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C H A P T E R 01: P A R T 03
He thought he understood this one’s game but even with his refusal to play, he has instead been apologized to and the food has been given to him anyway. It doesn’t make sense. Not once since his capture has any of the other man’s kind ever apologized for the actions they have inflicted upon him, his mate and what others he’d seen of his own people. They have done the complete opposite in fact, acting as if what they’ve subjected him to is within their rights, treating him as he is nothing more than a mindless pet with no free will of his own.
So this… the other man’s words and his contrary actions, they only serve to confuse him more.
The Elkinphyr’s claim of not understanding him interrupts his thoughts and drags the bound Hunter’s gaze back to the one sitting behind. Staring at the other in silence, he studies him carefully even as he continues to speak and finds himself suddenly a little unsure. How is it that his captor is able to hear him yet he maintains that he cannot understand what he says? That doesn’t make any more sense than what the other man has just done. Could this be just another game he plays? Perhaps a ruse of sorts to coax him into doing what he wants?
But if this were so, then why did he give him the food without waiting for his obedience in return…? The one he killed would never have done that, nor would he ever have said he was sorry for it, he has learned that it’s simply not their kind’s way. So why is this one acting so differently? He simply doesn’t understand.
When pale blue slide up to meet his focused gaze through the blindfold, the bound figure’s eyes narrow a little more. For a long moment it is only more silence that follows in the wake of the Elkinphyr’s final try at reasoning with him as the Hunter searches internally for answers to questions that continue to grow with every new thing the other does. Grinding his teeth a little when he finds those answers to be as elusive as his clarity has been, he finally pulls his gaze free and allows it to fall onto the plate in his lap once more.
[Do not think I am allowing you to rule over me when I speak to you as thus… I do it… of my own free will and not because you wish it -of that I want to be absolutely clear.] Roin states quietly as he focuses in on the food, the tight pull of his stomach springing to the surface again. Long silver claws slip over to scoop up a small handful of the neatly laid cheese and vegetables as he leans down as far as he can manage, braided and dreaded locks tumbling forward as he shoves the food swiftly into his mouth. [I am alone. I have killed the one called Master and I have escaped.] He finally answers and despite the hunger that pushes him to consume the meal faster, he takes his time to relish the taste –careful to chew every small piece even as he continues to speak. [And I am not so young and inexperienced that I would allow myself to be hunted again by any of your clumsy kind…]
With a smirk offered as he swallows the last savored bite, the tall Hunter reaches for another handful while glancing back. Behind the blindfold, Arch raises an eyebrow over his statement and it instantly brings a snarl to the bound man’s lips. Anger grips hard and he suddenly lashes out, the jerking movement of his lean body sending the plate and the remaining contents crashing onto the floor below . From one second to the next, carrot tinged hair flares bright, snaking small tendrils past his hairline and into pale skin as fire explodes through silver eyes in thin framing colored rings. [This does not count! You are all cowards and your means are unfair! You hunt us while we sleep and then bind us helpless with this-] he whips his head to the side in indication to his collar, sending long flame red hair flying momentarily up into the air. [-magic!] Mercury tipped fingers grip down on the arms of the seat he is tied to, splintering the wood with ease as teeth grit in frustration when emotion begins to overtake him again. [I would never have been caught by you if I was not already bound by this infernal collar and I swear that once I am able to free myself of it, I will hunt down the ones responsible and tear them to shreds!]
Arch: Behind the blindfold, pale eyes slam shut in the onslaught of emotion that boils out of the Hunter, the force of it tearing at barriers already strained from a full day of testing. A brilliant streak of pain lances through his head, gritting teeth and drawing a sharp inhale of air as he fights to keep from physically recoiling. The backlash is harsh, compounded perhaps by the slave’s own psychic abilities and it burns through the tall Elkinphyr, seeking to find the cracks that will allow it to enflame his personal anger as well. Once again he’s tempted to give in just as he had been this morning, knowing full well how little it would achieve, but sorely pressed to permit it free rein anyway.
Instead, Arch wills himself to take a deep breath, steadying the pain while ingrained training and skill work to reinforce and separate his emotions from the Hunter’s. Slowly he’s able to untangle the mingled feelings, sealing and smoothing over the spider webbed cracks as he goes. The process takes less than the span of ten heartbeats and after a moment pale blue eyes open to find his captive in the same condition, silvered claws gouging the wooden chair and littering the floor with fine splinters. Long braided and dreaded hair retains its fiery saturation and he notices it’s the same with the Hunter’s eyes when the ringed pools once again flash in his direction.
