Chapter 94: Captive 2
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Azrul nervously paced back and forth in one of the meeting rooms in the royal palace. An audience with the Daughter of the house of Ileum was not easy to obtain, especially when you were vague about the reason.
Two sombre qi scholars and a scribe entered with one of the royal seneschals. The Daughter was not with them. Azrul could spot a qi scholar, usually, by their distinctive robes. They were organised in a complex colouring scheme which was beyond her comprehension and her desire to learn it was nil.
The seneschal was distinctive in her royal colours, her tight fitting outfit was an elegant white and blue, the colours of the house of Ileum. The colouring marked her seniority, and the scribe who followed her gave it away that she was a seneschal and not a guard captain or another similar martial caste.
The seneschal began imperiously, “Azrul, Dread Lord of the Tendulkar Clan, we have here your petition to seek an audience with the revered Daughter. This request will not be granted unless I can find some merit in your petition. As it stands the reasons stated are inadequate. However, due to your standing as one of twenty-three Dread Lords serving the Queen, I will grant you an interview in the hopes I can find some reason to grant your request.”
Azrul translated the doublespeak to mean, they were interested, tell us more before the Daughter walks out from behind the curtain. She had mentioned she had found something of value and returned immediately from the sanctioned raid. A vague submission, yet enticing.
“The reason my petition did not contain specifics is that the information on the valuable item in question is extremely sensitive. If word got out about this item, the Daughter would be most upset. So I request, again, an audience with her, alone.” Azrul countered.
“Are you rejecting an audience with the Daughter under her terms?” the seneschal asked dangerously. The question was designed to intimidate Azrul. And while she usually avoided these political games, it did not mean she was not savvy enough to play them.
“Certainly not, my request is to protect the Daughter. Her instruction will be the same when she has the information that I possess,” Azrul replied contritely and with cunning.
The seneschal looked perturbed that she could not pry more information. “Very well, I will close this interview, and you shall receive a summons or rejection once your petition has been assessed,” the seneschal gave absolutely no information. It would have been easy for her to assess and authorise or deny on the spot. Azrul wondered what was with all the manoeuvring.
She stood, bowed and left. She made her way to one of the more renown coteries her clan used. She was concerned with the bounty’s ability to be totally unpredictable. It was hard to keep a prisoner or slave when you had no idea of the tricks they were capable of.
Other than being a skilled war leader and combatant, Azrul was an astute qi slave and gladiator dominatrix. She was well on her way to becoming a Mistress, the highest rank someone of her birth could attain.
The Coterie possessed highly skilled sealers amongst their number. The barrier she had placed on the bounty’s cell may prove inadequate. But seals, especially ones crafted by a grandmaster, would cripple the bounty and lower the chance of escape exponentially. It would be expensive. Since the Daughter was going to be of no assistance right now, she felt the need to act.
The prime coterie grandmaster sealer arrived at her castle that afternoon, she had to pay almost double for an expedited service. It was an investment, and if the bounty escaped, not only would she get nothing, the loss of face would cost her severely.
“This task requires the utmost secrecy,” Azrul informed the grandmaster. She was certainly paying enough. The price was two concentrated qi kernels. A small fortune, it took her six months of harvesting her copious amounts of qi slaves to collect that amount. Which did not account for the costs of feeding and keeping the slaves.
“Our service is always discreet my Lord,” the grandmaster replied, “but for a small additional cost a memory wipe of this afternoon can be purchased.”
She turned to face him, inspiration dawning on her, “memory loss. Yes, that’s it. Can your wiper remove all knowledge of skills and qi techniques?”
The grandmaster shook his head, “I am but a humble sealer, but my understanding is the wiper deals with memories. To do what you ask would destroy the slave altogether. Which is fine if you are just using them for qi harvesting. No many use it for that reason, the cost of the service outweighs the harvest of the lifetime of the slave. But seeing as I am here, this slave is a little different, no?”
“Let me think on it,” she said ignoring his question, “today I would like you to seal the slave's ability to manipulate qi.”
The grandmaster coughed politely, “Dread Lord, that is not how this works. I can seal techniques, we can create a system where when you send qi into a tattoo and the slave is immobilised, or we can counteract a technique directly, such as portal opening. But to prevent all qi manipulation, there is no such tattoo.”
“Please remember the patterns we use in the tattoos were taken from the Qizhu who used them to allow a person to create a technique. It is only my predecessors who used this knowledge to discover patterns to nullify. And we are continuing to find new nullifying patterns every year.”
