Content warnings right up front: violence. Very sideways implied rape. More violence. Kidnapping. Broken bones. Burns. They are not treating this demon very nicely, okay?
Also, he may not be a demon.
Snippet from a very nice dream (yeah, really!) where Wyste was writing a story based on a one-line post someone else had made. This was just one flash of a scene but it wanted to be written so, here we go.
They’d chained him inside the circle again.
It wasn’t needed; the whole tower attic was a cage and had been since they trapped him here. The circle was an insult; the circle was meant to make him weaker than he already was and, more than that, to hurt him.
“It’s time for your punishment.”
It was the one called Rumlow that said it; even though he was looking at their feet, he could tell that much. Not just the voice, but the way the others stepped back.
He was tired and the circle sapped his energy from him, but he told them, Rumlow and all of them, anyway, “I have broken none of your rules.”
“Do you think that makes it better? Do you think sticking to the letter of the law will save you?”
“I think nothing at all will save me, because I am in your hands.” And thus I will not try to please you, try to please any of them, because this is the best they will do…
“Rumlow, do you think this is really needed? The man is trapped, he is ours.”
“Not a man, Wagner, how many times do we have to say it? How many times do we need to remind you, you imbecile?”
Wagner was, unfortunately for him, a genius, but he was also weak. He liked people to like him. Rumlow used that mercilessly. The rest weren’t much kinder.
And that was it, the token protest.
Leave, he told the voice in his head. He wasn’t meant to know that she was still there, he thought, but she couldn’t help but send her own anger flowing through him. He could see the meadow she was standing in and it made him yearn for the fresh air in a way nothing but she could.
Leave, he repeated, but she told him no and set her jaw.
She was the key. He could no more command her than he could break these chains.
He was on his knees, his wrists shackled in chains longer than they needed to be, so that he could pretend he could fight back. his ankles were pinned to the ground with shackles that were spelled, too. The one time he’d tried to get out of them, he’d broken his ankle in two places and burned his skin so badly that he still had a scar.
To his surprise, that was Brunhold, and Brunhold’s shoes (the most expensive) stepping forward. “It’s gone too far, don’t you think? Too far and then some. It’s not punishment if it doesn’t change his behavior. He is frightened of you and still he does things you think are worth punishing, yes? This begs the questions-“
“Seriously, do you ever stop talking?” Rumlow pulled his belt from his trousers in a single move. The demon did not flinch. He never did.
Much to his surprise, Brunhold kept going.
“-what are you punishing him for, and why does he keep doing things to earn punishment?”
He could have told them the answers to that.
Rumlow punished him because he enjoyed it. Because even after all these years – it had been years, hadn’t it? decades? Forever? – Rumlow blamed him for things that had never been truly his family. But mostly because Rumlow liked the power and he got off on it, the blood, the stoic frozen body, the way that the demon tried not to cry out, not ever.
And he kept doing things because he could not be that cowed. And because if they were that focused on his small rebellions, they would not see the rebellion that might finally ruin this cage and free him.
If they were making him bleed, they would not be looking for her.
“Because he’s a bastard out of Hell. Because he is incapable of learning, because he’s as stupid as you are, Brunhold, as stupid as you are, Wagner. The thing needs punishing, and we are going to punish him. Now step back or feel the belt yourselves.”
“Rumlow, you’ve gone out of control,” Zimmerman muttered, but all of those expensive shoes stepped backwards, back further, back again. They had made more protest than any time before, but in the end, they still let Rumlow do what he wanted.
Which in this case was, once again, the belt coming down on the demon’s back.
Leave, he told the girl in his mind again, and this time she faded away.
When she came back, the men were gone. They had left him chained – for his insolence, but because he had fought back and they were frightened that he might hurt them if they didn’t leave him bound. They had left the circle because Rumlow was an asshole and none of them had the spine to stop him.
His head was on the ground, his hair around him like a veil. They woudln’t get close enough to him with a blade to cut his hair, so it had been growing for quite some time. He could feel the blood trickling down his back. He had no clothing left, and he did not have the energy to try for modesty with her.
You need to break the circle, she fretted. You need – circles, circles take organic matter. Food, can you reach anything?
He coughed. It was almost laugh. “I haven’t had anything to eat in two days,” he told the voice in his head, the empty room, the blasted circle.
nothing? she was horrified, so he corrected, although it wasn’t … really… a correction
nothing that will sustain ME.
She was still horrified, of course. Organic… oh. Her voice was soft and horrified. I think we can… by your right knee, can you reach that splash of blood? Blood and…
Blood and spit, probably. Or other of Rumlow’s body fluids. He’d gotten careless.
“I’m still in this tower,” he told her softly.
Not for long. Not for long. I’ve been studying. I’ve been-
She hesitated, but he had some idea. They were closer, he thought, than even she knew. She had been travelling, learning, reading, researching. She had been crossing the world, not heading directly for him but heading for the answers.
She didn’t want to give him false hope.
Right now, he thought he’d take a lie.
I’m here until I’m not here, he agreed. If he bent his arm just so – it hurt, but everything hurt – he could get his fingers into the mess of his blood and Rumlow’s spit.
Okay, you have to do this right. Now, we’re going to start with the Desil, there.
It felt like she was leaning over his shoulder, like she was looking out of his eyes, like she was everywhere and nowhere. He dripped fluid off his fingers on the snaking, twisting rune.
And then Gherit, that one’s going to be hard to get to, I’m sorry.
“You’re not the one who put me here,” he told her. “You’re not the one who chained me. You’re not the one who laughed.”
I’ll laugh, she snarled. She was a sweet girl. He didn’t know how he felt about her snarling.
He did, like his anger, like his taint, had blackened her. He might not truly be from hell, but-
The Gherit, come now, you can take a bath if you can get a little blood there, come on, she coaxed. I’m not a sweet girll, you know, and it’s not your fault. I haven’t been a child in a while, you know. There, good.
He was pretty sure he’d dislocated his ankle, but at least he hadn’t broken in.
One more, then one, and we’re out.
She coaxed him through the runes, swearing at Rumlow as he twisted and grunted and dripped someone else’s bodily fluids on the blasted circle.
Then the circle broke
and the chains around his wrists were nothing but metal
He stood, gingerly, breaking the chains with a yank.
Easy, easy, you’ve got to ruin the whole circle, they can’t see. They can’t know you know how to break their circle. It has to be a mystery. And then. And then we’ll get the key.
The key to the shackles around his ankles was on the other side of the room. He didn’t want to know how she thought he was going to get it.
But the circle, that was easy.
He shifted until he could feel the blood dripping off of him. He commanded the blood with his weak power, until he felt her using her strength to move it.
Let them think his blood could break their circles. Let them think that was their only carelessness.
Her presence was warm in his mind and his wounds were already healing. Her snarl was fierce and he could see the moon rising over the meadow she stood in.
They are abominations, she told him, and they will pay..
Then they began the horrifying process of getting to the key.
They would pay indeed.