CHAPTER 7: The Loving and Unloving Father
Memories filled William’s dreams—moments in his life where he had seen his father in motion of magic. Those times he brought the dead back to life to speak and communicate with. Those times he talked freely with ghosts and spirits of the dead. And those times, when he was small and he had asked him what he was doing before he knew better than to had asked in the first place.
Memories of whipping and lashing flooded his subconscious as his body jerked and twitched from reflex. He felt the hard grip of his father on his leg like it was all too real. But when his back landed on the stone floor of his room, he gasped awake only to find his father was indeed gripping his healing leg and was dragging him out the door. He instinctively jerked a kick on the hand holding him, letting him go. But as soon as his foot landed, a hand grabbed him by the hair and pulled it until he could feel an abrupt tear on his scalp.
“You dare kick me,” hissed Radulf.
His tongue rattled. “No so-sorry, fa—“
His pull was so strong that William was forced to stand, avoiding his knees being scraped. Radulf took him down the basement through a floor trap door. The second his father stepped onto the base of the staircase below, fire blazed on torches hanging on corners and beams. Inside the cobweb infested ceilings and stone floors and walls were stone sarcophagi and jars and crates full of the dead’s ashes lining the halls. Barred cages with human, animal and unknown bones came into view as they took a left, and the stench of decay and past feces and urine mixed with blood overpowered his senses. He was used to the smell. His mind understood them and was prepared, but somehow whenever he came here, his body still reacted vile from it. The corridors and halls of the catacombs extended farther and wider, deeper and lower; but Radulf immediately stopped at an almost hollow cage—except for the chest at the side and the chains in the middle.
Radulf tossed William inside the cage as his body slammed down on the cold floor. Radulf clasped the chains on his ankles. “Stand up,” he growled.
Rousing, his body jerked with recollections of being housed in the cell. He pushed himself against the wall and extended his arms up to the air. He had gotten this notion that if he was obedient to his father’s words, he’d be punished less; or maybe he would forget the whole thing and forgive him. Maybe.
His father reached for the chains above and clasped them on William. He took out a leather whip from the chest, stretched it and tightened it with his hand.
“Father, please,” breathed out William.
Radulf snorted. “Please what?”
“Please father, I haven’t—”
“—done anything wrong?” shrilled Radulf. “Then what is this?” He pulled out Elise’s gift dagger over to his face as William’s eyes widened. “I would have thought so.” He set the dagger down and whipped him once; the leather slashed a strip of his left arm’s fabric and skin.
Wincing from the sudden burning pain, he shouted, “I didn’t do anything wrong. It was a gift.”
“Gift? For you? Lies!” He hurled the whip for the second time, cutting across William’s tunic in the middle.
“Its true father,” howled William with lips shaking and eyes wide open. “It was a gift from Elise. She gave it to me.”
“Elise gave this to you?” he asked with a mild astonishment.
“When I bought your supplies, she gave it to me. I refused. But she insisted I have it,” he explained, biting down the burning of his open wound. “She wanted me protected from bandits and ruffians.”
“She…granted you…protection?” He spoke every word as clearly as possible.
“Yes father,” he breathed out again.
He stared hard at his son with a bored expression, laying his hand down. When a small ounce of relief waved back on William’s chest, Radulf gripped the leather whip tightly and slashed him three times, making him cry out.
“Lies, lies, lies,” screamed Radulf. “I thought I had told you never to lie to me again.” He administered two more lashings.
His lower lip bled as his body glistened with dirt, grime and blood. “Father, please. I…would have died, if I had not anything to protect myself.”
He held the whip in place and gave him a few moments to breathe.
“There was a monster. It captured…Garret…” he spat blood on the last word.
“Monster? There are no such things.”
“It was a shadow man,” he squeaked. “It struck me with its blade made from its own hand.”
“Then why are you still here breathing? Talking.” His eyes darkened. An equal sin to disobeying Radulf’s orders was letting authority or anyone of power belittle and manipulate you just because they could.
“I…I…” He gulped and simply dared not speak any further. If his father found out about the meeting with Death, how many slashes would he achieve for lying? He knew his father was a no non-sense man. He thinks and ponders almost everything he does. Like every place he goes to, every act he does and every person he meets had purpose. He could not fool an old wise man with the illusions his mind’s eyes saw.
“Stop stuttering and tell me what happened,” shouted Radulf.
He opened his mouth to speak then bit his lip, lowering his head even more, wishing he would somehow disappear.
“William.” He sent another cut on his other arm.
“Stop. Please,” he gasped.
His insides stirred as his body rekindled with the familiar wounds and the would-be scars. And then, he told him. He told him a man in black came from the shadows and saved him and Garret when he was about to be killed by the shadow. He told him about Death’s blessing on his dagger and something about a soul-cry, which made his father purse his lips. But never did he ask for the reason for his accursed life—the word damonens, settlers and his own identity in question.
And when William had finished, Radulf had a look in his face that was indiscernible. “Did you introduce yourself to him?”
“No,” replied William.
“Did you tell him about me? Or anything of me?”
“Your soul? Did he mention anything about it?”
“Sparks. Light. Changes about your soul. Anything?”
“Then the mask is working then. Didn’t think it would work, but it did,” murmured Radulf. “Did you tell him where we lived?”
“No…I couldn’t speak,” he finally reasoned. “I’ve told you everything I saw. I passed out right after he touched me.”
“And where did you find yourself when you’ve awoken?”
He struggled with himself to try and tell the truth, but the pull of pain and another full night of whips and wounds tugged him back. “The same place he had left me.”
Radulf’s eyes narrowed as he clutched the whip on his hand tightly. He then threw the whip back on the chest and walked out of the cage, leaving William behind.
With a big breath, William slumped his back on the wall and allowed himself to collapse the tension around his body, taking care his tunic didn’t press too hard on his open wounds. When he held his head back to rest, he heard Radulf argue with someone else. Bapholin must have appeared at his beckon. He heard shouts and curses full of anger and rage. His father was furious. But he didn’t know if he was furious because he believed the illusions he said he saw or because he didn’t believe.
Then the shouting and arguing had stopped and whispers followed after, and then silence…and then crying. He wondered who was sobbing. It couldn’t be his father, he had never shown weak emotions like that. And Joan was no longer visiting. Then, a drop of salty water grazed his lips. He smiled. Then cried even more.