"Is this truly what you Saiyans want? More bloodshed on your soil? Countless more women and children mourning over the loss of their husbands and fathers? Simply because the five of you before me cannot give in? Or have your simple monkey brains not learned to comprehend the concept of defeat?" said the lizard, with the child's throat held in a vice-like grip the entire time.

Still the five lords sat silent and resolute, none of them so much as flinching at the sounds of the child struggling within the demon's grasp.

"So none of you is willing to comply? Oh well, parting is such sweet sorrow some say,now you can learn the grief of your subjects," said the lizard, closing his fist and crushing the child's trachea.

The child's eyes were held in shock and rolled back into his head, saliva and blood was forming at the child's limp mouth and slowly dribbling down its front, as the last death rattles cast out from the young child's lungs.

Bardock bolted upright panting, his body felt hot and his skin prickled to the slightest of breezes. Sweat cascaded from his forehead and the crevice of his back. Thin bed sheets clung to him as he struggled to catch his breath, his temples aching and pulsing to the touch. A far-off sunrise was barely kissing the horizon as beams of light shone into Bardock's bedroom. Bardock felt at the mound of sheets beside him searching for his wife, but it was to no avail. Training again, I see; she puts in more hours than I do.

Ambling his legs over the corner of his bed, Bardock probed at the cold floor beneath him with his toes before hoisting himself out of bed. As Bardock walked over to the wash basin, he caught a glimpse of himself in a mirror. All the colour had rushed from his face, the usual tan complexion was pale and gaunt, almost corpse-like. It only helped to exacerbate the streaks of silver that were starting to crop up near his brow, which wasn't in much better shape. Skin that was once smooth and supple had become picked at by scars and wrinkles, the frown marks upon his forehead now a permanent feature.

Grabbing a preheated jug off the side of the basin, Bardock proceeded to fill it with the piping hot water and scrubbing the sweat from his brow. Just a nightmare, that's it. No point losing it over a nightmare, Bardock thought to himself. But why does my body tense up whenever I think of it? This has never happened and can't happen, no child amongst the houses is that young that we know of. Pull it together Bardock, just because you got to your 60s means you can start being paranoid. After drying his face and dressing, Bardock made his way down to the living quarters below. Outside, his wife Mikan was hammering away at yet another training droid, while his commander Tora looked on whilst shouting instruction.

"Pivot your knee and lean into the strike. Now counter with your off hand and follow up with your trailing leg," barked Tora as Bardock sat down beside him.

"Well, you look like hammered shit. She give you a rough night or don't you want to talk about it?" questioned Tora, poking fun at his lord.

"I don't want to talk about it," said Bardock defeatedly

"It's not this business with Umber is it? The man's treacherous at best, and I'd rather go into combat with a target-laser sighted onto me, but we need him if this is to work."

"That's just it. How do I barter with someone who has no need for wealth or possessions? All the man cares about is fucking and furthering his bastard progeny, and I have no daughters of my own to offer him. Then there's the matter of Vegeta's spawn being held in the vault," sighed Bardock pinching at the bridge of his nose.

"You might be lacking in daughters, but he certainly isn't, and you have one surviving son to offer him," said Tora still keeping his eye on Mikan's movements.

"Kakarot is either half way across the galaxy or buried deep the same as his brother, so yet again, Tora, we are firmly back to square one. Any more bright ideas or are you finished for the day?" asked Bardock exasperatedly.

"Have you given any thought to how we are going to free the young Vegeta?" asked Tora.

"What? Don't be insane, there's no escaping the vault. Even if there were, Zarbon has the main bulk of his forces garrisoned there. How is this supposed to help the situation with Umber?"

"It isn't, but there is no point pondering on something you don't know. Compare how many marriages you've arranged to the amount of sieges you've won; one needs a woman's touch, the other a warrior's," said Tora smiling at his stroke of brilliance.

Pieces of metal debris scattered at the feet of Bardock and Tora, as the disembodied head of the sparring droid made its rest at Bardock's toe. The rest of its body dropped to its knees in a sparking heap of bruised metal, Mikan's long leg still thigh-deep in its chest cavity.

"Isn't it obvious my lord? The tyrant only keeps an eye on the lords to make sure they are not plotting. Their spouses on the other hand aren't paid so much attention," said Mikan removing herself from the droid. "I will go as an envoy to Umber. If marriage must be part of this bargain, than I shall be certain to pick our son a decent bride, something that you, my good husband, are lacking in."

"I married you, didn't I?" teased Bardock.

"If I recall it was the other way around, and it was between you and Tora. But in the end you were large where it counted," said Mikan winking as she walked back into the compound.

"Moving on from that, I suggest we start making some plans on raiding the vault," said Tora, still blushing. "Vegeta isn't the only one of value in there: small lords, councillors, weapons traders. That tyrant couldn't possibly lay blame at anyone's door if we released them al,l since every house has something to gain from their release."

"And in return, we remove a bargaining chip and gain some allies in the process. The only thing that could hinder this is manpower. We would have to take an entire battalion just to break through the vault's outer walls, and that's before any fighting has begun. No, we need something more covert. Maximum firepower with minimum manpower," frowned Bardock, thinking.

