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**Reader Caution: This chapter has violent content.**
I had no way to tell how long I had been out or where we were when I woke up. My mouth tasted awful, a bitter metallic flavor coated my tongue and my head was pounding. My hands were completely encased in cotton and seemed to be fastened together behind my back. My wings ached where I was laying on them and the cuts on my face throbbed. I tried to stay still to hear something from our captors that might give me some idea of where we were but I grunted when we went around a corner and my weight shifted painfully, alerting them to the fact I was awake.
The man who had taunted Natham leaned over the seat I was dumped on and smirked at me.
“Well, well, look who’s awake.” His eyes were dead and cold and I shivered as I met his slit pupil gaze.
He was one of the Snake clan. I remained silent as I silently promised him his death. He hissed at me and I sneered. Let him underestimate me based on my size. My retribution would be all the sweeter.
“Not long now, baby bird. We’ll soon have you exactly where we want you and your clan and your land will be ours. I saw your mother once with your father. She’s a delectable little tidbit. Do you think she’d sing for me while I use her before passing her to our human accomplices?”
I could not remain silent. “You stay away from my mother!”
I fought against my bonds but I couldn’t move them an inch, my struggles earning me only pain in my wrists from the metal cutting into my skin. He gave that little hissing laugh, as if he could feel the pain and relished it. I wanted nothing more than to kill the bastard. His head moved away from my line of sight and I could hear small sounds in the backseat where Natham had been.
I thumped my head back against the seat, feeling tears burn in my eyes. The men who had killed my father and tortured my mate were torturing him again and I could do nothing to stop it. I strained against my bonds, not caring when I felt hot fluid begin to drip down my wrists. I was so lost in my hate and self-recrimination that I didn’t even feel the sting of another shot before I was sucked back into unconsciousness by the drug’s insidious pull.
This time when I woke up we were no longer moving and my arms were no longer bound together behind my back. Instead I was hanging from the ceiling, suspended by thick, cold metal bands that dug into my wrists.
My shoulders and elbows screamed in protest from holding all my weight while my feet hung several inches above the floor and my wing tips just brushed the cold concrete floor.
I couldn’t move my wings at all; someone had bound them to my body and I was unable to break the restraint. I struggled wildly and finally had to stop from the pain in my already cut wrists. I rested, panting and slumping as far as my bonds allowed me.
I heard the sound of footsteps approaching and I brought my head up to glare at one of my captors entering the room. Captive or not, I was the leader of my clan and all the clans in my territory.
I would not cower or show weakness!
A tall man was coming toward me with a lazy stroll, his eyes gleaming covetously at me, as if he had a new toy and all the time in the world to play with it. He was a cat and I caught the musky scent that accompanied a leopard. His skin was a golden yellow and his eyes were pitch black, reflecting the light like shiny black onyx. Finger long teeth glistened in the harsh fluorescent light when he sneered at me.
“The son is not nearly as impressive as the father.”
He spoke to someone behind me. It wasn’t until then that I realized I wasn’t alone; realized that my struggles and failure to free myself had been witnessed. The thought made me burn in anger and my fingers curved in the urge to rake my talons down the smug faces of my captors.
The man who moved around from behind me was the cat Carthera had originally grabbed me from the mall. He moved toward the other man aggressively but his manner held a hint of subservience. I could tell this new cat, the leopard, was important. The door he had come in was left open and I debated struggling again in an attempt to get free and reach it. It was unlikely I would be able to break the thick metal so trying to escape right then was futile. I decided to conserve my strength and listen to discover whatever I could.
As long as they didn’t kill me first I might find out more about these ferals and their operation to take over my territory. With the door open I could hear strange sounds coming from the hall but I was distracted from them when the cat who had grabbed Natham and me from the mall started speaking.
“It was simple. The plan went off perfectly,” he said smugly. “Now, I expect to be paid.”
“Of course the plan was perfect; it was mine!” the leopard hissed. “If your mercenaries hadn’t failed at the warehouse in the first place none of this would have been necessary. Now I have to finesse the situation to prevent the other clans from banding together even with their leader missing. Your casino şirketleri incompetence has made my job that much harder. You will be compensated when his clan gives up their rights to their territory and hands over their accounts, not one second before. Your job is not over yet; there are still the Falcons to be considered. They are fearful opponents!”
