The Account of the Damned Chapter 2: Saws

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The worst of it, I think, was the sound. The screech of metal teeth on my shield, stripping it away, carving into it at an unreal pace. It came back to me whenever the room went silent. I could feel the blood around my knees, could sense it sinking into the gears of my wheels. …I had to take them off at some point. I scarcely remembered. There was no point in trying to wade through the gore there with them.

Enyo brought one of those little plug-in fountains that keeps flowing as long as you make sure there’s water in it. It helped a lot. She tried a fan before that, but the white noise…well, it was just as bad. It just changed into something else when I’d sleep. Nasty business. Wish there was something to help with the laughter, though. The manic…fucking glee in her voice, the blood-drenched smile on her…its…face.

Didn’t matter that I only got to see it once or twice. It was there when I closed my eyes. That, and the faces of the dead. Of the fifty girls that died there. The girls I’d led to their deaths, and the Culexus that we couldn’t protect. Whenever I slept, I relived it all over again. Every second of every minute of every hour. Every wound opened anew. The pressure on my shield crumpled my arms, pulverized the bones as I tried to hold the thing’s enormous weapons back. As I prayed for Mordred to be ready one moment sooner, or for somebody to come up with a real plan.

It wasn’t theirs to come up with, though. It was mine.

I could have done better. Even through the pain of losing my arms, of having my legs torn away from under me, I could have done better. I trained under Erebus, supposedly one of the finest Templars the Second had ever seen. For fuck’s sake, I could best Arty – the fucking Equerry, the Pendragon destined to lead the Officio, or whatever that was about – in nine fights out of ten. I’d taken on both of the Karnstein Sisters at once, barehanded, and come out on top.

I couldn’t stop thinking about it, in my waking hours. As they ran their tests on what remained of my body, as Enyo wheeled me around and pretended the fresh air did any damn good. I went over the leaders I’d seen in my time, ran scenarios in my head.

High Inquisitor Kiryuin would have cut through a witch like that as though it were nothing, all by herself. Gerty – High Inquisitor von Egisheim – would have had a plan, a real fucking plan, going in there. She would have expected things to go wrong. And High Marshal Erebus…

She would have made us better, if she were there. Mordred wouldn’t have run. We would have fought like beasts, if she’d been leading us. But we didn’t. I wasn’t High Marshal Erebus, and so we scattered, and we died.

…She’d told me before. Lady Malal did. I knew we were supposed to die. I knew it. I suppose I thought I might defy the odds somehow.

I guess I did.

“High Marshal,” Enyo quietly interrupted my pity party. “Lady Hesselius would like to examine you in her…” She didn’t want to say ‘laboratory’. “…office.” She meant ‘laboratory’.

...That may have been the part I hated the most. Not Cosette, Cosette was fine. Bit strange, really, but you get used to that, working with magical types. No, the way Enyo lifted me up like I might break in her arms. Her perfectly bloody functional arms. Wasn’t even dignified, didn’t have enough knees left for that. She’d looked at me with nothing but pity since we’d returned. Couldn’t quite blame her, but it made me feel angry and disgusted all the same.

Least it wasn’t to use the bathroom this time.

She didn’t say a word as she placed me in a wheelchair and started me down the hallway. …Couldn’t even transform now, not without everything just sort of falling on the bloody floor. They wouldn’t heal, the legs she’d torn away, or the arms she’d crushed. Too powerful, they said. Left her – its – mark, its own special kind of black-steel rot that’d grown over the stumps.

What Cosette had been poking at most recently was whether it’d be possible to attach functional mechanical prosthetics, like Enyo’s. We had some of the best in the business at our beck and call, but if that poisonous…whatever it was made it impossible to connect properly, well.

That was the end of my career, as well as my spicy on-again off-again relationship with stairs.

The laboratory was a mess of half-melted candles and inexplicable circles, as it had been the day before, and the day before that, and the week and a half or so before that. Once again, Hesselius had books splayed all over the place, indecipherable by anyone but a Librarian or, I suppose, someone with an extensive knowledge of Latin, Arabic, and damned if I know, French or something.

