This is what it is to be skinned.
He is immortal, he is unable to die, so even though they have rendered him incapable of movement, catching him with a sword in his back, severing bones and nerve bundles, even though he is sprawled out with wide eyes and no air, he can feel it.
He can feel it.
The false knight removes his heart; this is a typical measure for killing the unkillable and he does not die, he cannot die; what he is defies death.
But he can feel it, arteries severed, feel the hot pool of blood under cold skin, feel blood leak from mouth, nose - damn, ears, and it's getting hard to think.
Helpless, he inhales and the knights stir uncomfortably.
"Hold steady, men," the false knight says. "This one shall not be getting up again."
He can't feel his legs, but he can feel everything else. The false knight knows his work, he decides ruefully. Knows it all too well.
There is a hand on the back of his head, grinding his face into rough-hewn floors, the floor of his lady's cathedral. He inhales blood, chokes on it. His heart is discarded out a window. The false knight kneels on his back, one knee hard in the small of his back, where the bones were shattered and nerves disjointed. He feels that, fire up his spine, and will not cry out.
And then a knife, cold and sharp, cutting into his flesh.
He is used to pain; it is an old friend of his. When he was four, an entire city fell to ruins about him, a sacrifice to old gods. Power was vital but pain more so, a sacrifice was necessary to build the power, but sacrifice had to be personal for it to mean anything at all.
He'd run out of limbs before he could finish the sacrifice, because in pain, he hadn't been able to think ahead. He could cut off his left leg and his right, cut off his left arm, but he needed the right arm to cut off his right arm.
It is easy to remember that now, to remember propping himself against a broken wall with three missing limbs and a knife clutched in his remaining hand, and crying in frustration, deep gulps, inhaling the snowflies that gathered around him as he bled to death.
His claws dig gouges in the floor and he sees soldiers withdraw, but the false knight is still on his back and he can do nothing, there is nothing he can do.
The knife cuts deep, slicing away muscle with the skin and he inhales blood again. She is dancing, somewhere, she is dancing, and he feels her skin crackle and burn, smells the sickly sweet scent of burning flesh. She dances as her feet burn. She dances as her legs burn. She dances as the skin of her belly peels with the heat and her entrails spill and sizzle. He can't see her anymore, he can't feel her anymore, and he remembers looking up at her gruesome form, at her lithe body, and remembers holding the knife up to her, teeth chattering, lips blue, death thick about him.
He can't feel her anymore, but he can feel the knife as it cuts the rood tattoo free from his back, as the false knight clips it away at his neck, then abandons him, lets him fall forward.
They move about the room and he cannot move, he cannot look to move. Metal claws dig gouges in the floor, feeling is coming back to his legs, but it won't last; they've stolen it from him. Something has changed, but he can't see it for the blood. He can feel the rood pressing snugly on a false knight's shoulders and he struggles to move.
They withdraw; he hears them on the roof and manages, slowly, to roll over, digs his way into a sitting position through will.
They have lit candles to drive away the Dark.
There is nothing he can do but wait for death, and Sydney Losstarot does not weep.