Chapter 100 - Mind Games
Robert quickly returned, and instead of dragging the boy from the cell, he opened it for them to leave. They were dirty, and blood had caked on their clothes, hands, and faces despite their best efforts with what little water Robert allowed them.
They didn’t expect him to bring them to a room where two clawed bathtubs stood filled to the brim with hot water. Someone also laid out, soap, clean towels, and two fresh sets of clothes. He bowed to them with the respect of a manservant as if he never mocked them, but firmly locked and bolted the door when he left.
They were pathetically grateful to have a real bath to scrub the filth and stench of death from their bodies, but there was no way to cleanse it from their minds. They reasoned that this was just some tactic to make them lower their guard.
Their stubbornness, in refraining to kill the boy that would have died in a matter of months, brought them weakness they could ill afford. With every passing moment, there was a chance that Marcus would find a way to locate them. They knew he would leave no stone unturned, and just the knowledge that he was out there somehow comforted them.
They took no more time than they needed to bathe, not knowing what would happen next, and not wanting someone to catch them off guard.
The clothes turned out to be very similar to what they wore before. It consisted of tunics and breeches made of the finest materials, but no leather, or buckles, and no place to hide anything.
Robert knocked before reentering the room, and they glanced at each other. Some ripple of emotion in his eyes that one could misconstrue as laughter betrayed that he enjoyed their unease.
“Come,” Robert ordered and actually turned his back as if he saw them as no threat. It rankled, but not enough to forget their purpose, even though hating him would have made it easy enough.
Their eyes met briefly behind his back, and they knew if they survived this by some quirk of fate, they would find a way to thank appropriately for their suffering. Not that it would be easy by any margin of the imagination.
He led them to a larger cavern with a plush bed, a table, chairs, and no way out but the door. They couldn’t keep their eyes off the bed. Neither of them had slept in a proper one in so long.
“There’s wine on the side table,” Robert offered as if he were their host. They were not deceived as he bowed and left, and neither were they surprised as the door locked firmly behind him.
This was just another ploy to soften them up. Belvare wanted them to understand they had a choice between the prison cell in which they might spend the rest of their lives in darkness until they were no more than animals, or the warm comfort of this gilded cage. Both of them were very aware that the road back to their cell was short since it was situated just down the corridor.
Robert made sure to properly care for them over the next few days, and they quickly regained their strength. They made use of every moment alone as best they could to prepare.
He watched them with hooded eyes whenever he entered the room, and they kept up the appearance of being content to do absolutely nothing, but then he caught them out.
Robert watched them fight for a moment and cleared his throat. Rowan and Alena arrested their actions so abruptly that Rowan punched Alena in the face with no intention of doing so. Alena’s nose bled slightly, but her eyes blazed vampire blue with annoyance.
“Interesting,” Robert drawled, and then a mean glint manifested briefly in his eyes. A flash of something horrible, but too quickly suppressed for them to read him accurately.
“Follow me,” Robert ordered, once again the master of their fate. “I see you prefer the hunt,” he taunted, and they glanced uneasily at each other as they followed in his footsteps.
They entered an extensive cavern where several of the Demvaren squared off, and he watched them with a calculating glint in his eyes.
“Franco!” Robert called, and the man came quickly, almost sidling obsequiously, but man was no word to describe him.
“Leave,” Robert ordered the rest, and they almost fell over themselves to do his bidding. There was something more than obedience on their faces, and also outright fear as they glanced at him.
“Kill Them,” Robert casually ordered Franco, and he came at them like a one-man army. He was good, but even though his intensity of purpose briefly made them cautious, they easily brought him to his knees, and he snarled. They could kill Franco with comfort, but they wouldn’t allow Robert that knowledge.
“You don’t play with your food?” Robert asked with mirth and they unwillingly let the huge Demvaren go. Their reticence fueled Robert’s amusement. Franco came at them again like a mindless maniac, but he was no real threat to them, and they took him down with a minimum of effort.
“Enough,” Robert ordered curtly when he finally grew bored of watching this game of catch and release. “End him.”
Alena got to Franco when he attempted to run at Rowan, and Rowan didn’t hesitate to take him down. They both had a feeling that Robert wasn’t the only one watching them. The hair on the back of their neck’s stood on end. A chill ran down their spines, and they could almost taste the strength of his unseen presence. The Dark One had finally bothered to see his trophies.
Robert just proved to them that they meant more than any of these minions, and he would sacrifice the two of them as easily as his underlings. His loyalties lay in only one place.
For a week, Robert repeated the same ritual every day until they became reluctant to feed, unused to the excess. He watched them closely, and they were careful not to betray too much of themselves.
“Stop,” Robert ordered in the middle of what was fast becoming an increasingly tedious battle to survive, for one so inferior to them as to be insulting.
They obeyed, but their victim sensed an opportunity to attack, but Robert halted him in his tracks with a single snarled command.
“Leave!” Robert ordered his bewildered minion.
“You two might find me more worthy sport,” Robert challenged, and he laughed at their caution to approach him.
Not wanting to reveal themselves had a price. Robert didn’t pull his blows. Even as they paid for that lesson with a myriad of scrapes, bruises, cuts, welts, and pain, their innate abilities along with Marcus’s teachings revealed Robert’s training, techniques, and reactions to them so they could purposefully draw him out.
The more they learned about him now, the less of a threat he would be when the time came for them to act. When the opportunity came for him to die.