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Offline Firesblood

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Valaria could barely see Malachi being marched along, but she could hear their attacks on his person well enough.  Her cries of protest fell on deaf ears, and only earned her a strike to the back of the head.  The rest of the trip was elusive; Val drifted in and out of consciousness for a time. 

When she came back around fully, they had come to a halt outside of a chateau, and she was presented to someone that she would have preferred never to see again.  Don Alejandro greeted her like an old friend, his comment about her companion making her bristle.  Before she could summon the words which would suggest a compromising position with himself, Malachi was taken away and one of the guards cut the ropes binding her wrists and ankles so that she could walk.  She briefly considered trying to make a run for it, but her head was splitting with pain and she was vastly outnumbered and outmatched.  More, Malachi was still there, and they had obviously had no qualms in damaging him more viciously than they might have an ordinary man.

Reluctantly, Valaria did as she was told and walked, sitting as she was bade to once they reached the study.  Her expression was grim and recalcitrant in the face of his hospitality, and though he held out a glass of brandy for her and toasted her health, she refused to take it.  Instead, she kept her hands folded on her lap. 

“Why have you brought us here?” She demanded, preferring to get straight to the point rather than expending energy on false courtesies. 


Offline Jabbathejack

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Don Alejandro did not seem to be overly perturbed as she refused the drink. He set it back on the side and raised his glass for a sip all the same.

"Information." He replied with a smile as he settled into his own chair. "Just as before."

There was a strong parallel between now and when they had first met, yet if Don Alejandro expected them to hear Malachi's cries, he was mistaken. His smile, however, did not waver in an instant.

"I'm surprised to find you with a man like that." His smile broadened. "Especially after the tale you spun the last time we spoke."

He took another sip of his drink.
"Is there anything that you wish to add, my dear?"


Offline Firesblood

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Valaria bristled visibly.  “The company that I keep and my reasons for keeping them are my business, sir, not yours.”

She silenced then, features stony.  A part of her demanded that she change her approach; Valaria had been set on survival go so long, that the instinct to say anything that might prolong that survival needled sharply at her.  That, however, was an instinct that Ampetrion had specifically honed into her.  Loyalty was a finite thing, best kept fluid in the face of opportunity, he had told her more than once. 

But Ampetrion was not the sort of person she wished to emulate, and when one was offered the chance that she had been given to start over, the last thing she wanted to do was fall back on old patterns.  She had offered her loyalty to Staunton, and she was determined to keep her word. 

“No, I have nothing to add,” Valeria said, straightening a little in her chair.  The fact that she couldn’t guess at how things could go from that point terrified her, but she was still satisfied with her choice.  What exactly did she have to lose, anyway?


Offline Jabbathejack

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Don Alejandro chuckled almost good naturedly at her sharp tongue.
"As you wish." He took another sip of his drink, savouring the flavour as he watched her. "But of course, I'm sure that you'll elaborate... in due time."

There was a light knock at the door and one of the guards moved to check, opening the door a sliver to see who was there. He turned and nodded at his master.

"Speaking of time." Don Alejandro stood up, his drink in one hand. "Come this way, my dear."

The guards stepped forwards, ready to assist if necessary, their faces stern. Don Alejandro led the way, moving to a room across the corridor.

Malachi was hanging by his wrists, chained to a ring in the ceiling. His head drooped to his chest, unmoving. A torturer stood beside a tray of evil looking knives and other tools, some of which looked to have seen recent use, although there was no sign of any injury on Malachi's body.

Don Alejandro paced around his prisoner, watching, his smile unwavering.
"Have you ever seen a vampire during the day?" He turned to smile at her. "See for yourself. No heart beat, no sign of life. Dead."


Offline Firesblood

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Valaria tilted her chin upward in defiance; she would not be elaborating on anything to him.  She glanced over her shoulder when the guard knocked and opened the door, frown deepening as Don Alejandro gestured for her to follow him.  Eying the guards and recognizing that there was no choice in the matter, Valaria obeyed and stood, turning to follow as she was bade to. 

The scene that greeted her made her breath catch in her chest.  Malachi looked lifeless, and so much younger than he presented when he was conscious.  The tools of torture had all the signs of use, and even though Malachi had already healed from it, she doubted that it had been any less painful.  What it must have taken not to scream out…

Valaria felt her eyes burn; she was no stranger to cruelty, but was a cruelty of a different sort.  Malachi was defenseless now, as vulnerable as a newborn now that the sun was on the rise.  She blinked rapidly for a moment to banish her tears and compose herself.  She could not think of anything to say, so she simply stayed silent, knowing that Don Alejandro would continue with or without a response.


