Characters: Ilsa, Kroenen and an OC
Rating: R for violence and gore
Summary: this follows A Deal with the Devil. Kroenen has just been transformed from a flesh and blood man into something different.
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Where did all this dust come from? Kroenen wondered as he woke up. It seemed to fill his head, the creases between his fingers, and drip from the end of his arm where a hand no longer was. He was lying on his own operating table, scalpel and suturing materials within easy grasp. The shredded remains of his SS uniform still clung to his body, and his mask covered his head. He tried to blink and then he remembered, the night, the ritual, the explosion and the bargain he made. He tried to sit up and every movement felt labored. He wondered how long had passed. The bones in his back ground together, a feeling that was uncomfortable but not painful. His skin cracked and stretched as he moved; like a wax coating on a fruit now flaking off. He would sit up, he told himself; nothing was impossible to a trained will. He would sit up and start to fix himself, whatever it took. He ran his tongue over his gums; they had dried out without his lips to cover them. So concerned was he with regaining mastery of his body, that he didn't even notice Ilsa curled up asleep in a chair until she sat up. "How long has it been?" he started to ask, but the words came out unintelligible.
Ilsa seemed to understand anyway. She walked slowly around the room, moving as if through water. Her hair was lank, and she brushed a strand of it out of her eyes. "It's been two days," she said in a monotone. "We're in your little hideaway in the Lofoten Islands. It's fucking cold here. You had to choose a place north of the Arctic circle?" She sighed and said more calmly, "Can you sit up?" Kroenen nodded but after struggling for a few more moments fell back. He had never been so helpless. "Servant?" he asked. It came out "ser-hant", but Ilsa seemed to understand. "They all died with Grigori. They needed his life force somehow. And they needed all the deaths, from all the death camps. We spent our power frivolously, Karl, and now it's gone." Kroenen could tell she was hardly talking to him at all. He held up his remaining hand and beckoned her over. He did not want to have to say any more, wanted instead to speak directly into her mind, but would she even accept a psychic bond with him again after Grigori, after everything that had been between them? Perhaps she would prefer to keep him here, pinned to this table by his injuries like a bug in a drawer. She walked over to him and, not bothering to mask her distaste, touched her hand to his. "Is that enough?" she asked. Kroenen's nerves were run ragged, and he wanted to scream and rage at her, but he took a few deep breaths instead. He had never yet allowed her insults and jibes to upset him, and he wouldn't start now, so weak and inarticulate. The word "please" died unsaid on his lips, the letter "p" beyond his ability. She gave him a small access into her mind, not enough to guide her fingers through the lengthy surgeries he had planned but enough that he could make her understand. Bring me slaves, he commanded. "We're on an island, miles from no where. Grigori left not a single scrap of flesh behind with which to bring him back. Where the hell am I going to find slaves?" Her voice had risen to a scream by the end of the last words, and she let go of his hand. "Do it," he said, then lay back on the operating table. "You need me." He spoke each word slowly and distinctly. He saw tears in her eyes, redness he had not noticed before, and wished for half a second he had some comfort to offer her, but he had made himself into someone for whom that was impossible.
Kroenen reached instead for his tools to start to make what repairs he could one-handed. Ilsa ran around the operating table before Kroenen could complete the motion, and slid the tray of surgical implements away from him. "You need me, too, Kroenen," she hissed. "Don't forget it. You will lie there in that shell of flesh and metal immobile and undying forever unless you help me resurrect Grigori." Her eyes became wild and she ran her red-nailed hand through her hair. "Swear you will by gods light and dark," she commanded, "Swear it by Germany. Swear it by Odin and the Ogdru Jahad and everything living and dead that ever walked the earth. Make an oath unbreakable to even a creature such as you, or I swear, I will stake your body to the ground on this island, and leave you here forever." Her words had started a power growing in the room, a wind that sprang from no where and everywhere started to toss Ilsa's hair around, and Kroenen felt the oath building in him before he started to utter the words. "I swear it," he said, "by gods light and dark, by Odin, by Germany, by all these things and more." His words sounded meaningless and garbled to mortal ears, but he knew that did not matter, that beings long dead listened and waited on them, that his actions would be bound by those words until Grigori was resurrected or time itself stopped. "I swear to help you resurrect Grigori Rasputin." When he had finished he fell back. Ilsa nodded curtly, and left without another word. Ilsa was true to her word as well, and a few days later returned to Kroenen's room with two men and two women. Kroenen beckoned her over, and she brought one of the women with her. Peasant, Kroenen thought looking the woman over, but it did not matter. He put his hand on her forehead, and took over her mind with one thought. In the past when he had his leisure, he made his slaves slowly, treated it like a seduction. That left more of their minds intact, so they could be somewhat autonomous, would at least remember to feed and clothe themselves, but none of that mattered now. The woman's will and his were one. "Karl!" said Ilsa. Both Kroenen and the woman turned to face her.