The Dread Lord thought, “yes well, we certainly need a tattoo to prevent portal opening by the slave. He may be able to repair the skin where you burn the tattoo so we will need a tattoo to stop regeneration of his skin. I can list his combat techniques, I would like the ability to switch them on and off,” she was continuing while the grandmaster shook his head again.
“My lord, there is no tattoo for regeneration. Therefore there is no tattoo to nullify it,” he interrupted.
“Are you sure you are a grandmaster?” she questioned.
He did his best to look patient, “Dread Lord, I will create the tattoo to prevent portal opening, one where you can immobilise the slave by simply sending a message bubble, and it will be attuned to you. You can give me the list of combat techniques, and I will inform you which ones we have nullifiers for.”
She sighed and thought further while they walked to her dungeon where the bounty was kept, “if you cannot prevent qi manipulation, then what happens when you immobilise the slave?”
“We create pinpoint qi strikes that target the slave's nerves” the grandmaster answered. “The slave will be immobilised, but they will still be able to manipulate qi if they are skilled.”
“I think I will need to request a wiper. You alone will not be able to stop this slave,” she said.
The grandmaster began to wonder who in the worlds was this slave. He must be a master manipulator to scare a Dread Lord so. And regeneration? An extremely rare technique seen only amongst genius manipulators and no one the grandmaster knew was capable of such a technique. Not the Queen, the Daughter and not even Fain.
The pair arrived at their destination, the dungeons which held the slave and the scene which greeted them was at best chaotic.
The slave had one of her apprentices, Yasmym, gripping her face and holding her like she was a toy. Her cosh lay on the floor of his cell nearby. His hand covered her face, as he began to bash the back of her skull against the stone floor.
It was less than two days since he was poisoned and he was fighting, seemingly unhindered. Azrul was beside herself. Another cost, that apprentice’s death would be a duty to her family. The slave was doing them all a favour, the apprentice had always been too soft. In Azrul’s judgement ending Yasmyn’s life now was a relief to her family and herself.
Casting the corpse of Yasmyn aside the slave stood and began to concentrate on the barrier, attempting to unpick the qi threads, he may have assumed he was safe behind it. Did he not witness how Yasmyn had entered?
Azrul lept into action sending her good tensor towards him as fast as it was able to fly, due to the barriers permissions her tensor flew straight through, she did not even have to enter. It stabbed the slave in the shoulder, he had not dodged thankfully. It was either his concentration on disarming, or he was still affected by the first poisoning to such a degree that his movement was inhibited.
Azrul pumped him full of poison for the second time.
Before the slave collapsed he spoke to her, daring to look her straight in the eyes, “listen carefully bitch,” he paused, his eyes gleamed with an intensity she had not seen in any foe, “I will be the death of you.” The slave managed to speak the entire threat before collapsing. Remarkable. That much poison should have downed him immediately.
The grandmaster exhaled audibly. “I now see why the need for extreme measures. This slave, he is not Mogui, nor Qizhu and certainly not a Celestial. What is he?”
“Even if I knew, I would not tell you,” the Dread Lord answered brusquely, “do your job, I will need to drop the barrier to allow you to enter.”
“Gine dear, will you please dispose of Yasmyn’s corpse,” Azrul spoke so politely about dumping her former apprentice with zero emotion.
She turned to the Grandmaster, “send a bubble to summon your best wiper, you can apply the tattoos while we wait for him to arrive.”
The Grandmaster nodded, sending a bubble summoning the best wiper available to the leadership of the coterie. He also added a few details about the prisoner and a warning the Dread Lord may try to kill him and the wiper to keep them quiet.
The grandmaster was nothing if not cautious. He had been around for a long time and planned for that to continue. He would leave it to the leadership to take the necessary precautions.
Azrul began to strip Benzhi herself, Gine was disposing of the corpse, the grandmaster was sending a bubble, she wanted her bounty tattooed as soon as possible. Theoretically, they should have two days, but she would take no chances. If the first tattoo were immobilisation, she would avoid another death duty. She already had two in two days.
“The immobilisation tattoo, are my two apprentices able to use it as well?” Azrul asked the grandmaster as she stripped her slave.
“Mm, yes, as long as they can attend now, I will be able to add their signature to the pattern, but I must be able to acquire their signature in person,” he answered.
Azrul called to Gine to fetch Phee and return after she left the corpse in the morgue. The castle had a morgue which was usually used for slaves before disposing of them cleanly. Yasmyn’s family would probably want to take her body, and if not, she would burn it in the furnace.