Offline Jabbathejack

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"That's the thing with vampires. You can do what you want to them and still, five minutes later they look as pristine as on the night they were changed. This one, remains as just a boy, even though he is much older than that."

He smiled, draining his glass and he set it down on the table beside the torturer's tools.

"I will ask you again, my dear." Don Alejandro's smile had faded in an instant, leaving a piercing glare that suggested that he would not hesitate to put her to the question in the same way should he not be satisfied with her answers.

"Do you have anything to add?"


Offline Firesblood

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Valaria struggled to swallow against the lump in her throat as Don Alejandro continued, detailing what he found pleasing about the torture of vampires.  His manner remained pleasant until the last, and the young woman resisted the urge to flinch at the force of his glare.

Her terror increased tenfold, and she didn’t trust it to not show through her voice if she spoke.  If she refused to help him, it would be her suffering next, and unlike Malachi, she would not heal from it near-instantaneously.  She had no doubts that Alejandro would use whatever means necessary to break her and get the answers he wanted.  Instead of speaking, Valaria shook her head emphatically as an answer, hands clenching into tight fists at her sides. 


Offline Jabbathejack

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Don Alejandro raised an eyebrow at her silent response, showing a faint degree of surprise at her defiance. In an instant, the expression had changed, now showing a twisted pleasure. Indeed, she had just given him the excuse that he needed.

"As you wish."

"Hold her." He snapped in his native tongue and the guards immediately jumped forwards to take Valaria by the arms, holding her in a vice like grip.

Calmly, he walked over towards the heavy drapes that covered a significant portion of the wall, cutting off all light from the window beyond. He paused beside it, smiling at them warmly, then he pulled back the drape, letting in the bright morning light.

The moment the light touched his skin, Malachi's body burst into flames. His eyes opened wide, but they were unseeing and completely devoid of all reason. He gave a piercing shriek, his body writhing hopelessly within his shackles. The room was filled with the horrible stench of burning flesh. After a few seconds, Don Alejandro let the drapes fall back into place, cutting off the light.

Immediately, Malachi's body was still, the flames dying down. In just a few seconds, he had been reduced to a burnt husk of a figure, barely even recognisable as Malachi. His limbs, still held by the shackles, looked so brittle that they might break if someone even touched them too hard.

"One less vampire." Don Alejandro smiled, then he turned to the guards. "Take her to the cells. She will answer my questions later."


Offline Firesblood

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Valaria flinched when the guards took hold of her, grinding her teeth against the forceful hold in place.  She watched Don Alejandro cross the room to the drapes with increasing dread.  Malachi went up faster than a dry pine fire, and Valaria screamed in horror.  Her arms pulled against the guards, instinct demanding that she act to try and end the stream of sunlight, but they only held her harder.  “No, stop!  Don’t do this!”

The screams dissolved into hysterical sobs as Don Alejandro closed the drapes again, proclaiming Malachi’s life ended.  She couldn’t stop staring at Malachi’s charred body, and between what she was seeing and the lingering stench of burning flesh in the room, her stomach lurched, threatening to be sick.  She had seen more than enough death in the last few weeks, but up to this point she had never actually had to watch anyone die, especially in not so cruel of a manner.

Valaria forced herself to look away, not bothering to fight when the men took her from the room as Don Alejandro commanded. 


Offline Jabbathejack

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Don Alejandro chuckled as she was dragged out of the room, giving the burned body a last look, he took his glass from the table and returned to his study with a satisfied smile.
He paused in the doorway and turned to one of his guards.

"In a few hours, get someone to bring her some food and water."
"I will see to it personally, my lord."
"No." Don Alejandro replied sharply. "Send Paco instead."
"My lord?" The guard stared at him in surprise.

Don Alejandro grinned broadly.
"Do not worry, the boy will be just fine."

Sure enough, it was mid afternoon when Paco, a skinny young stable boy, brought a plate of cold ham and some bread along with a cup of water to Valaria's cell. Balancing the cup in the crook of his arm, he pulled back the bolt and opened the door, peering inside warily.

"Stay back, miss." He frowned as he entered, stooping to set the cup and the plate on the floor. He pushed it towards her, making sure not to approach her. She was, after all, a very important prisoner.


Offline Firesblood

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The young woman eventually quieted, though the image of what had happened seemed burned into her eyes.  Open or closed, it was there, repeating over and over in her head until she felt hollow with it.  She remained silent and crouched in the corner of the cell as far from the door as she could get.

When the door opened she cringed back, but it was only a boy with food.  There were no guards behind him that she could see.  It seemed an odd thing, for Alejandro to send someone like this to deliver food.  He looked as though a strong wind could blow him over, and she was certain if she tried to get past him, he would offer little resistance.  But it could be a trap.  There could be more men waiting outside, and her trying to escape would only give him further excuse to make her suffer.

