The Shattered Realms: Rise of Zulguarde

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Chapter 2 The Ebon Heart



“Hey can you hear me? Drakar, I am scared.” Whispered a voice in his ear.

Lightly he came to, staring at his clawed hands. His scales were still coated in his mother's blood. It was sticky between his fingers. The black goo was congealed and thick. He shifted his head but there was no one beside him.

“What are they going to do to us?” Asked Ciara, hiding beneath his hair. He could feel her shivering against his neck.

“Sell us.” he said without emotion. He was burnt out. No longer able to feel anything, not even rage.

He stared out of the metal bars. Gently the prison rocked back and forth with the turning of the wheels. The cart was wooden beneath him and ahead was a horse pulling them. Though he could claw his way out there was no point, there was nowhere to run. Behind them more cages were being pulled in a long procession. Farther ahead were still more metal bars and crying creatures. The elves had all been captured, betrayed after their own treachery. Drakar could only think that they got what they deserved. Some of the dark elves had been captured, as well as the dryads. Pixies and fairies were trapped within bottles that rattled against poles high overhead. Then his eyes landed on a pike at the lead of the procession. There was a head. He knew that face so well. It was Bel's. They had decapitated her and taken her head as a trophy. It sickened him to even think about it. The tears would return when ever he looked at the gentle smile etched in black wood, looking back at him.

The Heart Tree was burning and with it the forest had lost its soul. Those that were not captured could never hope to oppose the humans now. He could see the smoke, billowing up high into the sky. Drakar's home was gone, destroyed by the humans. His family slaughtered like animals. Very few of the dryads had survived, many were withering and would soon die after leaving their home trees. The only ones that even had a chance to survive were the ones who had not yet chosen a tree to bond with but even then only if they could be sheltered from the sun. The sun glared harshly down upon them. This was the first time he had ever hated the sun and the one who made it. Lord Solar, god of the Material Realm and master of the humans. He could hear the sobbing of the dryads. The laughter and boasting of the humans. He felt powerless. The trust and pride that Bel had for him only made him feel even more miserable. What could he do? So small and weak he had betrayed all of their expectations.

The men all around him marched and chatted about their daily lives. Names of surrounding towns began to appear. Sil, Mar, and Tar, those were the places these men had come from. They had been plotting the attack for months. Rallying their forces and gathering their resources before they learned the layout of the land. To their surprise the elves were more than willing to cooperate since they despised the dryads. They were under the impression that the enemy of my enemy was my friend, which as they soon discovered was a terrible mistake. Now they were both to be sold as slaves. To this matter Drakar had some knowledge he had heard about such things from Bel on occasion. She had told him about how humans have evil items called Collar of Slavery. Once put on the individual can't remove it and the magic within it clouds their minds until the point that they can only obey the one whose blood was used to make it. How or why it worked he could not understand, only that it was magic and very soon one of those things would be clasped around his neck. The thought of it made his spine tingle and his scales stand on end.

The plains extended into the horizon. The sun blazed down, baking those under its sweltering heat. The dryads begged for water and shade but their pleads fell on deaf ears. Their skin writhed and turned purple, their flowers were dyed azure. They cried in agony, languishing below the brutal sun. Not a cloud was in the sky, there would be no respite for the dark sisters. Drakar could do nothing for them. All that he could do was tune out their woe.

The grasses rippled with a warm breeze and the dust swirled up in a spiral. The dust devil raced down the dry road before them. The whirlwind soon faded into nothing and in its absence a glimmer appeared in the distance. Drakar gazed then realized what it was, the city of Tar. He had been to this place once before. Caged like a beast just as he was now, betrayed by his own friend. It dragged terrible memories to his mind. He crushed them before they could form and they were scattered into the darkness once more. He frowned, knowing what filth awaited in that place.

The hours trickled by excruciatingly slow but at last the city gates were before them. The walls overshadowed the trail of tears. There was no relief for the Dryads' pain, so many had already died. Their bodies petrified with distorted faces and those that had not yet succumbed wished the suffering to end. The Dryads have always been very simple creatures. Children lost in the woods and playing their games. They are easily misunderstood and their innocent pranks often had them branded as evil. Their fascination with death and the life that would grow from it seemed morbid to those looking at it from afar but Drakar knew better. He knew that they were kind, whimsical, and wondrous beings. They were linked to one another like roots in the forest, intertwining and mixing their experiences below the surface. He could only regret watching them die, withering away, their faces twisted in horror and misery.

