A Play for Pain

[excerpt from The Blood of Cha’Vlad]

Marvalen’s capture had been relatively easy, much to Veral’s dismay. He’d really hoped for more of a struggle, something involving a bit more bloodshed and a lot of screaming, but Marvalen hadn’t wanted to play that game. He’d resisted at first, only a little, but had soon realized that he was outnumbered, and had therefore reluctantly succumbed to Veral and his minions. Veral was disappointed; a fact that didn’t bode well for Marvalen.

“I do wish you’d tried a little harder to hold us off, La’Fai,” complained Veral. “If you’d given us a show of muscle, I might’ve been willing to kill you quickly, like an equal. Now, however, I’m afraid I’ll be forced to make your end both slow and excruciating.” Veral smiled malevolently. His smile fell into an irritated frown when Marvalen failed to look appropriately frightened.

“Do what you will, Veral. I’m not afraid of pain. And death is just another step in our evolution.” Marvalen’s voice was quiet and sure.

Veral snorted disgustedly. “Gods above! You really are a feeble-minded fool. I’m looking forward to changing your mind about pain. There are many kinds of torment to be had here in my secret abode, friend, and not all of them involve the physical. You might not fear death once I’m done with you, but you will beg for it.”

Veral pulled a wicked looking knife from behind his back and brandished it expertly before Marvalen’s face. “I think I’ll start by making a jacket from your lovely, golden skin. Do you think I could flay you in one piece?” He was rewarded for this threat by a slight flinch from the La’Fai man chained before him. “That’s more like it!” he exclaimed, cackling his glee. “Now we’re getting somewhere!”

“I’ll not cry out, monster. I’ll not give you that satisfaction. You may kill me, but you’ll not take my dignity,” Marvalen fervently promised.

Veral whooped. “It’s not your dignity I want, La’Fai.” He moved closer to Marvalen’s ear and whispered into it, “It’s your power I intend to acquire.” Veral quickly moved back again to gauge his prisoner’s reaction. He was both surprised and angry to see a small smile growing on Marvalen’s face. He growled his displeasure, slapping La’Fai hard across the face. “You find me amusing, do you?”

Marvalen’s sad smile remained in place, despite the small trickle of blood flowing from a cut in his lip. “No, Veral. I find you insecure and helpless. I feel sorry for you.”

Marvalen’s captor howled with rage. How dare this witless, moon-faced imbecile show pity for Veral Ni’Vlad! His face now flushed red, darkened with anger, Veral responded to Marvalen’s revelation by digging the sharp point of his knife deep into the La’Fai man’s arm, not stopping until he felt it grate against the bone.

“And now?” Veral spat, “How do you find me now, half-wit?”

As he’d promised, Marvalen did not cry out. The only sign of the pain he was experiencing was a slight sheen of sweat, now moistening his brow.

“I’m sorry, Veral,” answered Marvalen. “I do pity you. I looked up to you when I was a boy. I thought you were strong and powerful. I thought you’d make us proud as our future leader. It saddens me, how wrong I was. All I see now is a scared, little boy unable to deal with the monster that’s been forced upon him. I wish I could help you.”

Veral shook, nearly insane with fury. But with his fury came a sudden, strange composure. Marvalen was trying to bait him, trying to force Veral into killing him quickly. He’d not be manipulated that easily.

“You can help me, Marvalen. You can give me what I want.” And with that, he sank pointed teeth into the neck of Marvalen La’Fai. Marvalen grunted, but still did not cry out, though he could feel his life’s blood slowly draining from his body.

Veral gasped, raising his head to narrow his eyes at Marvalen in surprise. “Such power!” He shook his head, dizzy with the need for more, and no longer caring how quickly the Fai man perished. Marvalen’s blood fairly thrummed with energy as it coursed through Veral. He licked his lips, swiftly darting in for more of the precious substance.

Marvalen was weakening. He knew Veral would try to drain him dry, but he also knew that his power could not be taken in such a manner. The power his blood would give was merely a quick fix. His strength was tied to the earth. His blood was merely a conduit, allowing his power purchase over his body. He closed his eyes, pushing away all thoughts of pain and death, and imagined the green, vibrant color of life. Though he could feel his life ebbing, his senses were still intact, his awareness still whole.

What he discovered next caused his eyes to open wide in shock. There was another power present here, strong and rich, but somehow ripe with corruption.

Marvalen had known this power. He had nurtured it once, long ago. It was coming from his children.

The twins were nearly invisible, but Marvalen saw them now, lurking in a far corner, watching the scene with avid interest. They recognized the man in chains, but had for so long been under the tutelage of Veral that their minds were clouded by blackness.

Marvalen reached out with his entire being, trying to bring them back to him. The agony that Veral had hoped to cause by the revelation that the children were still alive, but turned, did not come to fruition. The only emotion Marvalen felt was love. And that love gave him strength. Peace and joy flowed from every fiber of his being, and in seeking the minds of the children he also managed to infiltrate the mind of Veral Ni’Vlad.

Veral’s head snapped up sharply. “What are you doing, La’Fai?” he asked harshly. He was already feeling a bit drunk from Marvalen’s blood. The sudden invasion of his mind was both sobering and annoying.

Marvalen smiled, still looking at his lost children. “I’m showing you the way,” he answered in a strong voice. He wasn’t speaking to Veral. His words were for the boy and girl in the corner.

Veral growled his displeasure. Marvalen was ruining his fun. “Well, stop it, La’Fai. I don’t need your guidance.” He joined La’Fai in looking at the apparent youths in the corner, old beyond measure in years, but still as Marvalen remembered them, forever in the guise of innocent children now that they had been touched by Ni’Vlad. “In fact, we don’t need you at all, do we my pets?” He smiled maliciously, motioning the two to his side. They came to him, their expressions neutral and uncaring.

“Care for a snack?” crooned Veral. The twins merely stared, giving no indication of what was going on in their heads. Veral rolled his eyes. “Suit yourselves,” he grumped, moving in to resume his feasting.

As Veral’s lips touched Marvalen’s neck, they received a shock. He jumped back in alarm, glaring at La’Fai. “I felt that. What trick is this?” The air around Marvalen seemed to crackle with force. Veral was suddenly nervous.

“I told you,” Marvalen answered. “I’m showing you the way.” He smiled, his eyes still locked on the twins. Into the air around him, Marvalen poured all of the love he’d ever felt; love for everything alive and beautiful. It touched all in the dimly lit room. Even Veral.

The twins looked at Marvalen curiously. They didn’t understand what it was he was trying to tell them. But Veral understood. He understood all too well. This new turn of events was not in his plan, and he didn’t like it. He doubled over, his mind now in distress. All of the suffering he had caused over the centuries came back upon him a thousand times over. He shouted in frustration and pain for Marvalen to stop what he was doing, but Marvalen didn’t hear. His thoughts were for the children alone.

Tortured tears streamed from Veral’s eyes. He held his head with his hands, trying to block Marvalen from his mind. Choking curses of anger spewed forth from his lips. Veral was losing strength, and weakness was something he could not abide.

The children looked from Marvalen to Veral, coolly reasoning out what action should be taken on their part. After minutes that seemed like hours, they finally turned to Veral, gathering his crumpled form and breaking contact with Marvalen.

“We must leave this place, father,” the two said in unison to Veral. With one last curious glance at Marvalen, they led a stumbling, staggering Veral out of the room.

Marvalen cried out for them to stay, but they left without another backward glance. His face fell in defeat. He was alive, but his heart would forever be broken.

In the end, though he wasn’t able to enjoy it, Veral’s play for pain had been quite successful.

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