Hardcore: Qi Worlds

Chapter 102

Chapter 102: Captive 10

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It was early morning, what the Myrkalfar called morning, although they were deep underground they still followed the daily cycle of the surface, as so many of their resources were still procured from the overworld.

Fury finished his gruel, he did not eat much for one so large and active, Ghehena wondered how he sustained his energy, the only reasonable explanation was that Fury lived off qi itself to some extent.

“What is your pathetic excuse for a training regime today?” Fury asked in his usual disrespectful manner. He probably was amazed at their methods, but his contrary nature was such that he would never admit it.

“My answer is the same as every day, you will see,” Ghehena answered succinctly. The Queens Gladiators gave the pair a wide berth, out of fear, respect or hate, Ghehena did not know nor care.

“Well, it will be better than yesterday’s opponents,” Fury replied.

Ghehena knew not to ask why. It was a classic Fury setup. Instead, he decided on a retort, “great opponents are only attracted by great warriors, you will have to improve if you want to attract better duelling partners.” Ghehena was insulted Fury before he was insulted himself.

The behaviour of the slave was so indomitable it had influenced his own. Ghehena contemplated dejectedly, he was the one supposed to be influencing Fury, not the other way around.

Ghehena oversaw the training of Fury with relish. All the frustration, all the anxiety, caused by this slave, was returned with torture, also known as training.

What made it even more enjoyable was Fury did not object, he took it all. It was Ghehena’s goal to make him object, that would make his year, no, his decade.

 Rysik was the Royal Gladiator trainer, his methods were what helped Ghehena win the Val’Tien many years ago. He and Ghehena conspired together to increase the intensity of those methods. The brutal training would be torture for any except a true masochist.

Today they buffeted Fury with fourteen different Dread Aura’s, bringing in various masters to test his limits. The assault continued on Fury for a day without sleep. He had to maintain an aura-shield with six other qi techniques and while completing an ever-changing obstacle course. If he lacked concentration at any time, he would feel pain from the obstacle course or a dread aura.

The obstacle course was of Rysik’s design, and it had the added element of random foes, which included Ghehena himself. Scydhel even partook for a period, enjoying herself immensely while throwing darts at the darting and dodging Fury.

The trial tested his agility, concentration, aura-shielding and endurance. For the time leading up to the Val’Tien Fury went through similar arduous trials while defending his royal placement in the Val’Tien against all challengers.

There were never a lack challengers, Fury could face a dozen on challenger day. Opponents volunteered to take his place in the Val’Tien, or they were purchased, or they just volunteered as a favour to the Daughter. Some volunteered out of curiosity or to gather information for his likely opponents in the Val’Tien. All were welcome, and nearly all were defeated.

Dread Lords and Myrk Paladins were amongst his most difficult opponents. Even when he lost there were lessons to be learned. The winners were rewarded and asked to return in a week. Fury never lost twice.

Fury excelled in challenges and trials that involved raw power, strength, agility, speed and stamina. Where he came undone was his inexperience against different techniques. When an exotic technique was presented, it was often his first time facing it. This is why he usually won the second bout, he had learned and adjusted by the time he faced the opponent again. Ghehena was actually a little jealous of his ability to learn and adapt.

One such opponent created qi clones, which were not discernable even under Fury’s superior qi sight. The reason this technique was so effective was the user would cloak himself, while all three apparitions were his qi clones. None were the real user. The qi clones could all wield a qi blade, it was a masterful display of control, the Dread Lord who has mastered this technique had been using it for over a hundred years, and while it was well known amongst Ghehena’s peers, it was completely unknown to Fury.

The most interesting opponent for Fury was a female qi gladiator who created and controlled tiny qi blades. While learning this old technique she had attached the qi blades to crimson steel throwing knives. But as she grew into the old technique she was able to send the qi blades alone, with no mundane material. Her range was abysmal, her control needed much improvement, but her innovation was astonishing. It was a technique that Fury immediately fell in love with and began to practice.

Scydhel offered to purchase the qi gladiator, but astonishingly after an extended spar, he had witnessed enough of the technique to steal it.

Ghehena began to understand the magnitude of Fury’s affinity, it was apparent that in time he would surpass his teacher. His rate of improvement, his ability to learn new techniques, it would not be long before his pupil would be the superior warrior. He wondered, what was he supposed to do on that day?