The woman's name had been Lotte, but now her name was his. "Yes," he said with Lotte's mouth. "Do you need the others now?" "No, you can lock them up somewhere, set one to waiting on the others." Ilsa herded the others back, and left Kroenen alone with his newest servant. There was some advantage, he reflected, in taking over a mind so completely. She would sicken and die within a few weeks, but his power over her now was unmatched. He had but to think it, and her hands moved. If he concentrated he could see through her eyes, and use her body as his own. He did so now, and looked down at himself. Lotte cut the remains of his clothing off him, and brought over scalpels and clamps, rib spreaders and saws. Through her eyes he saw the mess that steel beam had made of his back. He avoided looking at his internal organs--they had turned black and dusty from the same magic that preserved his existence and turned his blood to sand--but he saw where the beam had penetrated, four vertebrae had been cracked beyond repair. Lotte drew these out. Kroenen would keep them and study them later. Sensation in his lower limbs faded and Kroenen felt a certain panic, contemplating the thought that he might never get it back, but he pushed that aside. Lotte brought over a steel coil. He had not intended it for anything like this, but something must hold him up, and he didn't have enough victims to take one apart and use it for spare parts. Lotte, guided by Kroenen attached the coil to the ends of his spine that remained. Her hands became coated with a fine dusting of sand as she rummaged around in his abdomen, and the sensation felt very odd to Kroenen, but there was still no pain.
Once the metal was attached, Kroenen guided her in scratching the sigils and spells into the wires that would animate it, allow it to pick up his nerve impulses and become one with his body. He suffered a small moment of doubt: would those old spells of animation work on his dead flesh? But he felt soon sensation return to his legs. Sew it up, he told her. Lotte did an excellent job, Kroenen thought, looking down at the neat, even stitches. I'll make you immortal Lotte, or at least parts of you he said into her mind. He enjoyed his little joke, although she was in no position to do so. She had also helped him with the easier task of attaching one of his mechanical hands. He had worked on this design when making a replacement hand for the poor bastard who tried out one of the portal generator's early incarnations. A small portal had been created, but the young member of the Thule society who had worn the glove lost his hand in the ensuing explosion. Kroenen flexed the new metal fingers. He was not entirely satisfied with its motion yet, but he could make changes. But more important than that was getting his face back; he had made his bargain at the cost of disfigurement, but that was done, and the time had come for repairs. He beckoned Lotte over with his new hand, and laid a scalpel into one of hers. He could have made the cuts himself, but he enjoyed bending her will to so completely. Kroenen took off his mask and lay back on the operating table. Lotte's fingers curved around the blade. Kroenen tried to see some reluctance, some evidence that his hold over her was not complete, but she put the scalpel to her eyelid and pressed, drawing a line of blood, and finally pulled off the bit of flesh, leaving her eye wide and brown. At his command she picked up his tiny cauterizing torch and carefully sealed the flesh over her eye so no blood would obscure her vision while she worked on him. He felt a whisper of her pain come through the link between them, and drank it in. Lotte bent over him, her face hideous so close to his, and began to sew her eyelid onto him. Kroenen said the spells that should bind it to his face, keep it animated even though it was dead. These, too, were among his oldest spells, first practiced on his sister's dead cat, later perfected on his homemade army. The eyelid seemed to take; Kroenen could control it immediately, and he fought to keep the muscles in his face from trying to smile. Time enough for that when Lotte gave up her lips as well. Kroenen hated to sleep, but he could feel his mind's exhaustion from controlling Lotte for so long, so he put himself into a slight trance to wait out the hours until he could begin again. He left Lotte curled like a kitten in the corner. He would have to guide her through the motions of eating and drinking soon or she would die, and he was feeling a certain attachment to her, as he did to his favorite scalpel. She was a worthy tool.
He roused himself a few hours later, and the room was dark. He tried to open his eyes and found he couldn't. Lotte's eyelids had somehow sealed shut over his eyes and her lips sealed his mouth closed. He tried to reach out to Lotte's mind to make her come over and help him, but she was in some comatose state and he could not reach her. Animal terror suffused his brain, though he tried to fight it. He swung his arms wildly trying to find something, anything, to free himself with. His hand connected with the boning knife on his tool bench, so he picked it up and cut off the new flesh. When he was free he cradled his freshly bleeding face in his hands, feeling the cold of the metal of his left hand against the raw wounds. Thoughts of despair crowded into his mind. He wished to lie down and die, to seek the blessed oblivion of the grave. But no, even that was denied him. The power of his oath to Ilsa drew him ever forward, and he could not rest until he fulfilled it. When Kroenen felt able he stood up and walked over to his mirror and looked at the new damage. The cuts from before had been widened--in his panic he had nearly skewered one of his eyeballs, and the face that looked out at him was even more hideous than before. So this was how Ogdru Jahad enforced their bargains, he thought. Kroenen put his mask back on, and the straps slipped between his metal fingers. He would add some kind of grip to them soon, alter the nerve connections to be more sensitive, and the hand would serve him. Lotte still sat slumped in the corner like a discarded rag doll. Kroenen brought a glass of water over to her and forced her to drink it. It wasn't her fault the grafts didn't take--or rather, took too well. Her face was a twin now to his, and without lips she could no longer be his mouthpiece, but she still had things to give. Her blood, her bones, her pain, her death, all his.
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