Agony. That is what Kiriin felt as her torturer worked his craft. She was strapped to a chair and she was adorned with a crystalline crown. He played a grim melody on the crystals that Resonated deep within her soul. Each note gave rise to a different kind of pain. The only way she could hide from it was by retreating into her mind. She found a place so deep that she could barely hear the crystalline tumult.
Then it stopped. She couldn’t hear a thing. Lord Fein had walked into the room. “Miss Kiriin, yes?” he asked, motioning her torturer to leave.
“What do you want?” she responded in a quivering tone.
“Merely to check in on you. Perhaps you are ready to accept my offer? Also, your friend Rowan gave in last night.”
“No! You’re lying!” It couldn’t be true. Rowan was stronger than that. She had to be.
“Hardly. She was overcome with grief from the death of her friend. She blamed herself. It was only a matter of time really.”
“Tragic really, Miss Anri would have been a valuable asset. Such a horrible death. Are you sure you don’t want to accept the deal? You don’t need to suffer.” Before Kiriin could answer, Fein left the room and her torturer returned. She retreated back into her mind. It was too much. She couldn’t deal with the pain again. Not while she was already hurting so much from the news that Lord Fein had given her. She went even deeper into her mind not wanting to hear the song of torment. She went too deep. There was no escape.
It was a different girl who woke up the next day. Her torture had come to an end. Last night she gave herself over to the good lords. To Lord Fein. She couldn’t remember why. Someone had died, someone she didn’t know.
Hmm. No. That’s not right. But why do I feel like I’ve lost something? I have nothing to lose?
It didn’t matter. Even if she wanted to consider it further, she couldn’t muster the emotional drive to explore the depths of her memories. No, what mattered was that she now lived to serve and that she would soon be free of the grim halls that had been her hell since… when? She couldn’t even remember that small detail.
She stood up and stretched out all of her kinks as she waited for her escort. Pain flared in her arms and back. When they broke her they gave her one last gift from the caves. A new set of scars meant to serve her going forwards. She was to be a weapon and they would make her stronger. Or so they said.
The door to the small cell opened wide and two wardens walked in. “This way,” they said in almost unison, motioning towards the door. “Lord Fein awaits.” They guided her through the caves and for the first time in however long, it was without shackles. It was a new experience. Interesting. She continued to observe her surroundings passively as they walked -It wasn’t quite how she remembered it, not that that meant much to her anymore. Perhaps the good lords didn’t need her to remember to be an effective weapon?
The journey didn’t take too long and soon they were in Lord Fein’s office. “Welcome,” he greeted her. “Congratulations on your newfound freedom.”
This isn’t freedom.
“Thank you,” the girl responded.
“How polite of you. A wonderful change of character if I do say so myself.” Lord Fein was smiling as he spoke.
“Should I not be polite to my master?”
No you should not!
“Of course. You will serve the good lords well. Do you know why you are here?”
“To be a weapon, sir.”
His smile turned sinister. “Yes. We will be proceeding on to the next stage of your forging. Before that, however, you will need a new name.”
“Why is that, milord?” the girl asked.
“Because you are no longer the girl you once were. You are a weapon now and will be known as such.”
“What to call you? Perhaps… Yes! Your new name shall be Siri.”
“Well, with that done with, I will continue with the debriefing. Can you state which Gift you possess?”
“Good. Our estimates were correct. Now, going over your profile and recent developments,” he said looking over the girl,” very recent that is, I have come to the conclusion that you will be forged into a knife for the good lords. We will have you cleaned up, well fed and sent off to the training camps. I’m sure you will serve us well. Wardens! Take Siri here to the bathing chamber and then to processing.”
Siri was taken away and given the chance to bathe. It was a proper bath in nice hot water. To Siri it was serviceable, perhaps even healing. She wasn’t sure. As she soaked, a man walked in to deliver some clothes. He then helped Siri ensure that she was clean. The assistance was welcomed but unnecessary.
