I’ll say this much for the girl, she’s brave.
In my not inconsiderable years, I can say I’ve known only the exceptional few so willing to enter the monster’s lair. Much more do so blindfolded and weaponless. Granted, there is a certain level of courage derived from the ignorance of the dangers therein, but I do not believe the child so uninformed or lacking in imagination as to believe she was being handed candies and flowers. More like the shovel to dig her own grave. So I repeat, brave indeed!
Even so, I thought it best not to subject her to the truth in its entirety, least she suffer beyond repair. Thus, a small amount of black draught and a blindfold were all that was required to alleviate such concerns.
Of course I couldn’t do so without first extricating the child from her mother. Most assuredly I possess the stealth to enter the apartments and ferret Sarah away at my discretion, but that would only serve to strain the thin fabric of trust I’ve been slowly weaving. Better to travel the more diplomatic path as it concerns the candle maker and her daughter. In this case I found asking permission to take Sarah for the evening and assuring the girl’s safe return in the morning achieved far more success than a snatch and run. But as such, she is now privileged to what few outsiders know for certain; there are more than three levels to the mansion proper.
For in delivering Sarah to his lordship, it became necessary to employ the extended services of the elevator. Certainly there are other means in gaining access to the basement, but at the time it was the most expedient and least sensitive approach. This should, however, not imply that I am willing to simply throw open the gates and allow the invaders free access to the treasure rooms. Quite the contrary! For when it became a true matter of security, Sarah was more than prepared to yield her view of the elevator’s mechanisms when asked, never once turning in curiosity. Though I am sure her acute understanding of sounds made up some of the difference.
I must admit in taking a certain perverse pleasure in watching the girl’s reaction when I failed to open the doors on the main floor and we continued our progress downward. Wide-eyed and a bit nervous she was. How typical of those who have used the moving room, that they always wonder about the darkness to be seen beneath the empty space in the floor when the doors are opened, but cringe at the idea of actually entering the unknown. Well, she was about to find out for herself what was down there.
There is a decided difference in what is presented to the public above and what lies in private below. No doubt it was evident to the girl from the moment we entered the hallway leading off from the elevator.
The “basement” as I call it, rather than being bathed in brilliant lights, bright fabrics and joyous paintings upon the walls, is lined with rich mahogany paneling and darker images of a more masculine taste. The light subdued. As for the floor, it is carpeted with a tight woven rug so as to silence any steps normally heard coming from wood or stone. Even the air below seems carpeted. Almost thick compared with the house above.
And then, there are my private chambers. So much that Vaush, my own protégé, has yet to enter these walls. Strange how this girl should be the first of the two to do so.
They are of course, nothing like I use above ground. The entrance is itself far less extravagant, consisting of a simple wooden door, banded in heavy iron, and secured by a lock even my long dead grandfather could pick in his eternal sleep. Not that any would recognize its humble origins as once belonging to the free standing Oracle’s Tower of Othea, or to open it with anything other than my personal key would result in a very short lived existence. Ashes to ashes… and all that dust.
If I must say so myself, I’ve fashioned a room on the other side that is fairly warm and well appointed. Vespucci, Frissia, and Sabatinni are prominent upon the walls; a bronze statue of Apex in Victory claims one corner; while selected pieces of furniture from all the greatest houses receives the lion’s share of space. Books and manuscripts line a wall as well. Of which I’m sure Christobal would fairly lose his head over were he to know I was in possession of most. And least we forget a hand woven textile pulled from the buried riches of the Umrass Expanse itself. Again, not that any but I would notice or care about such things. But that I do, I suppose is enough.
Of course, what we came for was already placed upon the table… the black draught and blindfold.
Pouring what I gauged to be the necessary amount, I offered it up to Sarah. She, accepting it with some trepidation, questioned the potential effects. I only informed her that had I wished her life, there would have been little need for such theatrics. That the elixir was merely meant to lessen any discomfort she might experience with the coming procedure. To her credit, she received my words with only a raised eyebrow, then downed the sum of what was offered.
I suppose had Sarah known the full extent of what was to be consumed, she might not have been so accommodating. For the black draught has many uses. Death, most assuredly, being one.
