The knot in Elysia’s belly violently clenched as the hiss of another blade sliced past her face, drawing a fresh slash of blood.
The girl struggled, but the dirty rag stuffed in her mouth was obstructing her breathing and her chest heaved. The ropes were tied tightly, binding her restrictively to a stake buried in the stinking ground.
One hundred and one knives occasionally scraped past her face.
No food, little water.
The light flutter of the blindfold battered itself against the side of the eight-year-old’s cheek.
Teetering on the edge of breaking, aren’t we? The young girl’s jumbled mind momentarily collapsed onto itself, splintering as she struggled to find some form of comfort in her bearings.
Elysia’s tongue probed the gag in her mouth hesitantly, stomach rumbling its protest.
She wriggled, exhaling as the ticking sound of the clock near her resounded deep inside her ears, like a time bomb before it was ready to explode.
The stench of dried blood and guts assaulted her nose, the clatter of a bucket emptied by a maid—a stinking pile of wet faeces near the steps of the putrid dungeon sending a wave of nausea rushing through her stomach and veins.
Her chest constricted violently, and her throat bobbed as she swallowed, forcing the bile that swelled up in her throat back into her stomach.
Elysia gritted her teeth, taking big calming breaths to relax herself—a difficult feat with one’s hands tied behind their back, and their eyes blindfolded.
Lithe, clenched hands wriggled back and forth lightly, the rope chafing her wrist as the eight-year-old attempted to escape, the rag stuffed in her mouth gradually getting wet with saliva as she turned her attention entirely on the rope confining her.
“Strike One.” A calm, cold voice rang lowly by her ears, and Elysia’s face violently lashed to her right as a sharp slap echoed through the dungeon, the burning remnants of the slap racing across her tender face. “I noticed your escape attempts. Try. Again.”
Elysia’s breath whooshed out in a hapless sob of diminishing hope.
Her wrists hurt from the endless chafing of the rope.
There was probably even blood oozing to the skin’s surface by now.
The young girl sniffled, striving desperately to hold back her tears as her feet curled, her hands resuming its slight motion with something akin to desperation.
A loud clatter of a scalpel echoed against the metallic table, decorated with splatters of blood and various torture instruments.
“If you cry, I’ll drive the knife I have into your stomach, Elysia.” A beautiful lady stooped forward towards the bound girl, murmuring coldly, the slide of the cold edge of the sharpened knife sent prickling tendrils of pain raking across the slender arc of the eight-year-old’s neck. “Damon passed this test of tolerance and pain with flying colours. I expect nothing less.”
Dark, eagle-like eyes scrutinized the blonde, bleeding girl with a calculative stare, a hand lovingly stroking the coiled whip wrapped around her waist.
“I would really hate to kill you, child. Especially since my son seems so fond of you.” All breath was robbed from Elysia’s lungs as a solid fist drove itself deep into her diaphragm, twisting viciously into reddened and blistered skin, bursting the pus-filled bubbles with a single blow.
A scream muffled itself behind the gag stuffed down her mouth, wet with viscous, smelling saliva that dripped down the corners of her mouth and into a small puddle on the ground below.
Ice cold hands lifted the dark blindfold off Elysia’s eyes, and a grunt of discomfort seeped from the young child’s throat as the bright white light seared her eyes. A face, impassive but beautiful in its youthful exterior blurred into focus before her eyes.
She was an icy queen.
Regal and impassive in her active emotions, yet cruel and unforgiving in her fury and anger.
“I see tears in your eyes.” The beautiful woman stooped down close to her adopted daughter’s pretty face, her breath misting over. “If even a single tear in those blue eyes falls down your face, I’m gonna kill you.” A light, delighted and yet fleeting smile whispered across her face.
Elysia shivered lightly, her breath stirring in light pants as she clenched her fists.
“Yes, Mother.” The whisper of assent was soft but loud enough for the woman close by to hear.
A pale, callused hand lashed out, fisting itself into the collar of the young girl’s dirtied shirt.
“Mother!” Elysia’s sharp nails clawed against the woman as Damon’s mother impassively dragged Elysia across the hard, rocky floor, the sharp points of the stones digging viciously into the fleshy back of the young girl, her struggles futile against the overpowering woman before her. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry! Mother!”
Thin red lines, clawed from small sharp nails, slightly bloodied, arched doggedly down from the woman’s elbow to her palms.
Tears fell disobediently down the young child’s face.
The astute, angular-faced woman hurled the young girl’s battered body against the wall, eyes sharp, serpentine, and cold.
