At His Mercy Ch. 02byphalanx_888©
Thank you all so much for reading my submission! I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of feedback I got and I'm glad you liked my story so much! I'm sorry about the short chapters; I've been writing the stories in bits and pieces and it's proving difficult to patch them back together in the proper chronological order.
Once a day, Elias changed her bandages and reapplied medicine. At first, he did not bother trying to wake her up; she was close enough to death that he didn't want to risk disturbing her healing process. He cooked up a chicken broth, rich with nutrients boiled out of vegetables and the healing essences of herbs. He would gently prop her up into a sitting position, cradled against his chest, and spoon the soup into her mouth, letting it trickle down her throat. He also bathed her regularly before rebandaging her, as best he could with her injuries the way they were.
She didn't seem like she would wake anytime soon, so Elias still made his regular forays into the city. He closed and locked her door when he went out, just in case she did wake up and try to escape, or some Jacobis came to try to rescue her, or any other marauders came wandering around his fortress for whatever reason. It was nice having someone other than himself to care for, and he was surprised by how much he cared about her safety, even if she did potentially have valuable information that he wanted. He wandered through the markets, idly browsing through goods that a female might need or want, as well as discreetly listening for any gossip about a missing Jacobi. As always, he wore his veiled hat to conceal his identity. Although wearing the hat was by no means inconspicuous, drawing attention to himself as the leader of the Lucians was even more dangerous.
He visited the apothecary to buy more ointments and medicinal herbs. The proprietor was one of the few people who knew Elias's identity, as Elias had frequented the apothecary in the past. He looked at Elias curiously, surveying his body for injuries. "No, Alister, I'm fine," Elias said mildly, watching him wrap the selected herbs up in cloths.
Alister paused, looking up at Elias. When it was clear that he wasn't going to volunteer any more information, Alister turned his attention back to his task. "Will that be all?"
Elias gave a curt nod, handing over the silver required. "And Elias—" Alister began hesitantly as Elias picked up the package and turned to go. Elias glanced up.
Alister took a deep breath, then continued, "I know you are still stricken over what happened, but...you are a strong person, with most of your life still ahead of you. It's time to move on."
Elias bowed his head, he too taking a deep breath. "I understand, Alister. Thank you for your concern." Alister nodded. Elias turned to the door. "Good day, my friend."
Alister watched as Elias made his exit. "And good luck to you, my friend," Alister said softly, staring thoughtfully after him.
Elias weaved his way back through the market, eager to get back home. He stopped at a few food stalls to buy fresh produce, including apples, carrots, and green onions. He also made a stop at the butcher's to pick up a chicken carcass and some pork chops, making his leave quickly. He had never liked the butcher.
As he made ready to leave the city, he realized that he had nothing to clothe the girl with. Most of the things in the Lucian fortress had been destroyed that fateful day, including all the clothing. He supposed he could dress the girl in his clothes, but while he was in town, he might as well get her something more appropriate. He stopped at the first clothing stall he found and bought undergarments and a simple yellow gown. He added a pair of slippers to his purchases as an afterthought.
As Elias strolled down the open road toward home (having chosen the road because the woods would have been much more difficult to maneuver with all his packages), he found his thoughts again turning to his strange prisoner. She had been unusually silent, attacking stealthily under the cover of night and never revealing who she was. All of his previous assassins had presented themselves boldly, brazenly declaring their allegiance and their purpose in confronting him. Their overwhelming confidence was also strange, he realized—his prowess and astuteness was nearly legendary among all the surrounding warrior clans, and everyone knew better than to pick a fight with Elias of the Lucians. Then again, many of his would-be assassins had attacked in groups; more of an ambush than an assassination.
Her silence could be attributed to her desire to keep her gender hidden. Her allegiance, though, could've easily been expressed through her attire or fighting stance. Come to think of it, her fighting stance was unlike any he'd ever seen; it certainly wasn't the signature of any of the proximate warrior clans.
He mused silently the rest of the way. Upon arrival, Elias immediately went to check on the girl. She was exactly as he had left her. Unwrapping a fresh parcel of herbs, he once again began the process of cleaning and rewrapping her wounds.
Several days passed and the girl still remained unconscious. Elias began to grow concerned. The girl was breathing deeply and her pulse was steady, but she hadn't moved at all since she'd fainted. Taking her to town to see a doctor was out of the question. So was requesting a house call; Elias had been doing his best to lay low since the demise of his clan and there was no sense in bringing an outside doctor into his fortress. Besides, no one knew the girl was here besides himself, and he intended to keep it that way.
Blearily, the girl opened her eyes. She quietly took stock of her surroundings. She was lying in a plush four-poster bed, covered with a warm blanket. A large pot of water was simmering in the fireplace at the opposite end of the room. She tried to sit up, but immediately slid back down with a groan of pain. She weakly raised an arm to grip her midsection and realized she was bleeding through her bandages. Bandages?
