He looked up at me in confusion and exhaustion. "You are alive?" he said dubiously.
"Yeah, but are you?" I asked. He had his hand pressed against his abdomen, and dark blood was seeping from between his fingers.
"I will live," he winced. "Did not pierce my heart. Not even close, actually," he added with a touch of pride. "I trapped Niven in there." He gestured wearily toward the closed cell a few feet down the hall. "It took some doing."
"I'll bet," I said, impressed. "Sorry about the whole getting-myself-killed thing," I added sheepishly. In the presence of a no-nonsense demon who bravely went toe-to-toe with a creature he didn't even know how to kill and seemed to have emerged victorious, I felt like getting my throat slashed was some kind of rookie mistake.
"I do not understand," Gavsot said. "You are mostly human. Your heart stopped beating. You were dead."
"It's true," Torvin echoed pointlessly from the shadow behind me. I'd almost forgotten I'd brought him with.
"I guess I pulled a Gandalf," I said.
"Who?" the General asked.
Choosing not to explain the reference that I doubt he'd understand or care about, I summarized. "I died, but wherever I went, they said they needed to send me back."
"It is surprising that you went anywhere to be sent back from," Gavsot said.
I had a sudden realization from the back of my churning mind. The familiar man in the lab coat from my brief brush with a second death--I did know him. He was my predecessor. He was the old devil that tricked me into taking over his job.
I knew it was him. I could see his face in my mind so clearly now. But what was that place, what was he doing there, and why did he send me back here?