How was he supposed to keep someone captive who was more powerful, and all other means of control were rendered useless? It was all up to Scydhel, she would need to convince Fury to become her loyal vassal, just as he was. Could she turn the rogue into a Myrk Paladin? Ghehena laughed at the mental image of Fury the Clown Paladin.

“Ah, my Daughter, what a surprise to see you here,” Fury welcomed his first visitor of the evening.

While Ghehena had monitored his days, Scydhel and her kin monitored his nights. The only female of their lineage who was not attempting to enhance their dynasty with the qi affinity bloodline was the Queen herself. She felt it was beneath her to share a slave and it could throw doubt on the succession of her daughter if she were to spawn a child with his seed. That was the official explanation, the unofficial one was it was doubtful Fury would survive the encounter with his brash attitude.

Their nightly ritual always began with conversation before the obligatory duties of being a royal stud.

“How was training today?” Scydhel asked. She would have had reports, plus she was connected to Fury, but this was her way of saying hello. He would be able to tell her of any injuries, which were usually remedied before any physical activity took place. Usually with exceptions like the time he had lost an arm.

“Oh, I was successful,” Fury said, “I managed to make Ghehena lose his temper once and Rysik three times.” He measured his success in the number of times he frustrated his trainers.

“How so?” she asked sweetly, it was hard to believe she was an ice cold bitch from hell, from her tone. ‘It was almost all an act,’ he thought, ‘almost.’

“There was a drill I was to perform which entailed dodging gladiators swinging axes and large swords. I was supposed to go over and under the blades. Instead, I thought it was more efficient to run straight through and knock the gladiators on their asses. It worked quite well from my point of view. Really they should know better by now,” he reenacted the story by mimicking the actions. “But old Ghehena and the ancient Rysik were upset, yelling something about the point of the drill, blah blah blah. The point was to get to the other side, and they knew it. Which I did. They didn’t really get angry though, not until I did it three times in a row. The third was the clincher.”

Scydhel sighed, “there was something to be gained by completing the drill as intended, do you not think?”

“That’s my point, in combat, you improvise, you do the unexpected. The one thing you do not do is follow the rules. This was my lesson to Ghehena and Rysik. I hope they learned it well,” Fury stated sagely.

Scydhel shook her head, smiling, “surely they know this. It is not a concept they are unfamiliar with.”

“Exactly,” he replied, “they should not forget it either.”

As with most of his conversations, Fury was on a different plane to the Myrkalfar. While they understood each other's words, the concepts were lost. There was a fundamental difference in perspective from both camps.

“Have you thought on my solution for your purpose?” Scydhel asked slyly.

“To become one of your pets like Ghehena?” Fury asked rhetorically. “While I see why you and he think that is my path…” he paused and turned serious, a rare occurrence. “There is something in me,” he touched his chest, “something deep which says no. This is not a purpose for me. Even considering it a great sadness overcomes me and I do not know where it is from,” he finished.

“Tell me about this sadness,” Scydhel was connected with him she could feel it, but she also could not discern its source. Perhaps if he talked about it, she could find it and destroy it. It was important that she bound the second sage to her. A couple of children was not enough, his ongoing loyalty was her main goal. And with his growth, it would not be possible to imprison him forever, not without destroying him.

“As you know, I lost my memories in my last major event, only surviving because of my qi healing ability. But, I have lost more than my memories, I do not know what, but I do know I lost something.”

“You have given me back my companion, Scintilla, and I am thankful. But even she does not come close to filling this loss that I am feeling. There is a hole within the core of my being, and when I look at it, it is without end.” He finished seriously and dramatically.

It was her greatest fear, something she could not destroy because; in order to destroy it, she would also ruin her chance to bind him to her. It was a problem Scydhel contemplated at length, she would not admit defeat. That was not in her nature. She had overcome much in her life, this was just another challenge.

Scydhel, Daughter of the Val’Sharam, was the one to discover the second qi sage. It was her that had secured him into her royal house. She had succeeded and defeated all her rivals in the Myrkalfar empire. She had also defeated the Celestials, the Qizhu and the Mogui in securing him. He would seed a generation of genius practitioners for her house, he could also grow and become one its greatest assets. If only she could bind him.

“This hole,” she started, “this could be related to something that is not normal amongst the Myrkalfar. Certainly amongst those of my kind, those of a royal lineage. It is a form of bond, the peoples who possess it call it love.  Where we …,” she swept her arm to indicate herself and other Myrkalfar, “we form different bonds. I think these bonds are needed with all peoples, it is just the Myrkalfar do not feel love.”

