Chapter 3 - Confinement

Master Templar Drey Calder stood in his slave quarters, considering the occupant of the cell in front of him. The mage had initially served under the legendary Grand Templar Trace Legacy, but, after Trace's mysterious disappearance several months ago, he'd decided to pursue more personal interests, and chartered the construction of a new Tower here in Athkatla while the Templar hierarchy was still leaderless and in disarray, breaking away from the main Templar body and taking several dozen followers with him. Construction went smoothly, and soon, the Tower was complete. There was some public disagreement, led by several individuals who saw the construction of Calder's Tower as a grab for individual power, but the Templar quickly saw to it that they were silenced. The people had been quite passive since then, though rumors of an underground resistance continued to buzz around him like a gnat he couldn't swat.

Now, with a solid seat of power distant from the main Templar dominion and his own small, yet fearsome, private military, Calder had turned the city of Athkatla into a fortress city-state, expanding its borders and establishing profitable overseas trade routes. His army led several raids on the keidran territory just to the south, bringing back both resources and slaves to be put to work on the docks and farms. Instead of re-taking the territory, the new Grand Templar decided to allow Calder to keep his city, viewing it as a buffer zone against the increasingly hostile keidran nations. The King had no dissentions.

Over six feet tall, Calder himself was an imposing man. His black hair was cut short and often looked unkempt, sticking out in random spots. Though not especially talented, his fifteen years in the Templar Order had given him much experience in the magical arts. His skills, combined with his ambition, had served him well in the last few months.

Suddenly, the keidran inside the cell began to stir, rustling the hay-covered floor beneath it. It looked around in confusion, hand rubbing the back of its head. Calder smiled. His spells had succeeded in pulling the keidran out of its maddened state, and it simply sat there, disoriented.

"Hello," the Templar called in keidran, grinning.

The keidran looked around a few more times, then looked directly at him. It stood up clumsily and grabbed hold of the bars of the cell, yelling, "Where am I? Who the hell are you?!"

"My name is of no consequence right now, since you'll be calling me 'master' from here on in," responded Calder, "As for where you are, you're in my slave quarters. I hope they've given you a comfortable rest."

The keidran slammed his fist against the bars, "Bastard! You're the one who attacked my home aren't you?! The one who killed-."

It quit speaking as Calder raised his hand, encircling the other's throat with shimmering blue chords of magic. The keidran clawed uselessly at the air around its neck, trying to escape.

"Well, that kind of behaviour is quite unbecoming for a slave," the Templar said through gritted teeth. He flexed the fingers of his outstretched hand, and the cords constricting the keidran's throat migrated to its wrists and ankles, holding it immobile in the air.

Calder flicked his wrist, and the slave floated toward him until they were less than three palms from each other, face-to-face.

"Usually, I just place a control spell over my slaves; they'll just serve without question until the energies of the tower permanently indoctrinate them," he continued with a mocking grin, "I think I'll forgo that method in favor of the more entertaining one; I'll break you myself. I won't suppress you're will; it's unsatisfying. Instead I'll shatter it into a million pieces."

He flicked his wrist again, and the keidran moved a short distance away from him. A luminescent blue whip materialized in his hand.

"And here's the first step in the process!"

Suddenly, the keidran spun halfway around, and Calder swung the lash.

The translucent whip cut through the air in an instant, slashing across the keidran's shoulder blades with a sharp crack. Its back arched painfully, and its head snapped up, mouth open in a silent scream and eyes clenched shut tightly. Small streams of blood ran down from the wound, dripping onto the stone floor.

The whip cracked again, and a second wound appeared, following the spine. The keidran seemed to regain its voice, emitting strangled cries of pain between labored gasps.

Another crack, followed by more cries of pain.

Ather several more lashes, and the keidran fell limp in its bonds, the pain overcoming it.

The whip disappeared from Calder's grasp. He raised his hand again, and his captive began to gravitate toward its cell, but then the Templar stopped.

"Hmm. I think I'll put this one with the other. I bet he'll appreciate the company."

He moved down the length of the building to the last cell on his left, then unlocked the gate and threw it open, startling the sleeping figure laying in the back corner.

Calder took no notice of it, and casually tossed the tiger into the cell with a flick of his wrist, where it lay face down and bloodstained.

Without a word, he re-locked the gate and left, slamming the door shut behind him.

Flashing colors and fleeting shapes danced in front of Dranz's eyes as his consciousness slowly returned. He forced his heavy eyelids open, finding himself lying face-down in the darkness, on a floor that felt like it was covered with straw. His thoughts felt sluggish and disorganized, and he fought to dissipate the haze permeating his mind. Shaking his head in a effort to focus, he glanced upward, revealing a cracked ceiling through which moonlight seeped. He followed the beams of light down until he could see the glint of metal, produced by a heavy iron bar intersecting the light. His eyes adjusting to the dark, he could now see numerous other bars, forming a wall that enclosed him inside a small room. A heavy padlock sealed a small gate on the bars, obstructing the one way of escape.

