"My lord, I asked that you wait in the other room!" the servant said shrilly, watching as his lord and master entered the bedchamber without warning. It was too late to hide the tools that littered the floor, too late to hide the loss of blood and the weak state of the body lay on the bed.

Blue eyes glittered in the shadows of the candlelit room, and the servant knew that his death was imminent, even before the harsh voice demanded from him a recounting of his actions.

"I tried, my lord! The battle was too much... she wasn't strong enough to hold out against the monster. He's taken the babe from her womb and inlaid a poison into her heart. It spreads with each beat of her heart, sire. There was nothing I could do!" he fell to his knees on the ground and leaned forward until he was supplicated on the floor, his arms stretched towards his master's feet imploringly. "Please, Master, take pity on your servant. I tried my best."

"I told you not to harm her body. I told you to keep her beauty in tact!" his lord said coldly, the controlled tone more chilling than any yelling or cursing could have been.

"I tried to let the poisoned blood out, sir. It has prolonged her life to these minutes. I took blood from another to keep her heart beating, but there is too much poison. She's gone, Master. There is naught that I can do for her any longer."

They were silent, and the room filled with the sound of harsh, labored breathing, intermingled with gasps of pain and the occasional writhing motion of the Lady's dieing body. "Call the demon to me. Call him here, and tell him that he can have whatever he likes if he will deliver her back to me."

"But, Master!" the servant objected, rising onto his knees. He received a kick to his ribs for the effort.

"Go, Marius. Tell him that he can have anything in exchange for her life."

"Yes, Master," came the hissing supplication as the servant crawled from the room on his knees and one hand. The other hand was wrapped around his chest. Something inside had been punctured in that one kick, and he could feel the painful beat of his heart that spoke of his life blood spilling out inside of his own body.

He made it to the antechamber, where the Lady's maid rushed to his side.

"Help me up, Miriam. Take me to the beast. His Lordship will bargain with the monster for the Lady's life." She did as requested, and he was grateful. It pained him greatly when she lifted his arm to put it over her shoulders, but he kept his sounds of pain at bay. There were more important things at stake than his own life, and he would not fail his master again as he had already done.

"What is he going to give, Marius? He can not think of giving the kingdom over to that monster. Or- Oh, please tell me that he won't give over the Serpent's Staff. The whole world will be doomed!"

"Don't twitter on, Miriam. His whole world lies dieing in that room. He will give whatever he must to have her back," Marius informed her, his voice as commanding and strong as he could make it while using her as his support to stay on his feet. His head was growing light, and everything was blurring in front of him.

I didn't expect it to happen this quickly. I've seen so many people die, and it always seems to take longer. How hard did he really kick me? What is bleeding? Why, oh why is it getting harder to draw breath?

Miriam deposited him gently on the ground, and he roused himself enough to blink his unfocused eyes. "Are we here?" he asked softly, the question ending in a cough. He coughed for a while, and when he was done, his hands were wet and there was a coppery taste in his mouth.

"Well, well. What does the little dead boy want? Have you come to ask that I spare your life, you pathetic little pawn?" It was the demon speaking, that much he could recognize. The beast was close, close enough to hear the words that Marius needed to say.

"He will give you-" He broke off on a cough. When that bout ended, he was lying on his side on the floor, unable to find the strength to push even to his knees. Miriam's comforting presence was gone, and all he felt was a cold emptiness at his back that he knew must have been the demon.

"He will give me what?" the demon rasped in his ear. He was close, so close, and the coldness washed over Marius, from head to toe. His time was drawing near, and he was going to fail his master again.

"Any-" Broken coughing. "Thing," the word was drawn out on a sigh. The pain was gone, replaced by a sweet numbness. He felt something warm brush against his cheek.

"Will he give me -you-, dead one? Will he barter your soul for her life?" the demon asked, sounding amused. His voice was hardened when he spoke next. "But he can't do that, can he? Silly human notions of what is right and wrong. He can not give me your soul, little one. Will you? Will you give your last breath to me?"

Marius tried to answer, but his lips wouldn't move and he couldn't force his body to cooperate. He was too far away from his body, floating in some hazy world between living and dead.

"Ah, I forget. You're already so close to death. Can you still hear me? You can not stop me, no one can. He thinks that he can offer me anything that I can not take? He has nothing to barter with. You, on the other hand. I would like something from you that I cannot buy or charm. I will take your breath from you anyway, boy, and when you wake up, you will be mine. But I do not want your servitude. Instead, when you wake again from this warm dream of floating nothingness, you will find me. That is your new duty. Find the man beneath the monster."

And then a feeling of warmth passed over Marius' lips, like the gentle kiss of spring, and he exhaled for the last time.

Then there was nothing.


No, there will probably not be more of this anytime in the near future. It was an idea that I had to get out, and I don't plan on working on it until Ten is done driving me nuts, and Charlie and Mack are behaving. *stomps foot* My muses –will- listen to me, dangit!