Hey guys/gals,

ICG is slowly being worked on… I've been on a Shards/ICG hiatus for a while. I haven't given up… I've just been having a heck of a time getting to a computer to write on, and also concentrating on my work's been hard lately for various reasons. I re-wrote my notes for ICG and I'm getting back to work on this story. It'll be slow in coming, but it's coming along. I want them to just deal with each other, and I'm making some dynamic (besides hate and indifference) between Kratos and Anna. It's not very nice, language kinda borders on Mature here… but when you have that much anger it has to be expressed, and both these characters are very passionate emotional people.

Kasan Soulblade

Chapter Eight



Anna opened her eyes and stared at the auburn haired man in white and the black clad Desians. For a moment she thought she was in the past, in that line of sullen faced women, she half expected Noishe to be sitting on her toes to indicate that he was choosing her. There were no other women; or rather they were cringing in their cells, staring with sleep glazed eyes at the Desian's and Cardinal who had barged in amongst them at…

Anna squinted at the time piece, she couldn't read the numbers, they didn't mean anything really, but the picture that changed to show the position of the sun. Since it was way on the bottom she guessed that it was probably really late at night. The yawning, sleepy looking Desian's only confirmed the lateness of the hour.

She stared at them, mutely conveyed her hate with a glare, and then rolled over. She curled away from them, wrapped her arms around her and glared at the shadowy steel wall.

"We all know you're awake, Ms. Anna." The auburn haired Cardinal growled. "So why don't we cut through all the childishness and you get up and come along quietly?"

"Go to Hell."

"Inferior being, when the Cardinal gives you an order…" There was the sound of a whip being pulled from its holster on a belt, the all too familiar thud of heavy leather hitting steel floor. "You do as he says, or else."

"Or else what? You'll come in, drag me off, and whip me? You do that every morning anyways." Anna shrugged, ignored how her back stung from the motion. "Your "else" sucks, nothing you do to me makes me scared, so why should I do anything you say?"

"You bi-"

"Enough." The Cardinal stared at her, looked through the bars of the cage, his lip curled in one corner to make a dark, bitter, smile. "Give me the key to her cell and then leave us alone."

"Sir, she's a feisty one, normally we need three of the boys to get her to do anything…"

"Are you assuming I can't take care of myself?" Kratos rumbled, his black eyes flashing with a glint of humor. "She can fight all she wants; she'll do as I say, even if I have to break bones to get her to do it."

Despite herself Anna cringed at the bland, indifferent tone Kratos used. He might as well have been noting the weather for all his passion. Even Kvar, with his dark animal lust that he satiated by hearing his prisoners shriek and beg for mercy, was more human then Kratos in that moment. The Cardinal in Luin's torture was preferable to the cool distant dismemberment that Kratos so casually promised.

And it wasn't his words that made it a promise; it was the tone, the cold dead tone that made such a horrible promise into an upcoming reality.

Even the Desian looked a little sick as he handed the small silver card and Kratos. When the auburn haired Cardinal made it clear that he was being dismissed the half elf in black barked at his partner to come on, something about checking sector R 24 or something….

"Ms. Anna-" Kratos slid the card key into the slot alongside her cell, his eyes never left her, his voice was as cold as snow. "-we may do this the easy way or the hard way. You may come quietly, no fighting, no smart ass comments, I'll take you to my quarters and you may go back to the task of tending my… pet as you were before."

Grimly Anna got to her feet, the look of cold determination on her face did not stir the white clad man, he showed no emotion, probably felt nothing.

"Get someone else." Anna snarled. "I'm not doing anything for you Desian, ever again, you hear me bastard?"

"He attacked the other woman I had assigned-" The auburn haired man murmured, taping in a few numbers on the key pad, acting as if he had not heard her response, as if she had agreed or something!

"Are you stupid? That's her problem, your problem, not mine."

"-then she tried to kill me, tried to slash my throat. Even you weren't that stupid to try an assassination attempt.-"

"Wha-" Biting her lip, stopping herself from asking what "assassination" was, Anna gritted he teeth, glared up at the man. Even though she was on her feet he towered over her by a few go inches, enough so that she had to tilt her head up a little to look at him in the eyes. "What's that have to do with me? Do the words "Go to Hell bastard, never again" mean nothing to you?"

"-Interesting, so it doesn't bother you that I had to kill her?"

Anna winced; he looked up from the key pad to study her reaction, the device under his hand made a ringing sound and the door hissed. Kratos pulled open the door, a door that took two Desians to work open and close, he pulled it aside with an ease that made her shiver. He just as casually closed it behind him, turned his back on her. She wasn't crazy enough to attack him, so she took a few steps back all the while thinking how little good that was going to do her if he did decide she was going to be punished.

It was ironic how the place that was meant to be her Hell was in fact a sanctuary. The cell's thick and plentiful bars guarded her against the lashes of her Deisan tormenters, it was long enough so that she could curl against the back wall and no sword or spear could touch her. Now that he was inside the cell, sanctuary became prison, could become a torture chamber if she wasn't careful.

