Normal script – action

"Quotes" – speaking

Italics – telepathy, kind of

Bold italics – private thoughts

~Anything in squigglies~ – time skip or section end

Dream sequence potentially?

The door opened with a metallic clang. Looking up not out of curiosity but habit, I saw a familiar shape silhouetted against the light. "Venitus!" I cried, throwing myself at him and hugging him frantically. "I was kidnapped, there's a chain on my ankle, I don't know who it was, I didn't see them, oh, I missed you, are you okay is everyone else okay?" I was babbling, so relieved he found me . . .

He struck me across the face. I fell, stunned, to the floor at his feet. "Quiet, girl," he said contemptuously. "It's not for your pleasure I'm here."

My jaw dropped. What? No, not – Venitus . . . I couldn't see the man's face, but physically they were the same. That meant . . . "Not Venitus . . ." I whispered, backing across the ground towards the wall.

He gestured and a light came on, illuminating green eyes every bit as vivid as the blue of his twin's. For the first time, I gazed up at the face of Marcus Skybright.

~JVJ24601~

Marcus' expression contorted as if he'd just tasted something particularly vile. "So you're the wench my brother's so taken with," he remarked, not quite able to conceal the disgust in his voice. "I wonder what he sees in you. Sniveling little chit. Ah well," he sighed, apparently not about to pursue the matter, "you'll prove useful, I suppose." With a wave of his hand I flew back against the wall farthest from the door, spread-eagled and shackled at the wrists and ankles. My eyes widened in fear.

"What are you going to do?" I hated myself for letting my voice quiver. He noted the waver with a smirk.

A knife appeared in his left hand – he's a lefty too, some part of my brain observed irrelevantly – and he strode towards me, still smirking. "I can feel the bond you have with my brother. It's very strong, isn't it? I can sense his presence in your mind . . . but you're not a telepath, are you? No, if you were you'd have reached out to him already . . . but he's with you, he can feel what you're feeling. And if I know my brother," his tone turned conversational, "he'll do anything to keep you from feeling pain. He's too kindhearted." Marcus laughed, and the sound sent a fresh wave of terror through me.

I kept my eyes on the knife and tried not to sound as afraid as I was. "So what are you going to do to me? Why does it matter that Venitus feels the need to protect me?"

He came closer. I fought the urge to cringe back into the stone. "Because, not that it's vital you know, that's the only reason you're here. I have no quarrel with you. Just with my brother."

Sick curiosity made me ask: "Why? What did he do to you?"

Marcus backhanded me across the face again, then appeared to reconsider. "I suppose it's an honest question, and there's really no harm in telling you. After all, it's not like you're leaving.

"Venitus always got what he wanted. Granted, he didn't ask for much, but neither did I. He was our parents' favorite, even though I'm older. You should have seen Father's face when Venitus decided to become a mage! Never mind, of course, that I had taken up apprenticeship two years earlier . . ." Marcus' voice trailed off into unintelligible muttering.

Sophia, dearest, where are you? Are you all right? A 'voice' tickled the edges of my mind.

I worked at keeping a poker face. Venitus? Yeah, I'm fine. Is that really you?

Oh, my love. He sounded vastly relieved. Where are you?

Chained in a dungeon with your evil green-eyed twin, but don't come rescue me. I think he's trying to use me as bait.

Venitus was quiet for a moment. So, then, you are not 'fine.'

I could hear Marcus' rant ending. Never mind me, just don't come anywhere near! Please? If he catches you then neither of us survive.

"What are you thinking about, girl?" Marcus' voice curled softly into my ears. "What's on that mind of yours? Could you, maybe, be talking to my brother? Just maybe, could you be trying to convince him not to rescue you?" He smiled horribly. I felt my face heat up, and my eyebrows started prickling. Great. I'd never known if that was visible or not . . . "So you were talking to him. Hmmm. You know what, girl? I bet that I can convince him to come. Yes, I rather think I can." His voice was low and dangerous, and he fingered the knife handle way too fondly for my liking.

Promise me that no matter what he does you WON'T come for me! Please! I was getting frantic, trying to conceal my thoughtspeech from Marcus and extract a promise from Venitus. "Why do you want Venitus? What will you do to him if he comes?" Maybe if I can keep him talking . . .

"Silly chit. If you're trying to distract me it won't work. Eventually you'll run out of questions, and you will scream before I'm done. But you asked what I've got planned for my darling brother? At least for starters, I figure the sight of his lover's dead body should be quite a shock, don't you? And then perhaps images of me killing you. To tell the truth," here he laughed, "I hadn't thought much past getting him here and having a body to show him."

I swallowed hard. I'm not afraid, I'm not afraid, I'm not . . . hell with it, yes, I'm terrified! But I can't let Venitus sense that. I have to keep him safe. He's important in this world. I'm just an inadvertent transplant. Mustering all my courage, I raised my head and looked Marcus straight in the face. "He won't come," I said as steadily as I could. "He promised me. He has a life and an important role to play. I don't. I'm expendable." And if you believe he promised, I have a bridge somewhere for sale . . .

Marcus cocked his head to one side, considering me. "Poor fool. Why don't I believe you? Oh yes, it's because you can't lie. And I highly doubt you own so much as a teacup, let alone a bridge." At my startled, wary glance, he added, "Oh, I forgot – I'm a much more competent telepath than Venitus. I spent a good deal of time in Eastlund, and I picked up the native language." He laughed again. "Do you still feel like stalling, little bird? The cat is about to pounce . . ." He stepped casually forward with the knife held nonchalantly in his left hand. I shut my eyes and braced for the pain.

