Categories > Original > Fantasy > Monster

Day 10

by Togot 0 reviews

Tyler learns about Romat's past

Category: Fantasy - Rating: R - Genres: Drama,Fantasy - Warnings: [V] - Published: 2019-08-11 - 5094 words

“This is unwise,” Alanna said in a harsh tone.

“Why?” Tyler asked as he continued walking down the hall, “last time it was just me. I’d say my odds are even better with you along. If anything, that makes this wiser than before.”

“One idea being wiser than another does not make that idea wise in and of itself,” Alanna said matter-of-factly.

Tyler stopped to look at Alanna. He flashed her a smile and said, “That was good, but I’m still going to talk with Romat.”

“Romat is a master, and a powerful one,” Alanna continued. “A dangerous one. She could kill me with a thought. What help could I be to you?”

“Well, in that moment I’ll have all the time I need to get away,” Tyler said jokingly.

“I doubt that will be enough time for you to escape,” she said, sounding serious.

“Christ I was kidding,” Tyler said, growing tired of Alanna’s grim personality. He frowned and turned to her. “You really think I’d do that?”

“I would,” she answered, staring straight ahead.

Tyler turned away and continued walking, shaking his head. “Look, I really don’t think you’re the one Romat is going to be worrying about. Not after our last little chat.”

Alanna looked at Tyler carefully. “Just what did you do?”

Tyler shrugged, “We had a pissing contest…I won,” Tyler was about to continue walking when a thought stopped him. “Wait, when two kannin duke it out to see whose stronger, the loser doesn’t try again right away, does she?”

Alanna fixed Tyler with a cold gaze and answered, “When two kannin ‘duke it out’ the loser usually dies.”

“Sorry I asked,” Tyler said with a slight cringe. The more he learned about kannin, the less he wanted to know. Ironic since he was going to the library for that very reason.

He soon found himself standing before the large stone doors again. Tyler took a breath to ready himself and boldly said, “Open up; it’s me.”

After a moment of silence, the doors responded, and the empty hall was filled with the sound of stones grinding against one another. Tyler stared into the darkness. It was like a wall of solid black right in front of him. Light simply stopped. Romat could have been standing right in front of him and he wouldn’t have known. “Lights,” he said sharply, and sure enough, the darkness faded away. Thankfully Romat was standing near the center of the room. Tyler walked forward, and Alanna followed, though she seemed to hesitate.

The doors closed behind them just as slowly as they had opened, and Tyler glanced at Alanna. She watched the doors close as if it were a noose tightening around her neck. Her expression was grim, and once the doors had closed, she turned around with the same expression she’d had when Malenia had held claws to her throat, as if she were resigned to die.

“I see you brought me a snack,” came Romat’s whispering hiss of a voice. “How thoughtful.”

Tyler turned to face her. She stood so motionless that it was easy to miss her in the dim light. “Hardly,” He said, speaking with as much confidence as he could muster, “Alanna’s a friend of mine. If you want to get to her, you’ll have to go through me.” He rested his left hand on his scabbard to further make his point. “And we already played that game.”

Romat’s head tilted into an awkward sort of bow. “True,” she said without moving her lips, “I shall not make that mistake twice. If you did not come to share a meal, why did you come?”

Tyler stepped forward, relieved that she wasn’t in a hostile mood. “Why did you hurt Geeno?”

Romat’s head twisted more until it looked painful. “Geeno?” she said, sounding puzzled. “Forgive me, but it has been a very long time since I have had the pleasure of hurting anyone, and I never asked their names.”

Tyler tried not to think about the implications. “The little guy with the spots. The one you tried to eat.”

“Ah yes, the child,” she said, sounding very pleased. “I did eat him. Well, some of him anyway.”

Tyler felt himself break out in a sweat. What did she mean by ‘child’? Just how young had Geeno been? A little boy, a toddler? The thought of Romat’s hideous teeth eating a baby made him sick to his stomach. Without realizing it, he had clenched his fist.

“Oh my,” Romat said in a fluttery voice. “It seems I have made you angry again. Did I say something wrong?”