The Dark Elves seldom spoke but you would be hard pressed to find more honorable creatures. They had always watched over their playful sisters but now they were powerless to defend them. Their failure was eating away at their hearts, eroding their sense of purpose. Drakar could hardly watch their pitiful faces. Though they were caring there was a deep darkness implanted within them, it was the cursed power of Shewolf. The Dark Elves fell prey to it from time to time and lost themselves in the revelry of slaughter, during these times the blood must flow that was all that could sate their burning desires. He looked forlornly at them, their eyes filled with sorrow and rage, he knew full well that many of them would lose their sanity soon and try to escape. Drakar knew however that they were doomed to failure and all that awaited them was death. They had no weapons, nor armor it was impossible to defeat their foe but they would try. One by one they would fall and with them his family would shatter even more. He would be alone by the end of it all, he could feel it. Drakar dreaded this for the first time in his life he would be isolated and there would be no place to return to. The smiles and laughter, soon they would all be gone completely. He could feel the suffering, gnawing at his heart, sucking at the warmth and tenderness deep within like marrow from a broken bone.

The gates swung open and they were led through the streets. The gazes of the humans fell upon them and murmurs spread through the crowd. Cheers of triumph rose all around. Flowers rained down from the roof tops. Their eyes were filled with disgust. Their voices mocked and laughed at those they had ruined. Drakar felt his chest tighten and his hatred rekindled.

The procession carried on to the town square. A fountain adorned the circle of flat land like a sapphire. Water flowed down the sides of a towering monument of an armored knight. His face was hidden by a curved helmet. His shoulders were wide and spiked. A cape of stone was frozen in the air. In his hand was a maul as tall as himself, it gleamed in the light of the sun, it was made of crystal. Images of the twisted sun were etched into his chest, shoulders, and his cape. Drakar stared at the statue as water flooded out of a crack in the visor as though the man was weeping. A stage had been erected beside the stone basin at his feet. Several vile looking men sat atop the dais, fat and colorful. They smirked down at the captives with pointed beards and twirled mustaches.

The cages were lined up and left below the scowling sun. Children darted about excited over the new sights. They poked into the cages with sticks, tormenting those within. The Elves shuddered and wailed at the prodding but the Dark Elves brooded with malice. Not a single Dryad had survived the journey. They were all dried out, warped and dead. Their twisted forms were black and burned, empty and hollow. A boy stabbed his stick into Drakar's back, it shattered upon his scales. He turned and the children fled with glee. He scowled at the onlookers. The wooden forms of the Dryads were dumped out of the cages. Humans gathered around, inspecting their catch. Music began to flutter on the wind. It grew louder and louder before finally the crowd parted for the strangest person Drakar had ever seen.

Puppets of unimaginable quality danced before the masked performer. The dolls were alive to the touch of the strings and the white gloved hands orchestrated a ballet of eight. Each dancer was different from the last. One was a black knight covered completely in full plate armor. A blue tinted princess wore a crimson dress with emerald eyes and sanguine hair. A white and gold plated knight had her head of platinum hair glimmering in the sun. She scowled. A Nekomar with black and white striped fur, long fluffy tail and pointed ears bounded about, glee covered its face. An Elf covered in leather gracefully waltzed with his black hair and blue eyes. A maid of glass pranced with the others, her hair was coal and her eyes wicked. A beggar in scraps of old clothing moved beside the others, her brown hair had dirt in it. A fairy with a strange mask covering her face was with the others. Her hair was green like her wings. The wooden mask changed its expression from smiles to frowns and back again.

The presumptuous figure moved like the wind and the dolls led the way. The crimson cape flowed and the ebon back flicked at the sky. A top hat adorned the head like a crown, tilted to one side. The mask was white with wide black pits where the eyes should be and a smile that twisted into a frown halfway across the face. The Puppeteer controlled the marionettes with one hand while the other held a large metal box on the left shoulder. The music came from this contraption. This person wore a suit of black and red. Drakar stared then realized it was a woman. Her bust bulged against the vest below her coat. Her skin was white as snow. She stood before them bowing and her hat rolled into her hand. Long azure hair fell forward scraping the ground before being whipped back behind her in an exaggerated move. The box was set to the side. The crowd had grown silent at the appearance of this individual.

The gaudy men on the stage were wide eyed and excitedly talking amongst themselves. “Why is the Sanguine Puppeteer here? Is she going to tell a story?”

“What a pleasant treat. I thought she was still in Dawn Spire performing for royalty.”

“How strange. But none the less what a pleasant surprise. Tell us a story puppeteer.”

She curtsied and made her cloak billow in the air. The puppets grinned with glee spinning in circles. “Welcome,” shouted a tiny man wrapped in pitch metal armor, “We are so pleased to meet you. Come, come gather round and hear our tale. Which to hear, which to tell, the choices oh so many to choose from. Shall we tell you of the lost kitten? The princess made of ice? The knight and the pearl? The broken doll perhaps? The story of the beggar? The Steel Bride? The fairy who lost her wings? A love so great not even death could stand in between them. Or perhaps you wish to hear of the phantom fencer? Oh my I sense a new tale just ready to be sprung, it just needs a little nudge in the right direction. Such a wonderful tale it will be.”