She smiled her dark, almost insincere smile as Enyo wheeled me in and helped me onto the makeshift examination table that they’d set up for me. It wasn’t necessary, most of the time, to lay someone out like this, but I wasn’t good for much else since I got back. She slipped off without a word once she was sure I was as comfortable as I could be – even remembered to grab a pillow and everything.

I was sure she didn’t want to look at me. I couldn’t really blame her. I wouldn’t have wanted to look at my superior officer like this, much less a dear friend. The room dimmed to nothing but candlelight and an eerie light from beneath me, and Cosette crept into the edge of my view, mostly visible thanks to her unnaturally pale skin.

Librarians never did get out much. Or the dark oaths they swore sucked the color right out of them. The rest of us never were certain, and they liked it that way. Gerty was one, once, and she still didn’t have even the tiniest bit of a tan. Though she still didn’t go out much, damnedest thing.

“Have the dreams gotten any better, lately?” Bless her, she tried to make conversation as her long, black nails brushed over the skin on my legs, then the icy black metal that had fused to them. I could still feel it in a sort of distant, indescribable way as she traced a pattern onto one of my stumps, some hex or another that I’d long since bothered inquiring about.

“Well, I’m getting sort of used to them. Bit like rewatching an old classic again and realizing one of the license plates is a dick joke.” I tried to answer her as cheerfully as I could. She let out a breath that might have been a laugh, so I called it my win for the day.

“Have you reconsidered seeing Doctor Liddell about it? Cases like yours are-“

“-her specialty, I know.” Liddell was some sort of shrink, but I could scarcely understand a thing she said when she tried to be helpful, and the rest was typically just rude. It left us both with a headache, invariably, and that was really the only bit I had anymore that didn’t viciously complain to me every second of the day. “Anything new, or…?”

“I’ve ruled it out as a magical poison.” Right. Knew that. “It’s more like a disease. The kind that rots away at you from the inside.” Fantastic. I nodded up at her, urged her to continue. “And it goes deeper than your limbs.” She hummed idly to herself, settling on the edge of the table. I waggled one of my stumps at her, as though it would convince her to tell me more.

“It’s a bit more complicated than saying it’s already taken root in your soul, but for simplicity’s sake, let’s call it that.” Wonderful. That was almost assuredly worse than a death sentence. Cosette cackled out her quiet little laugh when she saw the look on my face.

“Give us a few weeks to make a cursory glance through the Record. If there’s anything that can be done, we’ll find it, High Marshal. No-one else in the world can compare with our understanding of witches.”

Witches, she said. I forced myself to sit up, an embarrassing ordeal in itself.

“Something distantly related,” she purred, as though it hardly mattered at all. “Think of this as the Betrayer’s kiss. Or, if you prefer, a memento of the greatest battle you ever survived.”

“I’ll always have the memories, Cosette. I don’t need a souvenir.” I could barely force the words out. …She laughed again, and if I could have strangled her, I would have. She knew it, too.

“I’ll see what I can do about it for now.” Gently she placed a hand on my chest, and somewhat less gently shoved me back down onto the table. “Now, let me see your gem…”


“…Didn’t go well, High Marshal?” Enyo had never been gentle, exactly, so things had been a bit awkward between us since she volunteered to cart me around everywhere I needed to be. Which was mostly one doctor or another, really. I’d have been more embarrassed if I had anyone left to impress, but even Arty was still out after her ugly brush with castle guard duty.

That wasn’t sarcasm, by the by. Not sure I would have traded my assignment for hers. Not on Walpurgisnacht, at least. Ugly, ugly business, and I was glad to get back and find her in more or less one piece. One thing about the whole bloody plan that went well, at least.

“The Head Librarian felt me up for an hour and then played with my soul gem like it was our first night off of training. It was magical.” I idly waved a stump up at Enyo, and she snickered. …Actually, it was like that not-quite-painful but really creepy feeling you get when the dentist scrapes your teeth, but all over my body, and it hadn’t quite gone away yet.

