"Good evening, Zeru," a man calls out, sitting mightily in an ornate throne. His voice was deep and gruff, filled with years of experience and wisdom. His slightly curled black hair hung down to his eyes, barely brushing up against his long eyelashes. A dark blue sweatshirt concealed tools that every creature under his power feared. Also a wooden cane rested lazily in his hands, hollowed out and filled with intricate networks of electronics invisible to the naked eye.
He stared down at the young half blood from his raised throne, human at the moment but able to change to a dragon at will. "Yes, Valen?" he asked, brushing his long, wavy brown hair from his eyes. A replica of the sweatshirt the older man wore hung from one of his shoulders by the hood, the room too warm for his tastes. His silver blue eyes stared up at the mannexpectedly, the narrow vertical slits of his pupils twitching slightly in the flickering torchlight. The other man's eyes were that of a normal human, however. Zeru was a much lighter person than the other man, but it was a trivial detail.
Valen rested the curved part of his cane on the arm of his throne, then placed his hand on his knee as if about to get up. "There is a half blood in cell 32-B. Torture iy,," he said. From underneath his sweatshirt he pulled a knife, the barbs on the blade stained red with the blood of previous victims. He gently tossed it to Zeru, who caught it with masterful skill and quickly slipped it under his belt.
"Easily done. How strong?" he asks, patting the dagger at his side to check the position.
"Very weak. From what I've done in tests she is weak to cold," Valen responded, although he knew that Zeru couldn't exploit said weakness effectively for his only ability was that of electricity. Valen never knew how or why, but somehow Zeru's body acted like an organic battery. He produced energy with every movement of his muscles, and he could suck up more from anything if he was close enough. On top of that, he could release it at any time with varying strengths.
Zeru only nodded nonchalantly and turned around, entering a corridor that was off to the side. He glided down a few flights of spiral steps with the greatest of ease before slipping silently through a doorway.
Excitement got the better of him the moment he passed through the door, which happened with great frequency when Valen's task involved the term "torture." Zeru thought of it as a blessing, but everyone in the cells thought of it as a curse. The reason for it, or as Valen believed, was because it was how he was raised. He was born in one of these cells, with a dragon father and a half blood mother. The two had been captured while Zeru's mother was pregnant, and his egg was lain two days later. Four weeks after, he hatched.
Zeru's parents always loved him dearly, gave him constant affection. And while it lasted, he loved it. But the whole thing made Valen sick. On Zeru's third birthday, Valen went into their cell and killed both his parents. But not quick and painless, which was never the way he removed someone from existence. He, of course, used a very special mixture that he called fire poison. It does no harm if used in small ammounts, but it does bring immense pain if put directly into the bloodstream. As the name implies, the pain spreads quickly throughout the entire body and comes in a horrible burning sensation. The victim will know the true meaning of suffering as the last of their life is burned away.
His mother died first, her writing and screaming in agony scarring both her husband and Zeru. His father, however, was stronger. The very last thing he said to Zeru was; "Be a good little dragon." And with a pat on the head with his tail, he slipped away. Zeru merely stared at their bodies for a few long minutes, with Valen laughing in the background. It was said that at that moment Zeru's young spirit snapped, and he became completely indifferent to his parent's, or anybody's, suffering and death.
From then on Valen taught him everything, including that dragons and half bloods alike should not exist. But Zeru, according to Valen, was supposedly a special half blood, one that wasn't brainwashed by what the others of his kind taught him. Valen also taught him special powers that could only be unlocked by the greatest of minds, powers such as communicating through thought, searching through memories, and healing. Powers long labeled "forbidden", for each instance of power drained a bit of spiritual energy. Spiritual energy resides within living beings, every human, animal and plant. The energy is eventually restored yet at a rate to slow for most. Often enough Zeru would leech the energy from everything around him, however his demand for it was difficult to satisfy.
Finally, Zeru arrived upon the cell. The cell was small. Smaller than that of the first floor, but larger than those of the third. The third floor was what Valen liked to call isolation, where the cells were too short to stand up fully but too narrow to sit down. It would be described by many as "the hole".