This could be the only chance that she had, though, and she would rather die fighting, than just allow herself to be killed without a fuss.  She was scared, but no matter how resolved she was about not giving Alejandro an inch, she had never suffered torture before.  Did she have the strength of will to resist no matter what?

When Paco leaned down and pushed the plate towards her, Valaria launched to her feet and charged into him with enough force to at least knock him off balance, then scrambled out the door and bolted down the corridor as fast as she could, firmly in the grip of an adrenaline rush.  She was desperate to get out, to run, to get as far away as possible, out of his reach and to someplace—any place—safe out of the Don’s reach. 


Offline Jabbathejack

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The boy fell back with a surprised yelp. He scrambled to his feet, calling out the alarm, yet this end of the house was quiet. In the distance, there was an answering shout and the sound of running feet as guards grabbed their weapons and scrambled out to find their fleeing captive.

As the first guards ran out of the house, they immediately realised that their horses had been taken and scattered. Hurling curses into the air, the guards spread out, following the mess of hoof tracks in the mud to try and catch her.

From his study inside, Don Alejandro stood at the door, listening to the chaos outside.
"My lord." His lieutenant hurried over. "She has escaped."

Smiling, Don Alejandro turned and headed back inside, settling back into his chair.
"Excellent news."


Offline Firesblood

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Valaria paused her escape long enough to release the horses, hoping to add enough trails to throw her pursuers off of the real one.  She proceeded at a frantic pace until hiding became necessary lest Don Alejandro’s men spot her.  She wiggled down into a tangled mess of deadfall and leaves, ignoring the sensation of crawling things as she dragged piles of leaves over herself.  It was difficult to keep from shaking, and she had to remind herself to breath. 

When the danger of being discovered passed, she was on the move again.  She only hoped that she was running in the right direction to Lourdes; Staunton needed to know what had happened to Malachi, and that Don Alejandro was after him.  She didn’t dare stop or make camp, didn’t dare rest beyond the short spurts when she needed to hide. 

By the time she reached the city, her legs had given out on her half a dozen times, and her hands and knees were bloody from her falls.  The sun had been down for a little over an hour.  She only slowed when she reached Staunton’s citadel, bracing herself against the wall to keep herself steady as she climbed the stairs.  She stopped when she reached the guard near Staunton’s door, still fighting to catch her breath.  “I need to see Lord Staunton.  It’s urgent.”


Offline Jabbathejack

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"Find her." Don Alejandro smiled coldly at his lieutenant. "But do not capture. I want to know where she runs to, bringing news of what we did to the vampire."
"Yes, my lord." The lieutenant turned and marched out of his master's study, ignoring the general pandemonium of a break out as he singled out his best tracker and set him on the task of finding her tracks. As ordered, they remained well back, ensuring that she did not know she was being followed.

She hurried towards Lourdes, confirming what his master had already half suspected. She wound her way to the walled castle within, the lieutenant watching from behind the corner of a building. He signalled to the tracker and they left the city, ready to pass the information back to Don Alejandro.

***

Staunton frowned as Valaria entered his study. He was about to ask her what she was doing back here so soon, when he realised that he could smell her blood. It was faint, only a slight scrape here and there, but even so, it was enough of an indicator that something was horribly wrong.

"What's happened? Where's Malachi?"

He knew that his son would not have left her, not without a damn good reason. Staunton stood, closing the gap between them. He reached out and took her by the arm, seeing how close to exhaustion she was.

"It's all right." He spoke softly, frowning in concern. "You are safe now."


Offline Firesblood

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Valaria steadied herself thanks to his hold on her arm, his assurance that she was safe nearly undoing what little composure she was currently clinging to.  It wouldn’t help him to dissolve into hysterics, and despite being quite close to that point, she managed to speak.

“We ran afoul of the Inquisition,” she said, trying to slow her words a bit so that they didn’t come out in such an unintelligible rush. “They were led by a man called Don Alejandro Luis Alvarez Gonzales, the same man who captured Etienne and me before.  But he knew what Malachi was, my Lord, what you are.  He interrogated him until the sun rose, and then when I refused to answer his questions, they put Malachi—” Her voice strangled off mid-sentence, and for a moment Valaria could smell Malachi’s burning flesh again, and struggled to breathe through it.  She swallowed, trying to push past it.  The best she could do was a hoarse whisper.  “They put Malachi in the sun.  They forced me to watch him burn.”

Valaria grimaced, closing her eyes as she looked away.  “I’m fairly certain they allowed me to escape.  It was…it was too easy, after the precautions they took up to that point.  They probably followed me, but I had to warn you, to tell you what happened.  They are looking for you.  It’s not safe here anymore.”