“Why did you do it,” Tyler said through clenched teeth.

“Is it not enough to say that I was hungry?”

“Cut the shit!” Tyler shouted. “I know kannin don’t need to eat actual food.”

“Not needing to do something does not mean one does not enjoy doing it,” Romat replied calmly. “Those as old as I often develop vices to pass the time. The tearing of raw meat, the taste of blood. Biting, chewing and swallowing it down my throat was one of life’s little delights.”

Romat’s description made Tyler want to throw up, but he was still thinking clearly enough to spot a hole in her explanation.

“That can’t be the only reason,” he said. “Weaker kannin submit to stronger kannin. I know you’re not suicidal.” Tyler took a step closer to her. “So why would you deliberately piss Malenia off like that?”

Romat lowered her head in a way that almost seemed shy. “Clever boy,” she said. “Very well then, the truth.” Her head rose back up to stare blankly at him. “I was challenging Malenia. Her lenient policies led me to believe her to be weak. In my clan, in most clans, the strong devour the weak. They subjugate them, use them to further their own ends. Only those smart enough to hide themselves, or vicious enough to offer others up as supplements survive. They learn magic by spying or bribing their elder siblings, and an elder‘s rules are whatever the elder decrees at the time.”

Romat turned her head as if looking through the walls. “Here? The strong and the weak stroll down hallways together without fear for their lives. Masters are required to teach all who wish to learn, weak or strong, and Malenia tolerates those who question her decisions while holding herself to meaningless rules that she created. How could I see that as anything but weakness?”

Tyler was quiet for a long time after hearing Romat’s explanation. Her description of life within her old clan was chilling. He’d been told that Haven was different than other clans, better, but he hadn’t realized just how brutal kannin clans could be. Had everyone here come from such a background? Had Alanna?

When Tyler finally composed himself, he simply said, “That’s horrible.”

“Not if you’re the one at the top,” Romat said, and she seemed to smile ever so slightly.

“Is that why you challenged Malenia?” Tyler asked, “To be at the top?”

“Of course, how could I resist with so many...” Romat turned her head slightly to look at Alanna, “tasty morsels running about. If the clan became mine, I would have had a feast.”

Tyler took a slow breath to cool off his building anger. Romat was a sick bitch, but he needed to keep her talking, so he‘d put up with it. “Why Geeno?” he asked.

“Because he was the youngest, the weakest, and, fittingly enough, Malenia’s favorite. What better way to test her resolve?”

“So,” Tyler said impatiently, “What happened?”

Romat was silent for a moment before answering, “As you put it, we had a pissing match, and I lost.”

Tyler frowned, taking note that he hadn‘t had that conversation in earshot of Romat. He almost asked how she knew he‘d said it, but decided to stay on topic. “And she did this to you?”

Romat looked away again, as if embarrassed, “Not exactly. While she did give me quite the thrashing, Malenia is not proficient enough with blood magic to do anything this…permanent. She gave me to Termall.”

The mention of the good doctor filled Tyler with a sense of dread. He knew he wasn’t going to enjoy this part of the story.

“First he took my sight, no doubt he found it an ironic punishment. I remember the searing pain as the light faded away, swallowed up by darkness. Unable to see, I could only feel, and hear Termall’s taunting voice as he indulged himself at my expense. Then he twisted my spine. Somehow that made my limbs go limp. I did not feel whatever else he did to me after that as my body lost all sensation. It took quite some time for me to heal enough to get any feeling back at all. Then Malenia tossed my lifeless form in here and sealed me inside, forbidding me from ever leaving.”

Tyler’s face was damp with a cold sweat after hearing Romat describe her punishment. The tale itself was horrifying enough, to know that Malenia had allowed Termall to do such a thing, and that Termall was capable of such sadism, but the part that was truly unnerving was how calmly Romat described the events. There was not a trace of bitterness or anger in her voice as she told her story. In fact, she almost sounded nostalgic
Tyler himself felt rather conflicted. What Malenia had done had been vicious, but wasn’t Romat’s punishment justified? She had tortured and mutilated an innocent child. He certainly found it hard to feel sorry for her, knowing what she had done, but her punishment seemed cruel and unusual. How was he supposed to feel about monsters brutalizing each other?