"That I broke her neck with my bare hands and shoved the carrion out a window, that doesn't bother you?"

"I wouldn't expect any different from a Desian." She hissed, clenching her hands into fists. "I wouldn't expect anything less from a monster."

Now he showed something, a small frown turned his lips down around the corners.

"I am not a Desian."

"Not all Desian's wear black."

She felt the steel wall against her back, and he had been following. Countering every one of her steps with one of his own.

"Fleeing is futile. You can try the door if you'd like, I left it unlocked."

She jerked at his words, and the man's lips curled into a mocking smile.

"Go ahead, it will prove… entertaining."

He stared at her, through her, and then seeing he wasn't going to attack she walked past him. She put some speed into it, almost ran past him, would have ran past him, but there wasn't enough room for her to run. Walking by him was like walking by an ice statue; even his eyes did not follow her. He stared at the steel wall, and then closed his eyes. He listened to her struggles, her curses, bare feet scrambled against steel as she tried and failed to make it move. Running, holding the bar, it was all in an attempt to force the cage open. And all she achieved was to tangle her long limbs amongst themselves, all she did was bruise herself with her exertion, waste her energy.

"Are you done wasting your time and mine?"

"Shut up, I'm not talking to you!"

She kicked the bars, snarled a curse as she hurt her foot.

By now the other women in their cells were watching Anna's struggles. She toned them out.

"You could just say "yes, I have decided to renew the agreement" and I would open the damn door."

"I said-"

"You forget who the Cardinal of this ranch is."

He turned his locks of red brown hair fell over his eyes. Still, she could feel his glare, could feel the quiet hostility, the annoyance.

"All the women on those cages would murder to get your position. An easy task, clean environment, relative safety, no torture, no back breaking labor, women would kill for your place. Possibly kill you."

Suddenly aware of the hostile scorning glares that were focused on her, Anna shivered. One white gloved hand closed over the bar over her shoulder, and Anna jumped in shock. She hadn't heard him, and he was less then a few inches away. He tugged on the bar, and with a screech the cell's door slid opened. With that noise, Anna knew that Kratos had been lying; the door had been locked… He stared at her; from the few breaks of that auburn screen Anna could catch glints of black.

"I offer you ease for the rest of your short life, with the company of my dog –whom you seem to like- certainly that is not such a hard thing to take?"

"A cage is a cage."

"Welcome to Hell, Ms. Anna, welcome to reality."

He bowed, a mocking gesture, inviting her to go first. Anna had to firmly repress the urge to snatch up the ends of his dusty blue cape and strangle the man with that stupid piece of cloth. To reach down and rip out fistfuls of those spiky looking hairs, the image of strangling him then snatching him bald played in her mind for a long moment, her hand's twitched in anticipation of doing just that.

She stepped out of the cell, and he looked at her, smug in his victory.

"So, how long has Noshy been screaming at you?"

And she just as quickly turned victory to ash, and did so with a panache that made him wince. Kratos toyed around with the idea of not admitting that she was right, and then admitted that she had won this battle… for the moment.

"Five days straight."

"Missing your sleep?" Anna smoothly slipped another childish barb at him and Kratos winced again.

He had forgotten much of being human; scraped by as a Seraph by assuming roles and making mental scripts for most situations. He had found over the ages that he could barely function outside of those pre-arranged devices. By taking Anna back in, by enduring and refusing to beat her into submission –if he went that route Noishe would probably kill him- he ruefully admitted that he was going to be enduring a great deal of "lip" until he remembered how to counter it. Silence -his favorite tactic that fell into his "mercenary" persona- just wasn't going to work. The woman rained more abuse on him as they walked to his quarters, even twisted his glares and silences into agreement to her preposterous statements.

So far he –by Anna's bizarre book- had agreed his mother was some specie of slime that he was indeed a bastard, jerk, ass hole, Desian, and a few more modern profane terms that he was now acquainted with.

He quietly endured the abuse, pulled open the door and Noishe looked up from maiming one of Kratos' favorite mercenary cape to wag his tail and bound up to the woman.

"Damn it Noishe." Kratos snarled. "I said I was going to get her!" He went up to his maimed cape that was missing one of its shoulder pads. "Do you know how expensive these damned things are?"

"Who's been a good boy?" Anna crooned, scooping the puppy shaped Protozoan with a smile.

"Bitch." He growled, snapping his nastiest glare on the woman.

"Bastard." She countered, drawing the protozoan to her, as if to protect Noishe from his "owner".

Noishe just sighed, gave Kratos a long look that said "apologize". Ignoring the puppy shaped being the Seraph let the fabric fall.

"I do hope you know how to sew Ms. Anna, because everything he's damaged you will be fixing."

"I'm an accomplished maker of leather armor, helmets, and shields, I know how to sew." Anna sniffed.

He raised an eyebrow, that was not in her record, but knowing her sullen silences and perchance for sarcasm he wasn't too surprised by that.

"Stop boasting and get to work, oh and you'll need to clean half of the garments and pillows as he soiled them."