The miniscule knight pointed and there was Drakar right before the eyes of the gaggle of dolls. A murmur spread through the unruly crowd. Their eyes turned to him as well.

“Did you see?” Remarked a woman marionette.

“A new friend.” Flapped the little knight.

“Shall we start a new tale?” Asked the two looking up into the mask that bore such a grin.

The Puppeteer walked much like a cat, pawing at the ground as it approached the metal bars. The dolls' stare bore through him as though their empty eyes could see and feel. The puppeteer herself gazed at him, as though appraising him. She gave a queer look at the dolls and they nodded enthusiastically. She seemed to pause for a moment then shook her head. Withdrawing back to her box.

“Light and dark, life and death, chaos and order each coexist; for without good there could be no evil. The candle flickers brightest all alone in the night. Why are these things so you might ask little ones. It is the nature of things. Now then let me weave a tale before your eyes. A story of longing to fit in yet never being understood. It all began so long ago here in the realms, the Material realm in fact among the humans who spurned all that was different.” Smiled the emerald eyed princess adorned in crimson.

“There was a boy who cried and cried but mommy was never there, without a care. Then one day the boy wandered through woods there he met a woman who was kind and cruel. She danced in the moon light and soon fell for the boy. She hid him away from prying eyes. She kept him from the world and everyday they played with the children of the forest. Pixies and elves they all had so much fun. The boy forgot his home and stayed with her. Then one day all his friends were dead and gone. The woman had been ruined by her greed and the boy was all alone. He cried and cried once more. Then he met a strange fellow who promised the boy his dreams. He took the hand and together they left his despair behind. This was only the beginning however, the start of his travels. He would cross the land and the see the wonders of the Realms. He would make enemies and friends at every turn. The boy would grow bigger and stronger. He would crush the world that despised him. A day then came when he looked back and saw only his shadow. The fellow had long since been crushed beneath the boys ambitions. He had grown so monumental that all the light in the world had been extinguished. There was silence and emptiness, he was all alone once more.” The red doll said twirling about the cobbled stones of the street.

The puppets' eyes were glued to him. He felt their cold gazes and shivers ran through him. Drakar looked away from the creepy dolls. This seemed to make them mad. The story had stopped and the little figures were scoffing and scowling at him. He was taken aback at their demeanor it was as though they were actually alive. He looked back at them and the Puppeteer had closed the gap between them. The dolls wormed their way into the cage and stood before him.

The gloved hands moved the mask up, revealing crimson lips. A melody played out through the whistle, a lullaby. “Can you hear? Can you see? Above the sky, below the moons. The whistling of the grass. Come with me over mountains tall and delve gorges deep. Across the meadows long, upon the sea unending. I will be by your side forever and ever. So shall we prance through the woods? Where pixies flutter and magic lives? We will dance in the night for it is alright, I am by your side. Below the gaze of Luna we dream of a brighter tomorrow.” Sung the chorus of dolls.

“What do you want?” Scowled Drakar though he hated the humans every fiber of his being was screaming that something was wrong with this person, that they absolutely should not be trusted.

Slowly a gentle hand pat him. His pearl hair was parted by four twisting ebon horns that reached towards the back of his head. His forehead bore a purple scale. Smiles rose all around among the crowd of dolls.

“What is your name?” Asked the soft voice of the crimson lipped puppet.

“Drakar.” He replied not believing a word from the red lips. “Who are you anyway? Another person to mock me?”

“You may call me Sin.” Smiled the many dolls, though the puppeteer said nothing, “What a wonderful name.”

One of the nobles stood up. “Oh grand puppeteer do not associate with that terrible little creature.”

“Hes right Puppeteer that thing is a monster.” Said many others in the crowd.

“You poor, poor thing won't you come with me? Humans can be so cruel. I will not call you names nor will these people. Come with me there are so many things to see out there in the realms.”

“Just leave me alone.”

“Very well but if you need me just call my name. I will be in town for another day or two. Drakar see you around.” Said the puppet upon her shoulder, Sin tipped her hat to him.

The Puppeteer hefted the box onto her shoulder, music fluttered from its confines. The wind rustled through the crowd, making the black and red cape dance behind the strange woman. Her shadow moved, it frolicked and bounded away from her side. Yet non of the humans seemed to notice the dancing shadow. It cackled silently while tromping in her wake. The Puppeteer stood back in the crowd, waiting and watching.

With no more interruptions the auction of slaves began. The Dryad bodies were sold quickly as statues to adorn houses. Then the Elf commander was dragged up to the stage, stripped bare and gagged. Though she fought at first they whipped her raw until the fight left her. She lay blankly on the stage as the vilest, most greedy humans Drakar had ever seen bid on her. They had lustful eyes, gazing her up and down. He knew it would not end well for her.

