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from Born to Die by Kat Frost

Chapter 2
Leander The Torture God

I drifted slowly to wakefulness in a haze of warm fuzzy euphoria. I felt cozy, and... perfect. As if newly minted. I let my eyes drift open, and cool air gushed into them. My vision was watery, and the ceiling above me swam. Where was I? For a moment, I thought I was back in my room at Aecor, where my uncle was lord over what were my father’s one-time estates.

But no. I was lying a hard bed with the thinnest of mattresses on it, in a narrow windowless room, only slightly bigger than the cell room I’d been in earlier. Memory rushed back and I pushed myself up. A girl with violent red hair shaved on either side and swept back over the top stood at the foot of my bed with her arms crossed and a bored expression on her face.

“Finally. Took your time,” she grumped.

“What...?” I tried to ask. My mouth felt like it was full of cotton but I felt surprisingly chipper. She didn’t answer, explain the meaning of her comment, or what was going on, which I had to say seemed typical of my day. She pivoted on her heel and military-marched out of the room.

I stood up... and up and up. There seemed to be too much of me, climbing toward the ceiling. I stretched – yes, I was definitely too tall, and that wasn’t all. Tight cords of muscles seethed under my skin when I stretched that hadn’t been there before. My shoulders seemed too widely set. I felt like I’d fallen asleep for a few years and woken mid-puberty. It was, needless to say, disconcerting. My loose day gown I’d been wearing before now barely fit me, and was uncomfortably snug in some places.

Otherwise, I seemed unchanged. I checked my ears with my fingers, relieved to find they were still their pointy old selves. Despite how people reacted, I liked them the way they were. As I lowered my hands, something caught my eye and I looked down at my palms. My left had a brand on it, tangling with the lifelines etched there. Just looking at it brought back, sharp and fresh, the memory of the burning pain stabbing it when King Lamaar had touched the red stone to it. I shivered. Whatever was happening, I didn’t like it.

Also, I had no book. It was a hollow in my heart. Books had always been my comfort, no matter how dire things might be, I could always tuck myself in a corner somewhere and read till the world went away. Now I was alone, with no book, and strange frightening things happening to me, and no way out.

“Welcome to the Eternals, Sajia Tiet’fa.” The door opened grandly, and in walked the king, still wearing his priest robes, which I didn’t understand. In what universe was King Lamaar a priest? That almost got me off somewhere, but I remembered just in time not to stare blankly off into space in front of the king. I dropped a curtsy and opened my mouth to ask what he was talking about, but he was carrying on as if I wasn’t there. I got the impression he’d done this a lot and had stopped noticing that he was even doing it.

“You have a new family – the Eternals. You will stay here with them and train, until you are ready, at which point, and only then, you will go back out into the world. You will be my shining stars, my super soldiers; you will take the world by storm. But of what happens here, of what you are, you will keep an absolute secret. I do not need to threaten; you will learn. Oh! How much you will learn!” He threw his arms to the sides, a rather dramatic move in his robes. “And now, greater things call me. Leander will instruct you from now on. He will have full discretion over your training, and his authority comes from me. So, good luck, train hard, do well, please me, and you will be well rewa...

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