And so it continued on spiraling into darkness. Ashie dedicated a whole building just outside of the market square to study the magic of the daemon people. If they were going to have a fighting chance against the monsters, she wanted to know everything about their ways.
The daemon homes were raided, their personal items taken away by the wagonload for this purpose. The soldiers in charge of the raids gathered everything they could find. There were books, charms, crystals and statues in tribute of the history.
The men in charge of the study couldn’t make sense of the rules or rituals written in the language of the beasts. They poured over the books and trinkets for weeks with no results. In frustration, Ashie turned on the daemon slaves for answers.
Bree had worked in the Ellyll family keep’s kitchen nearly half of her life. Her father, grandfather, and grandmother resided in a home not far from the keep until the culling where they were sold off to work in the homes of other lords. Bree remained on as head cook and without resentment or resistance toward the change in laws. She had managed to keep her wings and avoid the ring of servitude for her compliance.
Bree’s family was amongst the first to take up residence in the city. Being members of the council of elders, Ashie figured that if the information could be gathered from anywhere, they would be a good place to start. So she ordered the return of the grandparents and father to the keep.
The basement was converted from a wine cellar to a dungeon in the matter of a few hours. Cages lined the far wall and in the center of the room, chains hung from the ceiling and attached to large hinged clasps on the floor. Seyah, the grandmother, Osef, the grandfather, and Fahre, Bree’s father, were all brought into the basement and locked into separate cages. Completely unaware, Bree continued her duties upstairs without interruption.
Seyah, Osef, and Fahre were left in their cages for two nights and a day. They were offered no food, no water, and no explanations. On the second day, two men came into the room. The darkness was suddenly interrupted by a bright light as the torches were lit across the vast room. It was the first time the three of them could see their surroundings. As their eyes adjusted to the change in light they focused on the men before them.
It was apparently obvious why the first of the men was there. He was dressed all in black, blending in with the shadows as he arranged several tools on the table he set up beside the chains. He tied his hair tightly back behind his head and put on a white apron that was stained a red-orange shade in several places. He was the torturer, they decided to themselves, and silently prepared mentally for what was to come.
The other man was obviously an intellectual. He was so strangely out of place in the surroundings. They found his presence odd and confusing as they watched him take a seat at the edge of the room and pull out a notebook, ready to take notes on the events. They weren’t given much longer to ponder the immediate future.
Seyah was wretched free from her cell and dragged to the center of the room. She did not protest as she was attached to the chains by her wrists and ankles. The man pulled the chains tight and let her hang there for a moment as he looked over the items on the table snickering.
“Where shall we begin?” The man asked her as he picked up a small blade and turned it over in his hands.
Seyah did not reply. The man put the blade down and picked up a larger one with a curved blade. He walked around her silently and let the blade graze against her clothing. The sharp blade tore through her shirt without touching her flesh. It began to fall away from her, revealing her intact wings. She closed her eyes and sighed deeply, praying silently.
“There is no need for anyone to get hurt here.” The intellectual man said from his position at the side of the room.
“Although this man before you excels at this, I am more interested in words above bloodshed.” The man continued.
“I just have some questions that need answering. If you would do that for me, we can all go back to what we were doing and this nightmare can end.” The man stated as he placed his pen to the paper.
“I have nothing to say to you humans, so do as you will. I will speak no more.” Seyah replied harshly.
“You haven’t even heard the question yet.” The intellectual man laughed.
Seyah’s wing was pulled tightly away from her back by the torturer. She uttered a hiss as the intellectual man posed the first question.
“Tell me the secret to unlocking the magic of the daemons.” The man asked.
“Stealing our freedom wasn’t enough for you? Now you want our heritage?” Osef howled from his cage.
“Release my wife, we have nothing of value to tell you.” Osef demanded.
“I doubt that, or you wouldn’t be so quick to backtalk.” The intellectual replied.
“It looks as if it’s my turn.” The torturer grinned. “One way or another you will speak.”
The torturer took his blade swinging it with ease. It sliced through Seyah’s wing bone taking it completely off at the skin. He reached for the second wing, pulled it tight, and cut it free as well. He threw them to the floor at her feet as the blood poured down her back.
“You monster!” Osef howled.
Seyah went limp as the pain sent her into darkness. The loss of blood from her old frail body made her faint almost instantaneously. The torturer sighed, realizing there was no further point in continuing on with her and released the bindings. He threw her into the cell and left her to lay there unconscious in a pool of her own blood.
“The old woman is defiant to a fault. Perhaps, if you want to see her live, you will be more cooperative.” The torturer stated as he pulled Osef from his cell and strung him up.
Osef had already lost his wings in the struggle to take him alive in the first culling. There was nothing left for the torturer to take off but stubs. So the man moved onto a smaller blade and cut away Osef’s shirt letting it fall to the floor.
“What is it we need to know to unlock the secrets of the books we gathered from the homes of the daemons?” The intellectual asked Osef as he hung there.
“There is nothing I can tell you. Our ways are not for humans to know. Learn your own ways and stay out of ours.” Osef replied coldly.
