I'm not 100% sure what I think of this one...I found it more difficult to write because I prefer to have stuff happen to Darc (because he's my favorite....odd I know) but all the same, I've done it ^_^ for Chaos who I know enjoys a little Kharg mistreatment and for Elfwench who requested it. Just drop me a review or private message if you want a fourth installment...I may write it anyway but I'm not sure yet, seeing as it took me so long to get this one done!!
Warnings: mild violence
Disclaimer: none of the characters belong to me, I make no profit from this.
'Are you sure this is the right way?' Kharg questioned, not for the first time, as his brother continued to lead them through the forest.
'I thought I told you not to ask me that again!' Darc growled, his voice clearly coloured with irritation.
The former prince let out a heavy, exasperated sigh; he was beginning to wish he had decided against accompanying his brother on this particular expedition. His darker counterpart had insisted that it was only a short trek through Sabnak Forest to reach Orcoth, but he estimated that they had been walking for the best part of three hours now. They appeared to be following no clear path, his brother seeming to repeatedly veer off in random directions through thick undergrowth and densely-packed vegetation. The heavy, humid heat had begun to go to his head and had caused his clothes to stick uncomfortably to his body. To make matters worse, Darc had grown increasingly tense and distracted throughout the journey, leaving Kharg with an unshakable sense of foreboding.
He had made the decision to join his brother on this trip to Aldrow two days before, when Darc had demanded the use of Big Owl. The darker male had stated that he wanted to return to Orcoth in order to check up on how Delma was managing things in his absence, his last visit to Drakyrnia having lead to an extended stay in Yewbell. Kharg had been reluctant to agree, concerned over his twin's abysmal lack of knowledge when faced with human technology and the possibility that, even if Darc did somehow manage to safely land the airship on Aldrow, he may then decide not to bring it back. When confronted with these objections, his twin had suggested that Kharg come with him. At the time, the blond had thought this to be a reasonable solution and had agreed but now, feeling hot, irritable and beginning to suspect that Darc had managed to get them lost, he was sincerely wishing he had chosen to stay behind.
Just as he was about to question again whether his brother was sure they had taken the correct route, the darker male came to a sudden halt.
'What is it?' Kharg asked, drawing level with his twin.
'Look, just a little way ahead, that's Orcoth,' Darc pointed with his clawed hand.
'Great,' the blond let out a sigh of relief, sweeping his sweat-dampened hair out of his eyes in order to get a better look at the somewhat ramshackle settlement just visible in the distance, 'let's get going then.'
The lighter twin began to stride forward with renewed vigour, eager to leave the damp clinging heat of the forest behind him. However, he had gone no more than a few steps when he felt something wrap tightly around his wrist and, before he could register what was happening, found himself being pulled forcefully back in the direction he had come from. White-hot stars of pain exploded in his head as he collided violently with the trunk of a near-by tree, the force of the crash wrenching his breath from his body. He managed to let out a strangled cry as his arm was pulled up sharply behind his back.
'Darc, what the hell are you doing?' the former prince chocked out through gritted teeth.
'Just shut up and keep still,' the darker male grunted from behind him.
Kharg felt something cool and metallic slide against the hot flesh of his neck and began to struggle against Darc's grasp. His brother gave his arm another sharp tug in response, eliciting a low moan of pain from the lighter twin.
'I told you not to move!' the half-Drakyr spat menacingly.
Deciding he'd be better off doing as he was instructed, Kharg remained still as Darc began to fumble with whatever was now encircling his throat. He heard a muted clicking sound before the darker male stepped away from him and, attempting to fight back the waves of dizziness caused by his collision with the tree, the former prince slowly turned to face him. Kharg found his brother smirking darkly, the end of what appeared to be a length of chain clutched in his more human-looking hand.
As realisation hit him, Kharg clenched his jaw and took a deep, steadying breath in an attempt to cool his anger before addressing his brother.
'Darc, this is ridiculous. Just take it off,' Kharg intoned, fingering the collar that was now locked about his neck.
'I don't think so. It would be dangerous for you to enter Orcoth without it. Many of the Orcons have lost kin and comrades to you humans and if I let you wander around freely I wouldn't be able to guarantee your safety.'
'Come on, Darc, we both know that just isn't true. You're their leader, if you tell them to leave me alone they will. Besides, human-deimos relationships are strengthening all the time, if you take me in there like this the Orcons are gonna think it's ok to treat humans this way, it would be damaging to the work being done to bring our races together,' the blond persisted.
