"Oh thank goodness, he is coming 'round," a female voice said in obvious relief.
Xan looked around him and found himself chained with his hands high above his head to a pillar. At a glance, he could tell the other two prisoners were chained the same. Around his neck was a thick collar, and he could no longer feel his magic or his marks. He moved his hand to make sure he still had one. He felt his fingers hit chain and the raw rock of the pillar. Relieved he started to look more around him.
"Naseem?" Xan recognized her and she smiled in greeting, "Wait, if you are here, then where is my mother? Is she safe?"
"She isn't here," Naseem said and relaxed when Xan looked relieved once again.
"Awake are you? How marvelous, then we can begin." The Lich looked directly at Xan And Xan saw Naseem flinch.
Xan did not respond but looked ahead as though he didn't see or hear anything.
"Tsk tsk, is it too much to ask for a bit of civility and cooperation?" The Lich said in a chiding tone.
Xan let out a small incredulous, "What?"
"Ah, he speaks, not brain damaged like I feared." the Lich seemed to smile without smiling, and Xan had to look away, as the Lich offered, "You may call me Lord Trune."
"I know that name," Xan said half to himself.
"If you know my name, then you should be in awe," Trune gave that strange smile without a smile and it bothered Xan, it was abhorrent.
Xan turned his head and looked away from Trune's gaze. He then noticed that his head was bandaged and his leather shirt was not on him. He looked around trying to see if he could find it in the room. Instead, he saw medical and magical containers on tables here and there, and what looked like a medical table.
"Oh, no, I am going to keep your work of art in a safe place. All those spells were quite well crafted for a novice. How did you learn such a forgotten art?" Trune said as he noticed Xan's fervent searching.
Xan then realized it was this thing's grimoire that he had read, the mage that did awful experiments in the name of magic and power. He realized he just became a study subject. Xan tried to call his power to him, and the collar sent pain down to his toes. He grunted, gritting his teeth but did not yell out.
"Testing your limits I see," Trune said as he looked up from a large book on a table nearby.
Xan allowed himself to cough, and let the stress out. But did not respond to Trune.
"It will pass if you relax," Naseem advised.
"You should listen to your friend, she is becoming quite the expert in the pain the collar brings," Trune's amusement was evident.
"The rune, you have imbued the collar itself," Xan stated.
"You show such promise. I wish I could apprentice you, sadly we have already chosen our sides," Trune sounded truly regretful as he left the room through a door on the far side of the room.
"Is that the only exit?" Xan asked quietly.
"Yes," Naseem whispered, "It leads to the living quarters and the stairs to the dungeons."
"She is the reason for our chains." Another voice chimed in.
"I told you I had to make the attempt." Naseem shot back with a bit of a huff.
"Wait, who are you?" Xan asked
"Marta," The man answered
"He is the girl's father," Naseem added.
"You're Elda's Father? She is safe, I promise," Xan said quickly.
"Tell me no more, there is something in me and it spies, but it does my heart good to hear. Thank you," Marta said.
"I see you all have gotten to know one another. Splendid," Trune exclaimed happily.
Behind him, two young men entered the room. They took Xander from his chains and brought him to the medical table. He was just about to take them down when Trune held up a bony hand and stilled them.
"The collar may not motivate you to cooperate, but know this, every time you struggle, I cut off another hand of the God Gifted," Trune said calmly, "Do we understand each other?"
Xan nodded his head and the men continued to escort him to the medical table. He sat on the table himself, and Trune approached him with a knife and clay bowl.
"Please hold your hand out, I need to make a small cut," Trune said as he reached for Xan's outstretched hand. He then mad a small cut in the middle of Xan's forearm and let blood fall into the bowl, "See everything goes smoother when we all are civil."
"You mean when you threaten us into cooperating, that is being civil?" Xan was livid.
"Are we not conversing and doing things without unneeded bloodshed?" Trune questioned.
"As long as you keep your word," Xan said menacingly.
"We are both men of our word and actions," Trune gave the same sick smile. Xan looked away.
Trune took the bowl of blood to the table and one of the other men bandaged Xan's arm to stop the bleeding. Trune put a powder into the bowl and a strange momentary glow appeared.
"Interesting," Trune said mostly to himself, then turning to Xan, "I would like you to answer some questions,"
Xan nodded slowly scowling.
"You are completely human?" Trune asked puzzled.
"Yes," Xan said without inflection.
"And yet, your blood bears markers of influence by the Fae and the gods," Trune looked at him pointedly.
Xan did not offer anything else to the silence. Trune walked over to Xan and grabbed his hand.
"This I have never seen before, how did you get all of the marks?" Trune asked.
"They were gifts," Xan said then clenched his teeth and pulled his hand back from Trune in a fist.
"Careful," Trune said watching Xan's fist.
Xan put his hand flat on the table beside him. Trune watched him carefully.
"The gods have been breaking the rules," Trune sounded amused, "I don't suppose you know anything about the armored worm that has been circling outside my keep?"
Xan clenched his teeth again and remained quiet.
"Ah, that tiny split second of concern on your face tells me you do know it," Trune laughed,"Then I shall have it hunted, The scales are worth the trouble."
"Then the deal is off," Xan said in a very steady irate voice.
"I thought as much," Trune went back to the table and Xan's blood, "It will be spared for now, but those scales are highly prized, so I can tell my men 'no' for only so long."
"Then get it over with," Xan was smoldering.
"My thoughts exactly," Trune said as he held up a small dart and then pricked Xan with the dart and the contents rushed into his blood.
"What was that?" Xan was concerned and curious.
"Dragon blood," Trune then said with great relish, "Regular humans do not outlast the corrosive qualities of the blood, and since you are my first magical human, I want to see if this kills you in the first dose."
"Kill me?" Xan yelled
"Take him to the cell in the back, take the collar off, I want him to feel this," Trune instructed.
The two men gently escorted Xan to a cell. They removed the collar and pushed Xan in. Xan fell to the floor with a pain so sharp he couldn't breathe. He bit back his voice and his face grew red. The door was shut, and Xan tried to breath to calm himself. Then all of a sudden it felt like his senses opened up like water rushing through and open dam.
He could hear the heartbeats of everyone around him and below in the dungeon. He felt the magic of the prisoner's being repressed by the collars. He could feel the corruption all around him from necromancy. He could feel Trune and his mana jewel, he could feel where his shirt was, and he could feel something else. It was weak but it felt like two separate beings smashed into one. It was like the body and soul were incompatible. Xan cried out because the information rush was too much.
Terran fought to make contact then, and Xan had to calm him down and tell him to not return here for him. Terran was reluctant but promised to go look after Kenna. Xan could feel the blood ripping him apart now. But from his healing mark a green light rushed quickly in and soon places began to heal and the light chased the corruption greedily devouring it and setting things right.
He had not felt that assaulted for a very long time. He started hitting the door to be let out. Then his marks came to life and a wave of energy burst from Xan in a wave that knocked the wind from everyone but Trune. Trune rushed to the cell to put the collar back on him when he came to an open door and found Xan engulfed in flame but not burning. Trune then waved a hand to put out the flame and held Xan still while handing the collar to one of his young men to put it back on him.
"Leave him. We will let him rest and start again tomorrow," Trune said impressed at Xan's survival.