For a long time, the only sound was deep, visceral screams, as if someone were being torn limb from limb.
They echoed throughout the cavernous room, amplifying the sound.
“STOP! PLEASE, I CAN’T… IT HURTS SO BAD, THIS IS TOO MUCH! MASTER, PLEASE–”
Leander’s voice was harsh and raspy; on top of the torture he was currently enduring, it felt like his vocal cords were being ripped out, but he could think of nothing else but the pain, so the last thing on his mind was controlling his mouth, both literally and figuratively.
“Stop your groveling, boy. Do you want to be a hero or don’t you? You knew the sacrifices when you signed up for this. You must be a man.”
“There’s a difference between trying to make me stronger and killing me–”“I did not ask for your disobedience. And if I’m remembering correctly, it is you who came to me,” The old man growled, shuffling over to his chained student. He punched him, right under the chin, and the boy groaned, the room spinning in a gray haze around him.
“Was it not you who came to me as a young boy, desperate for training to defeat his corrupt father and brothers?”
Nothing but ragged breathing, and tears streamed down Leander’s face. But he knew that if he did not answer his master, it would result in something even more awful. There were many things that the old former lord had tolerated in his many years, but insolence was not one of them.
“Yes, Master. I asked you for your help, you’re right,” Leander replied, working to defuse the situation before more violence ensued.
“I am sorry.”
“As you should be. I expected better of you. Pain is only a state of mind, and you can overcome it.”
Leander gritted his teeth in frustration. That kind of crap was pretty easy to say when you weren’t being skewered like a roast pig with white-hot iron rods.
“Remember your training exercises. Only when you rise above your pain will you be able to wrest control of the throne from your family and do right by your country. What was that you said to me, back when we first met? That you deserved power more than anyone else in your family, because you were the only one who did not seek it? Compared to everything your family did to you, this should be nothing. Less than nothing.”
He cast a scornful glance at his charge’s back, thick and knotted with red, slashing scars, as if made by a blade or a knife.
“Pain is nothing but sensation, and you can block it out. You must find every bit of strength inside yourself, or you will fall to them again.
Be courageous, as you always have been. I cannot be there when you launch your coup; that you must do alone. But I will strengthen your body and your mind. This is what you trusted me to do, and you will overcome, or you will die.”
With that, he retrieved an iron poker, glowing red, and thrust it through Leander’s stomach, stone-faced as the screams began once more.