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Friday, October 20, 2017

The Taste of Fear

The eerie greenish-gold light from the sconces lit the way as Nilla dragged her feet between the two guards that held firmly to her arms. She had decided to not struggle at this moment to reserve her energy for what was to come. As she and her escort followed Amerak, all Nilla could think about was the fact that they were going deep below the fortress.

The air became thick with the scent of unwashed bodies, and the smell of fear intermingled to cause the hackles to rise on the back of her neck. The further they went she could begin to pick up the sound of moans as well as the occasional blood-curdling scream. She felt bile build in the back of her throat as she realized she was being taken to the dungeon.

She had heard tales of what occurred in Amerak’s hall of torture. He employed the most sadistic torturers to glean the information he sought. Very few survived a visit to the underbelly of Amerak’s fortress. She couldn’t stop herself as she began to struggle against the hands holding her. As her struggles increased she felt blood begin to flow down her arm from where the guard’s claws dug into her skin. The scent of her fear was added to the noxious smell of the hellish place.

Amerak cast a glance back at the little thief. An evil grin lit his face as he saw the blood trailing from her injuries. “Fight all you want. My guards will take delight in your struggles. Worry not that I will allow you to be damaged too badly. I still have need of you. Well, need of your blood. With it, I will find your beloved sister and your crew.” Nilla’s head whipped up when she realized what he intended to do. “I suppose I can still let my guards have their fun with you, it will just be more blood to use to create the spell.” Amerak watched as true terror lit Nilla’s features. He turned back and led them into his dungeon.

They soon entered a large cavern with barred cells lining the outside walls, while in the middle was various equipment set up with which to torture the poor souls who found their way there. In one corner a filthy, blood covered male was suspended by a set of hooks that had been driven into his skin. His screams echoed off the stone walls as he struggled to break free. In another corner, a male was stretched out on a rack. His arms and legs spread far apart as grizzled guards turned the ropes tighter. His mouth was open in a scream but his voice was gone. Nilla tried to back away from the tableau that was before her.

“Bring her over here,” Amerak ordered his guards. He stood next to a blood-stained chair with shackles to imprison the hands and feet. Nilla renewed her struggles to break free from the leering guards. They only laughed at her weakness as they threw her on the chair and began chaining her.

One of the guards pulled Nilla’s head back against the splintered wood. She felt a strap fastened around her neck. She couldn’t halt the tears that trickled from her widened eyes. Her heart was pounding so hard it felt like it was going to jump out of her throat. She gripped the arms of the chair with sweat-slick hands. Her own claws adding to the already scarred wood. Her pupils were dilated with the fear choking her. She shrank back as Amerak moved closer wielding a long curved blade.

She fought against the leather encircling her wrist. She watched as he took her arm and turned it so that her palm faced upwards to his view. She flinched when he ran the point of the blade down the center of her palm. She heard screams and suddenly realized they were her own. She glanced up to see a maniacal smile lighting Amerak’s face. When she turned her attention back to her hand she watched as the blood began to seep out of the fine-lined cut. She watched mesmerized as Amerak took a spell stone and began to coat it with her blood.

She watched as he followed the first stone with a couple more stones. She felt dizzy as she watched him run a claw through her blood and bring it to his tongue. “Ah, the taste of fear. It is so powerful. It will be most helpful in some of my other spells.” He then took a hollow reed and jabbed it into her forearm as the pain registered in her mind. She watched as he held a bottle to capture the dark red stream that poured from the reed. Amerak filled three bottles before he pulled the reed from her arm. He did nothing to stop the blood that continued to weep from the wound.

The guard that had pulled her head back released it to move around into her view. “Can we take our fun with her now, my lord?” He asked Amerak. Amerak stopped corking the bottles to study her. She lived in fear of his answer but felt too fuzzy to concentrate on his reply.

“No, not yet. I may still have use of her. Throw her in with the mystic and gather your elite guards. We will be leaving soon. Once I have found the guardians, then she will be your prize.” Nilla watched this exchange through a fog. The bleeding had slowed to a trickle and she felt as weak as a newborn kit. The rushing sound in her ears was the last thing she noticed as darkness wrapped around her.

She awoke to the sound of rattling chains and realized that the bed beneath her was moving. “What happened?” she said to herself.

 She jumped when a hoarse voice answered, “You are a prisoner in Amerak’s rolling cage. We are being moved to the departure site for his upcoming incursion.” It was then that Nilla realized her pillow was, in fact, the speaker’s lap. She turned to look up at her makeshift headrest. Gasping when she realized that it was the ancient mystic. Her eyes moved to scan the interior. Searching for his small companion. She found what she hunted for curled in the corner across from where she and Shénmei sat.

“Is he…” she stopped dreading the answer but felt impelled to ask. “Is he alive?” She watched the figure for any sign of movement but detected none. “Please tell me, I need to know.” She asked the ancient who held her in his arms.

Shénmei followed her gaze to his apprentice. “He sleeps. I did what I could to heal him, now it is up to the Goddess whether she wishes him to ascend. Worry not my child, he is in no pain.” He raised her hand and she saw that it was bound with a dirty rag. “I am sorry for the bandage but I needed to stem the flow of blood. How do you feel? Did they hurt you in any other way?” he studied her face waiting for her answer.

Nilla took a moment to access herself. She had relief in her voice when she answered the ancient. “Other than some bruises and scratches, the worst injury seems to be where Amerak bleed me for his damn spell stones. He intends to use my blood to find the guardians. Unfortunately, he will also find the Triad at that time because that is where they are.” She slowly sat up from her reclining position. “I wish I had a way to warn them of his plans.”

Shénmei tilted his head as if listening for something, his eyes glazing over slightly as he seemed to be somewhere else. Nilla watched as an eerie glow infused the ancient’s body. She suddenly had the feeling that she was alone in the cage. As quickly as the glow began it dissipated in the same fashion. She watched as his consciousness re-entered his body. It all happened within minutes, she shook her head wondering if she still was feeling the blood loss.

A movement from the corner of the cage drew Nilla’s attention from the mystic. She watched the small bundle for more movement; beginning to feel like she was losing her mind. She just couldn’t hold any faith that the little mystic had survived his treatment at the hands of Amerak. Deciding to face her fear she scooted over towards the crumpled form. As she reached her hand out to turn him so that she could view his face, she drew back at the visage that met her scrutiny.

A gasp escaped her lips, and she found herself praying to the Goddess. “What in the world??” she whispered in awe.