Ebony was waiting for him in the chamber of chains the following morning. She wore the same red gown as the day before, but her black curls were tied back this time. She looked refreshed and vibrant. The same couldn’t be said of the half-naked man tightly chained to the wall.
Traveler studied this man carefully as the guard pulled the door closed. His shaggy blond hair fell across his dark eyes and his face looked tired, haggard, and thin. He was a tall, slender man with long limbs. He was gazing defiantly at Ebony and hardly seemed to notice the man standing by the door.
“Traveler, this is former councilman Vindar Re’Coris,” Ebony said as Traveler silently stepped to her side. “I had him imprisoned several days ago because I didn’t like his methods.”
“Then why are you having me torture him?” Traveler asked softly.
Her violet eyes cut over to him, though she couldn’t meet his eyes because of the hat’s wide brim.
“It is my will that he be tortured, Traveler,” she said icily.
Traveler bowed his head to her. “And it is my duty that I serve.”
She nodded once and turned back to Vindar. “If you would begin, Traveler.”
Traveler stepped forward, suppressing a sigh. He disliked torture and liked senseless torture even less. But he was in her employment and he had to do as she demanded.
I look forward to doing this to you, he thought a he slashed across the man’s abdomen.
The man screamed and looked down to see if there was any blood. When he saw there was none, he looked up at Traveler, fear in his eyes.
Traveler stepped close to Vindar’s ear. “Be glad this is all I’m doing.”
He stepped back and watched as the man shivered at his words, clearly wondering what else the necromancer could do.
“Keep going, Traveler,” Ebony prompted.
Traveler frowned and slashed his hands across the man’s chest in a searing X and then scored both arms from the shoulder to the wrist.
* * *
The Drunken Spider was as crowded and noisy as that first night. This time, he had purchased a double order of malt liquor for himself and sat at a table in the corner, his back to the room. Kali sat across from him, the hood of her black cloak pulled over her head. She clasped her own glass of malt liquor between her hands and frowned at her betrothed, who was downing the last of his second glass.
Seth lifted the empty glasses and caught the eye of one of the bartenders, indicating he wanted two more. Kali’s frown deepened and she watched as a barmaid hurried to serve his order and sweep up the coins.
“Isn’t two enough, Seth?” Kali asked softly.
He drank half of the third glass. “It’ll never be enough, Kali,” he said hoarsely. He cleared his throat. “Not after what Ebony has me doing.”
“What does she have you do?”
He shook his head and finished his third drink. “You don’t want to know. She has me stopping just short of killing them. Some of them are guilty of high treason, some are just senseless torture done for her entertainment.”
Kali shivered. “You have to leave, Seth.”
He glared at her and dumped his fourth drink down his throat. “I can’t. I haven’t accomplished what I came here to do.”
She caught his arms before he could order two more. “That’s enough, Seth.”
“I didn’t ask you to join me. Let me drink as I please.”
“No, Seth,” she said firmly. “I followed you here for your sake. You need to get out of Arachnia. If not for my sake, then for your own mental state. Whatever it is Ebony is having you do, it’s destroying your mind.”
“You just don’t want anyone to tell her you’re the one who sent them,” he said caustically.
“I care about you, too, Seth,” she said softly, still pining his arms down to the table. In his inebriated state, he couldn’t use his powers to throw her hands off of him, nor was he strong or steady enough to physically throw her off. “I see you wandering through the halls at night, looking lost and disgusted with yourself. I hate seeing you like that. Please, go, before you lose your mind.”
“I didn’t do what I came to do yet,” he said, his words slurring together.
“What did you come to do?”
“I came to come and do,” he mumbled, almost incoherently.
She stared at him, blinking in confusion. “What? Seth, you’re drunk.”
He shook his head and collapsed to the floor.
* * *
The traveler wearily collapsed onto his bed, cloak and hat still on. It was late at night and another day of torture had ended. He had just gotten back from another evening at The Drunken Spider, the one place where he could get drunk enough to simply fall asleep upon hitting the sheets. He didn’t know what they put into the malt liquors, but they certainly did the trick.
His eyes had just begun to close when he heard his door creak open. With a groan, he pushed himself up and stared blearily at the figure of a young boy dressed in the page’s uniform of black streaked with silver and crimson.