The fury spilling from the lean frame no longer threatens the brown-haired man’s mindset and instead he’s able to withdraw enough to sense some of the other emotions threading behind the slave’s: frustration and fear, loss and hurt, even shame and humiliation. Curiosity renewed, Arch watches as his captive seethes, waiting to see if he’ll calm himself, the straining of breath as bonds are tested again and again the only sound in the cabin. The Hunter’s pride runs deep, instilled at his very core and persisting in spite of the “unfair means” he’d mentioned. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to allow much room to appreciate irony, as this outburst has proven. Perhaps that’s something one learns to find amusing only after enough years have passed.
Still, the Elkinphyr’s thoughts backtrack, being hunted, ruled over, killing owners, and magical bindings—how are these slaves treated? There had been slavery before the war, but it wasn’t widespread and some of the nobility openly distained the abuse of others in such ways. Arch doesn’t remember seeing a slave dressed in the fashion of this Hunter and the others he’d seen previously, nor had they worn the collars and muzzles. Of course, this race didn’t exist then, so perhaps he’s simply missing a cultural preference and not a social-class one.
Driven by the curiosity, Arch slides away from the table, on his feet and across the wooden floorboards before he can consider his carelessness. He gracefully sidesteps the strewn remnants of dinner and the plate to stand before his captive. A renewed wave of outrage throws itself at his empathic senses, but the strengthened barriers hold and the Elkinphyr’s gaze meets baleful red-rimmed silver. [I don’t keep slaves,] he says quietly, [so I’ll thank you not to call me a coward again.] He may not be quite as young as the one before him seems to be, but he still has his own pride.
[You’ve killed your master and that… is problematic.] Escaped is one thing when it comes to the efforts of search parties, but a dead owner is another thing entirely. Revenge in the name of justice will fuel a fire long after others have burned out. The Hunter’s anger flares again, but Arch shakes his head. He’s made overtures, he’s weathered the outbursts, and stayed his sword throughout the course of the day, but his patience has stretched to threads. [You’re misunderstanding me. I don’t care that your owner is dead. I don’t care if you shred an entire legion with those claws.] He speaks slowly, attempting to be as direct as possible and not particularly caring at this point in the day if he’s treading on delicate pride. [What I care about is the likelihood that you’re being hunted all over again and now I have to deal with it.] He can sense the slave about to speak, but he shakes his head again. [You killed a noble and we both know that means they won’t give up until you’ve been retaken.]
He’s running a big risk here, setting himself apart from others with these words when he knows full well that anyone else would be hauling the Hunter in to collect the reward monies. But he has to take the chance because he can’t afford to have a whole group of strangers parading into his life and come out unscathed. Up until this morning, he’s skillfully maintained his cover, the training he’d received before being assigned as a guard to the royals before the war more than adequate. Compared to courtly intrigue and the lies and games needed to fulfill his duties, dealing with the people in a small city had been easy. They weren’t as suspecting or as prone to study and pick out any differences. His blindfolds, herbs, and interest in stories and lore may be seen as eccentric, yet not out of place enough to draw real suspicion. But it won’t be enough to suffer any true scrutinizing and that’s exactly what will happen should the Hunter’s trail lead others to his doorstep.
Pale blue, blindfold covered eyes drop to the silver inlaid gorget encircling the red-haired man’s neck. Regardless of what it symbolizes, it’s actually rather beautiful in construction, obviously the work of a master craftsman. [So kindly explain to me about this collar and the binding magic and if you do so nicely, then maybe I can help you take it off.]
Roin: glaring up at the tall Elkinphyr, Roin continues to seethe as he throws frustrated curses out in his own language that are not particularly directed at any one thing. Hazy clouds shifting over dulled senses make it harder to process the other man’s words through his anger and for a few long moments, all he can do is rage within.
He’d learned the other man’s language quickly once he’d been exposed to it -having it shouted at him from the time of his capture, screamed at him and beat into him made it impossible not to absorb. But even though he knows it, it is still a language that is not his own and when emotion takes over, it becomes harder for him to translate. He knows he must calm himself down if he is to gain his freedom again, but it’s a task he’s finding rather difficult considering his current predicament -even more because of everything his captor has just said.
