Urytemil sat with the King, eating and drinking. They were celebrating the friendship they now had, since Tahlmus had been turned over. It was normal when dealing with Kings and Queens to bare gifts to earn their favor. Usually the gifts were gold, silver, or some rare exotic trinket, but not for this King. When Bahamut had first come and told them they’d have to provide Tahlmus to the King, Urytemil had not understood. The last night they had spent with King Altair, he had offered his friendship, offered them a place at the palace for their family, but in return Altair wanted their first born child.
Feeling a quiet, but firm urging to accept his terms, Urytemil had shook hands with the King, agreeing to bring their first born with them the next time they visited. He had thought about it the entire way back to camp, but could not come up with a reason why. Sitting there with the King, Urytemil still wondered why having their first born was important to Altair. As the evening wore on, Urytemil noticed the King had drunk a little too much, so he took a chance.
“Do you seek the first born of all your friends?” Urytemil asked.
Altair started laughing. He was probably laughing too hard, but he didn’t care. He had what he wanted and there was nothing Urytemil or Thalixen could do. “Urytemil, my dear friend, I only take the first born from powerful dragons.” He continued laughing as Urytemil’s shock played out on his face. “I knew as you and Thalixen revealed bits of your story, that you were the powerful black dragon my cousin Mystic sought after. I never dreamed you would just walk into my palace.” Altair couldn’t help but smile as he watched Urytemil’s face start to go pale.
“You see, I know something my cousin did not. To reach your full potential with draconic magic, it must be given freely, not forcibly drained as he had planned to do with you.” Urytemil could feel his anger rising. “There has also been a rumor that your first born is far more powerful than you.” Urytemil’s hands made fists. “I also know you wish to have your Kingdom back. Now that I have your son, you cannot overthrow me, or he will die, and once he gives me his draconic power, I’ll be the most powerful mage in the world. No one will be able to stop me… not even you.”
Altair started laughing maniacally as Urytemil’s face lost the last of its color. “I… I think I’ll retire to my room,” Urytemil managed to say as he slowly got to his feet. His mind was flooded with thoughts.
“Of course, of course; go spend time with your beloved.”
Urytemil turned and left the dining hall. “What have I done?” he whispered to himself.
Back in her room with Firmil, Laguna locked the door. She did not want to be bothered. Since Firmil was peacefully sleeping for the time being, she laid him in his crib. Then sitting on her bed, she closed her eyes and touched the ring. Laguna sat there waiting. Tahlmus had never failed her before. Five minutes passed, and he had not appeared. “Maybe I didn’t hold it long enough,” she whispered. Again she closed her eyes touching the ring and thinking of Tahlmus. Laguna held onto the ring longer before opening her eyes; waiting patiently.
This time she waited for ten minutes; fear slowly taking hold as Tahlmus still did not show. “I… I must be doing something wrong,” she whispered as she gave the ring another try. This time as she held onto the ring with her eyes closed an image appeared on her eyelids. Laguna could see Tahlmus sitting with his back against a wall; his lips started to move.
“Laguna, darling, I am sorry I cannot come to you.” Laguna almost lost her concentration as his voiced sounded like he was sitting right next to her. “I was betrayed and am now a prisoner. I do not know how long I’ll be stuck here, but once I’m out, I will come to you.” As his words finished the image went away.
Laguna opened her eyes, tears starting to build. “It wasn’t just a dream,” she said softly. “He really is in trouble, and there’s nothing I can do.” Laguna cried softly into her pillow until she fell asleep.
Tahlmus had felt the warmth for a couple seconds as the guards had gotten him out of the throne room. He had felt it a second time while growling at the guards. Now, sitting there against the wall, he felt it a third time. His heart ached as he knew Laguna needed him, but he could not go to her. He focused on the warmth, putting magic into it, so Laguna would be able to see and hear him. “Laguna, darling, I am sorry I cannot come to you. I was betrayed and am now a prisoner. I do not know how long I’ll be stuck here, but once I’m out, I will come to you.”
He ended the spell and the warmth went away. His stomach then made some noise reminding him that it had been a while since he’d eaten. He covered his face with his hands for a few seconds before placing them back in his lap. Taking a deep breath, Tahlmus tried to focus on something else as the grumblings from his stomach got worse. He lay down and tried to sleep, only to be awoken a couple hours later with the pangs of hunger. “Why did I agree to this?” The thought played through his mind over and over as he continued to lay there in the dark. “It was the only way,” he whispered to himself. “The only way to protect the people and my family.” He sighed.
