65 The Anniversary*
Aegin returned to Fountain Ridge just as Winter fully arrived. The first snows were falling, and the only places far enough south to miss the white blanket falling over the continent were the Southern Isles. Still, it was not as if the cold would stop the demand for business.
Aegin handed in his report and then went off to check-in with his father. He was not looking forward to the encounter, but as his father was one of the commanders of the Ridge Men, it was an expectation for Aegin to report to him regarding his status and whereabouts.
Meanwhile, in the office of the Duke, Cornelius himself read through the report on his grandson's condition.
It appeared that his grandson was hiding more abilities than enhanced strength and speed. Doctor Zaroth had discovered extensive healing abilities that directly correlated with the consumption of blood. The more well-nourished Rassa was, the faster he healed. As for the extent of the injury, it appeared that he could even reattach limbs, though Zaroth had refrained from beheading the boy from risk of death. Zaroth had also made an accidental discovery regarding the boy's undernourishment. Apparently, if starved for long enough, the body sacrificed energy to every part of the body except for those necessary to stay alive. He'd appeared to be a breathing corpse for a fortnight. Cornelius was not sure how he felt about this, after all, he needed the boy alive, but if he appeared to be a corpse what else could they learn about him?
In the end, Cornelius compiled instructions for Zaroth not to starve the boy until further notice. He also instructed the Doctor to remove the chains, the boy could not escape from his Anthrite prison after all.
Winter came and went without major incident. Zaroth stopped cutting into Rassa. Though only because he'd decided he could no longer learn anything from doing so. Thankfully, he also left the boy's Life Lines alone, there was nothing remarkable about the piece of flesh he'd collected anyway, apart from the fact that it had a black line on it. He'd stuck it in preservative chemicals to keep it from decaying, and left it at that. Rassa knew however, that that piece of flesh was very important. He'd discovered the hard way that he couldn't grow his life lines back. The exposed muscle on his back was a pain to keep hidden, but Rassa successfully managed to do so for the time being. Rassa's chains were removed, and while it was a relief to be able to feel his proper strength and appetite again, he could not leave the cell. Even digging his way out wasn't an option thanks to the veins of Anthrite that ran right through and passed by the cell.
Another batch of slaves was brought in. Rassa had drained six of the original ten, plus a guard, so they needed more to keep up with his appetite. That was another thing that appeared to be getting greater, his appetite.
Or at least that was what Rassa led them to believe. In reality, he was feeding Victor. They'd lost time in the sub-death, and Victor needed the energy to conduct the memory lessons. They were always careful about the time they picked to undergo them, making sure night had well and truly settled before Rassa allowed himself to fall unconscious. Without the Anthrite constantly draining energy, the memories became more vivid, and sometimes longer too. Rassa found himself in all sorts of situations through Victor's point of view. He fought battles, learned of the shadow magic Vampires could wield thanks to their Life Lines, and the Blood Magic, though such a thing was terribly draining both physically and mentally, and only used in the most dire of circumstances. You see, a Vampire, regardless of their preferred diet, couldn't just control any blood, only the blood that was directly linked to that Vampire's life lines. So, his own, and if he had Sanguine, their blood as well. Of course, Sanguine needed a certain amount of blood in their systems to live, as did a Vampire. Hence, Blood Magic was not a popular practice.
Towards the end of Winter, Aegin returned. He sat with Rassa and talked of the world outside. They sat in each other's company for hours. Sometimes talking of menial things, sometimes just passing the time in silence. The Assassin boy had turned fourteen with the solstice, though Rassa barely cared. Birthdays seemed so useless when his life was spent like this. Where there was no one to care, let alone share the day with you.
Winter turned to Spring, and then Spring to Summer. Though in the depths of the mines it was all the same. Dark, cold and silent. Still, Rassa knew he was being watched. Without the chains to keep him weak, Zaroth seemed intrigued to find out what else Rassa was keeping hidden in terms of his full abilities. Rassa didn't see fit to tell him that these were the extent of his full abilites at the moment, and that, given the opportunity, it was unlikely the cruel man would ever know the full extent once Rassa was unsealed. He had no intention of staying after all. Even the prospect of being hunted for the rest of his very long life seemed a better alternative to being stuck in this place.
Still, before he knew it, Rassa realised he'd been imprisoned in the Jerrica Mines for a whole year. He'd turned fourteen. The clothes he'd arrived in were well and truly worn, not to mention they were growing smaller as Rassa got taller.
This, unfortunately, was also how Zaroth discovered the unhealed portion of Rassa's back. And so began a solid month of Rassa dodging the Anthrite chains they tried to bind him in once more so Zaroth could get a closer look. When it became clear it was impossible to catch Rassa, even in the small space of his cell, Zaroth took away his meals once more. With each week, Rassa got slower, until, two months after the discovery, when Rassa couldn't move in time. The chains bound him once more, and he seethed in rage because of it.
"Such a great opportunity," Zaroth stated as he examined the exposed section of Rassa's back, "We shouldn't let it go to waste".
It was just as painful as before, but Rassa didn't scream this time.