Scarlet crouches silently, watching the couple from the shadows. Firelight from the hearth flickers, casting Lilith and Faisal in dim illumination. The warrior kneels before the young woman, his head bowed.
“Are you ready, my love?”, asks the Pitaxian, a metallic glint flashing from the serrated dagger in her grasp. The dark-skinned warrior nods, the motion drawing Scarlet’s attention to the tattooed image of the Goddess on his brow.
Lilith places the blade across the bridge of the young man’s nose, just below the tattoo. Blood begins to dribble down his face as she draws the dagger along the skin. The priestess can see the muscles of Faisal’s jaw tensing against the pain as the blade turns and ascends along the edge of the nose, over eyebrows and along the scalp. Before long, the left half of the warrior’s body is soaked by blood streaming in the wake of dagger and a dark pool begins to spread beneath his knees.
Within moments the grisly operation concludes, a single long cut completely encircling the entirety of the Sarenrae tattoo. The young man’s face is unrecognizable under the coating of red fluid, and Scarlet can see the him struggling to remain upright against the pain and blood loss. The priestess’ stomach turns as the other woman licks the gore-covered blade, closing her eyes as if from pleasure.
Setting the blade aside, Lilith reaches up, digging her long fingernails into the back edge of the cut, near the crown of Faisal’s head. The warrior’s face contorts from pain, but he remains upright as the woman begins to pull the flap of skin forward. A fresh torrent of blood soaks the man’s face, neck and chest as the tattoo and surrounding flesh are slowly peeled away from his head, leaving red vessels and white bone exposed on the surface. Scarlet forces back a rush of bile as the last strip tears free from Faisal’s nose, leaving the upper half of his face a grotesque mask of bone, cartilage and blood.
Lilith cradles the bloody mass of tattooed skin, a triumphant smile on her face. After a moment of reflection, the Pitaxian woman crumples the tissue into a ball and tosses it to the flames. The smell of roasting flesh permeates the room, mixing with the metallic tang of Faisal’s blood, again threatening the priestess’ gastric control.
The young warrior’s eyes open for the first time, blinking away the fluid still pouring from the raw tissue above. He stands and turns, walking towards Scarlet and looking directly into her eyes. Blood streams from his hands as he reaches out.
“Dawnsister, will you heal my flesh as you would not heal my soul?”
With a scream, Scarlet sits bolt upright in bed, heart pounding, sweat drenching her nightgown. The servant girl rushes into the chamber, a fireplace poker at the ready.
“Your worship! What happened?! Is something wrong?!”
The priestess glances around, becoming aware of the familiar surroundings of her room. As the worst effects of the nightmare begin to recede, she nods distractedly.
“Yes, Gracie, I’m fine. Just a bad dream. Please fetch me a decanter of wine.”
Abigail rushes into the room, worry and fear written across her face, her husband mere steps behind, a blade at the ready. The young woman rushes to the bed and gives her sister a hug, words tumbling out in a stream, “Ohmygodscarletareyouok?!”
The priestess holds the girl tightly, waving Dorian away with her free hand. “Yes, Abby, I’m fine.” She looks up, speaking again to the servant. “Gracie, on second thought, please bring water instead of wine.”