“I fear nothing!” the mercenary scoffed. “The warriors with Keserem were no trouble.”
“You had the advantage in numbers and the police had secured them before they knew anything was up. Don’t get cocky!” the leopard snarled at him.
“The Falcon clan has held supremacy over the other clans because they are both smart and ferocious in battle. You would be wise to remember that they may be small but they are not weak.”
The man eyed me and the cuts on my face from his claws. “Their leader is,” he said cockily.
“A youngling not fully matured? Yeah, big challenge,” The leopard scoffed. “He is not important of himself, other than a good way to torture my wayward son and to get control of his clan. If those Falcons hadn’t raided the center and stolen Natham they both would have died by now and I would have been able to take over the clans days ago.”
I was confused; this leopard was Natham’s father?
How was that possible when they were different clans?
I blanched at the thought of the thought of dying but he was right. As badly starved as Natham was when the Falcons found him, the continued abuse on his body would have killed him in another day or two. Carthera are strong and we heal quickly but that comes at a price. Our bodies need a lot of fuel and most clans are very social and tactile. Sensory deprivation coupled with physical abuse, along with starvation would have killed Natham if my men hadn’t found him and brought him to the eyrie.
If Natham hadn’t been rescued, I would have died along with my mate, though we never exchanged a blood bond in person. The clans would have fallen into disarray and my father’s territory would have been easy pickings. This Carthera was cowardly, using abuse and torture on someone he claimed as family in order to gain power. I was furious that my father died at his dishonorable hand by trickery and a shriek of fury I could not hold back was smothered by the foul gag they must have shoved in my mouth the last time I was unconscious.
The sound was still audible and made them turn their attention to me.
“Oh, don’t like that idea do you, little bird?”
The leopard and the other cat laughed maliciously. “Don’t worry. You won’t have to worry about that much longer.” I expected them to beat me or continue gloat over my bound body but they didn’t. The leopard stroked his claws across the exposed flesh of my stomach, creating four shallow cuts that welled up with blood. He licked one claw daintily, tasting me.
“Hmm, delicious. I always enjoyed a young tender morsel for dinner.” He cleaned his other claws, lapping delicately at them with his rough pink tongue as he savored my blood while watching me. I could feel my eyes open wide and my breath came faster as panic began to set in.
I did not want to be eaten!
The other cat Carthera watched avidly, his nose practically quivering as he took in the scent of my blood and the stink of my fear and anger. The pink tip of his tongue came out and he quickly licked his lips was he watched the small cuts drip blood that ran in trails to soak into the waistband of my pants. His eyes gleamed and he practically quivered in want as I shuddered. My nose was not as good as other Carthera species but I didn’t need to smell his scent to know that he lusted after me.
The bulge in his pants was more than enough. Sick, sadistic bastard.
“We’ll be back, little bird. Don’t worry, we won’t leave you all alone here; not for long anyway.” With an evil smirk the leopard stalked from the room, snapping orders to someone as he entered the hall. The mercenary cat was still staring at me as he backed out of the room, pulling the door shut at the last moment. The way his eyes had lingered over where my pants hung on my hips had me worried. Though I was pretty sure being raped would really hurt more than being eaten I didn’t want to experience either. The light in the room shut off and I was plunged into darkness.
I could no longer hear any sounds with the thick door closed. I was alone in a cold dark room and hanging painfully from the ceiling. The metal manacles were digging into my wrists and I could feel small trickles of blood running down my arms from my raw wrists as I struggled repeatedly to break loose. I worked at the foul material held in my mouth by a strip of tape, trying to dislodge it or at least compress it so that my jaw wasn’t quite as stretched.
I slumped in my bonds, sucking in air through my nose, trying not to lose control over my panic and fear.
A small square of light came in a small hole in the door, the only ‘window’ the room had. The dark was so reminiscent of my dreams that it was almost impossible to fight down the panic that urged me to casino firmaları scream. I knew if I started I wouldn’t be able to stop. I couldn’t afford that type of weakness. I focused on the small square of light as if my life depended on it; certainly my sanity did. I wasn’t sure how long I would be kept there or what Natham’s father would do to me but I could imagine it all too well.