“Our premium item the Elven princess Azra, last of her noble house. The bidding will begin at fifty gold pieces.”

“A hundred gold coins.” Cried an exceptionally disgusting man.

To call him a pig in man's clothing would be an insult to swine, he made pigs look down right handsome. His fat rolls jiggled while his man servants held the luxurious cushioned chair that he was beached in aloft. They were burly and strong but they seemed to have trouble, keeping him above the crowd. A look of disgust covered the Elf's face.

“five hundred gold coins.” Yelled another man he was thin and weasel like, a look that easily caused one to be wary of him.

The pig roared with laughter spilling the wine from his golden goblet. “One platinum piece.”

They locked eyes and the weasel relented. Azra was stuffed into another cage and wheeled to the fat man's side. She cried and trembled in terror, looking upon the whale of a man that now owned her. His beady little eyes were black and cold.

Hands wrangled at Drakar before dragging him out of the cage. He did not struggle, knowing there was no point. He stood before them feeling their withering gazes. He heard a throat clear behind him and the auctioneer began. “And here we have a royal lizard man. The bidding will begin at a hundred silver pieces. Are there any takers?”

The Puppeteer silently raised her hand, high above the crowd. Then a young lady below a parasol raised her hand from beside the pig. “One gold piece.”

The dolls shot her a look of surprise that quickly turned to hatred. “Ten gold coins.” Barked the black knight.

The girl puffed up her cheeks and shouted. “A hundred gold pieces.”

“Five hundred gold pieces.” Smirked the dolls.

“Papa please, I want that one really bad. Please!” Cried the girl looking up at the fat man.

“Why do you want a lizard man? Clearly it is over priced.”

“But Papa! That's not a Lizard Man that is a Dragon! Look, look see the horns? Lizard men down have those. A Dragon papa, I have always wanted a Dragon! Please, pretty please!”

“A Dragon you say. Very well my dear, Papa will get it for you.” Grinned the obscene man. “One platinum piece.”

Shock covered the crowd and whispers wriggled through the sea of heads. “Unprecedented! Maxwell Ebonheart such generosity. One platinum piece going once, twice.”

Then Sin raised her hand again. “Five platinum pieces.” Roared all of the dolls.

“Ten!”

“Fifteen!”

“Thirty!”

“Fifty!”

“One hundred!”

“Two hundred!”

A strange stillness covered the courtyard. The eyes of Maxwell were bulging and a vein had appeared on his forehead. Sin was smirking and all of the marionettes were smug. Then their faces turned to horror.

Maxwell yelled, spit and pieces of food shot out of his mouth like shrapnel. “How dare you defy me! Three hundred platinum pieces.”

“Unbelievable! Do I hear three hundred and ten?” Asked the Auctioneer looking at Sin. She shook her head forlornly. “Sold to Maxwell Ebonheart!”

“Thank you Papa! Thank you! I love you, I love you Papa!” Squealed the little lady jumping up and down.

Sin was livid. She threw her metal box on the ground and the music screamed with agony. The gears within jammed and came to a screeching halt. She kicked it again and again before lifting it up. She stormed off hitting people out of the way. The dolls were cursing and screaming at Maxwell while being dragged away.

“This isn't over Pig King! You have won for now but we will have the last laugh!” Raged the dolls.

Maxwell chuckled shooing them away. “For all that frolicking about you could make more money in a bed than on the streets playing with dolls.”

Sin stopped in her tracks and grinned like a crescent moon. The mask seemed to crack and the jagged smile stretched out past the sides of her face. The dolls cackled. “I am capable of more than your tiny brain could possibly imagine. I would never lower myself below the dirt to be equal with the likes of you, human. I have seen the affairs of the gods such petty squabbling of mortals is beneath me.”

She pranced off humming and the myriad of Marionettes waltzed before her. A crowd followed eager to hear one of her stories. Maxwell grunted and ushered his slaves to bring him to the podium. The attendants pushed Drakar and the Dark Elves forward, Daemyn was among them. Their hands were clasped together and chains connected them. They stood rigid before their new owner.

“Oh? Why the Dark Elves too?” Asked Maxwell glancing over the thirty new comers.

The Auctioneer smiled and bowed. “For your generous contribution we have decided to throw in these. Think of them as a packaged deal.”

“How generous of you. I will accept, very well let us get these slaves home and teach them some proper manors.”

“Papa I am so happy you won.” Grinned the auburn headed girl. “You beat out that mean and stingy woman who was trying to steal him.”

“Of course my dear sweet little Giovanna. Now remember this one was very expensive so do not break it like the last ones.”

“Papa but it is a Dragon they are really tough. It is not weak like those elves or fairies or nekomar you got me before.”

