Kasumi felt very odd as she came to, her head woozy and her wrists on fire. She moved her head, then tried to sit up, and found that she couldn't. Opening her eyes, she saw that she was bound to a table in Toung's study, her arms held by a piece of rope around her fingers and another around her forearm. More rope fastened her legs, waist, and torso. She was entirely naked. A small slow tear fell down her cheek, and she sighed, helplessly.

Hiore came through the door above her head, and smiled down at her. "Good morning, Kasumi. Have you slept well? Toung will be out most of today."

She took a deep breath to steady herself, and looked up at him. "Why am I bound, Hiore? Surely these tattoos were punishment enough."

"Oh no," he said softly, bending down to kiss the pads of each of the fingers on her right hand, "No, this is not the end of your punishment. Toung felt that you should be put into your place, and as you cannot, or will not, serve him in this one, you must be put in another where you can. Which is why the witch Garuki will be here soon."

She panted, her heart starting to race, and beads of sweat popped out all over her body. The witch was evil, and she'd seen the old woman's handiwork before. If only she could see the tattoos on her wrists, to see what she would become...

"It would do you no good, chile," the scratchy voice from the doorway said. It belonged to an old black woman with huge lungs and even larger lips, but that was not the face who wore it. Instead there was a tall thin woman, almost gaunt, with fair black skin and thin dark eyes. Her hair was dark, and wavy, but not curly or coarse, telling of a muttalo heritage. She dressed in muted grays, with a long over cloak of black, silver stars stitched around the hem of the hood. She stepped lightly, gliding, over to Kasumi, and put her fingers on the young girl's temples.

"You made yo master very angry, girl. He did no 'preciate your lyin', and your t'ievin. So he ask me to change dat 'bout you. And change I will, girl."

She nodded to Hiore, who nodded back, slowly, and left the room, turning out the light. The muttalo woman stepped to the side, and lighted a tall red and black candle, waiting until it dripped a little. She dipped her finger into the swirling puddle of wax and then began painting designs over Kasumi's body in tight looping circles. Nearly three hours later she finished, the Japanese girl's body a tapestry of red and black. Garuki then snuffed the candle, and brought out another one, this one white.

"Now we gon' transform you girl. You like dis. It make you same on outsi, as you is on de insi."

Kasumi was to tired to fight as the witch spread more melted wax over her, coating her in the white over the black and red, going over her eyes and her mouth, until finally she could no longer breathe. The last thing she heard was the door shutting and Garuki whistling happily to herself. Then it all went black.

Ghost sat astride the gargoyle's neck, her hair billowing around her like a cloud. She flipped over the letter again, looking at the small marks where the long nails bit into the parchment, the crease where he'd bent it slightly handing it to Killian. There was a little bit of dark red crusted along one edge, dried blood, not the messenger's. Possibly not the "vampire's" either. She smirked a bit to herself, lowering the cross necklace over her head, dabbing a bit of the holy water onto her wrist.

And yet. And yet. Here she stood at St Michael's, on the farthest tower, dressed in her thermal cat suit to reduce the cold, a cloak around her shoulders with the hood pulled up around her face. The wind died, and her hair came to rest down the front of her costume, two long thick white horse tails that fell past her crooked knees to encircle the stone creature's neck. She felt the whisper of breath against her neck, the hood falling from her head, and she shivered, a shock running through her body from the middle of her chest to the end of her spine.

"You came," the words brushed against her skin, and she felt the lips with the long teeth behind them kiss at the bumps of her back just above the neckline of the suit. She tried to turn, to move against him, to pull her guns and freeze him, but her limbs were locked, limp like the hard muscle had been traded for noodles.

"Yes," she said simply, all she could get her body to do. He came around in front of her, his feet dangling below him, and cupped her face, pushing her hair back from it, tucking the stray hairs behind her ears. He slid his hand under the cross, and brought his finger forward to slide the chain up to the nail, where it split in two. The broken necklace fell through the air, winking in the moonlight, tinkling as it hit a few of the statues below. He then smiled, showing two sharp long canines, his bright blue eyes glowing as if lit from behind. Long white hair was kept away from his face with a long black ribbon that matched the black coat and tall leather pants. His mesh shirt slid over his chest, making the flesh seem to ripple and pucker, his fingerless gloves accented the incredibly pale skin. She would have thought him albino, if it weren't for those eyes.

