child_m.gif (3208 bytes)ale of Light

CHAPTER 3: DREAD TIDINGS

Mendoza El Castrador, Keeper of the Daggers of Denada and Imperial Priest of His Eminence's Inquisition grinned at his prisoner. The elf was hung by its arms from the ceiling by heavy chains, its feet dangling a yard off the floor. The elf's head was slumped forward, and its hair matted with blood. Its naked body was covered in cuts, some old, most new. Mendoza idly ran his finger over the blade of his dagger- he loved his job.

"I'll ask you again," Mendoza said, his voice cheery. "Where are your kin?"

The Elf didn't answer. Mendoza, for a brief moment, wondered if the Elf had died on him, or passed out. He tested that theory by dragging his dagger slowly across its chest. It gasped in pain, and looked up at the Inquisitor. Cold eyes. Evil cold eyes. Mendoza grinned again- he was too good at his job to allow the animal to lose consciousness.

"Where are your kin?" the Inquisitor asked, his voice polite and cheery, as if speaking to a child.

The elf mumbled something. "I can't hear you." Mendoza said. He kicked the Elf violently in its stomach, and watched with satisfaction as it screamed. It swung for a few moments on the chain. Mendoza allowed himself a little laugh; it was amusing watching the thing sway. "I can't hear you." he repeated, this time a little more aggressive.

The elf spat out two broken teeth, and glared at Mendoza. Evil eyes. Foul creature. When it spoke, its voice was hoarse, and its words thickened by its swollen lip. "I do not know." it said, a pathetic whine to its voice. It had long ago stopped begging for mercy. Now it seemed to have accepted that Mendoza was its master. It answered all his questions, and did its best to help him. He had broken the elf. He always did. It was too easy these days. He spat on the Elf, in contempt of it and all its kind. So weak and pathetic. The spittle rolled down the Elf's face, whilst it just stared stupidly at him. Evil eyes. Stupid animal eyes.

Mendoza sighed. This Elf knew nothing. If it did, it would have spoken by now. For months now Mendoza had been trying to find the whereabouts of the small Elven lair which existed in the duchy of Tyari Tereg. Yet even most Elves didn't seem to know the location. He wondered if it could all be a myth, an Elven lie. After all, no Elf possessed the intelligence to live in secret within Rhutalath. They were too.....primitive......for that.

With regret, he sheaved his dagger. He wasn't as cruel as his peers. Some would torture the creatures until they would confess to anything, absolutely anything, to make the pain stop. Mendoza was more enlightened than that; if this Elf knew nothing, let him go.

"I'm not a cruel man, you understand," he said, half to himself, half to the Elf. He walked over to his workbench whilst he spoke, casually holding up a branding iron to the light. He eyed it as if it was a thing of beauty, then returned it to the table. "Most of my colleagues, they would just kill you....." he said. He picked up his new toy off the table and smiled at it. A wondrous thing. It had cost him a small fortune, but it was worth every gold piece. "Now me- I'm going to give you a chance."

Mendoza turned and smiled at the Elf, wanting to see its reaction. It just hung there, staring at the floor. Ungrateful thing! Sullen thing! Still, it wasn't its fault it was uncivilized. He walked back to the Elf, his toy in hand, and smiled at the creature. He was proud of it- it had endured more than most of its species could. And Mendoza, well he was the best at his job. The best. "A choice." he repeated, mainly to himself. He smiled again at the Elf, feeling sorry for it- so pathetic, so feral. Yet, so evil. It wasn't the creature's fault. All his kind were evil, by birth. Mendoza was willing to show piety and understanding to all of Khanus' animals.

He held up his toy for the Elf to see, a small contraption consisting of wood, with a metal cylinder. "Do you know what this is?" he asked excitedly. The Elf ignored the question, and instead let its head drop forward. It vomited. Disgusting creature. Mendoza whacked it soundly with his iron, spiked gauntlet. He smiled as the elf's head swung to the side with the impact, blood cascading down its cheek. That would teach it.

He held the toy up to its slumped face, the cold iron cylinder resting against its temple. "Do you know what it is?" he asked again, politely.

The elf shook its head, a small, almost imperceptible movement, but it pleased Mendoza nonetheless. Now he could tell it about his toy. He loved talking about his toy.

"This," he said, pressing the toy close to the Elf's head. "Is the latest thing from Malidor. Cost me a full months pay, it did, senor." he said. He was talking mainly to himself now. He preferred talking to himself; the elf creatures weren't intelligent enough to have a decent conversation with. "Its called a gonne, apparently, although in Ilmanor they call it a Fire-bow. Its original name was a Muksata, which is Dwarven for Black-Thunder. Now the Malidorans, in their infinite wisdom," he said the last line contemptuously. He hated Malidorans. Nearly as much as he hated Ardanians. "The Malidorans called it a musket, based on the old Dwarven word. But gonne seems to have stuck." He smiled, delighted to be displaying his superior knowledge to this worthless creature. "I'm not sure why. I don't know what it means, and its far too barbaric a name for such a beautiful thing." He stroked it happily, before ramming it back into the Elves face. "And it really is beautiful, senor."