“I can only hope.” Replied Maxwell. “All the same though be careful with it. I know how rough you get with your toys.”

“I promise.” Smirked Giovanna not at all sincere.

Drakar's scales shuddered as the girl approached. He had seen so called evil before but this was the first time he had ever felt it. She was about a head taller than him but her demeanor was that of someone well beyond her years. She carried herself with elegance and the vile smile never left her face. Her eyes were that of a hungry beast and he was her prey. She closed the umbrella and poked at him with it, forcing him to move. She leisurely strolled in a circle around him inspecting her new pet. Giovanna stopped before his down cast eyes. Her sparkling shoes had mud on the bottoms and the socks disappeared below her black bell of a dress.

She lowered her gloved hand before him and said, “Kiss your Mistress, pet.”

He spat on it and her umbrella smashed into the side of his head. The world spun and he lay at her feet. Her grin had spread impossibly wide and her eyes were shining. Her foot stamped on his chest before she put all of her weight on it. She stood glaring down.

“How fun. Papa I want to break this one in myself.” Cackled Giovanna looking up at Maxwell, then her face filled with unadulterated bliss when she gazed back down at him. “Oh it has been a while since something resisted, usually the moment one hears of House Ebon Heart all hope drains from their body, but you are different perhaps you don't know of my family. If that is the case I will be sure to teach that body and mind of yours very thoroughly. Let us see how long your false bravado will last. Do not disappoint me and be sure to put up a good fight. It will make it so much more satisfying when I shatter your little mind. I will mold you into a loyal creature that cannot possibly live without me. You will grovel at my feet like the good little pet you are, licking the dirt from my toes. If you are lucky I will feed you table scraps whilst you message my legs at dinner. I am your Mistress and you will wait upon my every whim.”

“Damned humans leave him alone!” Yelled Daemyn, struggling against his restraints.

“Oh? Are you two friends?” Asked Giovanna her face became flush. “How delightful, then you can watch. I have not been this excited for years! Hans! Hans! Prepare my training room.”

A tall man knelt before her. His face was aged yet he had a youthful vigor in his eyes. His gray hair was short and slicked back. Hans wore a black suit and a white undershirt. Everything about this man seemed ordered. His face bore many pits and scars that gave him the look of a veteran. He stood after a few moments and his tail coats flapped.

“As you wish Mi Lady.” Said Hans, bowing with his hand over his heart.

“Yes, yes off with you now.” Flatly replied Giovanna.

Hans left with his hands behind his back. The chains were gathered from each of their cuffs and then connected to the backs of the man servants. Maxwell motioned and the procession moved into the streets. Giovanna giggled and extended her parasol once more, walking gingerly beside the chair with her father. The street wound like a serpent, weaving up a hill. A giant castle stood at the crest of the hill, it had tall walls and flags waved on the wind. The higher they went the larger and more prominent the houses became until there were only mansions. The walls rose ten feet up and were made of thick stone. The gates were wrought of iron. Guards stood vigilant before every entrance, each had a different coat of arms upon their armor. In total there were seven but the largest and most extravagant was the ebon gate that they entered. The guards in onyx and crimson opened the way. The symbol on their armor and the many flags adorning the walls was a black heart, being crushed by a crimson fist atop royal purple.

Decadent was the only word that could describe this place. Statues of women lined the path all were laid bare and exceptionally endowed. A fountain with a pearly young lady stood in the center of the turn about for carriages. Staring at it Drakar realized it was a likeness of Giovanna. It stood raising its arms to the sky, exposing every nook and cranny of her tender form. The breasts were flat and her waist was slim. Water poured out of her palms and washed down the front and back of her body. Due to her pose it concentrated between her legs before falling back into the basin of stone below. Why someone would want something like that was beyond him.

Among the gardens to the sides various dryads had been placed surrounded by flower beds. Vines had grown up, covering parts of their empty husks and once more brought flowers to their forms. It was a sad sight yet strangely Drakar thought it would have made them happy to be entombed in blooms. Maids stood in rows along the steps to the massive oaken doors. They bowed humbly at the procession's approach. They were all in red and black dresses that looked very easy to move in. Each had a white apron and their faces were covered by a veil of see through material.

“Master, young Mistress welcome home. Was your trip satisfactory?” Asked Hans bowing.

“I believe it was. Prepare some clothes for my entertainment tonight. Be sure to wash the slaves properly as well. They smell of piss and shit.” Said Maxwell, gesturing with his jiggling arm.

Azra was hauled off by several maids, her hands and feet tightly bound. Drakar was separated from the Dark Elves by Hans. Giovanna followed behind. They walked up into the gaping maw of the mansion. Chandeliers hung high from the ceiling and purple carpets flowed down every walkway. Paintings covered the walls most were of nude individuals, however several were family portraits of the Ebonheart house. In one was a small girl with dark red hair in a blue dress grinning. Beside it was a man with a handsome physique, he had bulging muscles and a twirled mustache. Several others had girls with black hair and dark eyes.

