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Chapter 25. Broken Hearted
Erin lay on the cold ground of a dungeon. Her hands bound behind her by shackles enchanted with bittermist. Her skin felt like it was on fire from the wave of bittermist that had teleported them to the dungeon. There was a plus side to the ground being as cold as it was, by pressing the injured parts of her skin to it she was able to cool the burning sensation.
As far as Erin could tell it had only been a day since they'd been transported to this dungeon, but she couldn't be sure. Time seemed to pass at its own pace in the dungeon. Whether that was an enchantment or Erin's mind playing tricks on her, she didn't know.
Chad and Vechs also lay in the dungeon, they were quietly talking to each other. Erin considered joining the conversation but she couldn't bring herself to. It felt like it was her fault they were there. And while to some extent it was, she was sure the Erizul Guild would have brought them there whatever her answer.
Blame's promise of killing her scared Erin to her core, he didn't seem to be the type to break promises.
She carefully pulled herself up into a sitting position, she felt very vulnerable laying on the floor. Chad rolled to look at her a smile weakly, "You're awake, huh?"
Erin nodded, "Yeah,"
"You know, this isn't my first time in a dungeon," Vechs said matter-of-factly, trying to boost the mood a little. When Erin raised her eyebrows he continued, "Zisteau and I liked exploring and it ended us up in a dungeon one time." Vechs looked down at the floor, "Do you think I'll ever see him again? Or is he just permanently dead?"
Chad inhaled, "I honestly don't know, I wish I did...but I have no idea."
"It's going to be okay," Erin said quietly, "we're going to get out."
"How can you be so sure?" Vechs looked at her in anguish, "How can you be certain that we'll get out? We're the captives of the most powerful criminals in Zopru, possibly the world!"
"Because the moment I give up is the moment I know things won't get better." Erin said, attempting to keep her voice level.
"Erin's right," Chad said, "we can't guarantee anything, but the least we can do is hope."
"Plus we have each other." Erin pointed out.
Vechs nodded quietly and lay back down on the floor, not wanting to argue.
At some point Erin had fallen asleep, but now she was being woken up by a strong hand shaking her awake. Her eyes opened to see one of the skull masks, Chaol's if she remembered correctly.
"Come on, Miss Wicken, get up." Definitely Chaol Erin noted.
"Okay, you can stop shaking me, I'm getting up." Erin grumbled as she stood up slowly. Chaol was impatient and grabbed her arm, easily pulling her to her feet. He then led her from the room after releasing the chains that bound her shackles to the wall.
She was led through passageways that smelled damp and had moss growing in the cracks between the black bricks. There was a sheen on the walls and floor, making Erin somewhat grateful for Chaol's firm grip on her arm that was keeping her from slipping over.
After a few minutes of walking they reached a wooden door with a small barred window. Chaol pulled a key from his pocket and inserted it into the lock. He led Erin in and sat her down on a wooden chair that stood in the centre of the room.
He waved a hand to release her shackles and quickly fastened her down to the chair. Erin looked around the room. It was lit by a single torch and on one of the walls there were various tools hanging on hooks. Erin gulped, she did not want to know what those tools were for.
"Right. Blame wants information about the Order of the Sphinx from you. Spill." Chaol said coldly.
"Why does he want to know?" Erin dared, knowing she was playing with fire by talking back.
"None of your business. All you need to know is that if you don't talk, I have ways of getting anything out of anyone." Chaol pulled off one of his black, leather gloves to reveal not human flesh but rough sticks that were neatly entwined to create a hand.
Erin watched as bittermist swarmed out of his hand and spread throughout the room, "So, Miss Wicken, how loyal to your mother are you feeling? Want to tell me what you know?"
"I won't talk." Erin spat.
Chaol pushed his hand forward in a jabbing motion, causing the black mist to shoot at Erin. She screamed with pain as it cut straight through her arm. Blood started to pour from the large gash in the side of her arm.
"Tell me what you know!"
"Tell me why I should!" Erin replied through gritted teeth. It took all her strength to not let the tears spill down her cheeks from the pain.
"I don't think you get the rules of this game, Erin," Chaol sliced his hand through the air, making bittermist slice through her shin, "I ask you questions, and you answer them. Not the other way round."
"I'm not a big fan of following rules when I haven't read the fine print." Erin replied.
Another slice of bittermist cut through one of her hands, causing Erin to cry out from the pain. She looked down at her hand and nearly threw up. Blood spilled from it with while bittermist danced at the edges of the gash, keeping the wound open. Erin realised the other two gashes were probably the same.
"Fine! How about a compromise?"
"I don't like compromising, but I also want answers before you bleed to death for your insufferable stubbornness, what do you propose?" Chaol reached up to his neck and removed the mask so Erin could see his face. Chaol was clearly an ent.
"I tell you something, then you tell me something. We take it in turns. Sound fair?"
"It sounds like my prisoner thinks she can risk being cocky." Chaol replied. He pointed at the wall with the tools and what turned out to be a small knife shot into his hand, "How about you talk or I'll start drawing sigils into your body that'll send extreme pain through your body every time you think of Earth for the rest of your sorry little life."