Tyler tried to speak but found his throat tight. He swallowed hard and then asked, “Why haven’t you healed yourself?”

“While I can heal,” she paused a moment to smile at Tyler, “most injuries, what Termall did to me was not merely a wound. He reshaped my very body in ways I do not understand, and therefore cannot correct.”

“So if you’re paralyzed, how do you move around,” Tyler asked. “Magic?”

“Indeed. I do not know how long I rested sprawled out on the cold stone floor like a corpse; it is difficult to keep track of days and nights when you cannot see the sun nor the moons after all, but eventually I taught myself to manipulate my body in the same manner one manipulates objects with magical energy. It is not precise as flesh is not my affinity, but it has sufficed.”

‘So she is a marionette,’ Tyler thought. He could almost imagine magical strings holding her up. That was just creepy. “Why didn’t she just kill you?” He asked. If kannin didn’t believe in revenge, and Malenia couldn’t afford to have anyone question her authority, why keep Romat alive? She had threatened to kill Alanna without a hint of remorse, and she hadn’t seemed to care that Tyler had killed her people. What was the point of keeping Romat like this?

Romat seemed to smile, though it was hard to tell as her doll-like face was always smiling. “As I said, Malenia holds herself to her own rules. She declared that killing was not allowed, and would be punishable by death. I did not kill the boy, so she did not kill me, though she did make it very clear that she was displeased.”

Tyler frowned as he considered this explanation. Was that really the only reason? Malenia was just true to her word? That couldn’t have been all there was to it. “I don’t buy it,” he said flatly. “If Malenia was pissed enough to do this to you, there must be some reason she’s keeping you around.”

“So distrusting,” Romat said in a pleased voice. “Very wise.” Romat’s head turned to the side, though she didn’t seem to be looking at anything, especially considering she was blind. “I do not presume to know Malenia’s mind. I doubt anyone does, but I have noticed that she is very reluctant to killing members of her clan. She usually tries to justify sparing them by giving them some task to perform.” Romat’s head slowly turned to stare pointedly at Alanna. “As for myself, I now guard these books. I serve as a living example and warning to others, and I am powerful enough that Malenia may one day find a use for me. In other words, killing me would simply be wasteful.”

Tyler took a moment to think. Neither Romat nor Alanna said a word while they waited patiently for him. They didn’t even move.

“Tell me everything you’ve ’noticed’ about Malenia,” said Tyler with an air of conspiracy in his voice. “Her affinity, her history, her vices. Everything.”

Romat seemed to back away slightly as if threatened by the words. “That is…very valuable information, and Malenia would be quite cross were I to share what little I know.” Her eyes narrowed slightly as he face inched forward again, enticed by Tyler’s request. “Why are you interested in such things?” she asked, and her lips cracked into a hideous grin, “Do you wish to challenge her?”

Tyler forced himself to not shy away from Romat. If he wanted to convince her to help him, he had to prove he had the nerve to stand his ground. “If I have to,” Tyler said with steel in his voice. “I‘m going home, and nothing is going to stop me.”

“Such fierce determination,” Romat said as she stared at him with her sightless eyes. “But I fear Malenia more than I fear you, nor would it benefit me to aid you against her.”

“Why not?” Tyler asked, pushing the issue. “If I can force her to send me home, I should be able to get her to heal you.”

“Force her?” Romat laughed. “One does not force an elder to do anything. One barters, one schemes, one begs and bribes, and if the elder is generous they will grant. You may hurt me if you wish, as I cannot stop you, but I remain unconvinced that aiding you is in my best interest.”

Tyler’s mind raced for a more compelling argument. If force and leverage would not suffice, then perhaps they could work on diplomacy, but then if Romat knew of something that would compel such favors, she would have used it already. Tyler considered promising some payback, surely she would enjoy foiling whatever Malenia’s plans were for Tyler, but no, kannin did not care about revenge, as absurd as that seemed. His thoughts ran in circles until Romat spoke up again.