She swept the blanket off her body, wincing at the pain that simple motion caused her body. Her entire torso was swathed with bandages that completely covered her down to her hips. She also had a single bandage wrapped around her thigh. Other than that, she was completely naked.
She frowned, trying to remember how she had gotten into this situation. She had been armed, waiting in the forest...ah, yes; she had attacked and failed to kill the leader of the Lucians. And amazingly, he had refrained from killing her, instead taking her prisoner and treating her wounds. Well, she thought wryly, I suppose he had to treat my wounds if he wanted me alive. I was certainly in no condition to be answering questions then.
She wondered what the consequences would be for attempting to kill him. He was the leader of a warrior clan and couldn't afford to be lenient. Probably didn't know how to be lenient. The best option for her was to avoid interrogation altogether. She spied a window across the room and tried to move toward it, but pain immediately shot through her body when she tried to roll out of the bed. She suppressed a groan, pressing down harder on her bleeding wounds.
Her head snapped up as the door opened. Elias entered the room, bearing fresh bandages and a bowl of soup. Her eyes followed his movements warily as he walked over to a low table and set down his things.
He turned to her, careful not to show too much emotion. He was the impassive, detached clan leader and had to act the part. "How are you feeling?"
She looked suspiciously up at him, supporting herself on one elbow. After a few seconds' pause, she looked back down at her wounds, slowly lifting her arm off the bandages.
Elias cursed and stepped forward quickly, gripping her by the shoulders and easing her onto her back on the bed. She stiffened at his touch, refusing to relax even after he had released her.
Elias quickly reached for the medicine he kept on the table, opening the package and selecting a few herbs. He strode over to the simmering pot of water, dropping the herbs in and removing the pot from the heat. He then brought the pot over to where the girl lay, still watching him warily. He set the pot down and then started gently peeling her bandages off. She winced slightly, but otherwise gave no protest. After he had removed all her bandages, he dipped a cloth into the warm water and gingerly washed her wounds. Most of them were almost healed, although the girl had somehow reopened the wound on her abdomen. He applied medicine and rebandaged the wounds quickly, then reached for the bowl of soup. "Are you able to sit?" he asked.
The girl shifted her weight to her elbows and tried to push herself up, but once again grimaced in pain and stopped mid-motion. Elias set down the bowl of soup and propped her up into a sitting position. Sensing her resentment of his help, he handed her the bowl of soup so she could feed herself.
She carefully brought the bowl of soup into her lap. Her hand trembled as she began to lift the spoon. The trembling became more and more violent as she raised the spoon higher and she was forced to set it back down again.
Wordlessly, Elias took the bowl of soup from her and raised a spoonful to her lips. The girl was clearly frustrated at her helplessness, but reluctantly conceded to Elias's care. When the bowl was empty, he stood and set it back down on the table.
He sat down on the edge of the bed and brushed her hair back. "So, what's your name?"
She kept her mouth clenched shut and stared back at him.
Elias sighed. "This will be much easier on both of us if you cooperate. Answer my questions, I won't harm you. I probably won't let you go, but you'll be allowed to walk around my compound and I'll provide for you. If you don't answer my questions, however, I'll do whatever it takes to get the answers I want."
She gave no acknowledgement of his words, although he did observe a flicker of concern in her eyes.
There must have been something in the soup, because she couldn't think straight. Or maybe it was from the blood loss from her injuries, or the fact that she must've been out for days. She struggled to pull her thoughts together. Since she had failed to escape and avoid interrogation, she had to come up with another strategy. The simplest thing to do seemed to be to pretend she couldn't understand. But with the minor interactions she'd already had with the Lucian, that wouldn't be very convincing. Pretending she couldn't speak? That might work, but with the amount of torture she was sure she was facing, she needed to ration up her stamina. If she played that card, she was sure the Lucian would torture her immediately to see if she was faking. And since he was already eventually going torture her for the information, she saw no point in making it unnecessarily more difficult for herself.
Elias watched her patiently as she seemed to consider her situation. Apparently deciding there was no harm in telling him a name, she answered, "Seraphina."
Elias paused, then decided he could afford to return the favor. "Elias."
She gave a small nod of acknowledgement, still trying to clear her head.
"First of all, why were you trying to kill me?" Elias thought it best to start with the most obvious questions. It had crossed his mind that she could just be a desperate bandit who had no political reasons for trying to kill him. Unlikely, but possible.
Seraphina again considered her options. There wasn't much point in lying. Even if he miraculously bought it, she was a warrior. She had principles; she had honor. She certainly wasn't going to give him any information, but she wasn't going to lie to him, either. She was strong enough to take the consequences of honestly not cooperating.
But above all, things would be much, much worse for her if she told him everything he wanted to know.
Her decision putting a glint in her eye, she shook her head.
Elias sighed. "You don't really have a choice here."
"I'm not answering your questions."
He groaned internally. He was going to have to torture the girl.