'You didn't think that was important when we were in Dilzweld, did you! Or is it just that you think it's acceptable to treat Deimos like this?' Darc snarled, crimson eyes flashing dangerously.
'You know I didn't mean it like that,' Kharg sighed, 'what happened in Dilzweld wasn't my idea, remember? Besides, that happened over a month ago, you're just being vindictive.'
'I'm doing this for your own good,' the darker male smirked, repeating the words his brother had used when the situation had been reversed.
'If it's really such a problem then I'll take Big Owl over to Cathena and check up on how the rebuilding of the city's going, I can come back for you in the morning.'
'You can try finding your way back through the forest if you want, but I don't like your chances,' Darc sneered.
Kharg thought back to the convoluted route his brother had taken them and the reason for this suddenly became clear. The half-Drakyr had obviously made it as complicated as possible so that he would be unable to remember the way. With a sigh of frustration, Kharg realised this was one situation he couldn't talk his way out of. He briefly contemplated tackling his twin in an attempt to retrieve the key to the collar, but remembering what had happened when Darc had tried that, he thought better of it.
'Fine,' the former prince spoke at length through firmly gritted teeth, 'If this is the only way you're going to let the Dilzweld incident go, then let's get on with it.'
'That's better. Just remember to shut the hell up and do as you're told while we're in Orcoth or this will end badly for you,' Darc smirked, giving the leash a fierce tug.
As Kharg allowed his brother to lead him in the direction of the settlement, he mentally kicked himself for not realising he was walking into a trap. The darker male was remarkably transparent when it came to what he was thinking and feeling and while the former prince had noted Darc's tense, distracted mood, he had mistakenly assumed it was because he had lead them on an incorrect route through the forest. Exhaling deeply, the former prince began to wish he had been more sympathetic when their situations had been reversed. There was no doubt in his mind that the half-deimos intended to make his stay in Orcoth as miserable as possible. However, Kharg was resolute that no matter what happened, he would not give his twin the satisfaction of knowing how uncomfortable he was with being treated like an animal; he would endure the situation with dignity.
Word of their arrival spread quickly as Kharg followed his brother into Orcoth and it was not long before a group of the settlement's inhabitants began to move in their direction. Taking a deep breath, the former prince braced himself against whatever ordeal was to come.
'Welcome back, Darc!' one of the Orcons moved forward to greet their leader.
'Hmm,' the half-Drakyr grunted in response, 'where's Delma?'
'At the arena,' the Orcon replied before casting his eyes curiously in the lighter twin's direction, 'what's that you have with you?'
'This?' Darc shrugged, giving the leash a sharp tug that caused Kharg to stumble forward, 'it's nothing. Just something that belongs to me.'
'You own that human?' someone else spoke up.
'That's right,' the darker twin replied fiercely, 'it belongs to me, and that means you leave it alone. I don't want to find any of you attempting to damage my property, is that clear?'
'Huh, your property,' Kharg couldn't help smiling in amusement as a murmur of consent spread through the crowd.
Without warning, Darc whipped around and seized the blond's jaw firmly in his left hand, claws digging into the soft flesh of his brother's face as he tilted it towards him.
'What the hell did you just say to me?' The half-Drakyr spat, 'I don't recall giving you permission to talk! You don't speak unless you're spoken to, do you understand?'
'Yes!' Kharg hissed in reply, too surprised to argue.
'Good,' Darc growled before turning back to the crowd, 'Now, I have business to attend to and I don't expect to be disturbed.'
The group of Orcons slowly began to disperse as their leader turned away from them and headed in the direction of the arena.
'Was that really necessary?' Kharg questioned once they were alone, rubbing his face where his brother's claws had dug into him.
'Of course it was, they're hardly going to believe you're my property if I let you talk back to me,' the darker male threw his brother a sly smile.
'We both know it isn't necessary for them to believe it, your only motivation is revenge. Misguided revenge, at that,' the former prince sighed.
'I don't know where you got that idea from,' Darc grunted as he came to a stop in front of the arena, 'now, just sit here and be quiet until I get back.'
'Why can't I just come in with you?' Kharg asked, not feeling entirely comfortable with being left alone in a deimos settlement despite his earlier assertions that the Orcons wouldn't harm him.
'Because I have business to attend to that doesn't concern you, now shut up and do as you're told.'
'Fine,' Kharg rolled his eyes and sat down on the floor outside the arena's entrance.
