A/N: Man, it's been awhile since I've been in the Symphonia fandom. Needless to say, replaying the game in HD has inspired me to look at some of my old ToS stories and this one really got me. I can't believe I hadn't gotten around to posting it.
So, this story is my head canon for Kratos. It varies a lot from the usual head canons I've seen, namely because it's so much darker. This story doesn't warrant an M rating in my opinion, though feel free to let me know if you think it does. However, I would definitely rate it as T+ or Older Teen. Sadly, no rating exists, so I'm giving you all a heads up here. There is some heavy language and mentioning of adult themes, so proceed with caution if you're sensitive to those things. Anyway, without further delay, here's the chapter!
Chapter One: The Branding
What he first noticed was the sound of the clanking bars, each one rattling out its own song before quickly dying down as if the very oppression in the air served as a chocker. Hushed whispers came next, each one louder than the previous one. Shuffling back, hiding away and trying not to be seen.
The prisoner didn't move, didn't dare too. If he did, he'd he hit, or worse.
Metal clanged against stone and heavy footsteps wandered in. Fear rose in his throat, threatening escape as he looked up towards the person who'd entered the cell. Though the darkness wouldn't permit the light to pass, he could still make out the faint outline of the man before him and feel the sadistic smile that danced upon the that man's lips.
It was today that the prisoner officially lose his life, lose his entire will to struggle against the binds that held him so tightly, against the man who'd tortured him for nearly three years. It was today that this man would get his final laugh, that this man he knew as Sigheart would finally end everything once and for all.
A shift from above startled him, Sigheart lowering himself to be at the prisoner's level. "Good morning," the deep voice sent a rolling shock of terror up the prisoner's spine, the cold wall his back leaned against doing nothing to stop the shivering that began. "How did you sleep, my dear Kratos?" He cackled softly, his rancid breath, smelling of blood, rolled off his tongue to stain Kratos' cheek.
Kratos couldn't move, couldn't respond, the terror coursing through his system to much to bear.
"Answer me!" A harsh pain etched into Kratos' face, forcing it to one side. A surprised wince came from him as his cheek continued to burn, the fire rolling up his face and down his neck.
Chocking out a response, he stammered, "I-I'm sorry! I slept fine, I slept fine…" More fear, more terror. Dead fingers brushed the stinging cheek, a soft caress that horrified Kratos to his very bones. The gesture stung like salt on an open wound, causing him to shiver harder under the would-be-delicate touch.
"My dear little Kratos, I'm sorry. You know I am, right?"
The word stumbled out of his mouth quickly, "yes." The caressing didn't stop, the sadistic man gaining even more pleasure when he started running his fingers through Kratos' hair, eliciting a soft yelp.
"Today's the big day," hot breath teased the other's ear as Sigheart's hands wandered down the other's neck, stroking the back of it ever so gently, "today is the day that you'll finally break." Digging his nails into the sensitive flesh at the back of his neck, Kratos grimaced, his breath entering and leaving his lungs far faster than it ever had before.
A deep laugh penetrated the very walls that housed it, echoing deep within the hall and causing the shuffling from earlier to happen again. Either the others here who were damned were curious or they were shying away, though whichever they were doing, it didn't matter. Not anymore.
The hand found its way back into Kratos' dirty mane, yanking him to his feet. Shouting out, he struggled to stand, weak against malnutrition and pain. The darkness soon left him, small sketches of dark blue light tracing its way onto his eyes. Once they were out of the cell, Kratos' wrists were forcefully brought behind his back, cold steel being placed upon his already raw skin. He could see several of the others that stood with Sigheart, the half-elves whom had given up on humanity's pathetic excuse of fairness and created their own version of it.
"Let's get him to the chamber," Strong hands grabbed at the binds, pushing him forward. There were others as he passed, those who'd shrunk away into their cells, waiting patiently for transport. Their outlines were barely visible in the sapphire lighting that was laced overhead, leaving them half eaten by darkness. He didn't even know their names, those countless lives who stood at deaths door like he did. Not a single one knew him, and neither of them probably cared for him and his situation. That was how things were. Even those he trusted the most, had the most confidence in, failed to save him. Now, he was paying for their failure, paying for all of it.
The hallway's twists and bends confused him, as he'd only been through them blindfolded. Now, however, he could see and it was throwing him off. "We're almost there, my child." A frosted hand traced Kratos' spine, landing on the back of his neck. It chilled him, making his legs begin to quake. So much damn fear and there was nothing he could do about it, nothing he could say to make the sadistic man halt his actions.
Passing through several doors, most requiring an identification number, and travelling through yet more hallways, they'd reached the chamber Sigheart had mentioned. The room was well light, blinding Kratos as he first entered. In the immediate middle of the room, two sets of shackles were laced to the ground in front of a short stool. All around the room, mirrors stood tall, reaching the very ceiling with their crystal hands. Dozens of guards stood in there, waiting with deadly grins. All of them half-elf and all of them ready to see a human squirm.
"Lock him up."
Kratos was dragged to the stool, the cold shackles being removed but being replaced in front of him by the others. They were far heavier, dragging his wrists towards the floor as he tried to hold them up. He couldn't even pick up his legs as they were locked down, the strain far too great.
