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21.) Torture

I’m suffocating. My lungs are a fiery mass of aching and suffering.

How much time passed, where the air was yanked from my lungs, and tendrils of dark mist swarm my senses? I don’t know. It burns, the mist ran over my body, scorching the skin where it touched. I’m dying, I can’t breathe.

I tried so hard to inhale, to exhale, to do anything that may save my life. Every attempt is for naught, my throat begins to close, tears stream down my cheeks; I know in my heart that I am done for.

My eyes are clouded from mist and agony, my ears clogged with the dark magick of Parallax. How had I failed this quickly? My legs trembled, and I dropped to the ground, where I tried to scream with the pain that wracked through me. I’m choking, I’m suffocating, I’m burning.

“Enough is enough!” I can hear my uncle yelling, it’s distant and muffled; like my head was under water. Laughter, also distant…my first wave of unconsciousness hits me.

But then it’s gone, all of it. The burning, the blindness, the suffocation. All of it, gone. I let in a deep breath, my poor lungs searching for any relief. Even the air seems to hurt at this point. My throat burns as though it’s full of soot. I’m lying on the ground, my cheek pressed firmly into the red rug. My skin still aches, I wouldn’t doubt it if I had burns covering my body.

“Pick her up.” Parallax demanded, and I’m swept onto my shaking legs. Were it not for the vamp painfully pinning my scorned arms and holding me up, I would most definitely fall back to the ground.

Sweat pours down my temple and my back, from pain and from burns. My chest heaves as I still cherish the air, I look to my uncle who stands a few feet away; his eyes are wide with terror at what he just witnessed.

“Give me the souls, Astra. Now, I’m not afraid to kill you next time.” I knew this was a lie. He could not kill me, not before I’d handed over these souls. Was I willing to bet on that? The sweat on my face made my hair stick to my cheeks and neck as I turned my gaze to the evil bastard sitting on the throne. There is no more fear in me, just rage.

“That’s really the best you got?” I huff out, each word threatening to collapse my lungs. Beckett's face contorts, clearly he doesn’t enjoy the way I taunt him.

Parallax’s lips curled back in a wicked grin, and snapped his decayed hand, motioning his son forward. Beckett stepped down the steps, and made his way closer to myself and the vamp holding me. I try, I try so hard to read the emotion in his eyes. I cannot.

“Make that call, son.” Parallax commanded, and in a flash Beckett drew one of his blades and sliced the throat of the vamp beside me. I tried with failure to hold in my scream, as the vamp dropped to the ground. Shaking, I try to stand absolutely still, as Beckett bent and grabbed the arm of the vamp, dragging him away from me and to the center of the room.

Blood pooled from his neck, and as it did so Beckett used his fingers to draw in the air again. His silvery mist landed into the pile of blood, and it began to swirl and gurgle. The vampire behind me pushed me onto my knees in front of the blood pile, and Beckett dropped down beside me. Blood soaked the knees of my pants, it made my stomach curl.

Beckett’s eyes are tight with stress as they look at me, I notice then that there are prominent eyebags showing now. “We’re calling Alatar here.” No, my whole body rejected the idea. I tried to move away, but the vamp grabbed my neck and forced me to look down into the pile of blood that now shines perfectly clear; like a nice spring lake.

“I will not call them here.” I growl, my teeth clenched with outrage. Everytime I see a little hope from him, I get let down.

“Perhaps Astra needs some incentive…” Parallax warned, and the vamp holding my uncle captive bared his teeth in a hungry smile. “It is time for a morning meal,” the vamp took this as the go ahead and jerkily ripped my uncle’s head to the side to expose his neck.

“Don’t call him, Astra! I’m just an old man, it’ll be alrig-” upon Parallax’s wave the vamp shoved his teeth into my uncle’s neck. A scream ripped from my body, I pushed off my legs and threw my head roughly against the vamp, stronger than I thought I could, and dropped us both to the ground. Still gasping for air, I rolled off the vamp and tried to run to my uncle’s side; a hand grabbed me firmly but gently.

“Stop.” Beckett. His hand is warm on my scorned arm, I look between him and my uncle so fast I may just have whiplash. “I believe she’ll make the call now.” He continued, and the vamp pulled his teeth away with a growl of disapproval. My uncle, now unconscious but chest heaving, is pale with blood loss. The bite on his neck is large, I can see all three rows of teeth under the pouring blood. My uncle will die if he is not helped.

“You’re definitely giving me a show, dear Astra. You are certainly everything my son said you were.” Parallax mused, and I glared at Beckett for telling his dad about me. For being a traitor. Beckett’s face flashed quickly with desperation, his eyes begging me to just do as I’m told. For my sake, or his? I’m not sure.