Darc looped the leash through a sturdy metal ring embedded in the wall before removing a padlock from the pack he was carrying and securing the chain in place.
'Behave while I'm gone,' the half-deimos smirked before roughly tousling his brother's hair and disappearing inside the arena.
Sighing wearily, the lighter twin attempted to smooth his hair back into place and prepared himself to wait for Darc's return. He closed his eyes and leaned his head against the wall behind him, feeling hot, tired and more than a little irritated with the stunt his twin had pulled.
He hadn't been sitting there long when the sound of voices and approaching footsteps caught his attention. Cracking one eye open, Kharg took in the small group of deimos that had begun to gather a short distance away from him.
'So Darc has a human slave now?' one of the Orcons questioned.
'Looks like it,' another replied.
'Well, I wish he hadn't bought it here. I'm prepared to accept that humans are no longer our enemies but that doesn't mean I want to associate with them. Just look at it, it's disgusting!'
Kharg clenched his jaw firmly and willed himself to remain silent. Although Darc was short-tempered and intransigent, he had also been forced to endure the kind of treatment his brother was now facing for most of his life and was therefore used to it. Kharg, on the other hand, had been bought up as royalty and was accustomed to being well-liked and respected. While the darker twin had been far from happy during their brief visit to Dilzweld he had, for the most part, been able to effectively assume the role of the former prince's property. Kharg, however, was finding it more difficult than he had expected.
'I agree,' another of the Orcons spoke up, 'now the place will reek of humans...it stinks!'
'First of all, I do not stink,' Kharg retorted indignantly, unable to remain silent any longer, 'and secondly, hasn't anyone ever told you that it's rude to talk about someone as though they don't exist when they're sitting right in front of you?'
The group of Orcons fell silent for a moment before bursting into peals of raucous laughter.
'Listen to that, it thinks it has the right to tell us what we should and shouldn't do!' one of the males choked out in amusement.
'It seems Darc hasn't trained it very thoroughly yet, I'm sure he told it earlier not to speak unless it was spoken to.'
Cheeks flushed pink with humiliation, the former prince turned his face away from his tormentors and attempted to block out their insults as they continued to discuss him as though he wasn't there. He could tell it was going to be a very long day.
It was several hours before Darc finally emerged from the arena, during which time Kharg had been subjected to a near constant stream of Orcons eager to examine and insult him. Despite the lighter twin's earlier resolve to remain calm and dignified throughout his ordeal his usual easy-going attitude was quickly giving way to flustered irritation.
'It's about time,' the former prince huffed, getting to his feet as his brother approached him.
'You shouldn't talk to your master like that,' an amused female voice sounded out from behind the half-Drakyr.
Kharg turned to take in the familiar form of the Orcon girl, her face split in a teasing grin that revealed her razor-sharp fangs.
'Delma,' Kharg greeted her.
'Hey, you're absolutely right,' the girl ignored him, directing her comments to Darc whilst taking a firm hold on the blond man's chin 'he does make a good pet. The collar really suits him.'
Kharg felt his face grow hot under the Orcon's taunting gaze and attempted to pull away from her.
'That isn't very friendly now, is it?' Delma teased, 'you really ought to teach him some manners, Darc.'
'Hmm,' Darc grunted, the hint of a smile twitching the corners of his lips, 'we need to get going. It's getting late.'
'You're taking him there now?' the Orcon girl questioned.
'Yeah, it's quite a walk and I still need to get back, remember.'
'Fine, but I get to hold the leash until you head out of Orcoth,' Delma grinned.
'Knock yourself out,' Darc replied, handing her the key to the padlock.
Shoulders slumped dejectedly, Kharg followed the Orcon girl as she took up the leash and began to lead him towards the entrance of the settlement. As they walked through the streets of Orcoth, Kharg was sure the inhabitants were watching him and no doubt making derogatory observations as he passed by. Thinking back to their visit to Dilzweld, Kharg felt a twinge of guilt for not acknowledging how degrading the experience must have been for Darc. If he hadn't been so annoyed with his brother at that moment, he would have apologised.
'Hey, Darc!' A voice called out to them just as they were about to mount the steps that would lead them to Orcoth's entrance.
'What?' Darc grunted, turning to face whoever had spoken as Delma and Kharg came to a standstill.
'Just thought you'd like to know, that human of yours was talking out of line earlier. It was trying to tell us what to do and actually had the audacity to call us rude!' one of the Orcons the blond had encountered earlier in the day replied, a look of dark amusement on his face.
