I could not remember how long I had been trapped here, had it been days, weeks, months? I do not know any more, I knew that once every few days I was drug from my cell on the third floor, and thrown at the feet of my uncle in a beautifully decorated room on the second floor. It would happen again today, if my count was right.
I sat helpless, hopeless and lost, on the bare, supportless, stained mattress, I was supposed to call a bed. I just stared out the window, the window would be my escape, but it was bolted shut, and the chain around my ankle barely allowed me to stand at the window let alone do anything to try to open it. So here I sat on the ugly pile of rags that passed as my only comfort, half naked, covered in filth.
I was only permitted to wash on the days I saw my uncle, and I had no control over that either, I did not get a warm bath or a pleasant shower. No, the angry, horrible matron that ran the third floor would come into my cell, with a bucket and wash me. Cannot risk the initiates trying to drown themselves after all.
Initiate, I let out a jaded laugh, I wanted nothing to do with this horrible place, I most certainly did not want to be an acolyte of this depraved temple.
Sure as the sun rising, the old crone pushed through my door a little while later, one hand carrying a bucket of cold water, the other holding a switch. I had given up fighting at this point, why cause myself more suffering. My hope was that if they felt they had sufficiently broken me than I might be allow to work on the second floor, and have a better cell, even eventually escape. I think this whore was on to my plan though, or she had seen enough young women try it enough that she knew when someone was acting broken.
I stood, and let the tattered shift I wore fall to the ground, I stepped towards her. The chain around my ankle, scraping and clanging as it drug alone the wood floor of the cell. I knelt in front of her, I kept my eyes to the ground, I could feel her eyes on me. I gasped in shock as half the bucket was upturned on my head, the water felt like ice on my skin, bringing me back to my horrible new reality. The sponge she used on me, felt like sandpaper on my bruised and broken skin, she was not gentle about washing me, pulling at my tangled hair with her knobby old fingers, yanking at my arms as she scrubbed me. I tried my best not to flinch as she worked, but it was hard, my ribs were covered in bruises from beatings, my back side covered in scratched from the men that came here to see me, my chest bore the scabbed and bruised remnants of bite marks.
After a few moments the matron stepped back to look at her work. She smirked and nodded. “That will have to do,” She said in a cracking and hoarse voice. She left the room, leaving me kneeling on the moist wood.
A guardsman stepped through the doorway and threw a fresh shift at me, I quickly pulled it over my head and stood, I held out my right leg for him, so that he could more easily detach the manacle from my leg. I had no time to rub the raw skin, that itched so terribly. As soon as the chain fell to the floor, he grabbed me roughly under my right arm and drug be from the room. The hall on the third floor was dimly lit with wall candles at each end of the long hallway. Boldly he forced me down the hall to the stair case and pulled me down the steps, my feet slipping occasionally causing the wood to scrap at the festering blisters on my right leg.
The door to the room on the second floor was already open, two guards stood without, one of them was the same man who had brought me here, Gras, I glared defiantly at him as I was drug passed him into the bright room beyond. This room, was an extravagant castle compared to the dingy stench filled cell, I now called home. The room was brightly lit, by an electric chandelier, a rare site, the buzzing and crackling of the bright glass lights was audible in the silent room. Electric lights were rare, the copper fixtures that allowed the glass globes to glow, were still in high demand, but my uncle liked to exhibit just how much power he had. The floor was covered in expensive, colorful rugs, thick and soft under my cracked and blistered feet. The bed in the room dominated the wall to the right of the door, covered in furs, hand woven blankets and even silk. There were three chairs in this room, all already taken, one by the house matron, who sat quietly knitting, the chair across from her was my uncle’s second in command, Jetter. The thick cushioned, high backed arm chair between them was my uncle.
The guard threw me down on the ground in front of them, a small hiss of pain escaped my lips, as my bruised knees hit the rugs. This week I did not look up, I let the hate I felt for my uncle and the other two adults fester like the blisters on my ankle.
“Well Madam Silvi, how has your ward fared this week?” My uncle asked, I did not look up, but I heard the knitting needles stop moving, the electric buzz overhead, the only sound for a moment.
“Surprisingly well, her patrons have not complained of her violence as they have in the past, I do believe she is almost ready.” I bit my lip to stop the grin from spreading over my mouth.