The torturer went straight to work. He slowly carved off one piece of flesh from Osef’s chest before he gave him the opportunity to speak again. When he did not, another piece was peeled away from the muscle beneath it and cast aside. He moved onto Osef’s arms carving away piece by piece, but the man still refused to speak. As his blood flowed away from him, it mixed on the floor with the blood that belonged to his wife. In frustration, the torturer released him and returned him to the cage.
They did not go straight for Fahre as he thought they were going to do. Instead, they extinguished one torch after another until the room was washed in darkness once again. The two men left them there, in the silence and the knowledge that without treatment the wounds would not heal.
“Father, can you reach me?” Fahre asked as he made his way over to his side of the cage.
“I believe so,” Osef replied as he crawled over and took his son by the hand.
Fahre spoke a few words in the darkness. Osef’s pain began to fade away. The blood clotted and sealed the open wounds closed on his arms and chest. When finished, Fahre leaned back in exhaustion. The healing took more energy from him than he had to spare.
“Do you have the strength to pass it on to mother?” Fahre asked worriedly.
“I have enough to stop the bleeding, but I believe her wings are lost forever.” Osef replied sadly as he took his wife’s hand.
Seyah’s bleeding stopped and she awakened briefly enough to squeeze Osef’s hand. The three of them sat there in silence together as another night passed.
In the morning, the torches flared to life bringing light back to the darkness. Fahre remained awake for the entire evening watching over his father and mother as they rested. He looked at the torturer with hate in his eyes as the man approached him.
“It occurred to me late last night that you won’t speak if tortured either.” The torturer said to Fahre.
“Your assumption just might be correct.” Fahre replied as the door creaked open.
The intellectual entered, followed by someone just outside of Fahre’s line of sight. They walked into the room slowly as the one that followed spoke up.
“I’m sorry sir, I don’t see what good I can do down here. The wine cellar hasn’t been used for ages.” Bree questioned as she looked around.
“No,” Fahre hissed. “Bree, run!”
“Father?” She asked confused.
It was too late for Bree to heed Fahre’s warning. The torturer wrapped his hands around her arms and dragged her across the room. She screamed in surprise as the man chained her wrists and ankles. The cages then came into view as the man lit the last torch.
“Father, grandmother, grandfather, what is going on?” She whimpered.
“I will kill you, you son of a bitch.” Fahre screamed as he rattled the bars on his cage in anger.
The commotion woke Seyah and Osef from their slumber. They saw Bree chained up before them and could do nothing but weep. Fahre growled as the torturer grabbed Bree by her wings.
“You will talk now, or I will carve your precious child into pieces.” The torturer stated firmly.
The intellectual picked up his pen ready to take notes as he watched quietly from his place in the corner.
“What do you want?” Bree asked.
“We want to know the secret to unlocking the magic of the daemons.” The intellectual spoke in response.
“But, I was never taught these things. How am I to help?” Bree wept. “I would tell you if I knew!”
“Your family has the answers. If you want to blame anyone, it’s them. They had their chance to speak yesterday. Now you will pay for their silence.” The torturer whispered in her ear.
The man went straight for Bree’s wings. There was no hesitation as the blade sliced through the joints. Her once beautiful lilac colored wings fell to the floor stained red with her blood. The pain was almost too much for her to take. She fell to her knees and hung there weeping as Fahre howled out in protest.
“Enough! I will tell you what you want to hear.” Fahre promised. “Just let me free so I can heal her please and you can have what you want.”
The torturer turned to him and smiled, “Speak the words and I will release you. If it’s not the truth, I will take more than this child’s wings.”
“The power is in the blood and the language. I will teach your people all I know. Now let her go.” Fahre stated.
The torturer moved over to the cage that held Fahre. As he unlocked it, Fahre raced over to his daughter and took her by the hands. He muttered the words under his breath. The intellectual marveled as Bree’s wounds healed over and the blood stopped flowing. As the last of his strength faded away he hit his knees, the darkness ready to take him.
“Father,” Bree wept. “I’m so sorry.”
“It’s not your fault my daughter. Follow your duties to the queen. I will take no more sorrow from you.” Fahre replied.
“I will father.” She replied, tears streaming down her eyes.
The torturer and the intellectual pulled Fahre up to his feet. As the intellectual led him out the door the torturer returned to the cages for Seyah and Osef.
“You two will be returned to the homes of your master. But your silence will not go unpunished. It will be up to your masters to decide your fate.” The man stated.
The torturer turned back to Bree, leaving her grandparents in their cage. He released her bindings letting her fall to the floor. Her dress became stained by the blood of her fallen wings. She stared at them for a moment, terrified and saddened that they were gone.
“Return to your duties child and no more harm will come to you. Defy your queen, and I will see you again.” The torturer snickered.
“Yes sir,” Bree stammered.
Bree stumbled away up the stairs. She raced to her room where she changed her clothing and dried her eyes. Hope was lost to her that day.
The intellectuals took Fahre back to their building dedicated and determined to learn everything he had to teach them. Once they deciphered the basics the humans began learning. Books were rewritten and passed around and soon magic bred more chaos as those who learned were overwhelmed with the changes.
They now had a way to fight back against the daemons and their magic. Many followers of the old ways came out of hiding to show their appreciation of the laws and the education that restored and breathed new life into their old ways of living.