You have great power. Winky’s words came back to him. Promise me you’ll always do what’s right for everyone and not what only benefits you or me. It was the promise he’d made to her the day they had figured out that his dreams were actually visions… warnings… “Why are her words coming to me know?” he whispered the question trying to push the memories of Winky from his mind.
“You needed the reminder,” Bahamut’s voice came out of the darkness. Tahlmus couldn’t see him, but could sense his presence. “Now just close your eyes. Your task has only just begun. The worst is yet to come.” Tahlmus heard the words, but found he could not respond as his eyelids grew heavy and sleep overwhelmed him.
Two days had passed since they had turned Tahlmus over to the King. Urytemil’s description of what the King said at supper had upset Thalixen even more. She had stayed in the room, and had not eaten anything. Today, however, King Altair has requested her presence for the day’s discussion. She was not thrilled about it, and had no desire to see the king, but there she was making her way to the throne room.
Her mind was full of thoughts as she walked. It was painful to think her son was suffering in some way because of her. She could remember how she had felt when she had given him away to keep him safe, but this felt worse. Thalixen was so caught up in her thoughts, that she did not notice the guards until it was too late. They grabbed her as she entered the throne room. Metal bracelets were put around her wrists, before they let her go. The bracelets glowed red, then went back to their metallic color. Thalixen could no longer feel her magic power. As she searched for it, a burning sensation tore at the skin touching the bracelets.
“What did you do?” she heard Urytemil yell, before she felt his touch. “My beloved are you alright?” Thalixen nodded though she was not sure what was going on.
“Tahlmus actually cares for her,” Altair stated from his throne. “I needed some leverage. Please come here Thalixen. If I am lucky, this won’t last long.”
“What are you talking about?” Urytemil asked holding onto Thalixen. He recognized the cuffs. He knew she could no longer use her magic.
“Bring Thalixen to me and I shall show you.”
“No…I…” Urytemil didn’t get to say anymore as two guards grabbed him, pulling him away from Thalixen while two others grabbed her and took her over to the King. Altair started laughing as the colors started to drain from Urytemil’s face. “No,” Urytemil thought, as he felt his power fade. When the guards moved away from him, Urytemil found metal bracelets had been put around his wrists. He looked up at Thalixen helplessly. There was nothing he could do.
“Bring in the prisoner,” Altair stated with a grin.
Two guards came in, dragging Tahlmus. This time he was struggling against them, though he was weak from lack of food. He had heard what had happened. The guards had taunted him. Gritting his teeth, he reminded himself that he couldn’t use his magic. The anger inside of him was rising as the guards shoved him onto his knees in front of the King.
“You have a choice,” King Altair started speaking to Tahlmus. He paused as he noticed the elf was still looking at the floor. “Look at me when I speak to you,” Altair demanded. Tahlmus kept his eyes to the floor. He wasn’t going to give the King the satisfaction of having control over him. Altair growled and Tahlmus felt the guard’s foot in his ribs. “Doubling over out of reflex, Tahlmus managed to not let out a sound, though he was sure one or two of his ribs were now broken. Another guard picked him up, putting him back upright, on his knees.
Altair growled again as Tahlmus still refused to look up at him. This time a guard grabbed a tuft of his hair, pulling his head back forcing Tahlmus to look up at the King. He struggled but the guard would not release his hold.
“Like I was saying you have a choice,” Altair started speaking once again. “You can give me your draconic magic now, or you can end up begging to give it to me.”
“You’re going to have to take it from me, you rat. I will never give you my power,” Tahlmus replied in a low menacing growl.
“Have it your way then.” An evil grin appeared on the Kings face as he motioned to someone behind Tahlmus. Tahlmus then heard something being rolled in. With the guard still holding his hair, he couldn’t turn to see it, but Tahlmus had seen Thalixen cover her mouth; the start of tears were evident. “Hook him up,” Altair said. The guards yanked Tahlmus to his feet and drug him to the contraption which had been wheeled within a few feet of the throne.
It was a simple contraption. Two silver posts were on either side of a silver platform, and a single silver bar connected them at the top. Hanging off the bar were silver cuffs. Three guards held onto Tahlmus, as a fourth removed the cuffs he was wearing and put the silver cuffs on him. The cuffs forced him to stand on his toes, but Tahlmus could still manage to look at the silver posts, and he noticed electrodes on each one. “I can handle this,” he whispered to himself.
