It could have been the sour-sweet smell of dried and fresh blood mingling that woke her, or it could have been any of the strange smells that wafted about the room: Odors of poisons and gooey, dripping ingredients that she couldn't - and probably didn't want to - identify. At first her eyes wouldn't open. She struggled for a moment, her lids feeling as heavy as iron, but finally they peeled back to reveal glazed red eyes. Her pupils were pinpricks despite the darkness of the room, and thus she couldn't see a thing.

But she could definitely feel. She was flat against a cold surface that felt rough like stone. Her wrists and ankles were tethered to the table with metal strips, but her torso was free. She arched her back as she fought against the metal. She quickly discovered that touching it was not a good idea - each touch scorched her skin like fire, as though the bands were coated in battery acid. Gritting her teeth, she hissed as she felt her skin sizzle and slough off like melted wax. It was excruciating.

Minutes passed but her eyesight didn't clear. Everything was black and brown blobs with smears of white and grey. Finally she screamed in frustration, and to attract her captor. She screamed until her head pounded and her voice cracked. Then she laid there, panting so heavily that her chest rose and fell dramatically. She was stuck, she finally admitted to herself. Stuck with no eyesight, no mobility, and no clue as to why or where she was.

Time moved sluggishly - or maybe it passed by at the speed of light, she wasn't sure - so there was no telling how long she laid there before she heard the footsteps. By the way the sound echoed she assumed the owner was descending a stairway. A door opened, heavily scraping the floor, and she felt a rush of cold air. Turning her head she saw a light in the direction she had heard the door; it was dim, orange, and the edges were blurry. For a moment she thought it was the sun, but quickly realized how preposterous that was.

"I heard you screaming," said a male voice. He sounded amused. There was something in his tone that made her blood run cold and raced shivers down her spine. There was something otherworldly in his voice, that seemed to echo every word he spoke. "If you had been awake when I left, I may have warned you that your bonds are coated in a salve of my own creation." Now she could hear a streak of pride in his tone. "It eats skin rapidly upon contact."

"That," said Shane through clenched teeth, "I figured out on my own. But thanks."

"Ah, sarcasm." She listened as things began to be shifted around. She heard the roars of flames and guessed that he had turned on a stove of some sort. Then she heard thuds and thumps as he gathered things from the selves, all the while still speaking to her. "I may have had to wait twenty-three years, but perhaps getting to know you is more fun."

A red flag went up in Shane's mind: She was twenty-three years old, and she knew it wasn't a coincidence. Her breath began to come out in short spurts and her mind fought to calm her body as it began to go into shock.

"Is...is your name Faraj?" she stammered out.

"Why, yes it is."

Shane could only listen to the sounds Faraj made as he did only the gods knew what. Her body shook with the chill from a cold sweat, but she managed to keep a level head. Being unable to see or do anything to protect herself in the face of known danger was throwing her physical being into panic.

"...Hopefully after so long the magic will be more saturated," Faraj continued to speak as he worked. "I understand you train in the art?"

"Fuck you," Shane spat instead of a viable answer. Faraj clicked his tongue in disappointment, but said nothing else, and then he was silent all together. She no longer heard anything being moved, nothing being stirred or cut, not even a footstep.

The blade cut into her like fire through butter, and the pain was immediate, explosive, and the most excruciating she had ever felt. She screamed, her lungs straining with the sheer volume and force of the sound. Faraj cut along her breast, making a large circular gash and then pushing the blade in deeper.

Shane writhed against the bands, her fists clenched tightly. Veins popped up on her forearms and smoke rose from the burning flesh, but she was already in so much pain that she bore it. As her voice died away, her mind continued to race in pain and anger. There was nothing she could do, despite all of her strength she couldn't rip the bands from her body and she couldn't stop him from digging that knife further into her chest.

With a strike of fear she realized what he was doing - he was cutting out her heart.

At some point she passed out, and now she awoke. She still laid on the stone, but her wrists and ankles were no longer bound. Her eyesight, however, was still gone. She couldn't see it, but she could feel the measure of her wound in her chest. The blood was dried and caked on her chest around a crater of a wound. She slowly lifted one hand and laid it against the wound and felt.

There was no heart. He had taken it, right out of her chest, and somehow she had survived the bloodloss. He must have unbound her, taking her for dead.

Now could be her only chance to escape. But she couldn't even think of moving. Her body screamed, literally ached, for blood and she was so weak. So very, very weak. She wondered if she would survive another day.

But she knew she wouldn't if she stayed where she was, so she rolled painfully onto her side and then into the floor with a thump. She stifled her cry of pain by biting her forearm, her fangs digging into her flesh and drawing blood. What was losing a little more at this point? she thought blithely.