She emerged from the carriage, a black-and-white blur against the redness inside.
“Oh.” Freetrick stopped, stunned, his eyes closed and his shoulders slumped. “Oh, strike me out.”
Istain stared, round-eyed. “Wow.” Then, looking closer, “is that a metal squid eating her head?”
“It does this obsequious chiropteran the most unspeakable pleasure to present the Dark Lady her Vileness Bloodbyrn DeMacabre,” intoned Mr. Skree from his perch on the carriage roof, “the only child of the Duke DeMacabre, the dominatrix of lower Joublournie and Carnivé, heir to the Clot of Torture, and the betrothed of the Despot of Skrea.
Bloodbyrn slid through the mist toward Freetrick, her feet barely seeming to move under the cloud of black lace that curved down from her hips. It hissed softly against the ground. Coils of silver-chased jet swirled up from the lace, constricting her waist, then fluting upward and outward. Somewhere in that general area gleamed spiked shoulder pads and a bat-winged metal skull the size of a fist, but Freetrick found his powers of observation and critical thought weaken as his gaze traversed the space between them.
“I’m almost impressed,” said Madene.
“I am impressed,” said Zathara.
“I like the silver studs” said Istain.
“Oh, gross!” Madene’s voice was all shock and disgust. “Blink before your stinking eyes fall out.”
“She’s just wearing a lot of really uncomfortable underwear,” Zathara pointed out.
“I did not know underwear could do that.”
Kendrick’s voice had become a growl. “Another one.”
“Guys!” Hissed Freetrick, eyes still filled with lush and deadly curves. Death by corsetry. Or maybe by silver stud punctures. “Help me!”
“Help you? How exactly?” Came Istain’s voice from behind him, “You want to take down the vampire, the storm troopers, or the dominatrix?”
She was almost within touching distance now, her eyes wide-set and bizarrely pale within rings of heavy black powder. Silver barbs gleamed in her ears and nose
“Please…” squeaked Freetrick. Oh truth help him, soon he would be able to smell her…
“Let me handle this. Hey there,” Istain stepped toward the woman. “I’m Istain, Free’s taller and more attractive friend. How are you doing? Might I compliment you on the lovely bat wings you have there on your…uh.”
Bloodbyrn was smiling at him. Her teeth shone silver and sharp.
Istain made a sort of wheezing noise. Then he stepped behind Zathara.
And now the girl’s eyes were fixed on Freetrick. She closed the distance between them. Then there was a rustle of fabric and a creak of leather, and Freetrick felt firm flesh squeeze against his leg as Bloodbyrn deliberately planted her right foot behind his left. She pressed into him, the hard points of her bodice pushing against his chest. Bloodbyrn’s face turned upward and Freetrick tried hard to concentrate on it and not on the burgeoning vistas below. Rationalist girls just didn’t dress like that.
She smiled up at him and crooked a finger, then cupped a hand around her slippery lips as if preparing to whisper a secret to him. Freetrick’s eyes flicked to his friends, but he was already lowering his head so that his ear was on level with her mouth.
Bloodbyrn’s lips brushed his ear. Warm breath washed across his face as her hand slid across his shoulder.
He felt the tip of her tongue flick against his skin as her mouth opened.
The hand on his shoulder twitched. Freetrick felt something jab through his decomposing clothing and puncture his new skin.
Dizziness rolled over him.
“There,” said the woman, Bloodbyrn. “It is done.” Her pale face faded as Freetrick slumped onto the ground. “He does not seem to have defended himself in any way. How disappointing.”
Freetrick tried to move. He couldn’t.
“You two.” He heard Bloodbyrn’s voice, echoing and strongly slow now, “pick His Malevolence up and deposit him in the carriage. Mind the ogre.”
Freetrick couldn’t cry out. He could barely breathe.
“And you four…persons,” said Bloodbyrn, “leave us now, before I slaughter you.”
Dimly, Freetrick someone kneel beside him, a hard metallic claw caressed his cheek.
“For the Ultimate Fiend,” crooned Bloodbyrn, “is mine now.”