From a pocket in his jeans Zeru pulled out a large keyring, on which held hundreds. His fingers danced across the numerous labels before finally grasping one with a worn "32" vaguely etched onto its surface. There was seldom difference from that key and that of the others, but it was enough to make each lock unique. Zeru slipped the key into the hole in the concrete, reinforced with steel. A small barred window was embedded into the door, allowing just a sliver of light to slide it's way into the cell. A smile came on his face as he heard the promising clunk of the tumblers, and he slowly pushed the door open. The hinges moaned in complaint as the door grudgingly moved. He slipped the keys back into his pocket, and pulled the knife from his belt.
At first glance the cell appeared to be empty, for a foreboding shadow shrouded the view of its contents. He reached into his other pocket with his free hand and pulled out a small hand flare, easily ignited with a spark from his fingertips. The sudden glow blurred Zeru's vision momentarily, but it returned to normal as he threw the flare down in the center of the cell. Behind him he heard the door click closed and lock automatically, just as it was designed to do if left open. The green light from the sparkling flare immediately bathed the small cell in it's glow, revealing a young girl trembling in fear with her body crammed far into the corner.
A pair of white, tattered, feathery wings were wrapped around her body, very much like Zeru's own wings except his were black. Her teary emerald eyes stared up at Zeru, greatly resembling his eyes with no whites and only a narrow slit for a pupil. She wore a collar around her neck, but it was much thinner than some of the others he saw.
"Stand up," he ordered, and she instantly obeyed, still shaking like a leaf. She was about four and a half feet tall, a good twelve inches below Zeru's height. Her greasy blond hair hung perfectly down to her shoulders, her bangs falling to just below her eyes. Her cut up body still slowly seeped blood, her casual t-shirt and jeans showing evidence of her being whipped across the majority of her body. It was a sad sight to say the least, but very common in a cell of this building.
If ever there were a thing as love at first sight, Zeru was experiencing it that very second.
"P-please," she stuttered out finally, her soft voice almost as shaky as her body. Zeru tilted his head slightly, waiting for her to continue. "Don't...n-no more."
A hint of a smile came upon his face, and he slipped the knife back under his belt with the same precision as before. "I won't," he said gently, the usual harshness of his voice suddenly gone. "What's your name?"
"I'm...Cindra," she responded, still obviously fearing for her life. She left it at that, for something bad always happened when one spoke if not spoken directly to.
Zeru took a step forwards and extended his hand, but Cindra only pressed herself further into the corner. "I'm Zeru," he said with comforting smile. She very cautiously extended her hand to meet his, not sure if she could trust him yet. He took her hand gently in his and shook it lightly, her ice cold hand sending a chill down his arm. It was then that he realised Cindra wasn't shaking just from fear, but because of the piercing cold as well.
Cindra retracted her hand close to her body the second Zeru released it. He tilted his shoulder down and let his sweatshirt fall down into his hand, open and waiting. He took a few cautious steps towards the terrified half blood, who in turn turned her back on Zeru and cowered back further into the corner.
Slowly creeping up behind her, he knelt down with his sweater held at the ready. Cindra tensed up and prepared for him to slip a knife into her spine, but instead he gently draped his sweatshirt over her shoulders. She slowly turned her head to him with a puzzled expression, and he smiled in return. "I felt that you were cold. Were you expecting something else?" he added with a smirk.
Cindra gently grasped his sweatshirt and pulled it closer over her body, the warmth slowly returning to her. Zeru's large sweatshirt easily covered her entire body, looking more like a blanket from where he was standing. After a short while she gathered the courage to turn around to fully face him, and did so very slowly. The hard concrete floor dug slightly into her skin as she turned, but for the moment she didn't mind. Her body was still madly shaking. "T-thank you, Zeru..." she said finally, completely shocked that someone in here even remotely cared about her in this place.
"You're welcome," he responded with another smile. Zeru finally shook his gaze from Cindra to his watch, holding in the dial to make it light up. The smile quickly vanished from his face and he got up, looking back over to her. "Sorry, I've got to cut this short."