~VEV511~

Eyes clenched tightly shut, I was able to focus on the sensation of the blade parting the skin on my wrist for quite some time before I felt the pain. Another sensation that was new was the tickly slither of blood running down my arm. That was what made me open my eyes. Once I saw the blood, my nerve endings woke up and a wave of nausea shuddered through my system. I had to bite back a gasp.

Sophia! Venitus' voice was frantic.

No! I'm fine!

I will find you, he vowed. And I will double every mark on you on his worthless hide.

I was too keyed up to feel flattered. Yes, well, that's all well and good, but please be careful!

"It's working," Marcus said, sounding satisfied. "I can hear him planning. Let's give him some more incentive, shall we?" He dragged the knife across my ribcage. I felt the skin on my ribs part and bit my tongue so I wouldn't scream. Marcus glared at me. "Why won't you scream?" he hissed.

I didn't answer; I was afraid if I opened my mouth I would lose it. He snarled and drove the knife into my thigh.

That time I couldn't help it; I gave a strangled shriek.

He laughed triumphantly and jerked the blade down a bit. I screamed for real and tried to recoil away from the pain. Venitus, I thought fuzzily. Don't come.

Marcus sneered. "You can't keep him away after that. He'll come, believe me." He laughed. The gash in my leg continued to pump blood.

I felt myself begin to lose consciousness. My mind wandered; I vaguely heard Venitus pleading with me. Sophie, please, keep fighting. You must not give up. Dearest, listen . . . But I was past listening. I was drifting through memories.

~PWA98370~

Venitus kissed my forehead gently. I lay contentedly in his arms. "Wow."

He laughed. "Wow? My dear, your vocabulary is lacking."

"My vocabulary? You're the one who refuses to use contractions!" I smiled, joking. Quickly I reached up and kissed his eyes. "I love you," I whispered.

He touched his lips to mine. "As I love you, sweetling. Ah, Sophie, my princess . . ." He sighed.

~MCPN7313016~

I opened my eyes. I was alone in an empty stone room. Hello? I called.

Hello, Sophia. Venitus stepped out from nowhere and held his arms open for me.

I melted against him. Thank God. It was just a dream.

What did you dream? he asked softly, stroking my hair.

I dreamed . . . I shivered. I was chained to a wall, and there was a knife. And pain. He kissed my forehead and held me close.

Dearest, it's alright. You're safe. It was just a dream.

I stiffened in his arms. You're not Venitus . . . I said slowly. Frowning, I tipped my head back to look in his face.

Green eyes glittered at me. You're a clever girl, aren't you, Marcus drawled. Hmm. I'll have to think about this one . . .

~DEC101992~

And I was alone again. I blinked. I was back in the dark room, chained to the wall with blood oozing down my leg. Almost immediately my mind throbbed with the return of the pain.

I felt my vision fog and I bit my lip to keep from screaming. My wrists hurt; how long had I been hanging here?

"Almost half a day," his voice echoed out of the darkness. Marcus strode forward. He grinned horribly, almost as if he wanted to scowl. "And you'll continue to hang there until my darling brother shows up. How long do you think you can hold out?" he asked conversationally. "Blood loss, dehydration . . . do you honestly think you'll be able to sleep? And that's not even taking into account the stress you're suffering. Believe me, it would be better for you to give up and beg him to come now."

I kept my mouth shut. Don't listen to him, don't listen, I chanted mentally. You're fine, everything's going to turn out alright . . . this is a story, there HAS to be a happy ending!

"You silly, stupid little girl. Can you really believe that? A story?" He laughed pityingly. "Who's the main character? You? That's very conceited, you know. How do you know this isn't a tragedy? What makes you think you'll survive?"

With an effort, I raised my head. "I know it's a story because I'm writing it," I said as clearly as I could. "You have to have noticed I'm not like you. I don't know how I got here, I don't know how to get back . . . In my world I created this entire setting. The geography, the languages, the people – I invented all of it. I have to get home somehow because I don't remember this plotline." I shrugged – or tried to; it hurt to move. "Ergo, I survive to write about it."

Apparently my logic infuriated Marcus. He gestured, and the chains flew out of the wall and across the room to a table. I landed with a thud, spread-eagled and on my back. The mage towered over me, seething. "Stupid girl," he hissed venomously. "You won't stay that optimistic for much longer!" He raised the knife again. I shut my eyes.

There was a ripping noise. Opening my eyes again, I saw that Marcus had slashed my shirt in two. Working quickly now, he slit my pants and tore them off me. "What are you doing?" I whispered, afraid to raise my voice.

"You'll regret this," he warned, undoing his belt. "There's still time to call for him. Just give up."

I shook my head, fear keeping my eyes fixed on him. "No. Never. I won't help you with this. There's nothing you can do that'll change that." Inside I shivered; I knew whatever happened next wouldn't be in my favor.

Marcus snarled incoherently. "He'll not want you after this, I promise you. There's no turning back after this!"

A/N: This is one of my most twisted emo-type mumbles. I started writing something along these lines about two years ago, but due to my craptasticness, I never did much with it. That version sucked beyond all my present capability to imagine. This one is only slightly less horrifyingly embarrassing.

The characters are from Starlight/Birthright/back to Starlight/now it's called Faded Illumination. Venitus and Marcus are twins, and Sophia is, basically, me. She's been accidentally transported into the world of my/her story and (at this point) has been kidnapped by Marcus. Please to be reading and commenting, yes kay thanks? I'm really not sure how to finish this one. Normally I don't let myself write this far, and I kind of want Marcus to like um you know (I don't want to say it, let alone write about it) . . . but at the same time I really really don't. It squicks me out to think about anyone doing that, so I'm really not comfortable writing about it, especially since I've like eliminated all my anonymity online . . .

Oh, in case this maybe helps anyone understand my frame of mind when I started this: It was pretty soon after I broke up with my ex.

Anyhoo, please read and review! And let me know what you think I should do.