 “The terms for our bonds sound like bad words to other peoples, mistress and thrall, leadership and servitude, it is known as bondage. But to us it is a way of life, there is nothing wrong with a relationship between a mistress and her thrall.”

 “Ghehena has sworn to my service for life, his life is mine to use but also to protect. Would I throw something so precious away? Something so valuable? I think no.”

 “Fury, the only way to fill this hole, this purpose you need is to form a strong bond with someone. I would like that someone to be me,” The Myrkalfar Daughter finished her analysis and offer to Fury.

“How can I pledge myself to you when I am already your slave?” Fury asked genuinely.

“In our society, a gladiator is given their freedom when they complete a great accomplishment. Usually, it begins as an enticement and following the completion of the great task the reward is their freedom. For you, you would have to be given your freedom in this manner and then as a free warrior give yourself to me. This would be the only way to form a strong bond,” Scydhel explained.

“This bond would be pure, not one forced upon you, so it must be your decision, the Val’Tien offers the perfect opportunity to gain your freedom, not that I care if you win, I only care that you survive it,” Scydhel laid out her plans for Fury. “What do you think?”

Although she could sense him through the link, she asked him what he thought to prompt him to contemplate committing to her plan now.

Fury thought for a moment, searched his heart, “It is not something I would decide lightly, to do that would weaken the forging of such a bond,” he answered. He proceeded to change the subject, “it is getting late, and I will need my rest, I best see to my other duties Daughter,” he said standing while removing his leathers.

When Fury finished with his duties to the women of the House of Val’Sharam, they sent him Scintilla. And where before he had a somewhat unhealthy relationship with the werepanther that worshipped him, he now held her as he slept.

She did not mind, it was what a pack would do, and she viewed him as her pack leader, so whether he was rough with her, or held her, she was content.

She had filled a small part of the void which defined him. But he knew deep down something was wrong, very wrong.

Fury contemplated everything that had happened since his accident. Since he was a prime gladiator of the Dread Lord Azrul, his skills attested to the truth in that. The apprentice Phee had used the event, of his amnesia, to lie to him, to try and trick him into becoming her mate. And it worked for a time, he was like a lost babe believing everything she said. But in the end, her web of lies undid her, her actions spoke louder than her words.

Phee miscalculated, and although he had no memory, he was not an idiot. Well, not all the time.

Scintilla was brought to him by Phee, to use and abuse, for Phee’s pleasure. She wanted to see someone hurt and she wanted to see him hurt them. In the end, she got her wish, but it was Phee on the receiving end.

Then there was the training with Genoci and the ludus penta. He had been a gladiator there before the accident. But what did not make sense was they had to train him in the basics of the gladiator style. And every time during training when he did something different, it surprised them. This was understandable for here, at the house of Val’Sharam but at the Tendulkar Clans Ludus, he was supposed to have been their prime before the accident.

Something was off.

He had ignored it when he was in the thrall of Phee and then he was in a state of anger, he did not contemplate the signs, the difference between words and actions. He was too busy being a monster.

While the ludus of Val’Sharam was not duplicitous like the Tendulkar Clan, Ghehena was honourable, that much was obvious.

As Scintilla snuggled into him and before Fury drifted off to sleep, he knew he needed to be careful, especially with the link with Scydhel. If he closed it she would become suspicious, so he began to control the flow of thoughts into the connection, to include only those of attraction and comfort from his bed partner.

And while he thought, on the verge of sleep it occurred to him, there was something off with the House of Val’Sharam as well.

It was not the what, as it had been with the Dread Lord’s castle, it was the why.


Why did she pay three thousand qi kernels for him? Why did she agree to onerous terms where she could not punish him. Why did the royal females mate with him every night? Why was he so hard to control, and why now. Had he not always possessed these tattoos? Why did he not learn how to dismember them before?

It did not add up.

Fury’s thinking was usually superficial and ran on emotion or instant gratification, but he wasn’t a complete idiot.

Was this what he was like before? Not a monster, not a clown, something else or those mixed in with something more. Was the part of him he had lost what contributed to the void?

Scintilla rolled, sensing his unease, she stroked his hair, calming him.

Fury had a feeling of déjà vu. Unbeckoned tears came to his eyes, the void was not something missing. He knew now, it was something stolen.

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