Cindra merely stared at him, a smile creeping up on her face. He bent down to pick up the flare, snuffing it out in his shirt as he did so. The cell was once again dark, that is until Zeru opened the door. "I'll be back, I promise," he said, letting the door click closed on it's own.
As he left, Cindra slowly put her arms through Zeru's sweatshirt, the sleeves much too long for her arms. She reached behind her head and grabbed the hood, then gently pulled it up over her head. "Oh my God..." she whispered almost inaudibly. "I'm in love."
The second Zeru was out of the cell he immediately needed to find another female half blood to torture. He darted down the narrow hallway, looking into each an every cell. Whenever Valen sent someone to go torture anything in one of his cells, he listened for the screams emanating from the underground. Finding no luck on this floor, he went over to the staircase and up. He would have gone down, but the ones in isolation were left alone aside from two guards. They were not allowed to talk, and if they did they were whipped to an inch of their life.Once he was at the first floor he opened the door and looked into every cell. The ones on this level held mostly dragons, but still had quite a few half bloods as they were Valen's favorite. Soon he found one near the middle of the hallway. It was nothing special, just a regular half blood with brown hair in her mid thirties. The age difference worried him a bit, but it was the closest he could find. He glanced up at the cell number carved in above the door which clearly showed the number 32 ,the cell directly above Cindra's. Zeru shrugged it off and quickly shuffled through his keys, holding out the right one and sliding it into the lock. As he pushed the door open he walked in, grabbing the keys at the same time. The door clicked closed as he put the keys in his pocket and took out the same flare from before, which had just enough fuel remaining for this particular torturing.
He scraped it against the wall and it ignited, throwing it down on the ground. The half blood he saw before was now trembling in the corner, her red eyes staring at him ominously. Zeru forced a smile on his face and pulled the knife out once more, holding it up high. The half blood closed her eyes and tensed up, bracing herself for what she knew was about to come.
After waiting a second or two he brought the knife down hard, the sharp blade slicing through her shoulder like butter. He couldn't even fully push in the knife, for it went clear through her body and hit the stone on the other side. She gave a soft whimper in pain, but held strong against it. Zeru laughed slightly and twisted the knife around one full turn, but still didn't get a reaction from her. Tears of pain slowly began to well in her eyes, and only more came as he tore the knife out with the barbs digging deep into her flesh. Blood poured from the wound as the knife was removed, staining her clothes a deep crimson color.
Zeru reached into his pocket for a vial of fire poison, made of plastic so it wouldn't shatter. He twisted the cap off and let the sick aroma fill the room, along with it a look of pure fear from the half blood. He held it close to her nose just to taunt her and laughed warmly. With a smile he gently tilted the vial, letting only a single drop fall down to the wound. Finally he got a reaction, a little yelp of pain.
"Come on, toughen up," he said mockingly, putting in one more drop. The tears that had long since been filling her eyes now fell out and over her cheeks, another small whimper escaping her mouth. Zeru laughed again and poured the entire vial into the wound, the half blood finally screaming at the top of her voice. Even though Zeru was standing right next to her, he knew that the scream would carry out through the entire building.
With that, Zeru tossed the empty bottle aside and left the cell, leaving the flare to burn out on it's own. The fire poison took a few hours to wear off, and she would be screaming the majority of the time. He casually walked down the hallways and headed back to the main corridor, smiling the whole time.As he entered the main room, he expected Valen to be there waiting for his return. But, Valen was not in his throne, which was odd. He was almost always sitting on that throne, and when he wasn't he was in the room behind it sleeping. However, he only slept for a few hours at around three in the morning. Zeru checked his watch, seeing that it was about nine at night. Where was he?
Zeru glanced left and right and listened carefully, hearing nobody nearby. Turning to the throne he smiled, for the first time seeing his cane left unattended and hanging on the arm. He sat down slowly, the soft cushioned velvet immediately greeting his body. The view was also nothing he'd seen before, looking straight down the long rug and to the door.
