90 The Failure, The Used, The Nobody*
Rassa was still for a moment as he carefully closed his father's eyes, then looked over at Aegin. The last time the two had spoken, Rassa had sent him away. Aegin had clearly not given up if he had found Phillip.
"You don't have to apologise," Aegin replied, "Just know that I probably would have done the same".
Rassa paused for a moment, then nodded, "Can you start transporting him back to Cordon?"
"The body won't last-"
"I'll meet you on the road. Don't worry, we'll make it. My mother should get her chance to say goodbye,"
"Rassa, your mother, she-"
Aegin looked up at Rassa helplessly, and Rassa understood, his face crumpled further for a moment, then he took a deep breath and nodded.
"Take it anyway. I'm positive he'd rather be with her in death and with the family he hated," Rassa stated.
Aegin nodded, then his eyes turned to the gagged head of Zaroth that was still sticking out of a shadow in the distance.
"He'll live to see sunrise, then he'll never see the sun again," Rassa replied.
Aegin had barely heard the end of the sentence when they both disappeared. He sighed, then looked down at Phillip.
"I don't think you'll have to worry, Phillip. At least, not in the short term. No one is ever going to put chains on him again".
Aegin looked up as his own father approached, a blanket in hand.
Raymond unfolded it and spread it over the body. He looked at his son for a moment, then turned and left, the Ridge Men following behind him.
Rassa had no need for his wings on the return trip. He had already laid eyes on his destination, so all he needed to do was will the shadows to take him and his prisoner there. It was almost instantaneous.
Rassa stood in the mouth of the cave at Jerrica, looking up at the mountains to his right as dawn approached. Zaroth breathed heavily beside him on his knees. Nothing bound him or rooted him to the spot, yet Zaroth made no attempt to escape. From that one trip from the Empire's western coast to this mountain range more than half way across the continent, Zaroth knew there was no running from Rassa.
"You know, this will be my first sunrise in over five years?"
Rassa gave a small smile as he leaned his body against the cave's entrance.
"I always enjoyed sunrises, before I became a Vampire I mean. Afterwards, sunsets are more my style".
Zaroth made no move to comment.
"Believe me when I say, you're going to want to enjoy this. You'll come to miss it before you miss anything else".
Zaroth frowned at Rassa's words. He was going to die wasn't he? How could he miss something in death?
The sun rose, turning the dark sky into a mix of pinks and oranges and blues, and dying the mountains and trees gold. It was a spectacular sight in the quiet and clear entrance to Jerrica. Movement came from the cave behind them, and Ebony emerged, wearing new clothing and carrying a bag with her.
"Is it done?" asked Rassa.
Ebony said nothing, simply nodded.
Rassa sighed, "Start walking, I'll meet you at the gate".
Ebony didn't protest, she just slung the bag over her shoulder and did as told.
Rassa placed a hand on Zaroth's shoulder, "Be thankful it was a clear day, and that you weren't viewing it through bars".
In the next second, Zaroth found himself in a place he was all too familiar with, though as his eyes adjusted to the darkness, it was not quite as he remembered it.
The cell that had been built specifically for Rassa had been filled with bodies, piled around the room without much grace or care, and from their blood, written in huge letters on the wall, were an assortment of words, words that covered the white sketches, forever marring them.
As Zaroth looked around the room, he felt the click of a manacle around his ankle. He whipped around.
"What are you doing?"
Rassa clipped another manacle around his other foot.
"I thought for a very, very long time how I would get my revenge," Rassa said, "Would I cut you into pieces? Maybe I'd feed you your own innards. Maybe I'd swallow you in shadows. Maybe I'd drop you from your balcony and watch you splat before the mines you were so proud of being in. But all of that was too quick. Too easy".
Rassa stepped around him and walked a few metres in front of him.
"You probably thought I'd just feed on you," Rassa spoke, "After all, that's what a monster does. But even monsters have standards".
"So your grand plan is to lock me in here?" growled Zaroth, "The key isn't that hard to find. You'd be better off slitting my throat".
"Don't tempt me," Rassa replied, "In truth, I didn't think of this until I realised what you'd done. Until I'd realised that having you die the exact same way you expected me to die would be a kind of poetic justice. Only you aren't exactly like me, so be assured that you won't be here for five years, you'll be lucky to make five weeks. Still, I think that's enough time".
Rassa indicated to the words around him, "Do you like it? I had Ebony prepare the room for you".
The words glared from the walls. Failure. Used. Murderer. Torturer. Useless. Nobody. And so many more. All of them dark and hateful.
"They make no sense," Zaroth hissed, daring to humour Rassa.
"Of course they do. They're all you," Rassa replied, turning to face Zaroth, "Like I said, you're not like me, you won't heal if I cut you, at least not like I can. But words? Words that speak truth? That will hurt. Maybe not the first, or the second, or even the tenth time. But you'll be in here long enough. They'll hurt eventually".
Rassa turned and walked towards the open door.
"Rassa!" called Zaroth, "You can't leave me like this!"
"I can, and I will, but before I do," Rassa paused, turning back to face "Where is my child?"
Zaroth looked shocked, "I don't know what you're-"
"That disgusting woman's body is lying in your laboratory with her womb ripped from the inside. She wouldn't be in your lab if she was pregnant via anyone else. So, where is the child?"
Zaroth was silent as he glared down Rassa, but in the end, he lost his own challenge, "Dead. I passed him off to the Kildares after he'd been bound in anthrite. It drove the child man, and it died after slaughtering a few of their men".
Rassa looked at Zaroth for a long time, "How do I know you're telling the truth?"
Zaroth looked surprised, "Cornelius told me himself".
"And you believed him?" asked Rassa with a smirk, "I see. It doesn't really matter. It won't survive past twenty anyway, and if I happen to find the abomination before that...well, at least its fate will be a faster death than yours".
"You're a monster," Zaroth hissed, appalled that Rassa would think that way over his own child. Zaroth had observed enough famiilies to know that parents always put their child first.
Rassa's grin widened, "Call someone something long enough, and it'll come true".
Rassa indicated to the words on the wall, "Enjoy your fate, Zaroth, your truth is the last you'll ever see".
Rassa closed the door behind himself, and listened as Zaroth called out after him. He never turned back.
He was two levels up before he called on the shadows.
The shadows listened, and the upper floors of Jerrica crumbled until it was nothing more than a mountain once more.