Placing his palms on the ground, Dranz forced himself from the floor. Instantly, he felt something tear on his back, followed by a flash of blinding pain. A gasp escaped his throat and the strength fled his arms, allowing the body they supported to fall back to the floor, defeated. The fiery agony subsided, replaced with a dull throbbing pain that spiked with every beat of his heart. He ran a hand along his back, feeling hard, crisscrossing lines of coagulated blood, long scabs covering woulds inflicted by the lashing he had endured. One of them had been ripped halfway from his skin, wrenched off by his sudden attempt to rise. Blood flowed in small rivulets from the freshly opened laceration, staining the white fur on his palm a dark crimson.

"You really should not try to move too much," said a soft voice from the back of the room, "You need to rest and give time for your wounds to heal."

Dranz's ears perked at the sound, and he craned his neck to the left, attempting to see behind him without moving the rest of his body. Through the gloom surrounding him, he could see a figure sitting in the far left corner of the room, legs drawn up and arms hugging its knees.

"Who's there?" he called into the darkness, the sound reverberating off the cell's nearly bare walls.

After a tense silence, the figure gracefully rose to a stand, feet rustling the dry material covering the floor. Slowly, it began walking toward him. Dranz kept his gaze constantly rising, fixed on the silhouette's head as it approached. The figure strode into the stream of moonlight pouring from the crack in the roof.

Before him stood a fox keidran girl, slightly shorter than he, staring down at him with eyes that were reminiscent of dark jewels; entrancing, but revealing nothing of what lay beyond them, and her expression showed just as little. She carried a solemn aura with her, like someone who had recently attended the scattering of a friend's ashes. She wore what looked like a worn cloth sack, extending from her shoulders down to the middle of her upper legs. The dark red-orange fur of her arms transitioned to coal-black as it approached her hands, which she kept folded neatly in front of her. Her posture suggested that she had been carved of living stone; she stood completely straight with no signs of slouching, and even her tail remained completely motionless, lacking even the smallest involuntary twitch.

She remained completely silent as she knelled to examine Dranz's re-opened wound, placing her fingers on his back for reference. The tiger keidran gritted his teeth, feeling the pressure induce small spikes of pain.

"This gash will need fresh bandages," the girl said, finally breaking the silence with a voice barely louder than a whisper, "Don't move."

She stood again, this time striding over to the room's right wall. After a moment of rummaging through a small, half-rotted wooden cabinet, she returned to Dranz's side, holding a roll of thin white cloth, which didn't exactly look clean.

Without another word, the girl knelled again, unraveled a length of cloth and tore it off, placing the roll onto the floor next to her. She carefully laid the strip of fabric onto the still bleeding wound on the tiger keidran's back; the blood quickly soaked into the white cloth, staining it dark red. Dranz screwed up his face, taking a deep breath.

He exhaled by speaking. "You still did not answer my question," he said, "Who are you?"

The girl met his gaze squarely, attempting to discern as much about him as she could. She blinked slowly, "I am called Mira here," she said simply, "Master Calder says he finds it cute."

"I don't care about the reasons that bastard gave you a human name," declared Dranz, hissing the word as though it were a curse, "What is your birth name? The one given to you by your mother and father."

She continued to hold her gaze. Dranz felt as if those dark eyes were boring into him.

"I can no longer remember it," she said thoughtfully, "It has been too long since I could use it."

She blinked again, "What is yours?"

"My name is Dranz," responded the other keidran, "I lived in forest south of here until that beast you call 'Master' wiped out my village." The rage in his voice was palpable, the words rolling off his tongue like a boulder down a mountainside.

Mira listened intently, dissecting his tone and body language.

She looked down and lowered her eyelids, "So, he did not put a control spell upon you?"

Dranz adjusted his arms beneath him, propping his torso up slightly, "No. He says he wants to break me himself; to destroy my will instead of simply suppress it," he grimaced as if he'd eaten something rotten, "I'll die before that happens."

Mira lowered her gaze further, nearly looking straight down at the floor.

"Don't," she said, quieter than ever, the word lacking any sort of inflection.

Dranz threw a puzzled glance at her, "Don't what?"

"Don't try to resist," she said, "I have... seen this happen before. He'll put you through the worst tortures imaginable, and force you to live through them. He will not allow you to die." Dranz opened his mouth to argue, but the fox keidran cut him off, "No, please just listen. Simply do as you are told, do not refuse any order he gives you or attempt to escape," her voice remained steady as she spoke, any variation in tone unnoticeable, "Please, you must trust me."

Dranz stared incredulously. Was she asking him to simply lay down and allow himself to be trodden on? After all Calder had done to him? He could not allow such a thing; the Templar had already gotten away with enough, and Dranz would not allow himself to suffer such an injustice. He'd fight back, and he'd fight with all his strength.

Mira looked at him pleadingly. She seemed to notice the fire in the tiger keidran's eyes.

"Please, consider it," she said, standing up, "I will leave you to rest for the night. You need sleep to recuperate." She walked back over to her corner, where a thin cot was spread upon the floor. Using her hands for a pillow, she lay down sideways on the cot, facing the cell's back wall.

"Sleep well," she said.

Dranz grumbled a response and lowered himself back to the floor. Sleep that night was fleeting and restless, images of recent events refusing to give him peace.

And so ends chapter 3. Sorry if it's a bit shorter than my last one.

Hope you enjoyed it.