“I will not aid you…however,” she again turned to look at Tyler’s body guard, “if you want to learn Malenia’s secrets, I suggest you ask Alanna.” Romat’s eyes narrowed with wicked delight. “She has been spending a great deal of time with the headmistress.”

Tyler turned to look at Alanna. Her surprise was nothing compared to his own, and what little reaction she did show was quickly buried behind her composed mask. “How do you know that?” Alanna asked slowly.

“When one is confined to such a place, one must get…creative,” said Romat, but Tyler wasn’t paying attention to her, he was staring at Alanna.

“Is it true?” Tyler asked.

Alanna looked at him. There was no trace of guilt of apprehension in her eyes, just that same cold stare she usually gave him. “Yes,” she said flatly. “Malenia has been giving me private lessons to make up for what I’m missing out on by being your chaperone.”

“When?” Tyler asked, “You spend every second of the day with…” Tyler’s eyes widened with realization as the answer came to him. “When I’m asleep. She teaches you at night when I’m sleeping. Kannin don‘t need to sleep.”

“Correct,” said Alanna. “You have little need of me while you are unconscious.”

“So why not go to your normal classes?” Tyler asked, stepping closer to her. “Why would Malenia give you private lessons?”

“There were specific spells she wanted me to learn which would be more pertinent to my assigned task.”

“Such as?” Tyler asked, coming closer, though Alanna showed no sign of concern at his hostile posture, she did glanced nervously at Romat before answering Tyler’s question.

“Teleportation so that I might address your needs more expediently, and a shield spell to protect us both from harm.”

“That’s it?” Tyler asked, feeling somewhat under whelmed. He had thought that Malenia’s private lessons would entail something more impressive.

Alanna’s posture shifted slightly, and her expression hardened as if he had just offended her. “I don’t think you understand the significance,” she said evenly. “Malenia rarely teaches those spells to others, and receiving her personal instruction in any matter is a very rare privilege.”

Tyler frowned as he tried to make sense of things. “She punishes you by assigning you to me, under threat of death, while simultaneously rewarding you with private lessons and rare spells. Why?”

“Why indeed,” said Romat, and Tyler turned to look at her eerie smile. “I can understand Malenia sparing Alanna’s life, but why would she go out of her way to protect you? I suspect it has something to do with why I cannot see you.”

“What do you mean?” Tyler asked, “You can’t see anything.”

Romat bowed slightly and twisted in an awkward way to look at him. “Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that I cannot feel you,” she said. “To compensate for my loss of sight I learned to reach out with magic, to touch my surroundings. I am in constant contact with everything in this room. The books on the shelves, the shelves themselves, the walls, and the floor. Even Alanna. But you? From you I fell nothing, or rather, it as if there is nothing where you are. There is merely a void of non-existence. I cannot feel the floor where you step, the space you take up. I must say, it really is quite frightening.”

Tyler couldn’t help but let out a single laugh, “You’re afraid of me?”

“If I were not,” Romat said, and a surprised gasp compelled Tyler to turn around to find Alanna floating in the air, held by an invisible force, seemingly against her will, “Alanna would no longer have her limbs.”

The sight made a knot form in Tyler’s stomach. Alanna was held, arms outstretched like a puppet on Romat’s strings, an irony which was not lost on Tyler. More to the forefront of his mind was what Romat could do to her, especially given her threat. Fear began flooding into Tyler’s mind until he remembered one very obvious fact: Romat had just said that she was afraid of him, and now he understood why.

Within this room, against kannin, Romat was a power to be feared, but against Tyler? She was helpless. Her magical strands could not touch him. Her body couldn‘t move well enough to fight him normally, and she had nowhere to run.
Tyler turned back to Romat and took a step forward, resting his left hand on his scabbard to emphasize the threat he posed to her. He looked in her pale sightless eyes and said in a slow commanding voice, “Put her down.”

“Oh my,” said Romat in a fluttery voice as she shied her head away again. “I do like it when you’re assertive.”

