The air had the stench of humanity, which, paradoxically, made Red Vex hungry. She could smell four females and three males. One of the females was quite old. These scents were almost masked by the very strong smell of her own blood, which probably explained the incredible pain across her back and right side. She could hear the heartbeats of the seven humans. They were all strong and steady; they betrayed some tension but nothing like the pounding rhythms of lust or fear that she knew so well. That was definitely bad news, because it meant that they had the advantage. She was lying on her stomach. One wing-assisted leap could carry her over the humans' heads and to safety. She lurched forward and discovered that her hands and feet were bound. She tried opening her eyes and realized that she had also been blindfolded.
Perhaps guile would work. Red Vex had spent centuries perfecting a helpless waif routine that had lured many a victim within striking range. "Please," she whimpered, "I'm afraid." This was true. "I... I hurt." This was also true, but the breathless stammer at the front end was a hero slayer.
The youngest female moved toward her, her heartbeat relaxing as the sickening treacle of human compassion oozed from her. Red Vex took little comfort from this because, at the same time, the air suddenly smelled of metal and charging Mana. One human had bought her act. The others drew weapons and were preparing spells.
"Spare us your deceptions, vile one," came the voice of the old woman.
So much for guile, but she wasn't licked yet. That gave Red Vex an idea. She quintupled her supernatural pheromone production. This particular power only worked at very close proximity, but Red Vex sensed that they were inside a tent or similar structure. Such conditions would be more than adequate for sending her captors into mindless Lust Frenzy. Within seconds males and females alike would be climbing over one another to sample her pleasures.
Then everything went cold and numb. The old woman had Stone Cursed her! Of course she'd be less susceptible to Lust Frenzy than her younger companions, but still, her willpower must have been incredible.
"Are you quite finished?" the old woman asked her as the Stone Curse wore off. The sound of muffled breathing told Red Vex that everyone in the room had covered his or her mouth and nose. She could still send them into Lust Frenzy through the very pores of their skins, but probably not before they realized what she was up to and cut her to pieces. After that, they'd probably celebrate by having an orgy on top of her scattered innards.
Red Vex sighed. "Yeah, I'm done. You can't blame a girl for trying though."
"Ye're no girl, ye're a demon," came the voice of an older - but still well in his prime - man.
"Poe-tay-to, pah-tah-to," remarked Red Vex. "I'm still alive, so you must want something from me."
"In fact, we do," came another woman's voice. "We need information about what's happening in Tristram."
Red Vex shuddered, remembering her escape from that cursed little town. She regained her composure quickly and said, "If I provide this intelligence for you, what do I get in return? And don't say my life, because I know that's one thing that you're not prepared to grant me."
"True enough," said a second, younger man who smelled of testosterone and Strength Elixirs. Red Vex licked her lips. "But you do have a choice between dying quickly and cleanly here..."
"No!" protested the young female.
The man ignored her. "...Or being left tied up and helpless for those creatures that took your wing."
"My wing?" Red Vex flexed her wings. The left one moved, but there was no longer anything on the right. She let out a howl of genuine despair for the first time since she'd become immortal.
No one spoke as the echo of the cry died away. Although her anguish over the loss of her wing was real, Red Vex was not above using the vague pangs of sympathy she sensed around her to her own advantage. "You have the smell of heroes among you," said Red Vex. "Do you intend to return to Tristram to defeat the Zerg?"
"What is that to you?" asked the woman who had asked for information.
"I'll tell you everything I know," said Red Vex, "under one condition."
"Ye're in no position to bargain," remarked the older man.
"I'm in a superb position to bargain," Red Vex shot back. "I have information you need and, since you're already going to kill me, I have nothing to lose."
The man who had threatened her started to speak, but the woman cut him off. "And what would your condition be?"
"I want to go with you to Tristram," said Red Vex.
|His rage slammed into her empathic senses like a fist. Only the fact that the two other males present moved to restrain him saved her life, and Red Vex knew it.|
"Out of the question," said the woman. "We'll have enough trouble watching our backs without keeping an eye on you at the same time."
"Why would you want to go back anyway?" asked the younger man.
"My wing, you dolt!" she snapped. "Those monsters maimed me, and I'll do anything I can to pay them back!" A little righteous wrath went a long way with some humans. Unfortunately, she had no way of knowing she was addressing Dolt Lungren, who hated being called a dolt more than just about anything. His rage slammed into her empathic senses like a fist. Only the fact that the two other males present moved to restrain him saved her life, and Red Vex knew it. She decided to press ahead and try to salvage the situation. "Look," she continued, "Without me, the Zerg will cut you to pieces before you're within a mile of Tristram. I can provide you with the intelligence you need to get in, rescue the prisoners and escape."
"There are people still alive in Tristram?" asked the younger woman.
"I smelled a number of live humans as I fled," lied Red Vex. "It may not be too late to save them, but their time is short. Plus," she continued, this time truthfully, "I saw something else that may be of interest. There's a large field near Tristram surrounded but untouched by the purple ooze. I even spotted a number of cows grazing peacefully. I can lead you there."