Redcloak scowled to himself, touching the patch over his empty eye socket gingerly, glaring as Xykon stormed out of the room. Tsukiko yawned, smirking at him, and shrugged.
“Tough break, huh?”
Redcloak sneered and glanced up at the holes in the ceiling and wall, inwardly cursing the undoubtedly monstrous price they’d have to pay to get them fixed. A little voice sounding painfully familiar was cursing his lost eye as well. He’d never be able to look himself in the eye in the mirror anymore.
“Be glad that I convinced him to not kill our two only sources of information on the gates.” He looked down at the two pathetic mounds in the separate cages up against the wall, tusks bared in disgust.
“Why’d I be glad about that? You’re the only one who cares about information!”
“Because I’m apparently the only one with common sense. Get out.”
Tsukiko yawned, smirking. “Don’t mind if I do, Left-Eye.” She spun and walked out.
She couldn’t have known that her new nickname was far more than a mean-spirited jab. She couldn’t have known that she had not only touched a nerve, but had stabbed it with a hundred knives before casting lightning on it. She couldn’t have known what it did to Redcloak.
She couldn’t have known, and Redcloak had no intention of letting her know. He slammed his reaction back down his own throat, staying stiff, his esophagus closing up, and his already-low body temperature dropping a few degrees.
The elf then made the unwise move to uncurl very slightly from his-her-its fetal position.
“Neither of us is going to provide you information,” the mage murmured.
Redcloak spun around, glaring and eagerly jumping on the opportunity to take his fury at Xykon, Tsukiko, the world, and most of all himself out on someone. A stupid, arrogant, morally flippant elf would do the trick.
“We’ll see about that.”
The paladin stood up shakily in his cage, having to grip the bars for support, and growled. “Have you no honor?! He isn’t even a part of the Sapphire Guard! Take me—at least there is a chance I know about the gates!”
“I hate self-righteous humans. You think you’re so much better because you’re willing to sacrifice yourself for some elf that’s probably evil anyway?” Redcloak sneered. “I bet you wouldn’t do the same if it was a goblin.”
The elf was pathetic. Too weak to even walk on its own. (And Redcloak really did mean ‘it’—it wasn’t supposed to be some dehumanizing title. What gender was it supposed to be anyway?!) It tried to stand up, but it failed miserably, knees buckling under the very slight weight put on them. Redcloak grudgingly admitted to himself that he’d have to take it easy on the torture if he didn’t heal the mage. It looked half-dead already, complete with malnourishment, dehydration, and exhaustion, not counting the hits it took from Xykon. Redcloak, even in his own private rage, couldn’t stop a flicker of pity in his heart.
But pity wasn’t going to deprive him of his outlet for frustration.
“Come on. We’re going to have a chat about the elves and their plans. Maybe we’ll throw in a bit about the gates.”
The monster in the dark cage’s gold eyes peered out. “Awww… he looks so hurt…”
“I… can handle… pain.”
The elf had cut off the paladin, shocking even Redcloak. Huh. So the mage’s pride, despite the horrible treatment of its body, was still strong enough to turn down other people’s pity-driven attempts to sacrifice themselves so that it may heal. Either that or it had some weird masochism thing going on and felt that it deserved the pain.
Redcloak found himself relating to both a little too much.
The elf glanced up at the paladin, looking thoroughly broken and steeled at the same time. “Try to heal.”
“I bet you both feel so noble.” Redcloak rolled his eye. “Just like mammals. Always doing stuff that they think makes them look all righteous to their fellows, but they don’t care when they rip apart honest goblin families.” He opened the cage, picking up the elf easily as one would pick up a baby. The elf was dangerously light, even for its species. Redcloak would need to fix that if he had any hope of getting information out of the pathetic little creature in his arms.
The elf squirmed weakly, obviously trying to prove that it could walk and stand on its own but failing. It couldn’t even make it harder for Redcloak to carry it. The little thing was so fragile and beaten that it felt like a life-sized rag doll.
Redcloak sighed. “Looks like I’m going to have to heal you before I try any interrogation.”
Obviously understanding that interrogation = inhumane torture through experience, the paladin started to throw himself against the bars, shouting things that Redcloak didn’t care enough to even try to comprehend. The elf seemed to give up entirely, just lying limp in scaly arms that it had probably never felt before. Royal purple hair was tangled and ragged. Violet eyes, something that Redcloak had the vague impression of having used to glow with fierce pride and strength, were dull and distant. Skin, usually pale just because of race, was pallid with a gray tinge and gray and purple veins showing under the surface. Bruises the shape of finger bones were very pronounced on a delicate neck, a similar bruise surrounding one of its eyes, and bleeding cuts, scratches, and bruises covered various parts of the elf’s body. Redcloak had a feeling that the elf was nursing a broken bone, judging by the way it was holding its right arm very carefully and was making sure it wasn’t jostled in any way.
Redcloak couldn’t really make himself feel sympathetic or guilty in any way. He had just lost his eye. The stupid mammal could deal with a broken arm.