Stay away from me!
As she got out of the bath, the man provided her with a towel and led her to a chair and a mirror. He sat her down and started to work on her hair. In the mirror, Siri saw why Lord Fein had decided to give her that name; her long, golden brown hair had started to turn stark white at the roots. It was almost silvery. She stared at herself with hazel eyes as the man cut her hair to chin length.
What is happening to me?
“Thank you,” she thanked the man as he finished up. He nodded and then left to allow her to get dressed. The clothes were brand new and well fitted. She donned the black form fitting riding leathers and soft riding boots.
Food was brought in after she was dressed and she was treated to her first proper meal in what was probably a very long time. Her stomach even grumbled when she first laid eyes on it. Even so, she took her time eating it. Being overly hasty wouldn’t do her any good after all. When she was done, the server took away her plate and they were once again on the move.
The path they took was long and winding; far longer than any other path she had taken in the caves and it went up. Slowly but surely, they neared the surface. After an hour, they reached what looked to be a dead-end; then they were bathed in the light of day. It almost blinded Siri as she stepped outside for the first time. One of the wardens had to stop her from going too far as the other checked to make sure there was no one else around. When he had confirmed they were in the clear, Siri was let go to venture outside. It was a strange experience; one that she had been sure that she would never experience again.
I should have accepted this deal sooner.
The wardens gave her a moment to bask in the experience before leading her to a nearby small town. It wasn’t much, not that Siri had anything to compare it to, but it had one important feature that the wardens were looking for; a coach house. She was guided to a very specific coach and told to get inside. Being a good servant, she obliged. They gave her specific instructions not to leave until the door was opened and she was told to. They provided her with food and drink. Then they closed the coach door and it was done. After some time it started moving and it eventually stopped in the middle of a forest estate; her destination.
It was a large place, situated in a clearing. For some reason, it reminded Siri of a ranger’s lodge. Unsurprisingly, given the locale, it was made almost entirely out of wood. Outside of it, Siri was greeted by the woman who would become her primary instructor. The woman stood there with a slender build, raven black hair and piercing blue eyes. She was beautiful. Even Siri, in her muted state, found the woman to be incredibly attractive. Yet, there was also something unsettling about her. As much as Siri considered the woman to be attractive, she was also equally intimidated by her. If looks could kill.
“So this is the new arrival?” she asked the coach driver.
The mysterious figure dressed head to toe in browns, greys and blacks nodded with a slight grunt. Siri couldn’t tell if they were male or female or even what race they were and she didn’t have much time to consider it as they left almost immediately.
“So tell me girl, what have you been named?” the woman said, turning towards Siri.
“Hmm. It’ll do. This way.” The woman led her into the lodge and started explaining things. “This will be your home and base of operations for the foreseeable future. Here you will be trained as an assassin or as Fein puts it, a knife. I’ve always hated that term. Despite the brand on your backs, you are still people, but I digress. You will learn how to use weapons effectively and how to take part in covert operations. If the good lords need you to kill someone, you will and you will do it with efficiency and precision. Understood?”
“Good. Now this will be your room for the duration of your stay and over here is where meals will be served. Most of our training facilities are in the basement or outside. You will also receive an education fitting your purpose. Most importantly you will be trained to fight Awakened individuals as well as how best to use your own powers as a Stoic.”
The tour through the lodge and the training facilities continued. Siri was introduced to other Ardents, Stoics and un-Awakened individuals that were training to become spies and assassins as well as the other instructors of the lodge. Then her training began. When her hair had turned fully silver, she was sent on her first mission.
Author’s Note: I know this is another short chapter and that doesn’t really explain why this chapter is so late. I’m still having massive pain in my jaw and it is making writing very difficult. I was also writing the patron chapter which is the second longest chapter yet and by far the hardest to write. You’ll understand that when you read it, but I don’t want to go into spoilers. You can read it early by subscribing to my Patreon. I hope you enjoyed the chapter.