It happened quickly. One moment I was pinned to the stone floor, the next something cold and solid had been driven down on my left hand with the force of a hammer. Bones crunched, and I fought to keep a scream behind my clenched teeth.
Somewhere overhead, a voice laughed. “I should have reminded Shanahan to leave your brain whole - though sometimes I doubt you ever had one to begin with. Well, we’ve got plenty of time to get a few lessons through your thick skull. All the time in the world. Now move.”
My legs obeyed before I had a chance to stop them. Lurching upright like a drunken troll, I stumbled out of the door and down a flight of stairs to a small room branching off a gloomy corridor. I felt like a puppet on iron strings – no matter how hard I fought, that little driving force that had spoken to me on the battlefield forced me on, inexorable and unbending. My claws left deep gouges in the stone alongside me, and I felt bile curdling in the pit of my stomach.
I could smell her on the stones, and the confused scents of a thousand other creatures outside. Every tiny arrow-slit window we passed brought a fresh wave of fear, confusion, anger and mindless jabbering. He must have noticed it too and, for little more than a heartbeat as we entered our destination – a room scarcely three paces long at its widest, and smelling of damp and mildew – I felt the iron will relax. I stopped dead in my tracks and started, slowly, to turn around. A hand seized my ear and gave it a violent twist.
“I said m-argh!”
My snarl became a bark of triumph as I felt flesh tear beneath my talons. Hot, wet blood stained my hands, and as he stumbled back, cursing in pain, I readied myself for another strike. This time, I would take his head.
“Wretched beast!” His voice was so high it made my ears ring. I laughed, spread my wings wide … and smashed into the wall like a rag doll.
The air left my lungs in a breathless scream, and the bones in my hand jarred agonizingly together as I hit the floor in a crumpled mess. I gagged on emptiness, flailing wildly to stand up. Iron fingers gripped me by the hair and wrenched my head up, adding yet more tiny iron threads to the thousands that felt like they were going to tear me apart.
“I think not.” Suddenly his face was so close to mine I could smell the sweat on his brow. He pulled my head back further, eliciting a thin screech from between my gritted teeth.
“You still haven’t worked it out yet, have you? You’remine, boy! Every scrap of your pathetic being, every thought, every breath you draw into your worthless lungs. And this is the thanks I get for it?”
He rammed his knee into my chest, forcing me hard against the wall, legs a-tangle under me, head spinning. He paused, and for a moment his grip on my head slackened. I heard steel clanging on steel, a rummaging noise, the clink of a chain.
Then my world exploded. A white-hot noose tightened around my neck, and I smelled my own flesh burning beneath it. I screamed, and his laughter rang out all the louder.
“Oh come Asharyn,” he scoffed, “it’s only a little silver inlay to teach you a lesson. Who knows, your sweetheart next door might think it suits you.”
I scrabbled at the collar, but my claws met only with cold steel and rivers of fiery silver. The pain so distracted me that I hardly noticed my father turn on his heel and slam the door behind him. As the darkness closed in around me, I heard him shouting up the stairs:
“Elektra! The force from the Amazon is returning, and from what I gather the Island will soon be lost. Find that magic-wielding worm and tell him to stop playing games and come back here at once. We have a siege to prepare for!”
I slumped against the floor, stunned by pain and exhaustion. The thin trail of her magic reached me from somewhere nearby. As I slid out of consciousness, a tiny voice in the back of my head let out an agonized wail.
I’m sorry, Morgan! I’m sorry!