Completely ignoring the paladin’s protests, he carried the limp rag doll out of the throne room, climbing up the stairs. His clawed toes scraped and tapped against the stone, putting little scratches in the softer material, and the claws on his hands dug slightly into the elf’s skin—not so much as to draw blood, but enough to discourage too much struggle. It wasn’t as if Redcloak felt as though he had much to worry about. The elf obviously had all the fight forcefully ripped out of it. It was kind of sad in its own wretched way.
“I can’t tell you anything,” the elf suddenly murmured softly, voice hoarse from the screaming and strangling that had occurred mere minutes before. “I acted alone.”
“Yeah, well I’m pretty sure you know something about the gates. You look sort of familiar.”
“I know nothing about them either. Nothing that you would be interested in, at least.”
“We’ll see about that.”
The stairs were spiraling, giving a really dizzy feeling in Redcloak’s head, and the stones that created the wall, staircase, and railing all meshed together in the vision of the only eye he had left. Was this how his brother had felt?
No. He couldn’t think of his brother. He would drop to his knees and cry, regardless of whether or not anyone else was there.
In his experience, it was generally pretty embarrassing for both parties if the interrogator randomly started to cry and blubber about a dead family member and the prisoner was stuck with the extremely awkward roll of patting the interrogator’s back and saying some crap about how everything would be okay.
He paused, swiveling his head to compensate for his lost eye, and spotted a door fixed in the wall, a gold ring the only handle there was. He pulled at the ring, completely unconcerned with the fact that he had one less hand holding the prisoner for a moment, and pulled the door open.
Why was everything in this city blue?
Redcloak carried the elf into what looked like an old watch guard’s quarters. There was a simple but comfortable bed against the wall under a window covered with iron grating overlooking the purple glow of the Snarl, a desk covered with half-read books and a half-used candle and with a chair pushed against it, and a door leading to a bathroom. Very simple. Very common. Very blue.
He put the elf on the bed with a little more care than he really wanted to and checked the books on the desk to make sure that none of them were spell books. All of them were silly human pulp fiction. He had nothing to be worried about, except for maybe the slow rotting of his brain cells just because he had glanced at the things.
“Why did you bring me here?”
The elf tried to sit up on the bed, but apparently, it was too weak to do even that. Its elbow buckled under the weight of its torso and flopped back on to the bed with a stifled cry of pain.
“I need to heal you a little before I get rough. I’m not going to argue with Xykon to keep our sources of information just to kill one a minute later,” Redcloak grumbled, pulling the chair from the desk and sitting next to the bed. “By the looks of things, not even healing’s going to get you in shape for it. It looks like I have a few days of this stuff ahead. Seriously, have you eaten or tranced at all for the last month?”
The elf was quiet, lightly cradling its right arm and avoiding eye contact.
“Elves are idiots.” Redcloak carefully placed a hand on the elf’s shoulder. “Heal moderate wounds.”
The broken arm mostly fixed itself. It’d probably be tender for a few days, but at least the elf wouldn’t be cradling it all the time and trying to keep from crying when it moved. There was a weird cracking sound inside the elf’s ribcage, and Redcloak decided to interpret that as a positive thing.
The elf tried to stifle a moan of pain, trembling hands going up to hold a hurting chest. Redcloak paused for a moment, frowning, and slowly reached out a clawed hand to cup the elf’s sharp chin, making its face turn slightly, digging nails into the skin until tiny beads of blood started to gather.
Right-Eye shouldn’t have died. Neither should have his family. What horrible things had this elf done in its life, minus accepting a soul splice? Had it ripped apart families and killed children and destroyed homes just because the species of the victims were supposedly always evil and therefore it was okay to hurt them? Had it appreciated the privileges the life of an elf—a supposedly always good species—gave it? Had it ever had to go through true suffering, the kind that only came with the knowledge that its family was dead or dying and there was nothing it could do?
“Let go of me.”
The voice was somehow stronger than before, though still drained. The healing had probably kicked in a little.
Redcloak vowed to make this elf suffer the way his brother and family had to.
He let go of the elf’s face, making sure to drag his claws a little deeper in than necessary, and glared. The elf seemed to find the strength to glare back.
“I’m going to put up some protections on this room and leave. You won’t be able to escape, and you won’t bother trying to. If you do, I’ll tie you to the bed and let Xykon and Tsukiko do whatever they want. You’re going to trance whenever possible. If you refuse, I’ll start ripping off your or the paladin’s fingers, whichever works best. Food will be brought up, and you will eat it. If you refuse, I’ll force-feed you personally. I’m going to heal you until you are at least moderately healthy. If you try to resist, I’ll throw a slave into the Snarl. Once you’re physically capable of handling more than a shove in the wrong direction, you’ll be interrogated mercilessly about the elves and the gates. I don’t think I need to go into detail about what happens if you don’t tell us what we want to know.”
The elf was still glaring, fists clenched weakly.
“Let’s see how long you’ll be able to keep even that little defiance up.”
With that, Redcloak left the room, closing the door and leaving it black.