“I’m glad you haven’t lost your grating sense of humor, High Marshal.” She leaned in just enough to ruffle my hair. I tried to bat her hand away, but…yeah.

“Yes, well. Arms gone, optimism intact. Can’t afford to witch out; Arty’s got her head up her bum, Callahan’s a weenie, the Princess is a coward and I’m going to headbutt her into paste if I see her face again, and you…well, I suppose you’d spend all your time in the garage, drinking beer with the girls. So not altogether that different, eh?” I laughed. Enyo didn’t, just slowed down for a moment and gripped my wheelchair harder.

“I…really am glad you’re alright, but I’d rather you weren’t so flippant about your own demise. I…I really don’t know what I’d do without you.” Well this turned awkward. I looked up toward her for a second, then nodded, opting to focus on the foot I had so graciously stuffed in my mouth, and the feel of the chair’s wheel’s rolling over the stone flooring of the castle hallways.

…I’d wheeled through here ten thousand times, of course. I knew every bump in these floors. More than likely I could close my eyes and tell Enyo where she was taking me now, even if I didn’t have the layout of the castle all but memorized anyway. Wasn’t toward food, certainly not toward my room. Dr. Liddell’s office was near the hospital wing, and we weren’t headed there. Probably the hangar, then.

Good. Maybe she’d just load me in Maria and we could…I don’t know. Or strap me onto her bike, I suppose.

…The whole thing was bloody depressing.

I was sort of glad when she wheeled me directly into her workshop; the hangar itself seemed huge, unbearably huge, even with the Templars’ vehicles (and the Second’s) taking up most of it, and the Mechanica flitting about working on this and that. I didn’t…really want them to see me right now. Not more than a glance, not more than it took for Enyo to push me into the little office she used for finer work. Which was…

Which was all but buried in half-finished prostheses. Some of them rougher than Enyo’s arm, discarded lazily in a corner, some of them almost delicate, thrown away with careless frustration. I…it couldn’t possibly be the work of just a couple of weeks.

“Apologies for the state of the place, High Marshal. I haven’t slept much since we got back. I…well. You know how it is, I think. How one becomes fixated on a project.” I just stared at her as she started going through a few sets of arms and legs that she seemed to have set aside.

“I didn’t make all of these in just a week and change, don’t worry. Most of them are just shells, too. Rejects. They…well, they weren’t right.” Enyo’s voice had gone quiet. She almost seemed…embarrassed? “They need to be special. I’m not just…filling an order, or something. They’re for someone very important. To me.” She paused for a moment, then hastily added, “And to the Second. And the Templars.”

Well, that explained where she’d been slipping off to while everyone and their mother was having a look at my remaining bits. I tried to wheel my chair closer to the limbs she was poking through, but to my great consternation, it still did not move on spite alone.

“So did you figure out how to get around the metal bits, then?” Better to change the subject. Enyo’d started fiddling with the fingers on one of the more delicate-looking arms, squeezing them in her hand. The human one, usually. “Or do I get a remote control to operate with my tongue, or something?”

“Implants,” she murmured. “An inch or so up your arm and your thigh. It’s going to hurt, High Marshal, but it should make for an interface that will work just as well as a more direct installation.” She squeezed the arm in her hands tight. “...It may be better to simply wait until Lady Hesselius is done treating your condition. I’m worried we’ll have to rip the implants out for her to treat you properly, and once it’s cleared up we could do a much safer, more typical installation.”

I was fairly sure it wasn’t going to clear up; Cosette made it sound more like a curse than anything. A curse from Walpurgisnacht herself. The fact that I was alive was either extremely lucky, or…

“…You don’t think she can treat it, do you.” She’d forced a neutral expression onto her face, but her tone was quiet, a bit sad. I’d let my worry show for a bit too long, and she caught it. I did my best to laugh it off.