The Elkinphyr claims he does not keep slaves, yet he has him bound magically so that he is at his mercy. He acts as a healer would act, yet carries weapons. Everything he has said and done has been contradictory and it’s confusing enough to make his head ache. Even now he speaks of removing the collar and yet it comes with a price, proving that despite his actions he is playing some form of game exactly as any other of his kind would play.
He is tired of this confusion, he’s had enough of this type of cruelty to last him a lifetime and no matter how much he desires to be free of his enslavement, he will not allow himself to be subjected to any more games again.
Gritting his teeth, fire rimmed silver close and he stills his hands, gripping down on the splintered wood in an attempt to center himself long enough to regain a little clarity. He will answer his captor’s questions but he will do it on his own terms and to ensure it, he knows he must also find a way to quell his anger long enough to reply. With considerable effort, he is finally able to speak again and while his voice takes on a strained calm, the fire tinge saturating both hair and eyes say something completely different.
[I cannot take it off.] Roin replies, reopening his eyes to stare up. [I have not been able to remove it since they put it on. It has done something to me… I cannot use magic, I cannot think properly, I can barely hunt and because of it, I practically starve. It leaves me clouded and slowed… helpless.] The admittance brings a fresh wave of disgust to his tattooed features and yet the slightest hints of shame shifts involuntarily through red ringed silver eyes. [That one called Master would speak words to remove both it and that thing that was put over my face but I was never able to hear them.] And he did try… on every occasion he tried but when that one spoke the magic, it was as if his ears were stuffed with cloth and he was never able to fully hear. Nothing stayed in his mind then and he always felt as if he stood beneath a raging river, anchored to a rock and utterly unable to actually move. [It is your kind’s magic,] the Hunter states flatly, the grip he maintains tightening so drastically that small popping sounds follow in the wake of claws sinking further into already shredded hard wood. [So you must know the words. Speak them and remove it.]
When his demand is met with silence, a frown forms on full lips and with grip ever tightening, he finally looks slowly away. His gaze settles on the soft artificial light that bathes the darkening room, narrowing as he works to keep himself from lashing out again and when he speaks, his voice comes strained and low. [I will not beg you to do this. But… to show my gratitude, I will not kill you once you do.]
Arch: It’s his courtly training that restrains the amusement rippling throughout after the Hunter promises not to kill him from showing on his face, the abilities learned allowing him to maintain a mask of complete calm no matter what is said. Aside from his battle skills, they’ve probably been the most useful both in the past and after the ice. [I think,] the Elkinphyr says quietly [you might find me harder to kill than you expect.] He should probably appreciate what is obviously quite the effort on his captive’s part to remain somewhat civil, and he does, but for the first time all day, there’s an amusement factor as well. Given how well the idea of irony went over just a few minutes back, he’s sure the one before him will not share the same sentiments.
Stepping around the Hunter, Arch retrieves his chair from the back of the room and carries it out to set just across, his slender frame easing down gracefully. He waits a moment, unsure what the slave will do with so little space between them and taking note that neither his hair nor eyes have lost the fiery saturation that seems bound up in the other man’s emotions. The effort not to rage and to give the explanation the Elkinphyr asked for are an obvious strain, one that seems to currently be directed at the mangled arms of the wooden chair.
With the same deliberate slowness one would use to approach a wild animal, Arch stretches his hand toward the collar, pale blue gaze lifting to meet the Hunter’s when he begins to recoil automatically. [Just let me look at it for a moment,] he promises. The tips of long fingers trace along the thick silver edging and over filigree, across dyed leather and around the hook where a leash would attach before withdrawing. There are no seams or weak points, the collar sealed completely around the slave’s neck by the magic within. At random he tries a few spells, ones meant to open locks and unseal bindings, but nothing happens. Drawing on his own internal power, he tries similar tactics, pushing at the magic he senses beneath the surface, but the results are the same. Reaching deep, he forces his own energy into the collar, seeking to fracture the very elements of the magic and override them by dispelling, and although he’s able to sense the links holding the gorget closed, he can’t affect them.