“Truly?” My uncle asked, I heard the chair creak in protest as he pushed himself up, his fine black shoes appeared beneath my gaze, a tight hand wrapped around my jaw and force me to look up, I turned my eyes away, I did not want him to see the defiance I still felt behind them. “Well little whore, have you learned your place in this world?” He growled in my ear, his breath hot, and smelling of tobacco and wine.
“Yes master,” I whispered, the words felt like poison on my tongue, burning their way out of my mouth.
“Good,” He let me go, I dropped my face back to the floor, and listened to my uncle and Silvi talk about what my future would hold.
My heart fell as Silvi told him she would keep me on the third floor for a time yet. They spoke as if I was to daft to understand their words, “While I feel that she has begun to accept her new place, I want to make sure that she is truly broken before allowing her off the leash. Once she is permitted out of the cells, I say she still be confined to the upper floors of the mansion, until she has proven herself.” Silvi said, her thick smoke damaged voice, pinched in an attempt to sound sultry.
“Oh I completely agree, she has no use out on the streets, and for now, she is serving a great purpose, taking care of the more violent men.” I felt a shudder run down my spine, the men that came to my cell were violent that was for sure, but the third floor matron told me that others in the cells had it worse.
“Jetter, have you had the pleasure yet?” My uncle asked, I closed my eyes for a breath, I could not stand the thought of another stranger’s hands on me, and Jetter had a reputation for his brutality. I could feel his yellow eyes on me.
“Not yet, Sir,” He whispered, “I have been waiting to see if she is ready for me, I like them half broken, it makes it more fun when they fight,” I felt my breath catch in my throat.
“Well you should visit her soon then,” My uncle laughed.
“Most certainly,” Jetter laughed with him.
“Take her back to her cell,” My uncle said, the guard who had brought me grabbed my arm, I stood without being pulled up, and walked on my own, out of the room and back up to my cell.
“I’m sorry,” I heard the guard whisper as he closed the door behind me, I turned to ask after what he meant, but he was already gone.
My cell had been cleaned while I was gone, the bucket had been emptied, the floor washed, and a fresh threadbare sheet had been lain on the mattress. Slowly I lowered myself onto the stain and stench filled mat. The guard had not bothered to put the manacle back around my ankle, they trusted me not to try to run off now. I rubbed the calised scars on my left ankle, my right ankle was too raw at the moment, the blisters still wept down the red skin around them. These scars would never heal, pale pink rings around my ankles forever marking me as a member of this depraved house.
I felt my heart jump into my throat as I heard the lock on the door slide open. I could not keep my eyes from jumping to the doorway, the light that flooded my cell from the window lit the face of a robed figure in the doorway, and two others behind them, my uncle and Matron Silvi. This was unusual, the three stepped into the cell, and two guards followed them, before I could react the guards had me by my arms.
“What have I done wrong?” I gasped, was this some new form of beating.
“Nothing acolyte,” Silvi said, this was a new title, my heart started pounding, it was all I could do to keep the panic from welling up and boiling over. I slowed my breath and tried to relax.
The robed figure lowered his hood, the man’s face was covered in black tattoos, strange lines that I and anyone else would instantly recognize as a priest of the Shadow Temple. I shuddered, these men were sadistic, masochistic, and radical in their belief of the shadow world that would one day swallow our world, killing all non believers. They were known to be celibate, some to the point of even castrating themselves, so what would a Shadow Priest be doing here.
The Priest raised his hands and his face to the dark ceiling above us. “Oh Great Shadow, Eater of Light, Ruler of Night, bless this wretched soul, let you darkness fall upon her always, as she works in the night to please your creations below the moon.” As the prayer ended, the guards forced me to kneel, and hiked up my shift, exposing my waist. “May this Shadow Mark, protect her from the Light forever, may the only life she brings forth be of your divine being.” Now I understood, as the Priest stepped forward, I tried to struggle against the guards but they held me fast.
“Please Uncle, Master, don’t do this, don’t take my future from me.” I begged, my uncle just stood his arms crossed watching me.
“I will not have you bare some bastard with the name Perish,” He spat, I felt the tears run from my cheeks as the priest laid a hand over my lower stomach. The pain was like nothing I had ever felt, as though my insides were on fire, as though I had taken a coal from the fire and swallowed it. I screamed in agony, in sorrow, and with rage for what they were doing to me. The scent of burning flesh filled the crowded cell, and just when I thought I might die from the burning fire, it vanished, the priest pulled his hand away rose to his feet and look at my uncle.