“I’m just sick of being wheeled around; I much prefer to do it myself. Bit of extra pain’s worth it, so long as you have a block of wood or a rag or something for me to bite down on.” A ghost of a smile returned to her face, and she nodded ever-so-slightly.

“…That’s typical of you, High Marshal. I…” A lengthy pause as she fidgeted with an arm, then carefully cleared the extra limbs from her table. “I’d prefer to do this personally. To make sure everything…everything installs correctly, with no complications.”

“No Venenum, then.”

“No Venenum. Apologies, High Marshal. It’s selfish, I know.” ‘No’ wasn’t an option here, it seemed. That was…

No, that was alright. I’d trusted her with more. Couldn’t be worse than losing them in the first place, right? I shot her the most reassuring smile I could manage as she lifted me from my chair, but it got harder and harder to keep up after I settled in, and as the familiar roar of a saw filled my ears.

“Grit your teeth, High Marshal,” murmured Enyo as she stuffed a strip of scrap leather into my mouth. “This is going to sting.”


“Pinky, left. Ring finger, left. Middle finger, left.” We’d done this a few times since the operation now; Enyo sat next to me on my bed and called out commands, eyes closed, listening for…any imperfection in the machinery, I suppose. There had been none so far; the operation hurt about ten times as much as I expected it to and there was a leather strap in her workshop that you could use for dental records because of it, but everything was working smoothly.

It was almost too smooth, and it bothered me a bit from the get-go. These were distinctly civilian prostheses. It was certainly Enyo that had made them, I didn’t doubt that for a moment, but it was territory I’d never seen her delve into before. My new arms and legs were slender and pitch-black, delicate and almost gentle. They matched up perfectly – or very, very close – with my stumps, and reminded me more of scandalous gloves and boots than fresh limbs. Not a single hidden chainsaw or laser or somesuch, either.

I wondered idly if Enyo thought of them the same way – more like accessories than weapons - as she ran her hands along them to test their sensitivity. …I could have done that myself, of course, but she’d hardly left my side since the operation, as though I’d run off and start punching holes in walls if left alone.

…Which was an entirely fair call, as I nearly snuck out to do just that the moment she drifted off. Be a bit of a pisser for the maintenance crew, but I was excited just to be able to punch things again. Also thought about clocking El a few dozen times for laughing whenever she’d stop by my room, but it wasn’t worth the trouble. Yet. She did send me a lovely manicure set, after all, and classy white heels I would have worn to a ball or something if I owned a dress to go with them.

Really, she was so enthusiastic about being a bitch that it was hard to hate her for it.

Still, I barely had a minute to immerse myself in thoughts-slash-fantasies-slash-plans of grinding the smug off of Elcarys’s face with my heel before Enyo reached across my lap and laced her fingers in mine.

“…High Marshal? Can you feel this?” …I wasn’t sure what she was getting at. We’d tested this already, just a bit ago, but her voice had gone quiet again. For a moment I worried that there was something wrong, but I nodded distantly all the same.

“…And this?” Her mechanical hand brushed against my knee, then continued up my leg, up to the still-fleshy part of my thigh. I furrowed my brow and nodded slowly.

In retrospect, I should have realized. I probably should have realized quite a bit earlier, actually. Weeks ago, maybe months. Maybe a year or two, I don’t bloody well know. She went far out of her way to make me new limbs so that I might feel normal. Something more than a Templar and a hero, something to let me stay just a little bit human. Then she spent two days groping me. Then…

Right then, she leaned in close, and our lips met. She kissed me, and I froze. It wasn’t my first kiss or anything, I turned in my V-card quite a while ago, but…I suppose I never expected it from Enyo. And not one like this, definitely – a hard kiss, a passionate, desperate kiss, as she squeezed my hand and my thigh.

…I squeezed back, after a few seconds. I didn’t quite know what to do, or how to feel. A lot of things…sort of flowed out at once, as she pushed me back on the bed, straddled me, as my shiny new arms slid around her shoulders.

That one I could definitely feel.