Nathor eased himself down beside Ka-Lan in the warmth of the growing daylight.
“Earned yourself a night in the cellars, I hear?”
Ka-Lan had found himself a place in the sun. But he felt a shiver down his back at the memory. He wanted to say he’d earned nothing, he’d done nothing. But he kept his silence. Ashamed that a night down there had got to him so deeply. Demoralising. Worrying. That she was robbing him of his happy-go-lucky state-of mind.
Tense. Tense all the time he was under her control. She was getting to him. The bitch kept upping her game. And he was increasingly struggling to fend off her assaults. Powerless. After she’d finished with him that last time, she had him sent down into the cellars. She was never content. Not enough to muck him about .. torment him .. humiliate him. She needed that shaming to last. Making him feel powerless. Grinding his nose in his helplessness.
Wipe out any last vestige of manliness in him. Belittle him. Commit him to an eternal night in the despair of the dungeons. Ka-Lan could still feel the chill in his bones despite the warmth of the sun. The coldness of her heart had taken up home deep in his guts.
“It broke him .. the last one .. your predecessor ……”
Nathor shrugged as he glanced at Ka-Lan.
“A few sessions down there .. never the same again ……”
It had been bitterly cold down there. Where they stored their wines. In the chill underground where they kept cold their shanks of meat. By the time her pair of thugs had barged him down through endless tunnels .. sinking ever deeper underground .. Ka-Lan’s bare flesh was already shivering. Nothing he could do to stop it. Or the sinking feelings that hit him when they reached the cave and he saw the cross.
An evil X-shape that greeted him .. mocking any strength of will he might have been harbouring. Deep-planted in the earth. Solid, unmoveable. Inescapable. Ka-Lan shivered Was it the cold? Certainly. But those tell-tale stains of blood seeped into the wood did not help.
The guards themselves had dressed for the cold. They’d thrown thick felt cloaks around them. But still they wasted no time down there. Uncaringly his back was slammed against the cross. Firm. Solid as ice against his bare back. Roughly they stretched his wrists to the cross’ outspread arms. He offered resistance. A fist found his nuts. Punched hard. Still doubled up with shock and pain .. his reactions slowed down by the intense cold .. Ka-Lan felt his ankles gruffly yanked apart. Biting straps secured them to the legs of the malevolent cross.
“Mistress calls you a pain-in-the-arse.”
The words were followed by the thud into his bare gut. The hard fist drove the wind out of his belly. Her criticism made clear.
The fist found exactly the same spot. Just below Ka-Lan’s navel. The look of determination on the guard’s face was matched by the force that drove Ka-Lan’s back into the cross.
“Looking. Getting an eyeful in where those gawking eyes don’t belong.”
Ka-Lan was strong in the belly. His strength had fended off killer-blows there. But with the cold .. shivering .. and the sheer bloody-mindedness of the sister’s loyal guards .. the third blow seemed to drive through to his backbone. Jerking forward, doubling up with the pain. Then jarred back upright by the restraints on his wrists. Pain sizzling down his arms.
Grabbing the chance of Ka-Lan’s shock, the guard landed a parting shot .. low-down. Ka-Lan yelled out .. unable to stop himself. His knees giving way.
“Watch yourself. Cocksucker.”
The guard grabbed Ka-Lan by the jawline. He was still gasping, heaving the wind back into his lungs. The grip tightened. Squeezing a grimace into his eyes. Nervous he stared into the guard’s bad breath on his face. Anticipating. Tense for the sudden movement that heralded the next punch.
“Or you’ll answer to me.”
Another punch didn’t land. They left him. Turned on their heels and left Ka-Lan in the chilly cellar .. without a word. Without a backward glance of sadistic pleasure. Getting out of there .. fucking-fast. Too fucking-chilly .. withdrawing up to warmer levels. Back to the heat of the kitchens. Warming themselves with doing over a few slave girls.
Ka-Lan was left .. every inch of his bare torso exposed. Stuck in the near-darkness underground. The chill seeping into him from the air. Dismay entering every cell of his body .. as he froze.