“Hello, my lord. How was your nap?” Nicolas said to the tied-up noble. “Hope it was pleasant. We went to extra length to make sure you were comfortable.”
Alonso struggled for a moment trying to break free of the ropes. But when he realized he couldn’t move, he sat in the most dignifying manner he could and stared at his captor.
“A noble to the very end, just like your father. At least I hope you won’t try anything stupid. But before we discuss a few business, we’d like to thank you for everything. If not for you, we’d never had made this alliance.”
The bearded man gestured, and a short man walked to his side. They both stared at Alonso through the prison’s bars.
Only the former Sword of the King smiled. The leader of the bandits of the forest showed no expression, his eyes pale.
But as Otto stared at the tied-up lord, his eyes shone and face twitched with rage. His energy began to boil, pushing back the twisted one that had almost taken over.
If not for his rage, and his love for his people he’d have been consumed by that twisted energy right away, Tetsuko knew.
The soul in the sword had been observing Otto ever since she sensed the seed of the same twisted energy as Lucky Chaos.
She could tell one thing. It was alive.
That other energy inside him was trying to consume the leader’s mind and soul.
Whenever he rested or let his guard down, the energy grew inside him. In those moments, his eyes lost its color, as if the soul in there was about to go away.
But when he became aware of his surroundings, or his family talked to him, his eyes shone, and the twisted energy shrank.
Nicolas put a hand on Otto’s shoulder and the rage lost to the twisted energy.
“Thanks to you, my lord, two of the most dangerous bandits’ group have allied.”
All Alonso did was stare at his captives.
“Untie me,” he said in a low voice, not letting his fear cross his face.
Tetsuko chuckled in her mind. Even now, when there’s no one around but the bandits, he tries to preserve his image as a noble. That’s my wielder…
Former wielder now, I guess…
“If you free me, I’ll make sure your punishment will be—”
The bandit’s laughter cut through the lord’s words.
“My punishment?” Nicolas laughed again. A heartfelt laugh that echoed in the walls of the cold stone prison. “Guess you’ve been hit in the head real hard. Sorry for that.”
Otto shared nothing of the laugh.
“Let me tell you something, my lord. The King’s after my neck. For ten years now. I’ll be lucky if they can bury my body after my punishment,” Nicolas said in a cold and dark voice. Then, for a moment his eyes became less pale as he grabbed the metal bar. “After everything I did for him, after all the people that I’ve killed for him, he calls me a traitor and sentences me to die…”
Once again Tetsuko sensed the two energies inside him. But the bright one was only a drop in a lake and twisted one won. At the same time, the former Sword of the King’s eyes became pale again.
Alonso stared at him with his face empty.
“What do you want, then? Why keep me alive? Do you want ransom? Do you think I can be used in a negotiation with the King?”
The leader of the swamp bandits pulled a chair, entered the cell and sat before the tied-up lord. He placed a hand on his knee, leaned forward and touched Alonso’s head with a strong finger.
“I want what you have inside here,” he whispered, his eyes wild.
The imprisoned lord narrowed his. “What kind of information do you want?”
“Everything.” The bandit stood up and walked around the room, forcing Alonso to turn his head to keep up. “I wanna know about the army, about the situation in the cities. Other bandits’ groups the Kingdom is paying attention to… All about the invasions… Every bit of valuable information that you have inside that head of yours.”
“Like you don’t know most of that…”
“I do know a lot. But it’s hard to get information here. Especially the most valuable.”
“And what do you want to do if that information?”
Nicolas flashed a smile as he sat on the chair again.
“Sorry, my lord, but that’s my information. And you don’t have anything to bargain for it.”
“I won’t betray my land nor my king,” Alonso said defiantly. He raised his chin to look stared the bandit in the eyes, even if his situation didn’t allow so. “You can torture me, threaten me or even kill me. I won’t die as a traitor. I’m not like you.”
The bandit let out a hollow chuckle.
But Tetsuko sensed the rage boiling inside him. That’s the trigger to break through the twisted energy… his past…
“That’s very noble of you, my lord,” Nicolas said in a mocking tone. “There’s no chance of someone of your high birth die the same way as someone like me. Or even Fael.”
The lord kept quiet, still looking the lord of the swamp in the eyes.
“But you know something?” the bearded man crouched to bring his head at the same level as Alonso. “To me, Fael wasn’t a traitor at all. He was a hero. To his people.”
“What kind of hero leads thousands to their deaths?” the lord spat back, not holding back his rage anymore.
“The one who saved his entire people.”
“We’re not here to talk about that traitor,” Alonso said in a low voice.
“No, we’re not.” The bandit stood up. “We’re here to discuss your betrayal.”
“I told you I won’t betray my king! Torture all you want, but I won’t tell you anything!”
The bandit leader chuckled again. “I became a thief, not a torture. I steal people, not pull their nails with pliers or smash their fingers with a hammer.”
At those words, the lord flinched slightly.
It was barely perceptible, but Nicolas noticed. A smile crept into his lips.
“Do not fear, my lord. As I said, I’m not a torture. But I do hope if you forgive me for what you’re about to suffer.”
The moment he finished speaking, two more bandits entered the room.
They flanked the lord and yanked him to his feet.
Wincing from the pain of sitting in the same position for long, the noble said nothing. All he did was stare at Nicolas as he walked with the most dignity he could muster at the time.
The leaders followed him until they reached a small dark cell at the end of the corridor.
It was so cold their breaths became fog before their eyes.
The two bandits threw the noble on the cell and then closed the door.
It was dark. The closest light was far away at the entrance of the prison.
Barely an ember in a dark night with no stars and no moon.
It was the darkest place the noble had ever seen.
Holding a torch, Nicolas looked at the lord through the little wooden slit on the door.
“My lord, I’ll be coming to see you again in a few days. Hopefully you’ll be ready to talk a bit more.”
The bandit’s leader’s smile was the last thing Alonso saw before the darkness devoured him complete.