The thorny whip violently lashed forth, brutally striking itself across Elysia’s back, drawing fresh wells of blood on the young girl’s already scarred back.
“I am not your Mother!”
Elysia swallowed the cry that bubbled in her throat, salty tears still seeping past her face.
“No buts.” The second lash of the whip made itself known against the planes of Elysia’s face, splitting the skin apart. “No ifs.” The third lash coiled around the girl’s legs, ripping the top of the girl’s skin off its surface. “I am not your Mother, and never will be.”
The whip clattered onto the surface of the stone floor.
“Now, Elysia. For that mistake, count.”
A terrified cry ripped itself from the young girl’s throat as the older woman grabbed her hand, forcing her fingers back beyond its flexible point.
“Stop! Stop! Please! You’re gonna break—” The woman simply looked up at the girl impassively, and jerked the appendage back sharply.
Fingers dug into Elysia’s cheeks as the fragile bone snapped horribly, pinching shut her cheeks as the young girl’s eyes widened in shock, the scream behind her lips swallowed back into her chest forcefully.
“Elysia,” The woman rolled her eyes slightly, tone placating. “I said count.”
She released her grip on the younger girl’s fingers, letting the broken appendage dangle grossly in a twisted fashion, neatly snapped in two parts, causing it to dangle at an odd angle, sending vicious, stabbing pains arcing through Elysia’s entire hand.
“Count.” Her fingers found purchase in the young child’s other fingers and snapped them continuously without remorse.
Tears slipped past Elysia’s eyes from the fear coupled with the pain in her cheeks and fingers.
“One.” The whisper fell like the softest feather on a cool breeze, terror embalming the word’s tone fully.
“Good girl.” A cold smile flitted across Damon’s mother’s face. “Now, I’m going to release my grip on your cheeks.” A hand smoothed the matted fringe of the eight-year-old collapsed before her, brushing aside the tendrils of sweaty hair. “You’re a smart girl. You’re not going to scream when I release you, right?”
Elysia shook her head from side to side as much as she could, hot tears pouring past her cheeks and drenching her adopted mother’s fingers.
“Good.” A disgusted sneer arched itself across the woman’s face. “I would hate to knock your teeth out if you’d disobeyed.” She released Elysia’s face from her iron grip, turning her back towards the young girl without a single qualm.
The young girl’s chest heaved deeply, eyes bright with vicious malice as she stared hatefully up at the woman, nails crunching into the stony ground as she contemplated the thought of retaliating.
It’s all about the pros and cons.
What works and what does not.
Elysia’s eyes slid towards the scalpel on the metal desk, a hateful smile violently spreading across her young, delicate lips.
Hate her. The hum of the small voice in her head echoed viciously in Elysia’s head.
You and I both.
Hate you too. The slight turn in the sentient thoughts of the being in her head stunned the young girl into silence.
She pursed her lips lightly into a thin line, the uninjured, hand gripping the scalpel she’d picked from the table tightly in her hand, raising it with a crazed glint her eyes at the turned back of the older woman, viciously stabbing the sharp object towards the unsuspecting back.
“Mother.” The low, menacing call of a familiar voice halted Elysia’s attempts even before the scalpel was plunged into the woman’s back, and a tall, pale teenager, with a slender but muscular physique strode into the stinking dungeon, turning his nose up slightly towards the dismal smell and the sticking blood on the floor. “I did tell you not to break her too much.”
He lashed out with a strong punch to Elysia’s face, the impact causing the scalpel to fall from her hand to clatter onto the floor. The young girl staggered from the punch to her chin, her vision swimming as Damon stared down at her condescendingly.
“That was for attempting to retaliate, Elysia.” His words were solid and cold, and the teen crossed his arms as he turned toward his mother, his anger palpable beneath the surface of his face. “I do not tolerate disobedience.”
The woman turned in distaste, and both watched as the young girl’s lips quivered, and her legs trembled before collapsing entirely onto the floor.
“I didn’t.” Damon eyed his mother coldly, watching as Elysia retched onto the floor, tears streaming from her eyes. “Like that is equally believable.” His eyes flickered to the scalpel on the floor, crushing the sharp object under his steel-tipped boots, missing the young girl’s fingers by mere inches.
“I was merely training her for the unforeseeable future.”
“Of?” Damon raised his eyebrows slightly, anger seeping up under the handsome features to pool viciously in the contours of his youthful face. “Training her for the continual forbearance of your torture, because her presence simply reminds you of your failure to bear another prestigious child apart from me?”
