The Fall of the Builder: VIII
The dungeons were dark and damp. The Vasaath held no affection of any kind for spaces like these, and he wouldn’t even wish it upon his greatest enemies to spend their days down there. Death was more merciful and more efficient.
Now, however, he was too furious to care about his enemies’ fears and wishes—Wiltbourne had shamed him deeply, and such offence could not stand. If guilty, the man would die, of course, but the Vasaath knew he did not act alone. Someone brought him the idea—an opportunist like Wiltbourne would not do something as perilous without having proper insurance. Someone had promised him something, and it wasn’t the boy.
Sweeping through the dungeons together with his soldiers, the general finally found the room he was looking for. Ohkas called them savages, and yet, ohkas were the ones with a habit and a keenness of inflicting torturous pain on their victims to loosen their tongues—quite literally, sometimes. The walls were lined with gruesome instruments, the one crueller than the next.
When Wiltbourne was brought in by two large Kas soldiers, he cried and wailed; he seemed well acquainted with this room, that he knew what was to come, and it didn’t take a brilliant mind to guess that the former captain might have held the instruments himself once or twice.
In the middle of the room, there was a table with turning levers. The rack was foreign to any Kas, as was torture, but the fear was evident in the ohkasenon’s eyes. The Vasaath would not be surprised if this room had been one of Arlington’s favourites.
The general grunted and nodded at the rack. Wiltbourne screamed and pleaded, but the stronger soldiers easily tossed him atop the wooden board and strapped his feet and wrists across the table.
“When you pledged your life to the Kasenon, you took a sacred oath, vowing to honour the tenets,” said the Vasaath. “Do your duty to the Kas; honour the Kas; respect the Kas—all of which you have broken.”
“Please,” cried the ohkasenon. “Please, don’t kill me!”
Sighing impatiently, the Vasaath motioned his soldiers to tighten the rack. The levers cranked, the ropes were tightened inch by inch, and the leather straps squeaked as they tugged at Wiltbourne’s wrists and ankles.
He cried out, terrified. As the ropes continued to pull, he gasped and yelped as his body began stretching and his bones began popping. The rope kept tightening, and the man yelled and shrieked at the first instances of burning pain.
The Vasaath raised his hand, and the soldiers stopped turning the levers. The man on the table was breathing shallowly, desperately. The Vasaath cocked his head and glared at the man in scornful pity.
“Tell me,” he said calmly, “how did you do it? How did you release the prisoner without anyone noticing?”
Wiltbourne’s eyes widened and he shook his head violently. “Please, no!”
The Vasaath clenched his jaw and grunted at his soldiers. They turned the levers again. Disturbing and morbid cracking sounded from the stretching body on the board. The man cried, wailed, and begged for mercy, but the Vasaath let his men turn it just a bit more before he motioned them to stop.
“Just tell me,” he said. “Tell me, and this will end.”
The man struggled to speak, but finally, he screamed, “I don’t know! I am innocent!”
Grunting again, the Vasaath nodded at his soldiers. “Continue.”
“No!” Wiltbourne yelled before the ropes groaned and the leather squeaked once more.
The painful shrieks echoed inside the room and out into the halls—even the Vasaath winced. He was not a torturer. This was not how things were conducted. This was not honourable, not right—but the rot went so deep within these people, only pain would deliver them.
“Confess,” the Vasaath demanded. “Confess, and this will end. You have my word.”
Tears streamed down Wiltbourne’s face. His hands were almost purple, his skin had broken as the leather cut into him, and his joints popped with each crank of the levers. Eyes dim, yells raspy, and brow sweating, he finally croaked out, “Aye! It was I!”
At once, the Vasaath motioned his men to stop. “What?”
The ohkasenon sobbed and trembled violently as he frowned in painful relief. “It was I! I released him! I released Sebastian Arlington!”
The general’s chest tightened; a rage he rarely felt ignited within and he tightened his fists. “How?”
“There’s a tunnel in the dungeons,” sobbed Wiltbourne. “It’s the Duke’s escape in case the Keep is overrun.”
“Where does it lead?”
“To the other side of the hill.” The man’s voice was weak, breaking, but at least his tongue was loosened. “To the river. Please, milord, I’ve said all I know!”