“I’ll take that,” the traveler rasped out when he saw the boy held a silver envelope in his hand.
“A message from the Queen Ebony, sir,” the boy lisped softly.
The traveler took the envelope and the boy scampered out after bowing hastily. He turned the envelope over in his hands, his head pounding, debating whether he should wait until morning to read it or open it right then.
He stared hard at it, willing his eyes to focus. He jerked the heavy piece of parchment out of the envelope and saw that Ebony was demanding he torture two men at once the following day.
The paper and envelope slid from his fingers and slithered to the floor. His head fell back onto the crimson pillows and he succumbed to sleep.
* * *
The two men stood chained to the wall. They looked not much older than Traveler and could have been brothers with the same golden brown hair and dark green eyes, but their features differed far too much for them to be brothers. For another, one was extremely fair and the other much darker.
Ebony stood in the middle of the room, her hands on her hips and her head cocked to the side as she studied the two men. This time, her form-fitting gown was black with silver beads along the hem and her curls had been straightened to a slight wave.
“There they are, Traveler,” she said, holding out a black gloved hand to the two men. “Two men from my court who plotted to overthrow me. I learned it from my torture-master husband. Oh, I forgot. The dark man is Julian, the man I married the day before I employed you. The other his Verick. I thought of marrying him and came close to it, but I changed my mind.”
Traveler inwardly sighed, wondering which number husband Julian was. For some reason, he mentally equated torturing Julian to torturing his brother. After all, Christian had been Ebony’s first husband. These men, though, were helpless to Ebony’s seductive wiles. He didn’t blame them for being her husbands when she should have remained married to Christian. In any other situation with any other woman, he would have been incensed that the woman had married another man after killing her first husband. But, no, he blamed Ebony for what she did repeatedly. It was her he wanted to hurt, not these men.
But Ebony had commanded, and so he must do it.
“What do you wish, madam?” Traveler asked softly.
“Pain, of course. Though I think blood would be a lovely touch this time, though not so much that they die of blood loss.”
“As you command, my lady.”
He frowned, wondering what he would do this time as he pulled himself into a torturer’s frame of mind. He found that by doing that, he was able to do as Ebony asked without further shattering his own mental state. And he spent far less coin at The Drunken Spider.
Deciding, he held out his arms and called to the most wrathful spirits he knew and asked them to destroy the men’s minds and give hints to what their torture might be like. He and Ebony watched as the men screamed with the pain of having spirits filter through their heads.
Then Traveler stepped forward and touched Verick’s temple, drawing out the sense of touch from his body. Verick gasped when he realized he could no longer feel the chains around his wrists and ankles and the trousers he still wore, but could feel the spirits traveling through his head. Traveler pushed his head back and tilted it up. He kept the man’s head in place with magical ties and Verick whimpered when he realized he couldn’t feel the pain of that, either.
Julian was watching with wide eyes, panting heavily, when Traveler turned to him. He regarded the chained man for several moments before deciding to score his body with his invisible sword so not one inch of his body felt uncut.
He did that for some time and Verick’s eyes widened as he heard his companions cries of pain and mercy, and he turned his eyes enough to see no sign of Julian’s source of pain. The man’s skin was unblemished. Then Traveler forced Julian’s eyes on Verick and held them there so he could no longer see his own body.
Traveler whipped his sword across Verick’s chest. This time, blood oozed out, though he couldn’t feel it.
Ebony was apparently unsatisfied with this. “Release his head, Traveler, and do the same to Julian.”
Traveler did as she asked. He released Verick’s head and the man looked down and cried out when he realized he was bleeding and couldn’t feel it. Traveler then turned to Julian and held his head back with his magical ties. He forced Verick’s eyes onto Julian as he scored Julian’s body with shallow cuts, and blood ran from them.
Julian, able to feel it all, screamed in pain. Traveler turned to Verick and whipped his hands over his body, though he didn’t draw blood. Verick, however, thought the same was being done to him as to Julian and screamed, believing he was also bleeding all over his body.
“Excellent,” Ebony murmured. “Keep going.”
And through all this, the most wrathful spirits in the after world gleefully whispered words of hate and made the men believe they had committed crimes they hadn’t actually done.