The Elf's eyes were closing now, as if it was tired. Or bored. Bored of Mendoza's story! How dare he! Uncultured animal! Droopy evil eyes! Tired feral eyes! He pulled out his dagger and rammed it into the Elf's forearm. Its mouth opened in pain, although no scream came out. Mendoza, satisfied that the Elf was interested again, continued his story.

"What does it do, I hear you ask?" he said, quite loudly, as if talking to an audience. He smiled, and pulled out a small metal sphere, no bigger than a pupil. He held it up dramatically, and showed it to each corner of the room, as if the walls would appreciate it. "It fires these small little stones." he said, gazing affectionately at the ball. "They're only small, I know. But you should see what they can do! Incredible!" he shouted the last word, almost maniacally. "I've seen it take down a horse, dead in its track. I once saw it remove an elf's head. Completely off its shoulders. Nothing but a stump!" he whispered, bending close to where the elf's ear used to be.

He paused, gazing lovingly at his gonne again, before returning his attention to the elf. He stood rigid, as if making an announcement. "So, we are left with a choice." he said. "I can't just let you go. Can't just let you run off and cause lots of Elven trouble, and do lots of Elven sorcery, and sire lots of little elves......" His smile was wicked. "But I don't really want to kill you......." he said. He thought for a long while, as if he hadn't said these things to dozens of other Elven creatures in the past week. He was a good actor, he was the first to admit.

"So, I'm going to let you make the choice." he said. The elf's eyes rolled up to look at him. "If you want to die, I can do it now, really quick. Painless. I promise." He gestured to the Elf's head with the barrel of the gonne. "Really quick."

"Or, if you'd prefer me to let you go- I'll shoot you right here," the gun pressed against the Elf's naked groin. "Its up to you. The head or the groin. You choose. I promise I'll do whichever you like."

The Elf looked at him in fear, its eyes wide. Mendoza began to load the gonne, placing the metal sphere in the barrel, then pouring the black powder in. He did it quickly and efficiently. He'd done it many times before.

When he'd finished he looked back up at the Elf. No answer? Ungrateful thing. He was giving him an opportunity to live.

"Well, which one is it to be. Make the decision. Where do you want me to shoot you?"

The Elf began to struggle frantically, its arms pulling at the chains which held it fast. "Answer me!!" Mendoza shouted. "Answer me!" He shook his head- it was always the same; they never made a decision. They were so uncivilized, they couldn't even choose life over a small wound.

He waited patiently, waited for the elf to stop struggling. When it had finally tired itself out, he held the gonne out and pulled the trigger. A small cloud of smoke erupted from the barrel, along with a loud noise which echoed around the small cellar. When the smoke cleared the Elf's left arm had been completely blown off. The Elf hung limply from one chain, the other chain still clasped around his severed arm. Blood poured onto the floor. Mendoza approached cautiously, hoping he hadn't killed it. He smiled- no, it was still breathing. And, thank Khanus, still conscious.

"Look what you made me do!" he yelled at the Elf. "You made me waste a bullet. Do you know how much these things cost?" he asked. The Elf ignored him. After all he'd done for it! Ingrate! He began to load the gonne again. More bullets. More powder. Stupid Elves wasting his money.

"Have you made a decision?" he asked, his voice sweet, after reloading the gonne. Again, no answer. He sighed, and pulled the trigger again. This time he severed the elf's right leg below the knee. More blood poured onto the floor, leaving a small puddle beneath the Elf. The elf seemed to be asleep! No manners! Mendoza sighed, and went back to the table to get more powder.

"It appears you're getting shoddy, senor," said a voice behind Mendoza. "I think you may lose that elf!"

Mendoza turned to see who had spoken. A tall man, of middle years, wearing the red robes and black armour of an Inquisitor, was stood in the doorway. High Inquisitor El Norid. He looked disdainfully around the torture chamber, his gaze resting more on the Imperial banners and red hangings than on the torture toys that Mendoza enjoyed so much. Mendoza glared at the new arrival- he hated Jose El Norid. The man always seemed to look at him as if he was above Mendoza. Above the great El Castrador? Who did he think he was? And Jose had no appreciation of the art of torture. To him, it was nothing but a necessary yet distasteful activity. You'd never get High Inquisitor El Norid working in a torture chamber! Never! He was too good for things like that. Mendoza hated him.

"Father Jose." Mendoza said courteously. "I am honoured to bathe in your light. How can I help you?"

