A drip of something hot fell on Callindra’s forehead and she struggled out of unconsciousness. Pain. The smell of burning meat. She hung from her hands, shackled to something above her head and her captor hadn’t bothered to dress her after taking her out of the bath. Whatever drug she had been fed was not a kind one and hanging from her hands by a chain for hours hadn’t improved things.
Impossibly, a flow of molten rock made a ponderous, glowing river through one part of the chamber. A smith’s forge was set up next to it, and part of the pain on her head was an irregular pattering of drops of lava from the ceiling above her landing on her.
“Ahh, you are back among us. Excellent, I was beginning to get bored.” A voice that seemed familiar cut through the haze of pain and drugs.
“What?” She croaked, trying to open her eyes or raise her head. The room swam and she closed her eyes again.
“Oh don’t strain yourself, I am not interested in causing you any more pain.” A hand cupped her chin, lifting her head. She opened her eyes slightly and saw a face she recognized, although it was hollow and sunken eyed now.
“Daleus? Why?” Callindra was limited to single words, anything more made lights flash before her eyes as pain spiked in her head.
It was the man who she had met over a year ago alongside the river while training under Glarian. The young man with the whips and fire magic. “I just want your master.” He breathed, “Tell me where he is and I will set you free.”
“Why?” She wanted to turn her head so as not to have to breathe the air he was exhaling, but the effort was beyond her.
“You don’t know what happens when we get separated from our weapons do you? You might have read it in a book or your master might have told you something about it but you have no idea what it is like.” His breath came in short gasps as though he had been running a marathon.
“He took my right and left hands from me girl. He cut them off when he killed my Naji and Haji. I fought my way through HELL and came out on the other side.” A brutal gleam of emerald green fire seemed to flicker behind his eyes. “So I ask you one last time before the pain starts. Where is The Sol’Estin?”
Callindra whispered so quietly that he got closer in order to hear. When his face was mere inches from hers she spat the thick gummy saliva that had gathered in her mouth, coating his cheek. “Go to hell.”
“Haven’t you been listening? I’ve already been there and back.” He hissed, and a lick of bright green fire licked from his hand. She realized he was holding a whip of flame in each hand. Stepping back, he cracked the lashes against her body, flaying her skin into narrow bloody strips.
She screamed in pain, not caring if she was letting her enemy see her weak. The pain was unlike anything she had ever experienced, it subsumed her existence. It was her entire being. When the lashes stopped, she slumped, whimpering, tears mixing with snot and blood dripping from her mouth where she had bitten her tongue.
“Come now.” His voice was smooth and kind, “There is no need for this child. That piece of scum is not worth the pain.” Gentle hands touched her wounds where Brightstar vines were already attempting to knit the damaged skin back together. “Just tell me and it can all be over. Just tell me where he is and your … fascinating … hair ornaments can heal your hurts.”
Callindra looked up at him through the curtain of her unbound hair. The pollen from her tiara didn’t begin to deaden the pain, let alone assuage it entirely, but it took some of the edge off. She couldn’t get enough breath to speak, but the glare in her eyes was enough of an answer.
“You think I will hurt you again and you are right, but not in the way you anticipate.” The look of glee flickered around his lips sent a tremor of real fear down her spine. He was looking to the left where she saw the slender form of Brightfang unsheathed and sitting on the anvil.
“I do not approve of the torture Daleus.” A voice rumbled as a huge mountain of a man stepped into the ruddy light. “Come now girl, let us solve this without further unpleasantness.” He picked up her blade with a pair of tongs and held him over the molten rock.
“No.” She managed to croak, “No.”
“Tell me, or Thaeran will kill your sword.” Daleus said, his voice flat and devoid of emotion.
“I don’t know.” She said, sobbing through tears, “I don’t know.”
“She’s lying.” Said Daleus.
“NO!” Callindra screamed, thrashing wildly and sending waves of fresh agony down her flayed skin. The huge man plunged Brightfang into the lava and after a few moments, withdrew the blade, glowing red hot. The leather wrapping on the hilt was smoldering as he set the sword down on the anvil. He lifted a massive hammer, his bonded weapon, and brought it down in a shower of sparks.
Brightfang rang like a crystal chime, a high clear note and Thaeran looked down with a frown on his face. “That should have broken it.” He said in a trouble voice. Drawing his arm back, he slammed the hammer down harder with similar result.
Callindra felt fierce pride well up in her chest. She had not broken, and he would not break either. Unconsciousness beckoned and she couldn’t resist. The tendrils of Jorda’s gift grew into her torn flesh, attempting to heal the terrible wounds.
“Curse it, she has gone under again.” Daleus snarled, “Leave that thing here. Our time schedule is too short if she will not give us what we need The Order may give us a reward for turning her in. Perhaps not the promised immunity, but this chit must be worth something.”
With a gesture, Daleus used his magic to increase the occasional drips of molten rock to a slow, but steady flow. “That should keep those damn vines from healing her.” He said in satisfaction, watching as the tiny tendrils burned and crisped under the intense heat.
“Let us go and meet the representative. I believe he is staying at the Chapter House.” Thaeran said, not looking at the girl as he left the chamber.
“For all your strength you have always been too soft.” Daleus said, watching the other man leave. “No matter. I won’t need you soon.”