Darkness and Beauty

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Chapter 21 - Lance

Lena leads me through the halls and down into the dungeons below the Guard House, which in disarray. Officers are yelling at men to get to their posts, the sound of rushing footsteps a constant clatter. When she came into the room two hours ago saying that there was another attempt on the Prince's life, I knew that it was another message from Will. He's got more people in his service within the castle than we can count. If he wants something done, someone killed, then he can do it.

I searched her rooms for an hour looking through the scene. They not only burned most of my sister's rooms but somehow hung the body from the four bedposts, ropes holding the four limbs to a different post. I don't know whose body it was, as they had long horizontal cuts all across the front part of their body. Their face was left in ribbons, and he was stripped to his trousers. No sign of whether they were guard or servant. He bled out all over the bed, no trail of blood marking if and where they might've dragged him in from. There wasn't evidence at all of him being forced, which either means he was killed somewhere else, or he trusted the two women enough to follow them in.

That's the other thing. Though his body was sliced like a loaf of bread, I still found that he had been stabbed between his fourth and fifth rib, directly into his heart. With all the blood and its sharp tang filling the air, most guards couldn't last longer than a few minutes before needing to walk out. The priest they brought in hurled in the corner before reciting his prayers. Vladimir was the only one who stayed behind while the others dragged the still living suspect to the dungeons. He apparently has the strongest stomach in the group. We cut the body down ourselves and stared at it, trying to pin the form to a name. A few more guards retched, one fainted and had to be hauled out. I'm used to the feeling of blood on my hands, but I had to hold my breath and clench my own stomach as I felt the hole in his side where he'd been stabbed.

I didn't find any shards or pieces of a possible weapon in his flesh, but I did find the knife they used lodged in the crack of the linen chair. It was purposely placed so that if anyone sat down in it, they'd find themselves with a blade up their ass. These women have a dark sense of humor. While Vlad kept trying to put the pieces of the face together to identify the man, I inspected the dead girl's body. She wore plain loose pants and shirt, nothing in her pockets or the seams, and no mark on her skin telling of who she may belong to. My sister didn't bother to save her based on the fact that there's a bone protruding from the back of her neck. The skin is still intact, but you don't need it to be sticking out to know that it's broken.

I scoured the rest of the rooms, only finding the remnants of a homemade explosive, more rope, a few more hidden knives, and everything in the foyer burned. I didn't, however, miss the storage cabinet which bore evidence of my sister's rage. The only reason why I know it was her and not someone else, is by the depth of the scars. I smirk at what the Prince's reaction might've been.

After I finished, I walked back into the bedroom to find the body being loaded onto a wooden board and covered with a white sheet. "Who was it?"

"Rex. He was a guard tasked with guarding the Prince's chambers this morning."

"Has anyone checked the rooms to see if they may have done more damage?"

"No, but I'll get up there right now and search it myself. You should head to the dungeons. They'll be questioning her."

"Alright. Send word if you find something."

"Will do."

Now I'm walking down the dark stairway, following the sound of Garrison's voice echoing against the walls. The first level has several cells lining the narrow hallways, some with bodies, others with nothing but stench to fill them. I continue onto the lower levels, finding a second like the first, and then the third with doors rather than bars. Malen's blonde hair shines in the torchlight and I walk toward him and the others standing outside an open metal door. None of them look happy, and by the rasp of Garrison's voice, he's walking severely close to the edge.

I walk through the door, finding the woman tied to a chair in the center of the room, Garrison pacing in front of her. She's younger than forty, maybe mid-thirties. She wears the same clothes as the other, no sign of marking on her skin from what I can see. There's a blooming red mark on one of her cheeks, a swollen and darkened eye, crooked nose, and the other half of her face drenched in blood leaking from a cut on her head.