He was led deeper into the corridors. There were so many it soon seemed like a maze, but Giovanna and Hans knew exactly where they were going. With every step Drakar could feel the possibility of escaping diminish. Ciara seemed to feel it too, cowering in her hiding place. She had long ago nestled her way into his matted hair out of view. Her breathing was light and she dared not make even a sound or else she would be found. They came to a stairway that led down into sparsely lit shadows. They descended the stone carved steps. Cold smooth rock surrounded them. Every turn of the spiral a lit candle was held in sconces to light the way. At last they reached the end of the stairs. A long corridor expanded out and doors lined the walls a fair distance from one another. They walked down another hallway this one had no doors to the sides, instead it had metal prison bars revealing cells.

Various creatures were gathered here all of them looked abysmal and malnourished. Each cell only held one type of being but there were tens of cages on each wall. Blood stains and claw marks dragged away from the gates on each cell. Drakar peered into one seeing a pack of worgs growling at one another over a scrap of meat. Elves were in another their will looked as though it had been broken and they lay about empty. Not even humans had been spared in opposite cages were men and women their bodies covered in fresh lacerations and bruising. Several Nekomar were confined within one of the last cages. They were cannibalizing one that had fallen, viciously tearing the body apart and stuffing the meat into their mouths. The cat girls reared up and hissed at their approach. Giovanna glared at them and they cringed in the corner crying and wetting themselves.

“What did you do to them?” Asked Drakar looking away from the poor creatures.

“Those weak little things. Their minds were pathetic they do not even know what they are anymore. They are simply mindless animals now.” Shrugged Giovanna.

They had reached the door at the end of the corridor it was sturdy and made of metal yet even still there were several dents. The blood stains were thick around the entrance and the walls were dotted with smeared hand prints. Hans opened the door and despair awaited Drakar within. All manor of tools of torment hung from the back wall. The floor dipped in the center and a drain grill was present. Against the left wall was a wooden Rack used to pull apart prisoners limb from limb. On the opposite wall stood a tall metal coffin filled with spikes, upon the front was a woman grinning evilly, it was an Iron Maiden. A table stood near the back with chains and cuffs at every corner. Wooden stools were stacked neatly next to a pile of buckets. A stone trough of water was nestled beside the iron maiden. The room was brightly lit by a chandelier over hanging the center and two tall candle stick holders next to the door. Drakar could only cringe.

“Where to begin? I wonder, I wonder.” Said Giovanna striding to the far wall she looked over her varied implements of torture before lifting down a leather whip with serrated metal shards all across the bottom half. “Well let us take things slowly we have all the time in the world, don't we pet.”

Hans tied him to the floor, his arms and legs splayed out. She raised the whip and it cracked against his back. The metal dug into his scales carving out grooves. Drakar screamed and shook against his bonds. Giovanna struck him again and again. Each time his voice grew shriller and the blood splattered with the back lash of the whip. Her eyes were filled with lust. Soon her breathing was heavy and her arm was far more energetic. The pain seared through him and Drakar could only clench his teeth. A particularly ferocious swing stole his breath and made the world turn back.

It was peaceful for a few sweet moments. Then wet and cold shuddered through him. The agony was burning through his back and Drakar opened his eyes. He struggled unable to breath. His head had been submerged and was being held under water. What seemed like a cruel eternity passed before he was pulled up. Drakar gasped for breath but just as his lungs filled he was thrust back below the surface. This torture repeated many more times before he felt empty and his whole body had gone numb. Finally he fell backwards collapsed upon the floor. Giovanna stood over him, licking her black fingers.

Ciara scuttled across the floor like a cockroach when the light turned on. She fled in terror soaked to the marrow. Giovanna leapt backwards seeing the little sprite but then realized what it was. She took one step forward then hurled herself at the pixie. She slammed into the ground and bounced. Her arms snaked across the floor and snagged the little creature before she could escape into a hole in the opposing wall. She stood squeezing Ciara tight enough to make her exhale and stop struggling.

“A Pixie? How strange is this your friend?”

“Please just don't hurt her.” Whimpered Drakar.

“That all depends on you.” Smirked Giovanna.

“Don't worry about me Drakar just try to escape!” Wailed Ciara.

“I won't leave you Ciara. You are all that I have left.” He cried and wriggled in his bonds. “Please I beg you I will do what ever you want just don't hurt her.”

“How touching. So adorable. I would have to be really evil to rip her apart right before your eyes.” She smiled petting Ciara with a finger. Then she squeezed hard enough to make the pixie squeak. “Oh wait I am that evil. Obey my every word and I will spare this little bitch for now.”

