How convenient it was, Morana thought to herself, that the sun should be rising on this scene.

With considerable force, the man named Rot dislodged the axe from the chopping block and held it before him with his body taking a more combative posture. The luminous blue eyes bore into her own paler irises as she stumbled ever closer.

"P-Please," she spoke again after coughing up a mouthful of bog water, significantly clearing her voice, "I seek-"

"What do you want," Rot interrupted firmly, not asking but demanding an answer. There was no tolerance for the pawns of Magnus, not in his eyes. "The last messenger your creator sent to me was a hulking behemoth with iron-plated bones so tell me why you, of all the things he's cobbled together, are you here."

He hadn't taken a single step towards her as he spoke, just waited with axe in hand. There was no bargaining with this man, no way to convince him that she was some different horned girl with indigo hair that had attacked his sister months ago. Hanging her head low she felt the sting of tears forming, felt them trickle down her cheeks as she raised her head again to meet his eyes.

"I'm sorry," she whispered and spoke again with more volume. "I'm so sorry."

For a moment, the expression of loathing relaxed and the axe lowered. Morana dared to feel hope fora fleeting second before his face contorted again, barely controlled rage swirling just below the surface

"Apologies or not," he growled, obviously fighting very hard to contain his temper, "You willingly attacked Alma... you did so of your own volition, not by orders. How do I know this isn't some elaborate ruse, huh? The crows haven't been spying for days and suddenly you appear asking for forgiveness?!"

As if to prove her innocent intent, Morana lifted her arms, letting the dangling sleeves bunch at her elbows to reveal her wrist stumps. "I mean no harm..."

"Then tell me what you want." There was less venom in his voice now, his eyes fixed for a moment on her stumps. The axe lowered as far as it could but he still would not release his white-knuckled grip.

This made her pause.

What do I want?

Why did I come to this place?

The answer was rather simple when she thought about it. "Help," she answered, feeling fresh tears course down her cheeks.

Rot's eyes went wide. "Wh... what?"

"Help me..." she said again, voice cracking as the tears flowed freely. "Every second... it's like agony. My stitches hurt, they itch and sting and I can't even rub them! I still feel my hands... I feel everything and it hurts... it hurts!"

She sank to her knees, sobbing, head resting on the chopping block for support. Rot looked down at her, a sobbing Nail at his feet, presenting her head for chopping like so much firewood. Already he was raising the axe when a third voice stopped him.


Dropping the axe to his left, Rot turned to see Doctor Allister in the entrance door, bundled up against the cold with visible circles under her eyes. The commotion was enough to wake the naga and she slithered towards the scene, wincing at the cold on her scales. She hated the winter and usually slept in when it snowed, making her sudden appearance even more surprising to the stitched immortals.

"She's different from the others," she told her employer and friend. "She isn't like those zombies and you know it."

Rot struggled with his words for moments, looking from Allister to the still-weeping Morana and back again. "She's even more dangerous than the others," he argued. "A single Nail is no more than a puppet for the Scarecrow and the fact that he's made one that can think for itself-"

"Herself, Rot, she has a gender," the doctor warned, eyes narrowed and tone cross.

"Whatever! She attacked Alma without order, you told me that yourself, remember?"

"And has paid a price too terrible for her actions... can't you see that? She reeks of peat and she has no hands. No. Hands."

"I can see-"

"Could've fooled me!"

"Oh, grow up already. She's nothing more than leftovers from the Scarecrow-"


The stinging strike from the doctor's open palm echoed for a moment in the morning air. Rot's anger had vanished in an instant, replaced by surprise. After all the pain he'd endured through his immortal life, nothing had stopped his train of thought like this simple slap across the face.

"She isn't the first," Allister hissed venomously. "I seem to remember a certain other stitched-together immortal with horns. One that came crawling to me with an empty chest cavity, no legs and a sincere death wish."

The remaining anger and distrust drained out of Rot's body and his shoulder's sagged. He sighed, feeling disgusted with himself as he calmly removed his heavy jacket and draped it over the still-sobbing and shuddering Morana's shoulders. She looked up in surprise, fearing the worst. Instead her pale eyes took in the pained, sympathetic face of the man who opened this establishment.

Lifting her in his arms, he simply said, "Let's get you inside. Doc can help you with your hands. The stitches, uh... they take some time getting used to." As he carried the poor girl towards the clinic, Doctor Allister sighed and slowly slithered after them.

"Alive for hundreds of years," she mumbled with a sad smirk, "and compared to everyone else you've got even more growing up to do, Rot."

End Part 2