*****

He's been "questioning" her for what feels like hours, not using the dagger at his side once. Don't they have a trained torturer for things like this? I've been watching as she continues to refuse to say any other words aside from "no," "go fuck yourself," and "go to hell." She didn't see me when I came in, and still hasn't seen me as I lean up against the wall in the dark. As much as I want to jump in and get the answers we need, I need him to trust me, and taking over his interrogation – if that's what you want to call this – won't help me. I've already picked my nails, yawned for the twentieth time, and balanced one of my Sinister blades on my finger and nose for a few minutes, and still, she keeps her knowledge her own.

"You're going to give me the information I want." He places his hands on the arms of her chair and leans close to her beat-up face.

"Or what?"

"Or I'm going to sit and watch as he," He says pointing a finger at me. "has his fun with you."

Pushing back another yawn, I step into the light and watch as her face pales and fingers dig into the wood of the chair. She takes a few controlled breaths before meeting Garrison's cold stare with her own and sitting back in her chair.

"Very well. She's all yours" He walks to the other side of the room, taking up a spot beside a lantern.

I approach her slowly, scanning her for possible weak spots I can use. Her jaw shifts and I instantly have my thumb and pointer finger digging into her cheeks, keeping her from biting down on the tablet she likely lodged between her teeth. "Not so fast. You didn't think I was just going to let you end up like your friend from last night, did you?" Still keeping her teeth from meeting, I fish out the tablet from her mouth. She tries to buck her head, but my grip's too tight, and I slide the poison into my pocket before releasing her. Panic starts seizing her, and I watch as she looks around the room trying to find a way out.

"I'll repeat what my friend said. You can either give us the information we require, or I can have my fun. Your choice."

"Fuck you."

"That's not what I meant when I said fun, but I'll take that as a no. Now, let's get strung up."

With the help of Garrison, Malen, Benny, Osiris, and Winston, we get chains around her wrists and then hooked them to the metal rings on opposite walls. Her ankles are tied together and weighed down by a cannonball so that she can't kick me while I work. They all stay in the stuffy room when we've finished, to my surprise. I would've thought they've seen enough blood for today.

"Let's find the faults," I say in a low voice.

Sometimes you don't need a knife digging in their skin to get them to yield. More times than naught, you can control a person through the pain of a past injury, or just by digging your fingers in the right spots to induce pain. As I run my hands over her arms, back, torso, and then legs, I can feel her shrink at every touch. I could just start probing her eye and nose, but their pain is already doing their job with it being so close to her brain. I need something new, something that can add to that pain, and let them flare whenever I'm not touching her. Pain can be tuned out for only a certain amount of time, and if you give enough of it at once, then that time shortens.

So far, I've found nothing of use in her arms or back. No scars, calluses, signs of abuse, not even that impressive of a muscle mass. I'm still wondering how the hell her, and the other woman managed to drag Rex's body into my sister's bedroom and hang him from the bedposts. I walk back around her and scan her arms once more before moving to her torso. As I grab the hem of her shirt, the chains rattle and I find her eyes closed shut. They never listen when I say sex isn't my idea of fun. Now that I think about it, this isn't even close to my idea of fun, but roles must be played. Gods, I'm corrupt.

I pull up her shirt and stop when I find a blue and purple bruise the size of my fist on her lower right ribs. "What's this? Misbehaving elsewhere are we?"

"I didn't break then. I won't break now."

"Hmm. If only your claim was actually true. Did you think I wouldn't notice that the bruise is a fake? My compliments for trying though. Valiant effort by Willdred." Her breath hitches at the sound of his name, and there's no mistaking the sudden fear in her eyes. "Ah, you know Will. Tell me, is the mark still unfinished?"

*****

"Who else is in the castle walls?"

"I d-don't kno-know. P-please."

We've been at it for hours. I found scarring on her knee from a past injury, one whatever low healer tried mending. They didn't heal the muscles right. The ligaments and tendons are screwed, and bones left without a cushion to keep them from rubbing against each other. Based on the discoloration of her nails and lips and the odd color of her eyes, I'd say she's been on a strong sedative with some strong - but wrong – ingredients for the pain. Little does she know it's actually slowly killing her from the inside out. I told you Will liked taking his time.