He shook his gaze back to Valen's cane, never before seeing it not in his hand. Zeru took it gently and held it at the halfway point, examining it closely. On the outside it looked like a completely unassuming cane, but he knew there was was something more inside.
Valen had each dragon and half blood fitted with a collar, each of which gradually stole energy from the one who was wearing it. That energy was stored it in a battery like container, only much more complex. The stored energy was used to block the transformation from humanto dragon in half bloods. Also they blocked the use of elemental powers in both half bloods and dragons. When activated, the collars either heated up to near red hot temperature in a flash or sent an immensely powerful electric shock to the wearer's body. That feature didn't use the stored energy, it just used energy directly from the wearer. However, that wasn't put on every collar, only the ones who had obedience problems. The reason was because those collars were much more expensive and time consuming to make. Valen's cane Zeru held sent a signal to each of the collars if struck against a hard surface to make them activate. He was trying to teach the half bloods obedience by bringing many pain if just one did something wrong, or that was at least what he told them. The real reason, Zeru knew, was to enjoy bringing all of them pain at once.
Zeru was sure Cindra didn't have one of the bad collars, so he tapped the cane on the wooden frame of the chair. Almost immediately the screams of many flooded the halls, bringing a smile to his face. He did it a few more times, knowing that he would never get a chance like this again. But, something stopped him right after the third tap of the cane he did. Loud, heavy footsteps were coming from the hallway opposite the one with the cells. He instantly placed the cane back exactly where he found it and regrettably stood up.
Not a second after he did a dragon came in through the corridor. But not an ordinary dragon, of course not. This dragon was coated head to tail in a thick layer of blood, which dripped off at random places and down to the floor only to be sucked back into it's body. The eyes of the dragon were completely black, looking more like an empty space than actual eyes. It opened it's mouth to reveal hundreds of razor sharp teeth, cloudy red saliva dripping down but not going on the floor. This also acted as a deadly poison, which just a few drops of could kill a human instantly and put a half blood into a coma for several weeks. A bit more could kill even a pure blood dragon. But, neither the bane or the dragon were natural. Valen made these 'blood dragons', as he liked to call them, from test tubes. It took a handful of years to get it right, and after hundreds of failures he got the mix correct. The first blood dragon he ever made was perfect, but he never managed to recreate it. The supposedly perfect blood dragon was standing in front of him.
It lowered it's head and moved close to Zeru with a hiss, the horrible smell of the poison filling his nose. He took a step back, not showing any fear at all as he was trained to. "Oh, uh...hi Angul," he said nervously. Not looking scared was easy for him, but speaking was a different story.
Angul responded with a series of hisses and clicks, which was the blood dragon's language. Zeru was forced to learn it by Valen, for no other reason than to order the blood dragons around. Angul, however, answered to nobody but Valen. "Why are you here, half blood?" he asked, narrowing his eyes to a thin horizontal slit. "It takes at least an hour to do a proper torturing."
"I ran out of poison," Zeru lied quickly. "Forgot to grab more after my last victim."
As Zeru said that Angul bared his teeth and let out a low growl. "You're lying. I can smell it on you," he said, walking closer and digging his nose in Zeru's pocket. The blood that coated Angul stained his clothes red, but it dissappeared when Zeru pulled away.
"The smell of the poison sticks to you," he said, sticking his hands in his pocket and holding the vials closed to somewhat block the smell. "Wouldn't it be stronger if I actually had some?"
Angul hissed slightly and turned back down the large corridor he came, but stopped when he was under the archway. "Valen is on the fourth level down," he said, then walked down the hall before Zeru could answer.
Zeru opened his mouth to say something and took a single step after Angul, but he had already disappeared into the shadows. He stood in that position for a few short seconds, his mouth halfway open in disbelief. The entire time he had been working for Valen in this building, he hadn't heard of or seen of the fourth floor down. And he had been down to the third level, most of the time dragging a screaming half blood behind him.
Well, whatever it was on the third level that led to the fourth, he had to find it. Valen ordered him before his first torturing to come to him when he finished. After he shortly reached above his head and stretched his arms out, he walked back down the corridor to the staircase.