Under the watchful eyes of six jealous gods and two full moons King Samed had ruled on Raalek without so much as a ripple of question from his subjects.
Despite the lumpglows along the wall, darkness prevailed on the thin stairway. Raphela could feel the dampness creep under her skin as she clutched the cold railing. Her feet felt every inch of ragged stone and the slippery spots of mildewed algae. Odors of decaying animals echoed in the air, speaking of decades past.
But when young Atan, next duke of Ishtba knelt before him, meeting his eyes while swearing his loyalty Samed knew the gods were dozing for Atan would cause more than a ripple.
What he didn’t know was that a child reflecting that unique power would one day present herself to the mysterious, solitary and feared Duke Atan Ishtba.
It is that day, when the child Raphela, having blossomed into sensual womanhood meets the eyes of Atan, the gods are caught off guard and the unimaginable unfolds on the cold medieval world of Raalek…
But Raphela ignored it all to reach her goal. That Room…
The room was oddly lit. A few feet past the doorway and to her right was a stone table, laden with tools, clean, shiny, and deadly…
An incredibly large place, the walls were shadowed, … directly in front of her. For there he was, an average looking man, no leaner or fatter than most. Perhaps a shade taller than Mahtso. His head was recently shaved, but not his bare chest and he was remarkably clean. Around his wrist and legs were shackles... Around his forehead was a metal band, keeping his head up and straight. So far no sound escaped his lips. The room seemed to itch at the silence.
“They all look so pretty to start.” Mahtso crept out from the shadows and his hiss startled her, but Raphela showed no reaction. “I do believe he will last, for a while anyway.” Mahtso's blue eyes looked black and he reeked of something foul.
The man on the wall froze as Mahtso's eyes turned on him.
Raphela felt an icy finger slither down her arm. “Come, my love, let us learn together,” Mahtso purred. She was torn between disgust, terror and excitement, but followed.
Mahtso's hands examined every inch of the man, his fingers much like a spider weaving a web. Raphela saw no pain inflicted, yet she knew the captive's skin crawled with each touch…
“Tell me,” Mahtso's tone was almost conversational, “do you know who I am?”
The captive's eyes opened wide, his head seemed to nod, but no words were spoken.
“Now, now, I asked you a question, answer me.” Mahtso's firm schoolmaster tone was accompanied by a stroke of the stick that just missed the man's ear.
The captive shivered. “I believe you are Mahtso.”
“Good, that wasn't so hard, was it?”
“Sir, I like that. You're polite.” …
“Oh, my. I do feel awful. I have been terribly rude.” Mahtso's self chastisement, a grasp at opportunity, did not ease the captive. Mahtso turned to Raphela, and held out his hand. Raphela held out hers and walked to Mahtso, slowly.
“Now, for a proper introduction. Lady Raphela, mistress of Castle Cordan, I'd like you to meet…” Mahtso stopped in mock surprise. “Oh, I'm afraid I didn't catch your name.” Mahtso's eyes peered out from under a furrowed brow.
The captive squirmed at first, then straightened as much as his position would allow, even his chest stuck out a bit, but his lips were sealed.
Mahtso stamped his stick on the floor and laughed with great satisfaction. “My Lady Raphela, we have a professional. This will be a pleasure, a test of my skills.”
…Mahtso brushed the edge of his tool under the captive's chin. “Brave soul, aren't you? I respect that.”
Mahtso slithered off the stool and stood directly under the man's nose. The man tried to move his head away from the stench, but Mahtso's strong fingers locked his chin in place. “Respect,” he hissed, “goes just so far. I too have a job and I am not a patient man.”
Even Raphela recoiled. The captive's eyes were like saucers and the lump in his throat grew, but he remained silent. Mahtso backed away. “Very well.” He shrugged his shoulders. “Are you thirsty?”
Mahtso gave him a drink and offered him a piece of bread, both of which the man readily downed.
“Have you reconsidered, sir? I'm sure Lady Raphela would like to know your name.”
The silence echoed through the room and into Raphela's heart. Mahtso heaved a sigh. “I grow bored, what can I do? Ah, here we go.” His hand reached out and picked up a large winged insect.
