Static, sounding disappointed, said, "That was very quick ... but I suppose it will do."

Echo, on her knees, turned away from the crowd and vomited helplessly onto the floor. While Vezhan smiled up to Static, still amused by the goings-on, Static said, "Bring me the skins, James." James glared at him, but moved out into the center of the hall, where the three pieces of Blood Demon's skin lay soaked in blood on the floor.

Blood Demon tilted his head to the side slightly, his fingers tapping against his muscles lightly as he waited in pain, though his expression showed nothing. Echo, still bent over on the floor, was racked with the pain she felt from Blood -- and the self-loathing she knew would never go away, never, never...

James picked up the skins with disgust at such senseless violence, and handed them to Static, who made a quick gesture, dematerializing them to a place unknown. James stood there with his fists clenched, dark blood from the skins dripping from his scarred hands.

Echo then stood, wiping her mouth, and with shaking fingers removed Blood's shackles. She whispered, "I'm sorry, love ... I'm sorry ... I didn't want to do this."

Static rose from his "announcer's throne" and started toward the door, walking past Blood as he did so. There he stopped and trailed a gloved finger down Blood's exposed muscle momentarily, smirking. Blood looked up at him and laughed.

Static continued to the door, where he turned around and addressed the crowd. "Let it be known," he said, "that you are all a bunch of sick bastards for watching this ... and that's okay." With that, he opened the door and stepped out into the night.

Blood Demon, his voice harsh yet flavored with agony, said "Take ... the child ... and go ..."

"I won't leave you!" cried Echo.

"Sadly, you will," said Blood. "And ... deprogram Vezhan from whatever has been done, or when I return, I shall not be pleased ..."

"Please," said Echo, almost blinded by tears, "Arthur's gone ... there are many healers here ... let us help you now, beloved!"

Blood Demon stood up from the table slowly. "No healers," he said. "I will live, or die, on my own."

James lifted Vezhan, cradling him sweetly, and brought the child toward Echo, saying softly, "Here is your child, dear." Echo fell back away from Blood, near collapse, bumping into James. As Vezhan looked around and began to whimper, not seeing Static, Echo turned and took her son in her arms ... recognizing how much bigger he was than the infant she had last held ...

Blood Demon looked at Vezhan oddly. "I am going in a moment..."

"Blood ... I love you ... I love you ..." Echo whispered.

Vezhan still looked around for Static. Blood said harshly, "I am really ... not in the mood for this ..."

Echo cradled Vezhan close to her, knowing a baby bonds with scent and touch more than sight, but Vezhan still squirmed in her arms, looking around. Faintly she said to Blood, "You really want me to go?"

"No," said Blood. "I will go. I refuse to stand here any longer in front of this ..." he motioned a fleshless hand towards the crowd.

James said helplessly, folding his arms over his chest, "I did try to help you. I lost my eyes and offered my life."

"I know, James," said Echo. "Many offered. I offered, in the end."

"All who offered are fools," said Blood, the words withering yet another piece of Echo's soul.

"But few did anything," said James. "No one else here did much before this other than threaten and beg."

Echo whispered, her voice choked, "Till we meet again ... even if it be in hell, my love ..."

Blood did not even acknowledge her. He moved slowly to the exit, feeling little pity for the town he would soon wipe off the face of the earth, and was gone.

Echo, sobbing, desolate, filled with anguish and hatred, slowly carried her child from the room ... holding her bloody hands to the little one's mouth, knowing how he liked the taste of blood ...

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