Hours must have passed as I hung there. I dozed off once and jerked when I woke up, fiery pain from the shackles rubbing my raw wrists made me groan into the soaked fabric gag still stuffing my mouth. I could not believe I fell asleep when I was facing certain torture and death. I tried to keep my eyes open and focused on that small light but the demands of my body for sleep were simply too much. Soon my chin hung to my chest and I slipped into my dreams.
If one’s waking world is nightmarish it only stands to reason that your dreams should be pleasant and full of hope to give you an escape.
But that is a child’s view of things. Bad things don’t just happen to bad people and you aren’t going to receive something ‘good’ just because you feel you deserve it. So of course when I could no longer fight my body’s need for sleep I slipped not into pleasant dreams of my family and better times, but into my familiar nightmare.
This time it was not all dark; it was more vivid and real, almost as if it were happening to me in person. I could see rough stones and feel the cold of a slab beneath my body. I strained to move but I was trapped, unable to twitch even a finger. A line of pain, sharp and hot, lanced across my back to join other stripes already burning from my shoulders to my knees. I shuddered and realized that I was being whipped, the skin flayed from the back of my body by someone with the precision of a long time torturer.
This time words came also, hissing insults and threats, spiteful gloating and hatred spewing from the person whipping me. He grabbed me by my long braid and jerked my head up to spit in my face. It was in that moment I fully realized what this was, what my nightmares had always been. I was within Natham; feeling what he felt as if we shared one body. The fear and pain that had made me scream as a child had always been his, but the reality was so much worse than I had imagined.
I hated the fact that he had known a life like this. I was sad for him and furious at the torture my mate had been forced to endure for years. I would not allow this to continue. We were mates, we were supposed to be bonded, no matter what the strange circumstances that had begun our bond.
I willed strength into Natham through the dream. I tried to share with him my courage and fortitude. I sent him love and the promise of retribution.
I was filled with an icy resolve. I would make these men pay and pay dearly for harming those I loved.
I could faintly sense his surprise and then a surge of love came back at me. It held the taint of resignation and a sense of absolute despair that shocked and scared me. I tried to send reassurance but I could feel the spark that made Natham into who he was slowly fading. He had been recovering nicely the last few days but his tormentors had done too good a job on his mind as well as his body.
He was on the brink of the death of his soul.
I struggled to send him a sense of hope that I barely could feel myself.
I jerked in my chains as I woke suddenly to cold water being flung over me.
I shook my wet hair from my eyes and glared at the men who entered my cell. It was the cat from before of course, and another lackey of Natham’s father, one I recognized as the creature who had been driving the van. What surprised me was that he was human. Then I noticed his stance and his posture, ramrod straight with his thumbs hooked into his belt.
It was the service style revolver tucked into a hip holster that clinched it for me. The man was a cop, one of the crooked humans that had to have helped these Carthera kill my father. I lunged at him, hating him with every fiber of my being as I strained to reach him. Just a moment free and the man’s guts would spill from his fat stomach to tangle at his feet.
“Oh the pretty little bird wants to play does he?” The mercenary laughed as he tore the tape off my face. He stepped back as I spit out the sodden fabric, my tongue and mouth aching from the sudden change in position.
“Fuck you!” I worked my jaw and glared at them.
“Oh no, I think the opposite really,” he said as he smirked at me and his eyes ran down my body to be stopped at my pants. “Those really have to go before we can get to business.”
The cat gestured for the human to come closer to me. “Take off his pants.”
“Are you sure it’s safe, Trest?” The cop was eyeing me warily. “The other one put up quite a fight. I don’t want to end up with a broken arm like Stevens just because I want to get my jollies off inside one of these sissy birds.”
“Don’t be stupid. Look at him, he’s a youngling,” Trest scoffed. “He’s small, thin, and weak.”