With a frown Arch settles against the back of his chair, his eyes sweeping over the silver inlaid filigree once again. The entire system of magic the common people now have on Eden is flawed. It relies on spoken words and written text to manifest and not the internal sources that are innately within. While he has the ability to perform magic as it’s done now, it still feels unnatural at times and does not hold nearly the strength as that which is drawn from one’s own channels and powered from within. None of his people are sure why or how magic changed and while it wasn’t difficult to adapt to the new system, in show if nothing else, there are still limitations on what they’re able to do in general. Meaning, the issue with this collar may simply be that he doesn’t know the correct unlocking spell out of the dozens that exist.
Expectant red-ringed silver eyes are watching him and after a moment the Elkinphyr shakes his head. [This collar is what slows you down and clouds your mind?] The Hunter nods a little impatiently, still waiting. A permanent haze to force the slaves into submission, it’s both brilliant and cruel. How better to ensure malleability and behavior than through unbreakable magic? If all of his captive’s people are this stubborn and prone to anger, the slave masters must treasure these tools of control, hence the expensive outfitting. Although, Arch amends, the use of the collar and muzzle explain the rampant emotion he’d sensed all day from the Hunter, especially the anger. He can only imagine the fury he’d feel under the same set of circumstances.
[I’m sorry,] he offers, truly meaning the words. [I don’t know the correct spell to unlock it.] He considers the next statement carefully, weighing what it will mean once he’s said it. This Hunter is still a liability, a threat to the secrets Arch holds and the way in which their paths have now crossed means he can’t simply kill the slave and forget it ever happened. The search party he knows is tailing must be dealt with, but that doesn’t mean he necessarily needs to handle them alone. Not when it seems the red-haired man has a few old scores to settle. [Since I can’t take it off,] the blindfolded gaze once again meets fire-rimmed metallic and holds [take me to one who can and I’ll either learn the spell myself or encourage… compliance from the one who knows it.]
Roin: Staring in silence for a while after the other man’s proposal has been made, a slow frown begins to form on the bound Hunter’s lips. For a brief moment there he had felt a little hope that after all these long months of having the collar that encircles his neck caging him, he’d finally be rid of the restraint once and for all. He doesn’t particularly like having that hope crushed almost as quickly as it had been allowed to form, nor does it make any sense to him that the other man wouldn’t know the magic to release him from it, or for that matter, that he didn’t understand what effect it has on him in the first place. This device is of his kind’s making after all and because of it, he should understand how it works.
Once again he finds that his captor’s words and actions have contradicted what he knows of his people overall and he isn’t sure just what to make of it yet or if he is able to trust that what he says is the actual truth. Despite the fact that he claims to be unable, he offers to help remove it but how can he be sure this isn’t just another game he plays?
How can he trust that this is not simply a ruse to bend his will to his own and make him do whatever it is that he wants?
But, the red haired man’s frown deepens, even despite the haze and anger that clouds his mind, he does have to admit that if this were the case, at this moment the tall Elkinphyr could fully force his will on him considering that he has him in a place similar to the one he killed generally did –magically bound and in no position to fight back or defend himself.
Logic would dictate that there would be no use in offering to remove the collar when it would serve him better simply to keep it on…
So why is he offering then? What price will he ask for doing what he says he will? During his time in captivity, he’s learned that nothing these people do comes without a price … even the one he killed put a price on every action, cruelty or kindness done. He was made to pay with his own skin for the clothing he did not wish to wear, for the food he did not ask to eat and for a bed he was forced to share… no matter what is was, there was always some kind of price.
He doesn’t know what this one’s will be and while he’d rather not agree to anything until he is told, at the moment he is being left with very little choice in the matter. He can either agree without knowing what it is he truly wants or he cannot and remain bound magically to his chair -his obvious choice is not the latter and he knows it, especially if he wants to regain his freedom and track down where it is they took his mate in order to free him as well…
[The ones who took us put these on us and I… do not know where they are.] Roin finally replies quietly and while he maintains the grounding grip he holds over splintered wooden arms, his tone begins to take on a calm that’s soon reflected in fading orangey red hair. [But the faces of the ones I was not able to kill have been burned into my mind…] He will never forget any of the slave traders that took them, he has made sure of it. He vowed that day and every day that has come after that once he freed himself he would hunt every last one of them down and slaughter them so that they will never again be able to touch another of his kind. [Free me… and I will hunt them for you so that you may do what you have promised …]