"I know it seems drastic, but have you thought of Paragus and his son? There is something in that boy that isn't quite right; in the tournaments when he was younger, he put down renowned warriors with little effort. Even the last time house Vegeta and house Paragus nearly went to war, plans were being put in place to eliminate the boy."

"No, Paragus can't be trusted. He is far too bloodthirsty, and if releasing Vegeta meant he had a chance at killing him personally, he would take the opportunity to do so. No, let him stay on the Islands of End where he belongs," said Bardock.

"Then I hope that child's will is strong. It will take a miracle to get him out of there."

I have lost count of the months I have been kept imprisoned in this nightmare, the shackles that once held tight to my wrists have now grown loose and worn. The strength that I once prided upon myself to break these shackles has left my withered muscles. Each day the hatch will open once and only once to serve up the putrid slop that has contorted and diseased my insides to nothingness.

I used to look forward to being fed once. My gut would call out in anguish for the festering scraps of meat that were presented on my plate. My cracked lips, so cratered and wet only with blood, would hungrily gulp down the sulphur-tinged water just to cease the crying of the thirst in my throat.

These days, I only look forward to that hatch being opened on the off chance that a fresh breeze would caress my face, that my eyes might see something more than the endless maddening darkness. That my withered hands might feel something other than the cold kiss of steel upon my flesh, but now the end is upon me and I have made my peace. The many silent goodbyes to forgotten friends, and the welcomes of lost ones I am soon to meet. Yes, I am at peace.

"Old bastard finally snuffed it. And to think he's only in here because of one small slight against our king. Time of death...13:46, name unknown, known allegiance to house Vegeta. Oh, I am sorry little lordling, one less ally for you to rely on. My, my, they are dwindling lately," chuckled the jailer.

Vegeta had been removed from his cell, his relief, however, short lived as he had been moved from a coffin for a cell, to a crucifix for a bed. Vegeta's shackles had been made tighter to accommodate for his weight loss during his incarceration, his eyes covered with a wet rag so as to steal from him the sunlight he so craved. Vegeta's mouth had been gagged after his constant attempts to bite guards during his transfer, the splintered wood cutting into his already decimated lips. Gnawing could be heard from inside it, as woodworm burrowed it's way through the gag. The sound was deafening to Vegeta; after weeks of constant silence in his cell, it was beginning to echo and rattle around his skull. The maddening constant gnawing was causing him to fidget in his bonds, which again opened up the old wounds in his wrists, before he was blinded by the sudden removal of his blindfold.

The sun's rays were dazzling to Vegeta after having been deprived of the sight of light for so long, its red glow burning into Vegeta's cornea.

"Two months, twenty six days, and 11 hours since your last glimpse of sunlight, Vegeta, and all you can do is writhe at its beauty. No wonder you still have tails if such a primitive thing as a sunrise makes you react like this. Here let me remove that gag. Biting me would be ill advised if that pretty jaw of yours wishes to stay intact," chuckled Zarbon while removing the wooden gag from Vegeta's mouth.

Vegeta began to sputter and choke as he rushed to fill his lungs with somewhat fresh air, spittle and phlegm erupted from his chest in his haste.

"Now, now, just because you have the tail of a monkey doesn't mean you can act like one," Zarbon chuckled again.

"J-just because you have a ponytail like a woman doesn't mean you have to wiggle your a-ass at anyone who walks by," Vegeta chuckled weakly.

As the sentence left his lips, Zarbon had already implanted his fist into the young Saiyan's jaw, blood and teeth flying from Vegeta's mouth as his chuckles turned again to choking.

"Hilarious, young lord, but you see, I am in a bit of predicament. I know you aren't afraid of pain and all my threats fall on deaf ears. So how best to torture someone like you…? Well, this device you are currently strapped into has more than the function of being uncomfortable. You see, the mind is such a fickle thing. All those thoughts and emotions, all the memories you ever had, are basically an electrical signal, and as you know, it is easy to tamper with signals. For instance, with a touch of a button I can make any of your fears reality, such as - oh, I don't know - burning to death," said Zarbon menacingly, pressing one of the buttons on the contraption Vegeta was attached to.

Before Vegeta's eyes, his skin started to bubble as it was enveloped in flames, the shock of it making him cry out in pain as he struggled against his restraints in desperation to get free. The sharpened shackles cut into Vegeta's skin, and began to cascade blood from his wrists, which itself caught fire as his body was engulfed by fire. Blackened and charred skin was now starting to fall from Vegeta's body, revealing nothing but exposed muscle and bone beneath it as the fire continued to consume him. Then, with another press of the same button, the flames were extinguished; the only damage caused to Vegeta was the now gaping wound from his wrists where he struggled to get free of his restraints.

"Oh, yes Vegeta. I have only just began to explore your mind"

It isn't quite a Christmas miracle, but look another chapter is complete after months of doing nothing

Thank you Jo for beta reading and making me get off my ass an write for it.

Till next time, toodles