"Noishe!" Anna protested, the protozoan looked rather guilty.

Huh… guilty that Anna had to clean up after him, not at all bothered that Kratos had done so…

"My… dog-" Kratos growled, sarcasm dripping from every syllable. "-if you'd be so kind."

"Whine!" Noishe looked up at Anna, his eyes wide with terror. The "dog" shook his head so much that the tuft of returning fur nearly fell out.

"You will start your task tomorrow; I want it all done by noon. If it is not done, you will be whipped."

"You said no torture, you promised!" Anna growled.

Noishe's squeaky growl of agreement made Kratos check a sigh. Gnashing his teeth the Seraph tried to think of some way to manipulate her, to force her. Now that his words (and the possibility of Noishe howling if he broke his promise) had stripped him of any ways to manipulate her he was with a boulder to his back, a regiment of Sylvarant spell casters at his flank picking away at his sanctuary, a regiment of Teteh'alla's finest cavalry charging his front.

As the silence stretched between them, a glint of something flashed in Anna's brown eyes. He was not so lifeless as to forget what satisfaction was, and he groaned.

Anna just laughed as she realized just how powerless he was to leash her in.

"Origin, damn it!" Kratos snarled

Noishe wagged his tail, a smile curling his snout up, his bright red tongue lolled out in doggish laughter.

"I'll get it done when I feel like it, and I'll set my own pace." Anna smirked. "If you want it done faster you're just going to have to do it yourself. Don't worry, I won't be too slow about it, after all, it's bound to smell horrible if it waits too long."

She scratched the Protozoan's fuzzy head, a smile cutting a white path across her face ear to ear.

Snarling a few expletives in Angelic, Kratos turned on his heel and made his way to his quarters. Anna's laughter filled the room behind him. Looking at the bed covers, at the pillows, he wrinkled his nose as the smell of dog urine and worse hit him full in the face. Then his grimace faded, he grinned. Opening his door with a word he picked up the mattress, shoved it out into the hall. It fell over with a heavy thump that alluded to a Tethe'allan steel spring mattress rather then the feather mattress that those of Sylvarant favored. The blankets swiftly followed, they almost flew from the door and fluttered like birds that found a perch on the lopsided bed. Soggy pillows smashed onto the carpeted floor with a satisfying "squelch". Looking out into the hall that blocked his room from hers he was a little surprised that she'd actually crept to the door to look at him in complete shock.

"Are you out of your mind!"

He went to the closet, ripped it open and stared at his mess of maimed capes. Noishe had spared none of them, had even gone so far as to go on one of his Cruxis uniforms and to slash up his mercenary uniforms with his small claws.

Kratos pulled down the lot of them, leaving a multitude of swaying metal hanger to shiver at the speed their newfound emptiness had descended. He was surprised that when he turned on her a smile was on his face. He threw the bundle at her, she squeaked, ducked out of the way. Still chuckling, he bent down and picked up the pieces of uniform, undergarment, and socks that had not made it outside of his room.

"You are insane! Crazy! Moon Touched!" Anna screamed from the somewhat questionable safety of some point further down the hall. She was away from his door and the projectiles she expected to erupt from that door.

He walked to the door, arms filled with a light burden; he turned to look at her. Her long brown hair framed her heart shaped face. That face, was red, from disgust, embarrassment, or what he wasn't too sure. The flush on her cheeks made her brown eyes seem darker, almost black, and he smirked. She might wear little more then rags over her form, but she carried herself as bravely as any warrior. Certain that he was armed, that he could attack her with the remains of his garments, she stood her ground. The way she'd spread and locked her legs ever so slightly –much like a soldier would brace themselves in the trench before the charge of the enemy- marked that no matter what he threw she'd dodge and probably come after him if he dared attack.

"I am giving you incentive, Ms. Anna." He said coolly, and to hell with his expressionless act, he'd let her see his satisfaction. "I am giving you incentive that –unable to beat you as is proper- will impact you. Clean, or deal with the smell and filth."

"Oh, that was really smart, where are you going to sleep? Oh and how are you going to get out of your room in the morning after I prop that-" She stared at the large mattress and made a circling motion with one hand, as if to surround the word she was striving to express. "-thing against your door?"

"I have a window and a balcony." He smirked. "I'll climb down, and I've slept on worse places then the floor. Good night, Ms. Anna."

He then dropped the last of his garments on the ground and slammed his door.

"Goddess. Damned. Bastard." Anna hissed, clenching her hands into fists as he lazily had just snatched victory from her.

The door opened and she glared at Kratos as he poked his head out to smile at her, his white gloved hand slipped out from the sanctuary of the room. He laid a small bottle, a spool of white and black thread, a few bars of soap, and number of cloths at the front of the door, then as an after thought pulled off his long fingered gloves of snow white and tossed them to the floor.

"Get to work, host body."

The door closed again, and then hissed as he used one of those Desian lock things to make sure she stayed out.

"I hope when you climb down tomorrow you fall, you bastard!"