Snickers bounced off the reflective glass, tickling the room a shade brighter, hurting his eyes. Heavy footsteps sent his hear racing, panic licking through his veins like poison, burning him from the inside-out. A loud clamor came behind him, startling him. Sigheart's booming voice threatened to crack the mirrors, "Thank you for coming, my comrades. It's taken a long time to break this one. We all remember his feisty attitude when coming here, how he was going to 'send us straight to hell'? Well, nearly three years later and he's finally cracked." Cackling from the audience followed quickly, half-elvish sneers coming from within the crowd. Ones that Kratos knew far too well.
"Not only that, but he's my bitch. I tell him to fetch, he says?"
"Yes, master." Kratos heard the laughs that erupted from the room, jabbing into his very heart. They were making a joke out of him, an example. He would serve as the perfect model of their power. Three years and he'd given up everything, making him nothing more than their toy.
"And if I tell him to beg, he says?"
"On my hands and knees, master?"
"And if I tell him to fuck, he says?"
There was no hesitation to Kratos' answers. "How hard, master?" Terror raced through him as the other burst into laughter and Sigheart, himself, was laughing. Breathing faster, panic threatened him as his mind whirled between reality and the past. If he wanted to set an example of just how much power he had over Kratos, Sigheart surely could. The very thought terrified him but he had nowhere to run now, nowhere to hide.
When the voices died down, Sigheart leaned close to his prey, hot words spoken so only Kratos could hear, "I designed this room just for you, Kratos. I wanted everyone to be able to watch you finally snap, even you." He gestured to the tall mirrors which sat behind the large crowd of half-elves.
He was unable to control his shaking and it made the sadist smile. The smell of burning metal came to Kratos next, its putrid odor causing him to gag. Sigheart's voice came to him for the last time, "It's time for the branding."
Hot streaks of pain jutted from his neck, flesh burning away and steaming, melting under the heat of the iron. White flashed across his vision, blurring the world in a canvas of colors. Was he screaming? He wasn't sure. More pain before the hot rod was taken away, the searing skin beginning to cool down.
Kratos' hair was gripped tightly, forcing him to his knees, "beg for more." Pulling tighter on his hair, Kratos let out a yelp, Sigheart's voice ramming into his ears, "beg!"
"Please," he could feel the tears pressing into his eyes, dripping out as his hair was pulled harder, "Please, master, brand me again."
"Gladly," another jab and the tears came loose. This time, he could smell the cooking flesh, smell the acidic burning that was being done to the back of his neck. When it was removed, it was heated and slammed in again.
Over and over, the hot metal sizzled into his skin, leaving black stains mixed with red in its wake. Several times and Kratos could no longer keep count, begging for it to end, his throat being rubbed raw as he did so.
No matter what he said, though, the sadist would have his fun. The more he begged, the more pleasure was gotten and by the end of it, when the coals had cooled and the rod would no longer heat quickly, Sigheart removed his hand from the tangle of Kratos' hair and let him fall to the floor to sob.
Nothing but the stinging pain came to him as he lay there, feeling completely broken apart. The soft chuckle of the sadistic man entered his ears but other than that and the ringing, nothing. Pain twisted its way through his system, the tears never ceasing. He just wanted to die, nothing more. Being alive was more torture, he knew, and that meant Sigheart would never let him be killed, never let his 'little bitch' die.
He was being pulled up, the weights around his ankles and wrists being removed. Dragged off to where, he wasn't sure, he knew it no longer mattered. Letting them do as they pleased, he arrived at what he figured was his cell, the cold ground a welcomed greeting compared to the intense heat on the back of his neck.
Those heavy footsteps followed in as the door closed behind them, metal latching against metal. A rough hand reached back to touch the charred flesh, causing Kratos to scream. "You like that, don't you?"
He couldn't answer, couldn't think. The words didn't make sense to him as the man dragged his dirty nails against it, increasing the pain even more so.
"You know I love it when you scream…"
A weight came upon his, forcing him on his back. Mixing pain and panic, he didn't even struggle when the strong hands came around his throat, chocking him. At one time, he would have clawed at those hands, would have tried to push them away. Now, he accepted them, the desire to free himself from this hell existing no more. Even when one hand was removed from the stranglehold, rushing to the hem of his pants, everything no longer mattered. Kratos was broken, used up and now, the master could have his way with him.
He kept his eyes closed, not wanting to see it happen again, not again. His only blessing was the sheer pain of his neck, making the rest of his body numb to the deeds that were being done. Even as he screamed, he couldn't feel it, couldn't hear his own voice begging the master for more like the good little bitch he was.
Not until the very end, when the body weight of Sigheart was crushing down on him, did hear even hear a word of what was being said, "You're mine now, Kratos." Through breaths, he huffed to him, "that brand will forever bind you and I."
The stinging was still uncontrollable, masking the pain that echoed through the rest of his body. If he was crying, he wasn't fully aware of it and that didn't bother him anymore. Before, he would have fought back, held his feelings in to keep Sigheart from getting pleasure from it. Now was a different story. He simply no longer cared.
Sigheart's heavy breathing steamed up the shell of Kratos' ear, "As long you have it, you're mine. And as long as I'm alive, you're mine. Don't forget that."
He wouldn't. How could he? What had been placed on the back of his neck marked his as Sigheart's property, made him a part of the vast collection he'd gathered. Being branded meant he no longer belonged to himself, that he was a slave to this very man or any man Sigheart felt inclined to give him too.
It was what he'd fought against for nearly three years but in the end had failed to avoid. Now that he was branded, he belonged to himself no more.