Still shaking I allow his warm hand to guide me back to the mirror of blood on the rug, and we kneel beside it together.

“Alatar…” Beckett whispered into the pool softly, and upon it’s command the pool bubbled. My own reflection is atrocious, with dirty hair stuck to my face and my red eyes from my tears and sleep deprivation. It will not take much convincing to show Alatar that I need help.

Alatar’s face appeared in the pool, his eyes wide at the sight of us peering down at him, and his mouth tightened as he understood without us even speaking a word.

“Alatar, we need help! He has us, we need your help. Please, Astra has the lost souls!” Beckett’s acting was faulty, to say the least. His ‘fear’ doesn’t even show on his face, and his words come out in a monotone. But what he says, the way he prays on Alatar’s care for him, makes me sick.

“Are you two alright? I’m on my way-”, that was enough for Parallax. He had a vamp grab me, I screamed in shock, and Beckett wiped away the pool. As I stood on my feet, and Beckett grimly made his way back to the front of the room, it dawned on me what that was.

Alatar saw us, me bloody and battered, Beckett begged for help, and then he heard me scream and then nothing. If Beckett’s so-called ‘acting’ wasn’t going to get him here, that would. At least it would if he cared for me.

“Beautiful, beautiful. Once Alatar is here, the strongest warlock I know besides myself, and takes off that silly suppressor, then we can really get started.” My blood ran cold, I struggled with my handcuffs.

No, a powerful evil weapon could not be let free. Even Beckett looked paler than usual at the plan, like some small part of him didn’t want to have done any of this. Well, it’s definitely a little late for that.

It didn’t take long, not long at all. The walls of the room vibrated intensely, dust fell from the ceiling, and Parallax grinned widely.

A portal appeared on the wall to the left of me, and Alatar leaped through it in a swirl of light. Behind him was Ember and Nova. No, no, no.

I jerked my gaze to Beckett who looked like he was about to be sick. Ember was not supposed to come. His sister, who truly seemed like his only weakness, was now here.

Alatar, who wore a bright cloak the color of the sun, stood menacingly before all of his bright balls of magick threatening in his hands. Ember, who wears tight black leathers, stands beside him with her sword, when our eyes meet her gaze is protective; she’d been worried about me. Nova, who I didn’t even know could fight, stands on the other side of Alatar with a bow reared back with an arrow ready to fly, her dress matched her fathers.

“Alatar, old friend, how long has it been? Three hundred years? Too long…” Parallax doesn’t even seem to notice that they all wield weapons, and that Ember glares at all of the vamps she plans to kill.

“Not long enough, old friend.” The words dripped from his tongue with venom, and even I shivered.

Ember took the entire room in, her gaze going from fierce to confused when she saw her brother standing at the head of the room. It broke my heart to watch in real time, as she pieced together the situation. I want to hold her and tell her that he loves her, and will always protect her, but now is not the time.

“It seems you are not in the mood to chat? Pity. I was going to offer a place by my side to you, Alatar. But seeing how you brought reinforcement,” he beckoned to the two women by his side that glared at him, “I’m going to guess you won’t be reasonable?”

“When have we ever agreed on this matter, Parallax? Let the children go, and we can handle this one on one.” That made Parallax smile, and he waved me closer. I didn’t move, so the vamp shoved me forward until I walked myself up there.

The vamp had me turn, my back to Parallax, and face the room. I look at my friends, who bare their weapons, my unconscious uncle, and the vamps who eagerly await an attack.

“This child, Alatar, was born to kill me. Do you truly believe I will just let her go? You all believe she is so strong is she now?” Then there was pain, it seared my back as his mist encases me again. This time, he leaves my senses alone, so as the fire makes my body crumble to my knees; I’m able to scream for everyone to witness.

“Astra!” I could hear Ember yell, but Alatar kept her by his side.

“This is who you chose to protect you?” Parallax yelled at them, taunting them with my own pain. I try not to scream, but I fail greatly. “This weak little girl is who you’ve chosen to save those filthy humans?” More pain that nearly blinded me, another scream that ripped from me. “Hand me those souls!” He screamed at me, I could feel him stand behind me.

I locked eyes with Ember, struggling to even do so through the agony, her face contorts with her own fierce sadness. “No!” I force out through gritted teeth, resulting in another burst of agony that rips a scream from me. Sweat blinded my eyes, but I see Ember rear her arm back, and I can hear her war cry.

I watch, as she takes her sword, and spears it straight behind me for Parallax’s head.

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