Jose didn't answer at first. He circled the room, watching the unconscious Elf. Moving close, a look of disgust on his face, he lifted its head. He stared intently at it, opening an eye-lid with his finger. He shook his head, before resting his gaze on Mendoza.

Mendoza shifted uneasily. Jose was said to have a stare which could freeze a dragon. Mendoza believed it. Something menacing and all-knowing seemed to stare out of the dark pupils.

"If you want this Elf to live, I suggest you get him to a healer." Jose said, his eyebrows raised. "Unless you're finally bored of your little amusements."

Mendoza bowed respectfully. Stupid man! Did Jose think he could do the job better than the great Mendoza? Mendoza was the best! He knew exactly what to do. Take it to the healer, get it fixed up, then start all over again. No elf ever died in his hands unless he wanted it to. "As you command, Father." Mendoza said humbly.

Jose just nodded as if it was inconsequential. "I have need of your troops." he said to Mendoza. Mendoza frowned; why would El Norid have come all the way from Tol Goroth without troops of his own? Mendoza was in charge of only a few Crows.

"Of course, father. My troops are yours to command. Can I ask what they are needed for?"

Jose glared at Mendoza, before finally nodding. "There are wizards in Isana," he said, without a hint of emotion. "Two days ago we detected a small essence flow, and another yesterday. At least two different wizards. Somewhere near Stonegate."

Mendoza clenched his fist in anger. Wizards! In Isana! They had no right being in his duchy! Father Sebastian was growing lapse! "Are they powerful?" he asked.

"It is possible, though we detected only small flows. They killed three of my men. At least, they never returned."

Mendoza scowled. Evil mages killing his own people! It was diabolical! "How many men do you need?" he asked, happy that his troops would be used to dispense such righteous justice.

"About five should be enough." he said thoughtfully. Mendoza wondered again why Jose had only three troops of his own. It seemed careless, and stupid. Obviously the High Inquisitor was not intelligent! Not like Mendoza!

Mendoza smiled, happy that two wizards would be hung on his walls. "I would like to accompany you, Father, if it pleases you. I want to see for myself the evil which stalks our land!" Mendoza rubbed his hands in anticipation. Maybe he'd get to try his art on a wizard. The thought excited him! Khanus had really blessed him.

"That is not necessary." Jose said simply. "The Stormcrows will be enough. You stay here. I'm sure there's something important we can find for you to do!"

Mendoza felt his face twist in anger. How dare this stupid man borrow his troops, and refuse to allow him the honour of participating in the hunt. "But Father, I can help you!"

"I do not need help!" Jose said angrily. "Not for two wizards. Not two puny wizards! This is my hunt! I will chase them, I will catch them and I will hang them! I will not tolerate any more incursions into Rhutalath! I will deal with them, and I'll do it alone!" Jose gathered himself, embarrassed by his outburst. "Alone." he repeated, more calmly.

Mendoza stared wide-eyed at Jose. He really seemed to hate wizards. Mendoza understood, but wondered what could possibly have happened to him to cause such emotion. Mendoza pitied him- so much hate. He thanked Khanus that he himself had been granted with such tolerance. Stupid man!

"Forgive me, father." Mendoza said apologetically. "I wished only to see the faces of evil."

"Be careful what you wish for, my son." Jose said somberly, touching the Raptorcrux which hung at his neck. "I'll be taking refreshment in the refectory. Have your men ready to go after the afternoon meal. Bring horses, too. We won't be stopping until we reach Stonegate."

Mendoza smiled, hiding his contempt for the man. Being ordered around in his own monastery! The nerve of the man! "Yes, Father."

Jose gave a curt nod, and walked towards the door. "Khanus walk with you!" he said, before sweeping out of the door, his long robes dragging on the stone floor.

"Khanus be with you!" Mendoza replied courteously. He listened as El Norid's footsteps echoed up the stone steps. "And I hope you rot in hell!" he added, when he was sure the High Inquisior had gone.

Mendoza, unable to sustain his fury any longer, unsheaved his dagger and walked over to the unconscious Elf. "And I hope you rot in Hell too!" he said to the hanging body. And with that he lunged his knife into its chest. It jerked, as blood splattered Mendoza's robe. "Rot in hell!" he shouted again, plunging his knife into its neck. "Rot in hell!" he screamed even louder, hacking at its limbs. "Rot in hell!" The body jerked as it was slashed again and again.

When his rage had subsided, he smiled at his handiwork- a mass of flesh, blood and bone lay at his feet, whilst bits of flesh hung from the chains attached to the ceiling. He kicked the mass, fascinated by the sight. He smiled again. "I gave you a choice." he said.

Whistling to himself, he left the room and walked up the stairs. His fun had been cut short this time. It was time to go to the dungeon and get another plaything.