I've been taking her knee apart piece by piece with every wrong answer she's given. I used a strip from her pants to cut off the blood circulation from her leg to keep her from bleeding out. Her toes turned blue a while ago. I kneel down to her bloody knee and shift the glossy blade in my hand. Her knee is only hanging on by a few main things, which means I need to start cutting above it.

"Wait! Wait." I stop the tip of the knife from piercing her skin and look up at her. "I-I don't know who's in the castle, but I know how many there are."

"I knew you'd come around," I say standing.

"He has us - switching every – every m-month to keep suspicion at bay." She answers in between her sobs.

"How do you communicate?"

"He tells us what to do before we walk through the walls. Then he sends a note with one word to us."

"How?"

"I don't know. Wait!" She yells when I go to bend down again. "Please, he just leaves the notes in our rooms. I don't know who puts them there, just that I'm supposed to follow his orders."

"What does he have that forces you to obey him?" Garrison asks, still at the wall. The others are still here, but they've walked in and out of the room several times since I made the first cut.

"Family. He kidnaps our children or parents or-or siblings and holds them in cells until we get back. Please, I-I need to get back. He has my sister."

"How many more are in the castle?"

"Please-"

"How many," I repeat.

"Three. There's three more, and only they know their missions. I...that's all I know."

"Did you see him?" I say before Garrison pushed off the wall. "Willdred."

"He came in the shadows, kept to them, but I did see the scar. His eye. That's all I saw."

Garrison goes onto questioning her, the other chiming in their own curiosities, but know what I need to know. There are three more moles within the walls, three people I need to identify and keep out of reach of Will and the lives of the royal family. They can be anyone and anywhere, hidden in plain sight. They'll do as Will asks for the sake of their loved ones, which means I'll not only need to isolate the moles, but somehow find a way to keep their family alive before Will kills them. I can send word to my father to send a few assassins to search for them, but if they are seen, then Will won't bother to wait and slit everyone's throats. I need to talk to my sister and my father because if I expose the moles, there's a chance that they'll be holding funerals in the next few weeks.

"That's all I know, I swear. Please. I need to get to my sister."

"She's already dead," I say. "Word would've already gotten out that you were captured and brought here. Will won't have further use for your sister. If he doesn't free her – which is highly unlikely – then she won't last the night. I'm sorry."

"No. No he-he promised he wouldn't lay a hand on her as long as-"

"As long as you complete the task and get out. I know, but you're in no condition to walk out of here now."

"And whose fault is that?"

"You should be thanking me, you know."

"Thanking you."

"Yes," I say stopping in the doorway. "You shattered your knee at some point, and whoever healed it did a downright awful job of it. You've been taking elixirs and tonics to combat the pain, but I'm sorry to tell you that the things you've been shoving down your throat, have been slowly eating away at your organ tissue. If my suspicions are correct, you should be dead by morning – and that's not because of your knee is in shambles. I tied that piece of fabric around your leg to keep you from bleeding out, and to allow me to see your damaged tissue without blood blurring my vision."

"What?"

"The healers here can make your knee good as new, but they would've needed to make the same cuts I did in order to properly set and heal the cells. I've done that for them, got the information we needed, and now they can patch you up and get you started on gaining back your strength. The poison is a bit trickier, but they can pull it out of your system given time and a large amount of concentration, making sure they get every last drop. You'll live to walk out of the castle grounds, and you've completed your task at killing an innocent guard and burning down the room. As far as I'm concerned, you won't only suffer the consequences of your actions by having to find your sister in the same state as that guard, but you're given another chance to live another life. If I were you, I'd take everything I have left and run east, before Willdred decides he's not finished with you."

I don't give any of them the chance to speak or stop me and walk right out of cells.

This has been one shitty evening.

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