Friday, June 4, 2010

Mere Acquaintances- Chapter Thirty-One

The TV monitor was off. Becca had finally decided to stop watching both the videos and the live feeds of the patients interacting. It was all the same, and she no longer believed she would get any of her answers from them that way. Dr. Anderson encouraged her new idea: that she should really dive into the patients’ pasts and see what more she could find out. The answers, they both thought, were in who the patients were, not in who they are now.

The Keidenelle were on the move. In the distance on most days, Roark saw bands of them hurrying westward, apparently not caring that there were potential victims within sight. They seemed to be in too much of a hurry. He was grateful not to have to deal with the brutes. He had had enough of killing.

Weslyn must have fallen asleep at the watch, because the Keidenelle were upon them before Roark realized it. He had been wrong about being ignored…

He fought like a madman, but he could tell from the onset there was no way he was coming out of this victorious. They numbered in the dozens. If he had been prepared, maybe he could have taken more of them down. As it was, he only managed to thrust Sonsedhor into the stomach of one before he was set upon by a dozen more, who subdued, forced him to the ground, and tied him. Weslyn was wide awake by now, having never had a chance to fight back. Ropes were tied around her wrists, and another around her neck served as a lead line. The other end of her rope was in the hands of a skinny, pale-haired woman with hard deep grey eyes.

Roark began his struggling anew as he was jerked to his feet and one of the savages laid hands on Sonsedhor, trying to pull it from the big man’s hands. Roark thrashed and toppled the other man, but the Keidenelle won out. Sonsedhor was taken to one of the wagons and thrown into the back, and Roark and Weslyn’s lead lines were tied to the end of a long line of prisoners neither had noticed before.

They were herded along like animals, poked and prodded by the Keidenelle when they were too slow or if they started talking to one another. Roark bore it all with solemn wariness, his eyes either darting around looking for an opportunity or locked on the back of the wagon where Sonsedhor was. He was more than a little worried about his sword. He had to kill someone every day because of the damned thing– what would happen if someone else used it? Not only that… he had already killed some of the Keidenelle today; that would sate him for the night. But what about tomorrow, if they lived that long? What would happen if he couldn’t use Sonsedhor to do someone in?

There were quite a few other prisoners; the line stretched far in front of them. And the line was added to constantly by savages going out in groups and returning with other prisoners. So they weren’t just “on the move” anymore. Now they were full-out taking everyone they could captive.

It became plain to him early on that they weren’t killing their prisoners. Once they finally stopped for the night, small parcels of dried meat were handed out, waterskins passed, and guards set. Weslyn and some of the others fell asleep out of exhaustion. It was only after everyone was fed that a great fire was built, and the Keidenelle who weren’t watching the prisoners began a dance around the fire, chanting in their strange, high-pitched language. It was like a prayer, but he knew it wasn’t a prayer to the Mother. Who else could they be worshipping but the Dark Father?

As if to confirm his guess, the woman at the front of the prisoner line was untied and dragged over to the fire. The chanting grew higher and louder as the woman’s clothes were torn away and she was wrestled to the ground. Afraid of what she would see, he wanted to turn away but couldn’t make himself. The more he knew about his captors, the better off he would be when the time for escape came.

Blades were brought out, and the shrieking woman was subjected to very methodical removing of fingers and toes; then hands, feet, and ears; scalp and arms and breasts; and finally, when she had bled so much she must surely be dead– at least her horrifying screams were silenced now– her legs were removed, and all the parts of her, from fingers to torso, were thrown into the great fire. The air became putrid with the stench of burning flesh; more than one of the prisoners who was still awake threw up his or her dinner. Weslyn and some of the others remained blissfully asleep despite the racket the Keidenelle and the woman had made. He thanked the Mother that Weslyn had been spared that grisly sight.

He was almost asleep himself– the chanting and dancing of the Keidenelle had grown softer and somewhat hypnotic– when the smoke over the fire seemed to congeal. He swore a man’s face appeared there, blue-eyed and pale and handsome.

“Needringhusshuck,” came a smooth voice. Roark couldn’t quite tell if the man’s lips actually moved, but the voice was clear. At the sound of his voice, the Keidenelle halted their dance and fell to the ground, prostrating themselves. Except one man. He went to his knees instead, his hands raised to the floating face. “Needringhusshuck,” the voice said again. Was that the Keidenelle man’s name? It seemed unnecessarily long to Roark. “You have done well. You have found what it is I seek. I can sense it, even through the fire. Sonsedhor! I touched the blade once, long ago. It’s throbbing now. It knows I’m near! It’s mine, marked and forged!”

Golden fire appeared behind the great blue eyes of the ethereal face, and his gaze traveled over the prisoner lines until finally, they settled on Roark, as he had known they would. He struggled to his feet.

“You feel the pull, don’t you?” said the Dark Father. Roark had suspected the man’s identity, but now he knew for certain. “You feel the desire to serve me, the need to kill, the urge to main, all brought on by the tool I’ve left you. You are my tool now. You are my servant, unwilling or not. Whatever you believe you may be, you are mine.”

“What belongs to the Mother can never serve the Dark Father. That includes people,” Roark replied.

The Dark Father’s face sneered, and the eyes went back to the Keidenelle man. “He will need to kill, with or without the sword. Let him sate his thirst on people of your choosing, Needringhusshuck. Let him kill struggling hostages, weak or dissenting Keidenelle, those who deserve death. But do not let him have his sword. I don’t want his Mother-stained hands touching my blade anymore. Let his murders be done hand-to-hand. Make it sport for the others to watch. Let him fight to kill, fight for his life. Make him fight every night, before the fires. Let him kill your sacrifices. It will please me.”

The face disappeared into the smoke. The Keidenelle man turned and settled his own gaze on Roark. He smiled.

No comments:

Post a Comment