“It is done, this one will never bare children of her own.”
“Thank you,” My uncle said bowing his head to the priest. The guards dropped me to the ground, I curled up around my stomach crying.
“Chain her,” Silvi said, I gasped as the cold steel was clamped back around my left ankle this time. The five people left my cell, and I lay on the hardwood floor crying.
It was a while before I uncoiled myself and rose back to my feet, I pulled up my shift and looked down at my stomach, there on my pale skin was a black mark, a Shadow Mark, a simple mark but I knew what it meant, a circle with a line cutting through it. I collapse to my mattress and tried to sleep.
My eyes snapped open at the sound of the lock sliding open. My eyes went to the window, the sky was dark, but light still flooded the room from the busy street below. The thick wood door creaked open and a heavy footed man stepped into the room, the door swung closed behind him and the lock clicked back into place.
I moved to sit up as he stepped towards me. I looked up into the yellow eyes of Jetter, his matching teeth glowed dull in his thin lipped grin as he came towards me. I shuddered, but I would not fight, fighting only got me new bruises.
He bent down next to the mattress and his hands went to the manacle around my ankle, with a click it fell open and fell with a loud thud to the floor. “It’s no fun when the animal is chained,” he laughed. “Now,” he grabbed a handful of my hair and yanked my head backward. His face went to my neck, and I could hear him breathing, smelling me, I could smell him, rum, sweat, blood and dirt.
My heart began to beat faster as his free hand moved over me, I fought the urge to struggle against him but the instinct won over the thought, and my legs and hips tried to slide away. Jetter let out a small laugh against my collarbone, I felt his mouth open and his yellow teeth close around the skin of my chest. He bit so hard I knew there must be blood, a small whimper escaped my lips. His hand twisted in my hair pulling it harder, I gasped in pain. He let go of my hair and grabbed my shoulder, he forced me back on the mat, forced my legs apart and started to work. I cried out as he pinched and scratched at me, it was a moment or two of this then he rose up over me and began to bring his fists down on my ribs and face.
I screamed in pain, raising my arms to protect my face. “Fight back whore,” he roared. I tried to wiggle free, to slide away from him long enough to get my breath back. His strong hands grabbed my hips and pulled me back into place, and returned to pummeling my face. He bent down and bit me again, I tried to push him off and he laughed again. A hand slide around my back to keep me in place, I lost my composure and pushed more furiously he grabbed one hand and slammed it backward. Before I even knew I was doing it, my right fist hit his cheek, he reeled back in shock and after a moment laughed louder. He became more furious in his attack and pumped himself into a fury. I screamed and tried to pull away from the pain but there was no where to go.
Was that the click of the door lock, I must have imagined it, no one would disturb this cell until the patron called for the guard. Jetter was not a mere patron, he was the second in command in the district.
Green orbs appeared over Jetter’s shoulder, the green eyes met mine, I felt a fresh wave of terror swell up, a new scream stuck in my throat. Light glinted off something silver, that flashed in front of Jetter’s neck.
Dark, warm fluid splashed down onto my chest as the man reared backwards and fell onto the floor, his hands wrapped around his throat, as he tried to scream but only muffled gurgling sounds came from his mouth. The figure with the green eyes crouched over him and watched as the life faded from Jetter’s eyes.
I sat on the mattress, trying to push my shift back into place, hot sticky blood dripped from my neck and my arms, and was soaking through my dress to the skin beneath. The man with the green eyes rose to his feet, his loose grey and black clothing billowing around him, it made it difficult to see him in the dim light. He stretched his back and glanced at me, his eyes moved up and down me, was he going to kill me too. It would be a blessing if he did, but he did not move towards me just stepped towards the door.
“Wait,” I whispered, the man stopped and glared back at me. “Kill me please,” I asked.
“I was only paid to kill Jetter,” He growled. “You are not part of the contract, you are free to go,”
“But I’m not, I’m captive here, please help me,” I begged, “Take me with you,” He eyed me for a moment.
“If you can keep up,” He said, I nodded ecstatically and rose to my feet. The man disappeared out the door like a shadow in sunlight.