The reverberation of the cracking whip bounced off the damp stone walls followed by the unmistakable sound of ripping flesh. The cold, stale air was heavy with a putrid scent that consisted of mildew, human waste, decay and overall death. There were no windows for natural light this far beneath the earth, thus no natural light could penetrate the darkness. The only glow granted to this deep chamber came from ancient torches that line the walls sporadically. The illumination from the flames was rather limited with more shadows produced than light. The walls boasted a coating of black smoke from years of burning without a place for the smoke to escape.
The snap sounded again and again, eliciting a rhythmic song of torture. The exposed flesh was bruised, torn and bleeding. As each lashing greeted the skin, a gentle moan lifted from the lips of the crumpled and damaged body. Both wrists were bound with rusted chains that were securely bolted to a nearby wall. Ankles were clamped together with loose metal restraints that boasted rings of small spikes that pointed toward the leg. Should the victim attempt to run or move quickly, these spikes would no doubt pierce into the flesh.
The enormous, ogre of a man that hurled the flog was sweating profusely from large pores. Annoyed with the lack of response from the bleeding pile of a human being, he tossed the leather whip off to the side and retreated to a corner with an assortment tormenting items awaited their turn for use. With a thick rag, he retrieved a metal rod from a fire place of glowing red embers. Grinning from ear to ear, the man strolled back to his assignment and reached over the still body to snatch up one of the hands. The body did not respond to his rough touch.
"You need to start talkin' cuz this is only gonna get worse." Holding the slender hand in his enormous grip, he brought the tip of the scalding metal onto the smooth flesh. A high pitched scream of agony burst from hidden lips. Smoke immediately lifted from the burn, the sound and smell of cooking flesh was enough to make the strongest of stomachs turn. A brand was left on the top of hand. "Ready to talk yet?"
The body merely quivered.
"Very well. Have it your way." He snatch up the other hand and made a matching brand on it. The hot iron was greeted once again with a scream and the hiss of seared skin.
He flung the rod behind him, listening to it bounce off a wall and grabbed a fistful of thick brown hair. Yanking the head backward he stared into the sky blue eyes framed in long lashes and filled with tears of dread. The face was not of someone that belonged in dungeon. Full, pouty lips parted long enough for straight white teeth to peek out. A slightly upturned nose and defined cheek bones brought an air of sophistication and delicateness to the woman's features.
He turned her head in his giant hand, smudging her white flesh with filth. "Who else is involved?"
She said nothing as she stared at the guard blankly. He brought back an immense fist and was about to bring it crashing into her gut, when a stern voice interrupted his actions.
"Release her." Standing outside of the cell was a young woman approximately 5'5 donning a silk gown of deep reds with gold lace trim. Her strawberry blonde hair was rolled up and delicately perched in loose curls on her head. Thin lips with a hint of rouge parted again as she slipped into the small chamber. "You are released from your duties until further notice. Allow me to finish this interrogation. My personal guards will tend to this."
The jailor immediately tensed upon the sight of Princess Aria and released his grip on his prisoner. "Yes, m'lady." A slight bow of the head accompanied his retreat from the cell and out of the chambers completely.
A wicked grin curled up on the corners of her mouth as she sized up the bloodied body at her feet. Without hesitation, the toe of her shoe met the ribs of the prisoner. The woman on the ground buckled up in pain. Another kick was followed by a look of disappointment. "Your blood is on my shoe. Now they are ruined."
Sky blue eyes lifted through the gaze of pain toward the princess. The woman's labored breathing was the only sound for a few moments while Aria strolled over to the jailor's table to retrieve a long, thin knife.
"Sit up, Jayde," Aria demanded.
The woman on the floor situated her hands on either side of her beaten frame in order to provide support then slowly lifted her body weight to a hunched position. The heavy chains were dragging across the ground, scraping the cold hard floor in a torturous song. Blood dripped effortlessly from cuts located on limbs and face, splattering in artistic designs around her.
"You've been a naughty girl." The princess began to pace around the woman. "A very naughty girl." An open handed slap was planted across Jayde's cheek, followed by Aria wiping her hand clean on the folds of her thick skirt. Aria sent her brown orbs toward the entrance to insure that the jailor had exited exit. "Not only are you a murderer but you are also a thief. Where is it," she whispered.
"Where is what?" The voice was labored but audible.
"Don't play dumb with me, Jayde." Without delay, Aria stepped behind Jayde then placed the knife underneath the prisoner's long neck, allowing the cool steel to rest on her flesh. "Let's try this again. Where is it?"
"I can assure you that I do not know what you are talking about."
"Wrong answer." The honed blade made a shallow scrape at her neck, drawing forth a perfect horizontal line of blood.
Jayde sucked in a breath and straightened her neck, as if willing to accept her fate.
The inbittered princess released the woman in frustration and walked around to glare at her head on. "Very well, let's try this one more time. Bring them in."