“Now as you can see, I have your mother next to me. You try to use any magic to harm me, or the guards, or take out my contraption; your mother will be harmed in some way.” Tahlmus watched as a guard wrapped one arm around Thalixen, the other held a knife to her throat.
“You monster,” Urytemil yelled, but he couldn’t do anything as two guards grabbed him and held him. Tahlmus noticed the bracelets on the wrists of both Thalixen and Urytemil. They could not use their magic to defend themselves.
“You still have a choice. This can all stop now, if you just give me your power.”
Tahlmus growled. “You can go to hell.” The King made a motion with his hand as if he were flipping a switch. Tahlmus then heard an actual switch flip, and something started to hum. Within seconds he felt electricity flowing through him. His muscles seized up. He couldn’t move. Almost as quick as it started, it stopped. Tahlmus found he could breathe again, though his muscles were still a little tight. He could see the question forming in the King’s eyes. “Do what you want to me. I will never give you my power,” Tahlmus voiced, ice in his tone.
The switch flipped, the hum started, and Tahlmus’s muscles were seized up again. This time it stayed on longer. When it finally stopped Tahlmus could hardly breathe. He was sweating and he could start to smell burnt flesh. “That one hurt didn’t it?” the King chided.
Tahlmus bared his teeth, glaring at the King. He was not going to give him the satisfaction of an answer. The switch flipped again, the hum started. This time it was stronger. His muscles seized up, and felt like they were on fire. His feet also started to twitch. Then it stopped.
“All you have to do is turn into your dragon form and give me your power,” Altair said as he listened to Tahlmus’s panting.
Thalixen was crying silent tears beside him. She couldn’t stand to see what was happening. She wished to tell Tahlmus to just give the King what he wanted, but she couldn’t get the words to form on her lips. “It’s ok, mom. I can handle it,” she heard Tahlmus’s voice in her head.
“You will have to take it from me,” Tahlmus said in as menacing a voice as he could muster while he tried to catch his breath. He heard the switch, the hum; his muscles seized up and his feet started twitching. The smell of burnt flesh started to fill his nostrils.
Each time Tahlmus refused to give the King his draconic power, the electricity was turned up, just a little bit; causing more pain, but Tahlmus would not give in to Altair’s demand. He continued to deny the King until early evening when the jolt of electricity caused pain so intense Tahlmus blacked out. Furious the King ordered the guards to take Tahlmus back to the dungeon prison cell. He would let the elf stay there for a few days before he tried again. Let him heal just enough, so that he’d last a few rounds of torture if Tahlmus again refused to give up his power.
Urytemil and Thalixen walked back to the forest camp silently. The King had dismissed them, telling them to go back home to their family and return with them in a few days. That would give the servants time to prepare rooms for them all to stay in. Urytemil had asked about the bracelets, but the King had just laughed in his face. The bracelets were a precaution until he could get Tahlmus’s power. Urytemil had opened his mouth to argue, but Thalixen had just pulled on him. She had needed to leave the palace. Tears silently rested on her cheeks and there was nothing Urytemil could do to ease her pain. He’d had a hard time watching what Tahlmus had gone through. He couldn’t even imagine what it had been like for his beloved.
They got within a few hundred feet of the camp when Thalixen stopped. “What’s wrong love?” Urytemil asked as he turned to look at her.
“If this afternoon was just the start of what’s to come… How will Tahlmus survive?”
Urytemil wrapped his arm around her, and gently urged her to keep walking. “I don’t know,” he whispered softly. They finished the walk in silence.
As they entered the camp, Solas and Anders ran to meet them. Kanes, Lillianna and Genevieve weren’t too far behind. Solas and Anders started talking a mile a minute, while Kanes wrapped his mother in a hug. Coral came over with Kavan a minute later. Thalixen immediately wrapped Coral and Kavan in a hug before they all moved towards the fire pit where Ardeszeld stood making supper.
Ardeszeld looked up as the group approached. “Where’s Tahlmus?” she asked.
“He’s waiting back at the palace,” Urytemil stated. “We will take the next couple days to pack, and then we shall join him there.” Ardeszeld just stared at her father. He was lying. She knew he was. The tears on her mother’s face told a very different story. She would let the lie live for tonight, but she was going to find out what had really happened before they went to the palace.