As she stripped his armour, she remembered the runes which covered it, brimming with qi has he fought. The armour was immaculate, she really should have stripped him immediately upon throwing him into the cell. She would be meticulous from now on.
Azrul had finally gotten both his legs out, she held up the armour and inspected with qi sight. Wait…what was that stowed in the hidden inner pockets…by the Queens beard…she shook out seven concentrated qi kernels. They were heavier than the standard unit for the Myrkalfar. She jumped for joy. What a find, she had spent less than a quarter of this haul so far. This slave was definitely profitable. It did not occur to her to think why he was carrying around a fortune.
The Dread Lord bent down and kissed his forehead.
“Why thank you, slave, I am now well into the black,” She laughed maniacally.
The grandmaster looked at her quizzically as she skipped out of the cell, happy as a fuckboy on freeday. The seven concentrated qi kernels were probably worth ten of the standard at a rough guess.
She would keep his weapons and armour. There was a small chance he was wanted for the arena, and she would sell them with him.
When Phee and Gine returned she was so giddy, she embraced them. They looked terrified at her odd behaviour, even the usually crazy Phee was disturbed.
She waved away their worries, they probably thought she was going to kill them in some coverup, “do not worry my apprentices, it is a good day.”
Gine was wondering what was good about Yasmyn dying to the dangerous slave. Phee relaxed, realising their mistress was just soft. She had no plans to end them, she was too focused on profit to delve into pleasure.
The grandmaster covered Benzhi in every tattoo that he knew and they thought useful.
Six levels of pain
Block on portal summoning
Blocks on all known qi body techniques
Block on qi bubble communication
Block on qi strike
The grandmaster added the Dread Lord and the two apprentice’s signatures, the only protection Azrul kept over her adepts was her signature would override theirs. The idea of giving Phee this level of control did not sit well with her, but it was necessary as they had lost Yasmyn and she needed their help keeping him under control.
The grandmaster was finished, and the Wiper finally arrived with one of the leaders of the Coterie.
Fain was a Myrkalfar Scholar of the highest order, she was the defacto leader of the Coterie. Strictly speaking, it was a strange group which allowed all to have a say, even the males, but when they needed a single person to represent the Coterie, it was always the well-known genius Fain.
“I did not expect your attendance Scholar,” Azrul addressed Fain.
“You summon two of our grandmasters in one day with a request for immediate service. It only seems proper I supervise and ensure you get the service you are paying for dearly,” Fain emphasised the word dearly. To rush one grandmaster service in a day was one thing, but two. These scholars had work which was being delayed to service this Dread Lord, and she was only a Dread Lord, not royalty, not a Mistress and not even from an esteemed bloodline.
“The Wiper will be an additional three qi kernels, I assume you will be able to provide that payment before we begin,” Fain did not mince words or try to endear herself to Azrul.
If Azrul was offended she did not show it, “she merely smiled sweetly and said, “of course.” She fished out two of the qi kernels she had taken from the Bounty’s leathers and handed them over to Fain.
“I assume that is enough, if you gauge the size and concentration, in fact, keep the change. I am indeed happy with the service,” Azrul finished. Phee and Gine looked around the dungeon, wondering who was this person and what had happened to their mistress.
Fain nodded without emotion taking the two offered qi kernels. She inspected them briefly before pocketing them. “Now what do you need to be done with the slave's mind that is so urgent?”
Azrul explained how dangerous he was and he was motivated to escape or do them harm. She wanted to keep and use him of course. She made no mention of the fact several powers were looking for him.
Fain nodded as the Dread Lord spoke, she looked curiously at the unconscious man. He was neither wood elf nor man. It was as if he was a little of both. He was far too tall to be a wood elf, and the slightly pointy ears, white hair, the traces of vine around his naked body. He was an anomaly that was for certain.
If Fain had an epiphany, she did not let it show on her face. Wiper meanwhile studied the Dread Lord as she spoke, listening to each word intently.
“What do you think Dyrk?” Fain asked the Grandmaster Wiper.
“We wipe all his memories from today back to when he was a small child. He will lose motivation to escape, he will lose all his ties to his previous life. It is dangerous, sometimes there is irreparable damage done, and the being cannot function at all. But it is the surest way to make him docile and obedient,” he answered. It was an incredibly cruel remedy he suggested, and it seemed not to worry him in the slightest.
“What are the chances of failure?” Azrul asked.
Dyrk, the grandmaster wiper from the Coterie replied, “not great, this is my speciality.”
“Wipe him clean as a babe,” the Dread Lord ordered.