“I promise.” Replied Drakar earnestly.

“Tell me what are you?” She asked perplexed. “You are not just a Dragon that much is clear. Your blood is black so what is the other half?”

“Devil.” He answered honestly.

“Devil... oh my. So you are half Dragon and half Devil?” Said Giovanna. She thought it over for a long moment. Then her expression changed, it grew even more demented.

She stepped on his stomach, tracing it with her toes then her foot stopped between his legs. It was smooth and featureless which had her at a loss for only a moment. It fascinated her even more. She propped him up on the stool, letting his top half droop on the floor. Her fingers dug at his scales then they found a slit. It was wet and warm inside. He felt her invade and kicked her in the chest with his chained feet. Giovanna reeled back hitting the floor hard. Hans moved to lift her but she simply lay staring up at the ceiling. She blinked then rose from the floor with the most lecherous grin Drakar had ever seen. She tossed Ciara up and down in her hand. She turned and seemed disinterested in him.

“Hans give him a nice bath, clean his wounds, and bring him to dinner.”

“As you wish Mi Lady.” Replied Hans, undoing the bindings and setting Drakar free.

“I should probably feed those nekomar it has been what a week? I was wondering how long they would last. To think they would turn on one another so easily I guess they are just beasts.”

“How long have you had them?” Asked Drakar.

“Oh those cats? Three years now I think might be around four. I had heard they were captured outside that forest you were in.” Replied Giovanna.

“What happened to the others there were only three.”

“Inquisitive I see. Oh were they your friends? I suppose I can tell you.” She said thinking on it. “I believe there were ten originally. I remember that I tortured three to death learning the ins and outs of their tolerances. One was smart enough to become a maid but she was raped to death by my father, two others were as well. Up until today there were four left but since my experiment was to starve them now there are three.”

“Why do you torture things?”

“Why?” She scoffed. “It brings me great pleasure to see things suffer. The greatest feeling in the world is dominating a strong willed creature and making it bend to my will. I have been this way since as long as I can remember.”

Giovanna walked away with a yawn. Drakar stood before the caged beasts that had once been his friends. He remembered all the adventures they had. The days long gone that would never return. Tears flowed down his face. The poor creatures had been tortured so much they had lost the ability to speak, they only growled and hissed. They no longer even recognized him but he knew every one of them. His closest friends that he had shared his joys and sorrows with were gone forever. They were nothing more than animals now, feral and mindless. His heart hurt even more, like a scabbed wound that had been torn open. His mouth filled with bile and he threw up.

Hans pulled him to his feet and dragged him along. They left the dungeon but that did not soothe his woe. Vaguely he was aware of the scalding hot water pouring through his wounds. He was numb though and nothing mattered any more. The more he thought the worse everything seemed. In such a place as this it was only a matter of time before everyone he knew and loved would be tortured to death. He silently prayed to Luna to save those he cared about but she never answered. He desperately held on but it looked ever bleaker with each passing moment.

He found himself wearing human clothes and sitting before a feast. Giovanna sat across from him and Maxwell was at the head of the table. He stuffed his fat cheeks like some sort of rodent. He was swollen and jolly. Everything about him repulsed Drakar. He could feel his tormentor rubbing his leg below the table. The food was something that commoners could only dream of eating. At first he stared at the roasted meat and cooked vegetables unable to eat. Memories of Bela began to surface.

“Now remember never pass up good food. You do not know when you might be able to eat again. If you want to survive you must eat and conserve your strength.” Smiled Bela.

A warm feeling filled Drakar and he smiled for the first time in so long. The meat was delightful, it melted in his mouth and tasted better than anything he had ever eaten. He tore at pieces and felt the disapproving eyes of Giovanna upon him. His scales shuddered in terror and he dared not make eye contact with her. Her lips had been twisted into a foul smile. She kicked him under the table with the sharp pointed toe of her shoes.

“Manors now pet unless you wish to eat on the floor like a beast.” Her cold eyes bore through him. He dropped the food back on the plate and down cast his head.

“So how is your new pet?” Asked Maxwell between mouthfuls.

“I am most delighted.” Replied Giovanna averting her gaze.

“I am glad to hear.” Chuckled the jubilant man.

“So how is your new partner?”

“I will be having her for dessert.”

“How unlike you to be so patient didn't you rape the last one before we even got home?” Asked Giovanna.

“This one seems to have some fight in her.” Grinned Maxwell. “It will be very enjoyable to train it out of her.”

“How very alike we are.” She smiled. “By the way I plan on bearing this one's child. I am sure that it will be strong.”

There was a moment of silence then the fat man roared. “What? His child! I will not let a filthy sub human defile your womb.”