"Father shall not be fetching you, I'm afraid," He purred, his smile growing wider, " He sent me instead. Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Bryant Guizardi, son of Ricardo."

He held out his hand, and the freeze on her muscles ceased. She kept her hands to herself, and nodded at the tall blonde man. She stood, balancing on the head of the gargoyle, and crouched. She leapt up and back, flipping over to land softly on her toes a good twenty feet away, whipping off the cloak and drawing out her guns in one smooth motion. She fired the shot, and it sliced through the air, a burst of solid light that burst upon hitting its target, sending a charge through them to immobilize. But the target wasn't there.

She spun around wildly at the laughter over her shoulder, and looked up, the gun following her eyes. He stood there, hanging in the air, laughing.

"Bad form, youngling! Bad form!" He managed to croak out between peals of laughter, doubling over. His long coat threatened to topple him over as a hard wind swept across the tower, but he paid it little mind, spinning through the air like a dervish. He came to rest, finally, rocking back and forth, on the long neck of a carved dragon; his booted feet stuck out before him, kicking into the cheeks of the reptile. She noticed, with a mix of wonder and puzzlement, each time the heels struck the stone, chips flew away. "Father would find little humor in that, I'd wager, Keth. Very little."

"How did you-"

"Know your name? Simple my dear thing. I've the darkest gift of all. Telepathy. 'Tis a curse, and a blessing, aye, so it 'tis." He laughed again, and brought his hands above his head, her guns flying from her hands and into his. "Forgive me, sister."


And her world went dark with a blinding pain and a crackling sound.

The Ghost awoke, tired, numb, and in a room filled with candles and antiques, the light reflected off of polished gold and glittering gemstones. She sat up straighter in the chair she occupied, and instantly regretted it. The world swam a moment, then settled on a young girl in front of her, dressed all in black, her face painted a soft ivory color, the eyes blacked out and the lips shaded the same color. Dark blue streaks sat in and behind the hollows of her cheeks, giving her a gaunt look. Nothing close to the skull painted on Keth's face, but disturbing - she looked far deader than The Ghost could ever have.

The girl's hair stuck out in millions of different directions, aided by hairspray, and mousse, and God only knew what else, two long braids falling across her face, charms woven into the strands. She sat, staring, unblinking at Keth, finally opening her mouth, taking a deep breath, as if she were unused to doing so, and spoke.

"Nice dress," She said simply, in almost a whisper. Her eyes dipped closed as her lips moved, as if it were more energy than she possessed to look at the person to whom she spoke as well as say the words. Finally, her eyes entirely closed, she spoke again. "Bryant was not gentle. Father is very angry. I'm sorry for him, Keth."

She looked at her hard, her anger mounting. "Are you a telepath too? Picking through my mind? Where am I? Who are you? Who do you think you are?" She raged at the girl, who sunk into her chair as Keth rose, unsteadily, to her feet. She seemed afraid that Ghost meant to hit her. Keth looked at her upraised hand, and blushed, furious more now with herself.

"I'm sorry. Sorry. God. I don't believe I did that."

"It's okay. It's my gift. I drive people to the brink of rage - though it is their choice to rage on or pull back. Your choice, considering my brother's personality and choice of transportation mode, is commendable. My name is Bethany. And I know your name because Bryant told it to me. He cannot help that he reads your thoughts. It is his curse. Some would say that our gifts are double edged. I would agree," she said deliberately, her eyes drooping once more.

Keth nodded, and folded her hands across themselves.

"Father would like to see you. He is waiting for us. Come," Bethany said in her ponderous manner, and stood, blinking, and sashayed from the room faster than Keth would've thought possible. She nearly had to bolt across the room to keep up.