Immediately, a young man and a boy no more than 8 were escorted into the prison cell by two enormous guards clad in armor. The hands and ankles were in shackles to prevent flight and a gag was secured at their mouths. It was quite apparent that the man had been beaten. He almost appeared painted red due to the amount of blood on his body. It was evident that his eyes had been removed. Ironically the boy seemed untouched.
Jayde's eyes widened in fright at seeing the two new prisoners. "No!" She attempted to rise to her feet, but a kick to the chest from Aria prevented any further upward movement. "Let them go," she hollered as she grabbed her aching and bruised ribs.
The princess circled around the small boy, patting his cheek in a pseudo caressing manner then walked up to the man. She placed a hand on his chest then sneaked behind him allowing her wicked fingers to trail over his pecks then up to his collar. She peeked her head over his shoulder back toward Jayde. She kicked the back of the man's knees to force him onto the floor. The knife found its way to the man's neck. "Shall we try this again, Jayde? Or would you rather see him die."
Jayde, with a sudden burst of energy, tugged at her chains, a ferocity in her eyes. The metal spikes began to dig into her ankles, but she somehow managed to get on both feet. "Take my life, no theirs."
"Don't be stupid Jayde. I need you to answer my question. Where is it?"
"Where is what?"
"How stupid you are!" She nodded to one guard who back handed the boy with an armored fist. This motion sent the young child hurling end-over-end across the room until his body lay still on the floor. Only the rise and fall of his chest acted as a reminder that the boy was alive.
"Stop it!" Jayde darted in the direction of the child, but fell backwards as the constraints prevented any further momentum. Blood streamed from small tears near her feet, some of the unrelenting spikes still embedded in her flesh. Misery was now masked by rage and if she was in physical pain, it would not be evident by her fight.
By this point, the gag had been removed from the man's mouth. And a prodding with a knife forced him to speak. "Jayde? Jayde is that really you?" His head tossed about, attempting to locate the direction of her voice.
"Devon!" The prisoner's attention snapped toward the man. "Devon I'm here. I'm so sorry!" She made valiant efforts to reach toward him, but she was just shy of his touch. "I'm so very sorry."
"What's going on, Jayde? Why have they done this to us?"
"Yes, Jayde, what have you done?" Aria laughed out loud, finding this entire display rather amusing.
Jayde shook her head in confusion. "I don't know, Devon. I don't know."
A frown smeared across Aria's face. "Wrong answer, again." She pulled on Devon's forehead, forcing his neck to be further exposed and with one quick movement, sliced his delicate flesh from left to right. Blood erupted from the wound and a gargling sound spewed from the man as the red fluid poured from the carotids and into his windpipe. Within moments, he fell forward in a lifeless heap on the floor, a pool of crimson marking his mortality.
"NO!" Jayde screamed and began scrambling, reaching for the body of the dying man. "Oh God, NO!" She dropped her head in despair, tears flowing freely. After a few brief moments of mourning, those blue eyes fluttered upward and fixated upon the princess who was merely grinning. "You will pay for that."
Aria laughed again and walked back to the table with various torture devices to return the knife. Using a thick rag, she reached into the fire to pull out another brand that was glowing red. Without hesitation, she strolled to where the boy laying unconscious. "I wonder what would happen if I placed this on his tongue?"
Jayde clinched her fists and jerked violently on the chains in Aria's direction. "Stay away from him!"
The princess knelt down to the slumbering boy and opened his mouth, pulling out the pink tongue. "Then tell me what I want to know!" Aria's voice was notably irritated, and her face was growing flush.
Jayde sorted through a thousand thoughts until she decided upon the best one. She answered just before the hot poker reached its destination. "Ok."
The princess glanced questionably to the female prisoner. "That's what I thought." She released the boy. "Where is it?"
"I don't know exactly."
Aria snatched the unconscious boy by the collar and lowered the poker toward his right eye. "That is not the answer I was hoping for."
In desperation, Jayde flung her hands up and waved the princess off. "What I mean is a message was placed for me that will provide the location."
The boy was released again. "Where is this message located?"
"If I told you it would do you no good. Only I can decipher the message."
Aria walked back to Jayde and jammed the glowing red rod into the woman's right shoulder. Jayde screamed out as the heat seared her flesh, cauterizing the wound immediately. "How can I be sure that you are not lying?"
"On my honor, I speak the truth," she hollered in agony.
Aria glanced toward the two guards and simply nodded once. Then, the poker was removed. "Very well." One of the guards snatched the boy's left arm and pulled him through the doorway.
"Where are you taking him?"
"He is collateral." She then turned her head toward the remaining guard. "Get rid of this body and ready the horses. A guard will need to be posted to insure that no one has access to this room until you return. Take no fewer than four men with you. She is likely to try something very clever. If she does not produce results, kill the boy and remove her hands." Jayde stared helplessly at the princess. "She is of no use to me dead, but she can stand to lose body parts."