Mahtso held its wings and blew on it. “Interesting creatures, quite strong.” His fingers caressed the bug and then he jerked out one of its four wings, which he lay on the stool for the captive to see. Mahtso grinned as he pulled off a leg and laid it perpendicular to the wing. Piece by piece, slowly enough to seem like hours, and directly in the captive's view, Mahtso disassembled the insect until all that was left was a writhing head and body sitting on the stool amidst its wriggling appendages. Mahtso was quite insistent that his captive watch every move and stare at the bug until it died. After which Mahtso ate it, one appendage at a time.
Raphela stayed in the shadows. The captive turned pale, almost yellow, gagged more than once, yet remained silent.
Mahtso shook his head. His hand reached out for a soft white loci, a gentle sweet creature, totally harmless. The captive watched as Mahtso nuzzled the creature and stroked it, more and more harshly. The captive's mouth opened. “Elat,” he croaked.
Slowly Mahtso put down the creature. “Elat, so that's your name.”
“Well, Elat, where are you from?” Elat stiffened once more, still believing he could outlast his captor. Silence ruled for the moment.
Raphela leaned against the wall, its cold moist stone made her muscles tighten. As she pushed herself away, her fingers felt a bite of pain. She brought them to her face and saw the tiny trickle of blood escape her fingertips. She sucked on it to stop the bleeding.
Mahtso caught the scent of her blood and felt a lust grow inside himself. Raphela and Elat shifted uneasily. Mahtso beckoned for Raphela to come near. Her slow steps gave her time to recompose and consider Elat's very uncomfortable position.
“My lady, we must continue the questioning. Stay close, so that you hear all he has to say.” Mahtso's eyes danced and his nostrils flared.
His hands, gently placed on her shoulders, guided her to the stool and traveled her back before returning to his pockets. He then began a new line of questioning. “For whom do you work?”
Though Elat felt every cut the stones had made in his back and his body ached, his lips were still.
…Neither Raphela nor Mahtso had any desire for food or drink. But Raphela noticed that Elat was offered both, frequently. Why, she did not understand. But now that hours had passed, that action became more clear. Elat would have to relieve himself eventually. Soon enough, the time came.
…Mahtso busied himself with a lizard that died slowly, while Raphela observed both men. Elat very soon had to choose between allowing the poisons that circulated inside his body, eating at the inner linings of him, to continue their path, or suffer the embarrassment and discomfort of relieving himself. The latter choice, seemed more logical, at least for the moment.
Mahtso jumped at this chance, turning on him like a cat on a mouse. “You child, the slightest discomfort and you lose control, what would your master think?” At first, Elat bravely listened, and then shut his eyes as if it would shut out the voice.
When Mahtso bored of this and became silent, the room overtook the people. It echoed with the sound of caged insects, beating helpless wings furiously against solid walls.
Raphela noticed that Mahtso's chain was motionless, carefully tucked away. This sent a moment of terror through Raphela, for it meant that Mahtso was truly content. His frequent glances and half smiles in her direction created an even stranger feeling.
At one point, Mahtso asked Raphela to place an object on a shelf beside Elat's ear. The object, a wooden triangle, was fitted with a long thin needle. It moved back and forth at an incredibly steady pace, enough to drive one mad after a few minutes, much less the hours intended for Elat.
Raphela was fascinated by it and took her time to study the thing, as she placed it on the shelf, Mahtso watched her fluid movements and tempting form. His hand stroked a small switch. Elat's eyes opened wide, would this maniac take on the lady of the house?
Raphela didn't see Mahtso, but sensed him and for a split second, understood and shared his urge. She raised her arms and leaned toward the wall.
Mahtso felt the blood rush. His hand caressed Raphela's shoulder, but she felt the switch caressing her leg. She lowered her arms and turned around. Mahtso's arm briskly moved and the switch drew first blood from Elat's leg.
Raphela returned to the safety of the shadows and Mahtso to the job at hand.
…Finally, Elat's screams were heard, his body shaking with the loss of his life's fluid…!”