Drip. “Six-hundred ninety-six.”
He could feel the blood caked between his wrists and the shackles, a remnant of earlier rebellion. The delicate elven chains had proven sturdier than they looked.
Drip. “Six-hundred ninety-seven.”
He could taste the blood dripping freely from his lips, the area where his right tusk had been now empty and pulsing with pain; it was the latest “gift” bestowed by the dark elf known as Kardrogas.
Drip. “Six-hundred ninety-eight.”
He could smell the blood in the air, some fresh, some not. It was sweet, sickly…familiar, like the damp stone and the wails of Phe’lyx; like the weight of Ruel’s lifeless body leaned up against him, and the gleam of the silver dagger just out of reach, sheathed in the boy’s chest. All so familiar.
Drip. “Six-hundred ninety-nine.”
He could see the blood trail leading from Phe’lyx’s shackles to the room beyond—Kardrogas’ “workshop.” The wizard didn’t scream as much anymore, not since the dark elf drove a spike through his tongue. He could remember…
The plan had been simple. When the dark elves left the trio alone, Phe’lyx would use his magic to escape his bindings. He would then release Zorag and Ruel, and they would sneak out of the city under the cover of night, a little beaten and cut up from a day of abuse at Kardrogas’ hands, but nothing Ashen couldn’t fix upon their return.
The dark elves’ hubris made it too easy. They must have figured their prisoners already beaten and without hope and thus had left them unguarded, the keys to their shackles hanging beside the door. Before long, the three were creeping towards the forest, Phe’lyx scouting ahead invisibly and leaving marks for Zorag and Ruel to follow. It was as if the dark elves had completely abandoned the area, for the group encountered no resistance.
“We might just pull this off,” Zorag thought optimistically.
And then he heard the scream.
Without hesitation, Zorag and Ruel broke off toward the sound. Entering a clearing in the trees, they immediately saw two babau demons with their arms raised up towards each other, violet flame flickering in the space between them. After a moment, Zorag realized that the flame was outlining a transparent figure—Phe’lyx! The demons were holding him aloft by the ankles. The elf screamed as the demons’ acidic flesh corroded his skin.
" Huela t’puuli, Arkaxis," said a voice behind Zorag and Ruel. The two quickly turned to see Kardrogas and another dark elf walking behind them. The unknown dark elf—Arkaxis?—scowled and handed the torturer a handful of silver coins as more drow approached out of the darkness—far too many to fight. The duo walked right by Zorag and Ruel as if they weren’t even there.
“Too early is your hand shown, iblith," Kardrogas sneered as he walked up to the flailing Phe’lyx. “Your spell, release it.”
The transparent Phe’lyx continued to struggle against his captors, but their might was too much. “Or what?” he dared ask.
“What happens next, it will make far easier for you.”
The two elves stared at each other for a moment before Phe’lyx finally released the spell of invisibility. Kardrogas nodded to the demons, who promptly released the elf unceremoniously to the ground. Dusting himself off, Phe’lyx rose to his feet, trying to maintain a small measure of defiance in his stare.
Kardrogas smiled. “Chosen well, you have.”
Suddenly Phe’lyx’s body went rigid at the word of a female dark elf in the congregation. Moving quickly, Kardrogas unrolled a bundle of terrifying implements—pliers, scalpels, sharp needles of all sizes—and removed a small steel needle of roughly two inches in length. Prying open the elf’s mouth, he reached in and grabbed Phe’lyx’s tongue.
With a roar, Ruel charged at Kardrogas, tusks beginning to elongate from his jaw, fur covering his muscular arms.
“Ruel, no!” shouted Zorag, but too late.
And with no warning, Ruel’s charge ended. A silver dagger protruded from his chest, held there by the dark elf Arkaxis, who had appeared unnoticed in Ruel’s path. The young warrior looked into the red eyes of the elf and tried to struggle, but the blade struck true. Wordlessly, Ruel’s animalistic features receded, and he was but a man again, falling, the dagger still in his chest.
“Ruel…” Zorag whispered, holding his hands up instinctively. He knew that to charge across the clearing was to invite death, for many drow were at his back.
Smiling wickedly at the interruption, Kardrogas turned again to Phe’lyx. "Now, iblith, taste true pain."
And then the needle tore through Phe’lyx’s tongue, and the elf could not scream.
“When you seek your end,” Zorag remembered Kardrogas saying to Phe’lyx, “you may find it if you speak true. Until then, pain you will know, and pain you will love, for that path is bliss.”
In the three weeks since, Zorag had only caught a glimpse of Phe’lyx’s torture. The needle was stuck upright in the elf’s mouth, his tongue pinned half-way up the needles length. The points of either side were wedged against the roof and bottom of his mouth, forcing him to keep agape at all times. Zorag could only imagine the excruciating pain.
The drip hadn’t come.
Zorag looked to the ceiling of the dark room where the rainwater seeped in. He saw the leak, but no drips came. The water sat there, hanging from the ceiling, taunting him.
“Seven hun—” he whispered.
He looked to the hilt of the dagger sticking from Ruel’s decaying corpse. If only he could reach it, he could end this existence, free from the tyranny of the leaking roof.
“Seven hu—” he stammered frantically.
He thrashed against his bindings, opening week-old wounds. Blood ran down his forearms.
“Seven!” he screamed.
He looked up.
The water hit him in the eye.
His body relaxed, and his struggles ceased.
“Seven hundred,” he whispered.