The Vasaath narrowed his eyes. Would this petty excuse of a man truly succeed with such a ruse all on his own? The general doubted it.
“Why did you do it?” he growled. “Are you still loyal to the Arlingtons?”
The man seemed stunned by this question. “I—” he started. “No, milord! I’m loyal to you!”
Disgusted, the Vasaath curled his mouth downwards. “Your tainted views of loyalty sicken me. There is no place for disloyalty within the Kasenon.”
“No, please!” sobbed Wiltbourne. “I’m not loyal to the Arlingtons! I swear it!”
“Then why did you do it?” the Vasaath snarled.
“I was p-promised land, and a t-title!” He cried violently, shaking in his straps.
The Vasaath tensed, the fury rising. “By whom?”
But Wiltbourne only cried. His pitiful wails were strained from his screams, and all he could do was wheeze out tiny sounds.
Impatiently, the Vasaath roared, “By whom?”
Wiltbourne said nothing, but cried even harder.
“Tighten the ropes,” the Vasaath ordered, and the soldiers complied.
The man screamed again, his body slightly suspended from the board.
The Vasaath towered over the table, his teeth bared in a snarl. “Tell me!”
The man shrieked in pain as the levers kept turning, his face red and his eyes bloodshot, but still, there was no information.
The Vasaath slammed his hands on the board and roared in the man’s face, “Tell me!”
“The advisor!” the man finally exclaimed. “Kasethen!”
Almost immediately, everything stopped. The soldiers stopped cranking the levers, the man stopped screaming, and the Vasaath took a step back, bewildered.
He furrowed his brows and clenched his jaw. This man was more dishonourable than anyone he had ever come across. How dared he accuse Kasethen of such a vile crime? He could see in his soldiers’ eyes that they were just as scorned, and just as disgusted.
“Daan,” the Vasaath growled darkly. “Filthy lies.”
“No, please!” Wiltbourne sobbed. “My children! He’ll kill my boys!”
More filthy lies, the Vasaath thought. Kasethen would never betray his people, and he would certainly never hurt children. To voice such gruesome deception in the hopes of mercy was beyond deplorable.
The fury exploded inside of him and he took one long stride towards the levers and grabbed them himself. He cranked them hard, mercilessly, with all his might, and the agonising howl that escaped the man on the table revealed that he was seriously injured. Another turn, as the scream turned desperate, bloodcurdling. The man croaked, and then he stilled.
The silence that followed was thick and heavy. The Vasaath’s breath was rough, hatred pulsing through him like a disease. Placing his finger on the man’s throat, he examined signs of life. It took him a second before he found the artery, and a gentle thud reached his fingers. He wasn’t dead—but the Vasaath felt the anger burn through him like wildfire, and he wanted to close his fingers around the man’s throat and squeeze the last sliver of life out of him.
“Great Warrior,” muttered one of the soldiers, and the Vasaath straightened. “This insult must be punished! He has brought shame upon us all!”
The Vasaath pulled his brows together and glared at his men. Wiltbourne was a kasaath, after all—sworn-in and pledged. He had the same rights as anyone else and should be allowed to choose his death. But looking into his men’s horrified and disgusted visages, he knew that he could not allow such mercy to a man who had slandered one of theirs so shamefully.
He nodded. “Yes. We must show the people that we don’t take such treachery lightly. Hang him by his wrists on the Town Square, and let him rot. If he gives up his accomplice once he awakens, then execute him by honour. If not—well, let’s see how resilient humans truly are.”
The two soldiers nodded and loosened the straps holding the unconscious man. They then dragged him out of the room and through the dark halls of the dungeons.
The Vasaath remained, trying to calm himself. The screams still echoed in his mind and he fought the guilt that was building in his belly. Wiltbourne had brought this upon himself, the Vasaath kept thinking, but had he been unnecessarily cruel? Perhaps, but he would never accept slander like that.
The man had confessed to a crime punishable by death, and he had accused the only man the Vasaath knew would never betray him. Wiltbourne had brought this upon himself. Cruelty was seldom necessary—but such a vile coward deserved nothing less.
Daan – lies
Kasaath – warrior; “strength of the people”
Ohkas – (oh ma-kas); stranger; “not of Kas”; “not of the people”
Ohkasenon – foreign follower of the Kasenon; “follower of the faith of the people but not of the people”