'Is that so?' Darc questioned, ruby eyes narrowing in his brothers direction.
'That's right. Thought you might need to punish it or something.'
'I'll punish it, alright,' the Orcon leader replied before turning to his twin and smacking him hard across the back of the head, 'what did I tell you about talking?'
'...Only speak when I'm spoken to,' Kharg replied through gritted teeth, glaring at Delma as the girl burst into fits of laughter.
'That's right. You're going to regret not listening to me!' Darc growled as the Orcon male turned away from them with a satisfied grin.
'C'mon,' Delma barked, tugging fiercely on the leash as they continued on their way.
The three of them moved on until they came to the entrance. Coming to a stop, Delma gave a dissatisfied sigh before handing the leash over to Darc.
'You should bring him here more often,' she smirked, 'he looks pretty funny with that haughty expression still stuck on his face while your dragging him around on a leash.'
'Heh, maybe I will,' Darc replied, 'I'll see you back here before long.'
'You be good now,' Delma grinned, patting Kharg firmly on the head.
The former prince threw the girl a black look as Darc pulled him in the direction of Sabnak Forest. Whilst he couldn't deny that he was relieved to be leaving so soon and that his humiliating ordeal was almost at an end, Kharg was slightly puzzled as to why they weren't staying in Orcoth until the following morning. Night was fast approaching and he was worn out; even with the autopilot mechanism he wouldn't want to be flying at night with both of them sleeping, just in case something went wrong.
'Not that I mind, but why are we leaving now? Are we heading back to Big Owl?'
'Don't be ridiculous,' Darc replied, 'It's just not safe for you to stay in Orcoth during the night, someone might decide to kill you while we're sleeping. You'll be better off elsewhere.'
'So where are we going?' the blond asked, confused.
Kharg eyed his brother suspiciously as they continued on through the forest. While it was clear the Orcons still held a deep dislike of humans, he was certain that if Darc ordered them not to kill him they wouldn't go against his word. He had no idea what his brother was planning but the sinking feeling in his chest informed him that he wasn't going to like it.
They had been walking for some time before they came across a flight of rough-hewn steps partially obscured by sprawling undergrowth and the forest that surrounded them.
'This way,' Darc spoke over his shoulder before beginning his ascent.
Shrugging resignedly, Kharg allowed his brother to lead him upwards. The steps gradually gave out onto an outcropping of rock and, as the ramshackle, dilapidated building that had been erected there came into view, the darker male came to an abrupt halt.
'What are you doing?' the former prince questioned when some moments had passed and his brother gave no sign of moving.
'Nothing,' the half-deimos replied gruffly, 'let's go.'
As they passed through the entrance of the building, Kharg thought he saw a shudder run the length of his brother's spine and, glancing around at their surroundings, he couldn't say that he blamed him. The place was dark and dank, the air thick with the smell of decay.
'No-one will bother you out here,' the half-Drakyr spoke coolly, 'the Orcons keep their distance from this place.'
'I'm not surprised,' the blond intoned.
Moving further into the building, they descended a staircase that was slick with the odious moisture which seemed to drip from the walls.
'Darc, you can't seriously mean for us to stay here,' Kharg addressed his brother firmly as he looked around with an expression of undisguised distaste.
The room they had entered was even more ominous than the one they had passed through to reach it; rusted chains hung down from the ceiling, the air felt clammy and chill despite the heat of the forest outside and the only illumination came from the phosphorescent plants which grew in the damp corners, casting their eerie glow against the dripping stone walls.
'I'm not staying here,' Darc replied tensely as he began to loop the leash around one of the manacles attached to the wall, 'you are. I'm going back to Orcoth'
'Ok, that's enough!' Kharg snapped, a note of panic entering his voice, 'I've put up with this ridiculous plot of yours all day but this is going too far! You can't seriously expect me to sleep in a place like this, it's disgusting. Look around you! And is that...is that blood on the walls?'
'It is,' the half-Drakyr replied, his shoulders stiffening as a restive expression slid across his face.
'We're leaving. Now. Unlock the chain immediately. I can't believe you actually expect me to stay here, it isn't fit for rats to sleep in!'
'If I managed it for eight years then I'm sure you can stay here for one night!' Darc suddenly rounded on his twin, eyes blazing, 'spoiled human weakling! I'll be back for you in the morning!'
Turning sharply on his heal, Darc marched furiously out of the dungeon, leaving his startled brother staring speechlessly after him.