Erin gulped, "What do you want to know?"
"How do you make the portals?"
Erin knew she couldn't let the Erizul Guild go to Earth. From what she'd worked out magic worked there, but it wasn't born there. They wouldn't have a defence against the insane power of the Guild. Her only option was to lie, or at the very least bend the truth. She also knew they'd have no problem defacing the spirits of the dead.
"You use the spirit of a magic animal." Erin said quietly.
"Lies!" Another bittermist tendril hit Erin, this time it sliced down her torso, "I know it's a human's spirit you minx."
"Okay, okay, that was a lie. You use the spirit of a dead hexer. A ghoul." Erin felt tears start to roll down her cheeks. She felt light headed from blood loss and the pain from the bittermist wounds was the most intense pain she'd ever felt.
"Finally, an answer. Good girl." Chaol waved a hand and the pain in her arm faded, Erin looked to see the skin beneath the rip in her jacket had been healed, "Did I forget to mention I would heal you when you gave me information?"
"Yes, you did." Erin spat.
"So, what else can you tell me?"
Chaol shoved Erin back into the dungeon with Vechs and Chad. A chain shot from the floor and connected itself to Erin's shackles. Chad saw Erin and ran to her before being tugged back by his chain, "Erin!"
"I'm fine, it's just a bit of blood." Her wavering voice gave her away.
She'd managed to get most of the wounds healed with half truths. The only one she hadn't managed to get healed was the gash on her shin. The bleeding had just about stopped, but the skin was fusing with her trousers.
"A lot of blood, Erin. That is a lot of blood," Chad gagged a little, "I think I might be sick."
Vechs stood up and walked over to Erin, he hooked over her in a kind of armless hug, "What did he do to you?"
"He used bittermist to torture information out of me." Erin said, finally letting the tears run down her cheeks.
"Bastard." Erin heard Chad say from where he stood behind Vechs.
"Right, sit down," Vechs instructed, "Chad, mind being a footrest while I tend to Erin's leg?"
Chad sat down and carefully Erin lifted her leg onto his shoulder so it was raised to a decent height.
"It doesn't seem to be bleeding too badly, if at all," Vechs said, looking closely at it, "although you may want to use magic to detach it from your trousers…"
Erin focused on her shin and watched the fabric slowly remove itself from the damaged skin. The bittermist that had been steaming off it was fading. Just as Erin was attempting to use magic to clean the wound the dungeon door flung open to reveal all of the Erizul Guild.
Blame stood proudly in the middle of the group. He looked down at the trio and laughed, "I see you're trying to clean up Chaol's handy work! Good luck," his tone was mocking and condescending, "you'll be pleased to know it cannot be infected, perks of bittermist." He clapped his hands, "Now stand up, I have something to show you!"
The trio carefully stood up, Erin leaned on Chad and Vechs so she didn't fall over.
Zada walked over to the side of the room and knocked on one of the bricks. Bittermist seeped out to form a crank handle. Erin frowned at it, worried about what it might do.
"Sooo, I thought I'd give you a little surprise, Vechs. I'm sure it'll change your mood," Blame smile his wicked smile, "I do hope you like it, it took Persephone a lot of work. Zada, would you like to do the honours?" Blame asked and Zada begun to slowly turn to handle. A sound of chains echoed through the room.
Erin looked up to where the sound seemed to be coming from, "You may want to step back," Zada suggested. The three captives did as she suggested.
After a few seconds something came into view. It was what appeared to be a human foot. As more of Blame's "gift" came into view Erin could make out a leg. The a second leg come into view, but this one wasn't human, it was that of a pig. The body worse torn, grey clothes, much like ones a prisoner might wear.
More of the body came into view and Erin realised Vechs was repeatedly whispering "no" under his breath. One arm was human, the other was mostly human save for the trotter attached to its wrist in place of a hand. Where the pig limbs were attached there was dried, congealing blood.
The body had chains wrapped around its torso to hold it up and just as Erin noticed this the face came into view. It was a human's face with a pig's snout and ears stitched on. She looked at Vechs and Chad. Chad was horrified, but Vechs looked broken.
It was then that Erin realised to whom this defaced body belonged. It was Zisteau.
"Do you like him?" Blame asked sweetly. His voice was sickly.
"You monsters!" Vechs shouted, running at the Guild only to be jerked backwards by his shackles. He just stood up again, staying put this time, not wanting to fall again.
"It's rude to not even pretend to like a gift," Blame said walking over to Vechs, he waved his hand, paralysing Vechs, "it's good manners to at least act grateful." Chad went to run at Blame, but he just froze him, too.
"Didn't your mother ever teach you manners?!" Blame shouted, "Or do you just not know how to treat your host? I let you into my home and you insult my presents?" Blame turned to the others, "He's lucky I like to play with my food." The others cackled. Erin wasn't sure why Blame kept calling Vechs his food. She hoped he wasn't being literal."Well then, I suppose I'll leave you with your gift and you can thank me when you're ready." Blame said before vanishing in a cloud of mist.