Tyler heard Alanna let out a sigh of relief behind him. He afforded himself a single glance to make sure she had been set down, and was unharmed. Feeling relieved, Tyler turned back to Romat and said, “Thank you. Now, are there any books here with information on Malenia?”

Romat attempted the puzzled kannin head tilt, but she moved in such a lifeless, broken way that her head appeared to almost fall off. “Why would there be?” she asked. “Malenia insisted of forcing every master to write down their knowledge of spells to preserve them, so that should a master die before passing on their knowledge, it would not be lost. There was no need, nor desire to transcribe information about individuals, and Malenia would certainly be opposed to anyone recording secrets about herself.”

“Why?” Tyler asked.

Romat’s head straitened up, and Tyler could almost visualize the magical string pulling it. “Because the more someone knows about you, the more they can use against you. A kannin’s greatest protection is secrecy, from our clan‘s location, to our spell affinity.”

“So why are you being so forthcoming?” Tyler asked. Aside from anything useful about Malenia, Romat was practically telling him her life story.

“Because I have already submitted to you. The contest between us is ended, so there is no longer any need for my secrets. “To do otherwise would only force you to hurt me to get the information. There is no benefit in being stubborn.” She smiled slightly, and Tyler knew that she wasn‘t being entirely honest. She had already tried to lie through omission, but there wasn‘t any need to call her on it. He didn‘t like the implication that she believed he would torture someone for information, but it was probably best not to correct her.

“Ok,” he said slowly, trying to think of a loophole. “Is there anything useful you can tell me? Any idea how I can get home, or who else I should talk to that might know? Or what I could use to negotiate with Malenia?”

Romat considered the question for several silent seconds before answering. “Only that Malenia values you, and she is not likely to let you go, nor is she to be trifled with. If you intend to make a move against her, you had better be very sure.”

Tyler looked away with an angry glare. It wasn’t the answer he had wanted, but it seemed this was all he was getting. “Fine. In that case.” He raised his head to look back at her and forced a smile. “I need a favor.”
Tyler tied the belt of his gi and stepped out onto the matted floor of the dojo. Master Kim was waiting alone at the other end of the studio with a bag next to his leg. Tyler took out his wooden boken and assumed a ready stance. He could see that it was night from the darkness outside the large windows at the front of the building. Master Kim reached into the back and pulled out some beanbags. “Let’s work on your dodging.”

He threw one of the fist-sized bags at Tyler, and Tyler easily dodged it by twisting his body just before it hit. The next one was just as simple to avoid. Then Master Kim began to actually aim, forcing Tyler to take a full step to the side. Then they began coming faster, both in frequency and travel speed, forcing Tyler to pay attention. One grazed his arm, another narrowly missed his head. “Faster!” Alanna said, for it was no she who was throwing the projectiles at him.

Five beanbags floated up out of the bag and began to orbit around her as she stood with crossed arms. Without warning, they launched themselves at Tyler so quickly it was hard for him to see them. One after another they came like bullets out of a gun. He dodged on by ducking, another by making a diving roll out of the way. The third hit the ground by his hand, and the fourth he was forced to deflect with his sword, which was no longer made of wood. Sharp stabbing pain erupted from Tyler’s side as the last projectile struck him in the stomach, just under the ribs.

Tyler grimaced as he clutched his side and looked down at the rock resting beside his foot. “Too slow,” Malenia said, for now it was she standing over him, and she wasn’t alone. Turrel, Romat, Deserae, Termal. They all stood over him with stones orbiting them, waiting to attack. All sneering at him with wicked grins showing their sharp teeth. “Far too slow.”

One by one, they fired shots at him. There was no discernible pattern to it. Deserae, then Termall, then Malenia twice, and then Termal again. Tyler dodged and blacked as best he could but every third stone seemed to sneak past his defenses. He winced as one struck him on the shin. Groaned as another hit him hard in the shoulder, and all the while his attackers began to spread out to surrounded him, making it even harder to defend against them.

“Stop it!” Tyler growled as his anger began to grow, fed by his mounting injuries. It was not a plea, but a threat.