'Sleep well?' the darker twin smirked as he entered the dungeon the following morning and took in Kharg's dishevelled appearance.
The blond was sure he looked as bad as he felt; he had spent a sleepless night in the dark and miserable place trying to block out the myriad of unidentifiable noises he could hear moving around him whilst disturbing thoughts of what exactly had taken place in the room filled his mind. He would have felt a lot more comfortable had he been armed.
While part of him wanted to question Darc on his angry disclosure the previous evening, Kharg found that he was still too furious over the way his brother had treated him to speak. He settled instead for throwing the darker male an uncharacteristically black look as he moved to unlock the leash.
'You can consider that your punishment for speaking without permission back in Orcoth,' the half-Drakyr tossed Kharg an amused grin as he pulled himself to his feet.
'Don't even try to pretend you weren't planning this all along,' the lighter twin glared fiercely at his brother, 'and I'd wipe that ridiculous smirk of your face if I were you, because I'm about two seconds away from wiping it off for you.'
'I wouldn't recommend talking to me like that, not while I still have you on a leash,' Darc replied, completely unfazed by the blond's show of aggression.
Although Kharg's fists clenched tightly at his sides, he managed to remain silent as the darker male wrapped the end of the leash around his hand and began to lead them out of the dungeon. He didn't want to spend a moment longer than necessary in the dilapidated dwelling; the cold, damp atmosphere seemed to have permeated his entire body to the extent that he actually missed the heat of the forest outside. He could wait until the collar was removed and they were as far away from the dungeon as possible before he took up his grievances with his brother.
The former prince remained quiescent throughout the greater part of their return journey through Sabnak Forest despite Darc's best efforts to goad him. However, as the darker male jerked harshly on the lead and Kharg found himself staggering, narrowly avoiding falling to his knees for the third time that day, the blond decided he'd had enough. Coming to a stop, he wrapped his hands around the chain of the leash and pulled it sharply towards him, tearing it out of his brother's grasp.
'Right, I've had enough,' Kharg spoke firmly, 'I get your point Darc, I probably should have been more sympathetic in Dilzweld. It's demeaning and humiliating to treat someone like this and I'm sorry, but it wasn't my fault, there was no other way they were gonna let you in. I've put up with your ludicrous behaviour ever since we got here and it's time for it to stop. I never would have left you somewhere like that awful place you took me last night and you know it. Now take this off and apologise.'
The darker male regarded him through narrowed eyes for several moments before he finally let out a disgruntled sigh and reached for the pack he was carrying.
'Fine,' he replied, holding up the key to the collar, 'take it.'
Relieved, Kharg moved forward to take the shining metallic object. Just as he extended his hand in order to remove the key from his brother's grasp, Darc released his hold on it. Both twins watched silently as it fell into the deep, black-watered pool the half-Drakyr had been standing beside before disappearing from view.
'Whoops,' Darc intoned with barely-concealed mirth, 'I guess this means you're stuck with it until we get back to Yewbell.'
Kharg groaned inwardly as images of the half-Drakyr parading him through the streets in front of his people and the whole of the Defence Corps flashed through his mind. Taking in the smug look that quickly spread across his brother's face, the blond felt a hot wave of anger surge through his body.
'Deimos bastard!' the former prince snarled and, springing forward, bought his fist crashing down into Darc's face.
The force of the blow sent the half-Drakyr staggering sideways and, feet skidding on the damp ground beneath him, he was unable to stop himself as he toppled into the brackish water he had dropped the key into just moments before. Kharg's brief flash of anger quickly gave way to amusement as his soaking wet twin reached for the muddy bank in an attempt to pull himself out of the stagnant pool.
'Enjoying your swim?' the blond grinned, moving to the edge of the water and looking down at his brother with his hands placed firmly on his hips.
'Shut the hell up!' Darc spat, clumps of wet hair falling into his eyes.
'Come on,' Kharg shook his head dismissively, taking a firm hold of his brother's arm and heaving the bedraggled-looking deimos out of the water.
'Let go of me!' the darker twin snarled angrily, pulling violently away from the former prince 'You'll pay for that! Just wait until we get back to Yewbell!'
Kharg sighed wearily as Darc seized the leash and began to drag him forcefully in the direction of Big Owl. Watching the filthy water drip from his brother's hair and the way his sodden skirt clung heavily to his legs, something told the lighter twin that his return to Yewbell was not something he was going to look forward to.