“NOW PAPA!” She yelled, standing and slamming her hands on the table. “I am a grown woman, for a year already I have had my moon blood. This one is special. I can feel it. Now before you raise a ruckus know this, I know all about your shrines to Luna and Sintress.”

Maxwell's face turned blue in a moment. He shook his head and cleared his throat. “This is not the place to discuss such things.”

“I think it is Papa! I know you lust after the devils and are trying to make a commune to get one here. I don't care what you get into your bed but a devil is very risky. If the Red Irons ever found out we would be labeled as traitors. Consorting with Sin Spawn is treason you know. The Solar Knights would not have pity on us just because of our house.”

“You are right.” Sourly replied the fat man.

“Oh, don't get me wrong. I never said it was impossible, we simply must be very careful with how we proceed.”

His eye brows raised and he squinted. “What are you planning?”

“There is a very good reason I want to bear his child. He is half devil. In other words he is a dragon demon.”

“Impossible surely it lied to you! I have never heard of such a thing. Dragon brood cannot be mixed with devil blood. I spoke in length about this with the Dragoon Guild and they said it could not be done.”

“His blood is black just like a devil. Clearly they lied to you, it can be done.” Said Giovanna looking down at her father. “You may not be able to sense it but I can feel the dark powers residing within him. Did you not notice how all of the Dark Elves were so fervent about his fate? Unlike you papa I pay attention to detail.”

“What are you going to do with him?” Maxwell shifted a glance at Drakar.

“He will become my personal breeding pet of course. We will chain him in a cell and mate him with slaves. I was thinking Centaur, if we could get a good number of Drataur our standing would rise even higher and we could train them to be loyal.”

“You certainly make good points but what if people notice something amiss.”

“Easy.” She grinned. “That is the beauty of this. He is a dragon and so we simply say he is just a dragon. No one will be the wiser.”

“What about the Devils though.”

“You still want to summon one? Make sure that you make a new room that is extremely fortified and slap a collar of slavery on her before she can get any ideas. Honestly Papa sometimes you just don't think very clearly. It must be the lust clouding your head.”

“You know me too well daughter.” Laughed the fat man. “I will allow your plan however you will grace my bed all night.”

“Is that all?” Said Giovanna looking at her nails. “I suppose you would be getting lonely after a month. Hans be a dear and take Drakar to my room I will be by in the morning for more of his training. Make sure he doesn't run off.”

“As you wish.” Replied the butler.

Hans lifted Drakar from his chair and led him away. Though he had not said a word he had listened to everything they plotted. Such a dismal future awaited him. A mere beast to such vile people. His resolve returned and he paid close attention to his surroundings. The corridors became familiar and he distinguished where the servant quarters were. A burning desire began to form in his chest. They passed several of the Dark Elves whilst they were led in chains. Daemyn looked at Drakar though there was pain in his eyes there was also relief.

“Lord Drakar I am thankful they did not kill you. From what I have heard of that dungeon seldom do slaves return after going down.” Smiled Daemyn.

“It was a wretched place. Those that were down there are better off dead. They are but husks of their former selves.” Replied Drakar.

“Stay safe.” He said putting his hand over his heart.

“You too.”

They parted ways and Drakar was led to a tall door Hans opened it. The room was soft and fuzzy. He stared at the plethora of stuffed animals. Toys were scattered about the floor by a large chest off in the far corner. This was certainly not the room one would expect of such a demented person as Giovanna. It was excessively childish. A massive veiled bed stood at the back of the room. To the left a desk was covered in loose papers. Sitting parallel to it was a small table and several chairs set up for a tea party. Stuffed animals leaned in their places at the table with cups before them. Each was missing a different piece. One the head was gone, another the leg, and in this way it cycled through all five of them. A wardrobe was placed beside a tall mirror that faced the bed. The mirror was marvelous and glistened more clearly than water on the brightest of days. Drakar saw himself, the clothes seemed so foreign to him, a second skin of black and red. He felt restricted by the fabric but it was also soft and comfortable. Though he had seen the Dark Elves wear various apparel this was the first time he had worn anything other than wood or leaves during his games. It felt fitting.

Hans led him to a pile of pillows beside the bed. A thick metal bar was cemented into the floor and a chain was fastened to it. A silvered collar hung at the end. He reluctantly was fastened to the post and left in gloom the room all alone. He lay on the pillows staring at the ceiling. A realization dawned upon him, this room was a dungeon all its own. There were no windows and the only light came from the flickering candle beside the door. Was Giovanna a prisoner in her own right? She lived here yet it seemed more lonesome the longer he stayed. The air was hot and stuffy. He felt itchy, no matter how he scratched it persisted. A buzzing sound filled his ears it was unnerving. The sound was everywhere and yet nowhere. It was absolute silence. His dreary eyes closed and he let his dreams take him away from the waiting horrors of House Ebon Heart.

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