Malenia laughed, and shown that insufferable smile of hers. “And if I don’t?”

“What can you do?” said Deserae, her eyes fixed on him with malicious intent.

A stone struck Tyler in the head, just above the eye, and he stumbled down to one knee. He reached a trembling hand up to guard the injury, and pulled it away to see blood pooled in his palm. He felt is rage soaring, his blood reassure rising, his body trembling until he couldn’t hold it back any more. With a cry of murderous outrage, Tyler launched forward at Turrel, the closes of his assailants, and stabbed him in the chest up to the hilt. Tyler stared, wide-eyed with a mixture of panic and anger into Turrel’s stunned face before he pushed down on the handle of the sword, opening the wound as he pulled the blade out.

Turrell collapsed, and Romat charged forward, gliding across the matted floor like a specter. Tyler swung at her with a high back-hand slash and opened her throat. Arterial spray showered him as she fell to the ground like a puppet whose strings had been cut.

Tyler was no longer thinking. His body was simply reacting on its own to the perceived threats around him. Termal came at him from behind, and Tyler reversed the grip on his sword, and stabbed backwards into the kannin’s gut. Again he pushed down on the handle to open the wound before withdrawing the blade.

He turned to see Malenia and Deserae standing with hideous grins on their faces. Their features distorted to truly monstrous proportions. Their claws, their fangs, even their muscles seemed exaggerated. They cackled as they both lunged at him. Tyler screamed in terror as he charged forward to meet them.

With his first strike, he cut of Deserae’s arm at the elbow joint, but she used the other to tear a gash in his side with her claws. Tyler cried out in pained desperation as made a back-handed swing, cutting her head off, but this gave Malenia all the time she needed to grab hold of both of his arms. She barred down on him, seeming impossible large, her huge sharp fangs the size of kitchen knives. She opened her massive jaws as Tyler struggled helplessly, unable to do anything more than stare down the red chasm of her throat as bit down and crushed his head.

Tyler screamed as he sprang up in his bed, drenched with sweat, heart trying to pound its way out of his chest. Before his mind could grasp that he’d simply been dreaming, he saw someone standing over him. The light for his room was only starting to brighten his surroundings, and in the dark he could only see the outline of a kannin, and his fear drove his actions. Without thinking, he grabbed his sword, threw off the scabbard and leapt out of bed, swinging down at the intruder.

His eyes adjusted to the dim light just in time to see Alanna’s surprised expression. A new kind of fear filled his mind as he desperately tried to stop himself. He pulled back on his strike, fighting against the force of momentum he’d already put into it. He felt it connect, and for a horrifying moment, the two of them stood frozen.

Tyler stared at where his blade had struck Alanna’s left shoulder. His blade was pressed against her fur, but he could still see it, and he didn’t see any blood. Either he hadn’t cut her at all or it was little more than skin deep. His sleep adled mind struggled to make sense of what was going on with the help of his surging adrenaline.

“Alanna?” Tyler asked, his voice tight.

“Yes?” she answered in a very controlled tone, likely terrified that the slightest move would spell her end. She stared at him with a tense gaze of apprehension and confusion, and Tyler couldn’t blame her. From her perspective, he’d had no reason to attack her.

With a trembling hand, Tyler forced himself to pull his sword away from her. To his releife there was no sign of injury. “What are you doing here?”

Alanna seemed to relax ever so slightly n ow that she no longer had a weapon pressed against her. “I sensed your distress, and came to see what was wrong.”

Tyler didn’t so much sit down on the edge of his bed as his legs simply gave out from under him and the bed caught him. He stared at the floor, in shock over what he’d almost done. He wanted to explain, to ask for forgiveness, to reassure her that this wasn’t her fault, but in the end all he could manage to say was, “I’m sorry, please…leave me alone.”

And then, just like that, she was gone. Tyler was confused only for a moment when he remembered that she’d been learning how to teleport from Malenia. Apparently she was a fast learner. Now alone, Tyler looked down at the sword he’d almost killed her with, and threw it across the room before covering his face and crying.
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