In small quantities the drug results in a minor euphoria and a not unpleasant experience. Hence, the black draught’s fairly wide use by weak-willed individuals lacking the ability to secure their own pleasures and satisfaction from this world. Increasing the amount soon leads to a heightened numbing of the senses – most notably touch and sound – and eventually, graphic hallucinations. This was this level of effect I was hoping to achieve, thus, the eventual need of a blindfold. And of course, the dosage can be augmented further to produce a near coma-like state, ultimately leading to death itself… not what I was seeking. I should also note that the black draught is highly addictive. A condition easily acquired and often leading many into habitual use that results in the aforementioned final stages. All in all, the elixir is not something to be taken lightly or without adequate understanding of its effects.
Having had her fill of the potion, I secured Sarah’s sight behind the blindfold. Again, she was more than willing to accept my restrictions. No doubt a testament as to how much she feared the uncertainties of the outside world over those being offered by my hand.
I could quickly tell the drug was taking effect. Her slurred speech and lack of appropriate responses to my own commands made it evident. Finally, when she failed to react to the prick of a penknife, it solidified my suspicions that the drink had reached its desired effect.
It was time for Sarah to go before Lord Rush.
There is little doubt my written words will long outlive my physical self. But should they fall into less than friendly hands before such a time, I would not wish them to be read at the detriment of those they concern or myself. Therefore, the rather sensitive nature of certain facts must dictate discretion. The exact details of Lord Rush and Sarah’s encounter I will not fully divulge here.
Suffice it to say, without my earlier precautions Sarah’s sanity at the end of Lord Rush’s ministrations would have certainly been in question. He was leaving little to chance. Several arcane artifacts were in evidence. Not all of them savory or meant for innocent eyes. As such, I’m positive the blindfold rescued Sarah from countless horrific concoctions of the mind… be they drug induced or not. In truth, rarely have I seen such mystical preparations and expenditure of power used to produce a singular effect. A veritable fortune was put to use. And taken as a whole, it now provides a far deeper understanding of the value Lord Rush places upon this girl.
What else I will say concerning my lord’s efforts is this; Sarah had undergone the ultimate in arcane detoxification… she had been unplugged from everything mystical… effectively disconnected from the world. She was now beyond anything and everything magical, placed into a bubble of nullification. Only the mundane could touch her following Rush’s labors.
The effort in making her so was quite spectacular. By my own eyes it looked as if thousands of tiny illuminated threads had been sheared from Sarah’s body, green lines of silken light left to fray and disappear into the ether. But there was more than one of significant thickness that captured Rush’s eye. Of those he took careful note, gathering a few in his right hand. In his left he quickly secured a single strand much thicker and darker in color than all the others. This one seemingly coming from the girl’s afflicted right shoulder. It was the only thread to offer his lordship any true struggle. But in the end, it was his.
Now that Sarah had been successfully stripped of all connections, it became necessary to keep her free from having them reestablished. Thus, the usage of a nullification field surrounding her essence.
I have heard of such extreme measures employed by various sects of assassins. The field affords a level of non-detection and invincibility for the one inside. This is particularly valuable when confronting certain arcane targets. Granted, it prevents one’s own usage of such imbued items, but any true practitioner of the deadly arts should never need to rely on such crutches. I suppose the same can be said for the field itself. What’s more, to utilize such tactics over an extended period of time often leads to undesired side effects. Depression and insanity just to name a few. Thus, Rush’s use of the field upon Sarah is far from a permanent solution to her difficulties.
I must say I have never witnessed a human become so twisted in an effort to secure such a small space. I’ve known a few expert contortionists in my time, all capable of amazing feats of flexibility, yet never anything such as what I saw that night. It was as if Sarah’s bones had become insubstantial, her skin nothing more than a sack of liquid. Perhaps it was merely the distortion of energies causing an optical illusion, but I believe there was far more to it than that. I can only assume the use of the black draught saved her from experiencing the excruciating pain that must have accompanied such change.
Yet, when all was said and done, there was little in Sarah’s appearance to say she had suffered any discomfort or alteration. Rush, on the other hand, seemed quite drained from his efforts. Though tired, there was also satisfaction. He had gained a prize and was loath to release it. Exactly what he did with those few threads he had managed to collect, I cannot say. He departed the chamber with nary a word, only waving his right hand in dismissal, while a thin smile pressed his lips. His left hand seeming to clutch his invisible prey around its neck.
All that was left to me was to collect the unconscious Sarah and return her to her mother. Time would have to tell if Rush had been successful.