For a long güvenilir casino awful moment I thought they were speaking of Natham. My breath froze and I wailed inside, not for the fear of what was to come for myself but for the violation of my mate. I was still awash with his feelings, his bitter despair and the thought that it was because they had raped him stunned me. My adversaries paid no attention to my bound body and continued arguing. I no longer feared them for myself; I felt nothing but a fiery rage that consumed me.
I wanted them to come closer so I could tear them apart for harming my mate.
I shrieked, the sound interrupting their argument and making the human back up. My eyes glowed red and I could feel my talons growing longer and sharpening into razor sharp claws that were ready to rend my opponents belly’s open in one swipe. My wings flexed and this time the bindings didn’t stand a chance. I had entered full hunting mode; there was nothing and no one who would stop me from avenging my mate and freeing him from further torture.
“His wings are free, help me!” Trest yelled. They rushed toward me, Trest hanging back a little like the cowardly bastard he was, ordering a human to do his dirty work.
The human ran straight at me though and I flexed my stomach muscles bringing up my feet. My shoes and socks had fallen or been torn off long before and his eyes widened when he saw the lethal four inch blade like talons coming for him. Lashing out with one long leg, I laid his belly open from sternum to groin, shredding his shirt and skin both like they were paper. Blood gushed from his torso as he screamed and fell to the ground, curling around his wounded belly. Bulging from the fatal tears in his skin were the pink curves of his intestines and other organs that should never be seen outside the human body. He was wailing in agony, as good as dead as his life flowed out of him with every beat of his heart.
Trest managed to stop before he got within range though I swiped at him with my other foot as I shrieked.
“Come and get me, you coward!”
He laughed. “Oh, I don’t think so. I was worried that you’d be able to get away with your wings free but you’re still dangling there like the weak little bird that you are.”
I swiped at him with my feet again, even though I wouldn’t be able to reach him.
He leered at me. “Keep fighting, I’m going to enjoy your struggles so much more that way. I do so like breaking my victims before I take them. Do you think you can really prevent this? I’m going to have you, one way or the other. All you did was get rid of one weak human.”
I shrieked and he laughed again, the sound grating across my senses.
“I don’t like the smell of carrion stinking up the place. I’ll be right back, little bird. Don’t go away now.” His overconfidence, turning his back on me with just my arms bound would be his mistake.
His last mistake.
I strained my wings to open up farther than ever before and thrust downward in a powerful sweeping motion, pushing my body toward the shackles hanging from the beam in the ceiling. It was an open beam ceiling and the manacles were connected by a long chain that actually strung through a hook buried in the solid wood beam. Getting a good grip with my hands I pulled backward, using my wings to create enough force. I used my wings in ways I had not known I could, my muscles straining, and with one final surge I managed to pull the hook from the wood beam. I felt a sharp stab of triumph.
Just then Trest came back in the room, a coil of rough rope over his shoulder and a long leather whip in his hands.
He took one step in the room and his eyes widened as I dove for him. I longed to rip his body to pieces slowly but he was bigger and stronger than me. Instead of flying into his body and trying to knock him down I went over his head to drop behind him. In the close quarters of the room I couldn’t afford to fight him hand to hand. I managed to loop the chain still binding my two wrists together around his neck as I flipped over his head. Crossing my arms, I used my wings to fly backward and pull hard on the chain. Bracing my feet against his back, I dug my talons in and pulled as he gasped for air as he twisted and tried to reach me.
I pulled harder, my face locked into a vicious snarl.
He began to falter and stumble, falling to his knees as he tried to reach me with his arms. I yanked hard on the chain, a muffled pop the only sound aside from my grunting. When he finally went down I held on for a while longer to make sure he wasn’t faking. When he was no longer even twitching I uncrossed my arms to straighten the chains and let his head fall to the stone floor. Panting, I focused on breathing for a minute, folding my wings behind me.
Pulling him over onto his back I looked in satisfaction down at his purple face, his eyes bulging and the look of shocked horror on his face still recognizable. My fury was still controlling me and I quickly slashed his throat open to ensure that he was truly dead and would never be able to rape and torture anyone else. Blood trickled from one end of the wound sluggishly. I searched in his belt and found the key to the manacles still locked around my wrists, my fury still so intense I didn’t even feel the pain as the metal cuffs fell away.
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