The clergy man was honest, if nothing else.
The new method was not pleasant in the least.
I had experienced all manner of emotional torture in the past year. Abandonment, rejection, heartache and failure. But physical torture had been minimal, save for my chilly cell.
That was certainly a method used by the clergy, accompanied by far worse.
I was deprived of food save for what little was necessary to keep me alive.
“We cannot feed the demons within you,” said the clergyman, bowing as he exited the room.
I was placed in a heated room. “To sweat out the demons.” I slept in chambers far colder than my beast’s. “To freeze their grip on your soul.” The incense grew so thick and scented that I would pass out, rather the opposite of smelling salts.
Whether my father and Costas were aware or not I didn’t know; I couldn’t imagine my father consenting to such treatment, no matter how much he might fear my demons.
The days melted into one another without count. My mind was foggy, my heart was heavy, and my soul was branded by voices.
Voices. Voices surrounded me. Muffled, mumbled, whispering and unclear. They melded with that of the clergy men, that of a guard, that of a serving girl. Time was meaningless. Discomfort was constant. Thoughts were vague. There was no comfort, no place to hide. I was completely exposed to these people.
I had not said another word in days. The instant my door opened, I begged. Until the moment it was closed, I was pleading.
But what for? I didn’t know anymore. I thought that perhaps it was for release. Sometimes I thought I was begging to see the Assassin. Other times, I was pleading to never see him again.
Evidently, this last plea was not proof enough that I had abandoned my previous position. The clergy grew even more grim-faced as the week closed. Had it been but a week of this new tactic?
I did not think myself so weak, I thought, mind addled still.
“Princess,” said a clergy man, looking almost sincere as he knelt before me. Perhaps he was being sincere, but I could hardly consider myself mean for disbelieving him. “Please tell us that you have recovered your soul. The king is most anxious for the cleansing to be complete.”
I think that I should have lied. But my recent conditions had done nothing to improve upon my brains, and I couldn’t bring myself to say anything false.
So that is how torture works, I thought, watching the clergy man walk out of the room while crying aloud to his patron saint.
The light outside broke down until there was a single shaft of light coming through my window. It was darkened with soot from all of the incense. I stood on shaky legs and walked to the window. Leaning against the wall, I pulled my sash off my hips to wipe away the panes of glass.
It was far enough into dusk that this brightened the room little, but I found a strange comfort in the action. Pressing my temple to the jutting stones of my wall, I looked down at the castle grounds.
Little people scurried away to their nighttime errands. A lord and lady returning late from a hunt in the woods, where I doubted that they had done very much hunting at all. Their dogs ran in circles around the horses, still full of energy.
Looking a higher, I could see the forest. Trees and shrubbery that began sparsely before turning into a thick cloak for the earth. It reminded me of thin tassels that lead to a plush rug, full of color and life with its designs, comfort in its softness. Somewhere in those woods lay a castle that was far more homelike than this one.
To think, I thought, that the castle I once called my home is now my prison, and the fortress I once called a prison is now my home.
I sank into the rug beneath me, fingering the tassels lightly. There was a bed in this room, but it was too exhausting to reach.
How did I ever expect to reach the beast’s castle when I could not even cross my own room?
My eyes closed quickly at a dry itch, and a sigh sent my shoulder digging through the soft rug and into the stone floor below. My stomach cried out for nourishment, my hair nearly made me sneeze as it still held copious amounts of holy perfume. And in spite of it all, or perhaps because of it all, I feel into a spasmodic slumber.
It was composed of fever dreams, where you attempt to do something over and over with a searing repetition. The fever dreams only broke off when I jerked awake at the thought of what the grim clergy man had next planned for me. Then the fever dreams settled in again, perhaps with a new task of equal exasperation.
Pain breaks you down.
I was never given enough time to rebuild myself out of stronger stuff. A new pain was thrust upon me before I was ever given the chance.