabric. Felt like a bed. Silk sheets?

Dimly, she was aware this was all wrong. Orven had betrayed them. She'd been beaten to a pulp by a faceless stranger. She was locked in a cold, dark metal box, not lying in a bed with silk sheets...

The memory triggered a sickening clench of anger in Guin's gut. She should have felt afraid, she knew—but the only thing Guin could readily discern out of the tangled mess of emotions swirling inside her was pure, uncontrolled rage. She wanted to break something. Preferably Orven's nose. Or his spine.

She swallowed hard, forcing the anger back down into the recesses of her mind. She had to think. Anger in large doses didn't make you smart, it made you dumb. She couldn't afford to be dumb. Not yet.

First she had to figure out what the hell was going on.

Step one, find out where you are...

Guin opened her eyes. After a while of staring at blurry, sunny-hued nothing, she closed them again. Her skull ached. Her chest ached more. 

Something wrong with my ribs. 

Still, the pain wasn't as bad as she remembered.

Cautiously, Guin lifted one hand and touched her face, running gentle fingers over her eyelids, cheeks and lips. By the feel of things, she wasn't nearly as swollen and bruised as she ought to be.

How long has it been? Not long enough for these to heal, surely...

Guin opened her eyes again, forced herself to bring her surroundings into focus. As room began to take slow shape. A room dripping and glittering with gold and crystal. Gilded arches. Cream-colored walls. Opulent red velvet draperies framing a window pouring sunlight. Decor reminiscent of the sort of royalty who ate lots of caviar and cream and would eventually be thoroughly beheaded.

Guin blinked.

Okay. So not a metal box anymore, then.

As far as Guin could tell, she was alone. No sign of her friends. But that didn't mean they weren't nearby. Or dead.

No. Not dead. Not dead. Please.

Biting back a cry of pain, Guin eased herself into a sitting position. She had to get out of this place. As luxurious as it looked, it belonged to the sort of individuals who drugged and kidnapped and beat people, among other things. She didn't want to stick around and find out what else they did to their involuntary guests.

There was no sign of her belt and book, she noted. Hardly surprising. In fact, there were no books or writing paraphernalia to be seen anywhere in the room. The small ornamental tables scattered about held only porcelain figurines and crystal candelabras without any candles. There wasn't even any dust for her to finger-write in.

So, they've disarmed me. Well just wait. I'll find something I can use eventually, then they'll be sorry...

Meanwhile, she had to get moving.

Wincing, Guin threw back the silky sheets and swung her legs out of the bed. Her bare feet touched smooth, cool marble. With an effort, she stood up. After a brief moment of uncertain wobbling, she managed to gain some semblance of balance and tottered forward.

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