The worded barb hurt, and Elysia coughed slightly, wiping her mouth with the back of her hand as the sharp sound of the woman’s palm came into harsh contact with Damon’s face.
Damon turned his eyes to the older woman menacingly. He was a head and shoulders taller and more imposing than her, and his eyes darkened like a raging storm, a snarl taking over his lips.
“You do not speak to me like that.” The woman hissed through her teeth, dark eyes similar to her son’s narrowing in apparent malice.
“Or what, Mother?” Damon spat, curling an arm around Elysia’s weak frame and hauling her up. “You’ll smack me around like a ball? Or lash me with your whips?”
“If it’s my training of Elysia’s pain tolerance that makes you unhappy—”
“Oh it does not.” Damon sneered, leaning in to invade her personal space. “But I take it personally when you punish my toys in my stead.” He threw a glance at Elysia’s broken fingers, gripping them and skillfully pulling them until the bones popped back, not caring as her face whitened considerably under the forceful resetting of the bones in place. “I prefer to be the one dealing out the injuries so that I know what to repair when it’s needed.”
He turned, hauling Elysia by her newly set fingers out of the dungeon.
“You cannot do this! You are undermining my authority—”
Damon waved his hand dismissively at the woman he called his mother.
“Are you saying that as the heir to this house, I must bend to your every whims and fancy?” Dark eyes narrowed sharply at the insinuation, his lips pulling down into a displeased but furious smile. “And besides, you punishing what is my property seems to be undermining my authority.” The thirteen-year-old sneered, yanking open Elysia’s collar to show the crude mark of ownership on her light skin.
The woman gaped slightly, face flushed with humiliation and speechless at her son’s own admonishment.
“Good. Then I believe there is nothing more to be said.”
The doors to the dungeon closed with a loud clang, and Damon released his grip on Elysia with a sneer on his face.
“Are you so weak as to not get yourself out of your own predicaments?” He yanked at the blood jewel’s chain that dangled from Elysia’s chest. “Your distress was disturbing my peace.” Damon threw a fresh piece of cloth at her bloodied face, turning around to stalk away, but not before pausing for a moment to deliver an order to the healer awaiting around the corner.
“I want her as fresh and as new as before this incident, you hear me? After that, send her to my chambers, where I shall scrutinize her thoroughly. If I find any blemishes, not of my own hand, I will not hesitate to slaughter you.”
“And the bruises from her beating the day before the mistress took her into the dungeons?” The healer croaked, bent at the waist and shivering.
Damon smiled slyly, the corners of his lips turning up at the memory.
“Leave it.” He savoured the words in his mouth delightedly. “It’s a mark of my ownership of her.” The healer bowed hurriedly, quickly rushing to attend to the younger child as Damon stalked away briskly.
“My lady.” The healer touched Elysia’s hand softly, his quiet voice like a calming balm to her pain filled the body. “You need to sit up to let me see your injuries.” Elysia blinked at the man through blurry and swelled shut-eye, darkening with a fresh bruise on her face where the woman had forcefully hit her.
“Hey..uhm, Horace.” The lisp of a cut lip swished through her teeth and lips, falling in a whimpering small voice as she curled into a fetal position on the bench. “I hurt all over.”
“Mhm.” The healer quickly retrieved a wet cloth and a salve from his robes, concern etched over his elderly face. “I know. Drink this.”
“M’kay.” The eight-year-old mumbled, bones creaking and muscles convulsing violently as she shifted her position. Her lips clenched, holding back a pain filled cry. “S’ gonna make me better?”
“It is.” The healer smiled kindly as he tended to the open lashes on her back. “It’ll make you as good as new.” A shiver of apprehension coursed through the young girl’s body.
“B-but I don’t wanna be as good as new.” Her voice rose hysterically, registering the sad look on the healer’s face. “Damon doesn’t like it! He’ll—”
“I know, I know.” The healer shushed her quickly, cupping her face in his weathered hands. “But what Damon says, we cannot disobey.”
There was a moment of silence as the truth hit the little girl in his arms.
“So..I can’t disobey?” She echoed after him, haplessness etched all over her tiny face, the struggle of acceptance on her childish face.
“Yes.” The healer struggled as he repeated his words. “You need to always remember, Elysia. Damon’s word is law. That’s the only way you can live on.”
The little girl’s feet curled into her body as she shrank back and took a sip of the potion, her features crumbling to that of a tired and blank acceptance as sleep settled over her crippled body.