A sudden shock of pain tore Seibel from the gentle, dark abyss he had been floating in for who knew how long. A low groan sounded from a battered throat, and as his eyes fought to open the world swam in front of his vision, leaving him feeling dizzy. Not that there was much to see, wherever he was.
What had happened? He remembered resting, someone calling for help. Then… Oh god. The men had grabbed him, then there’d been nothing but the wind pouring around his ears and sharp pain with each jolt and bump of their bike. He must have passed out, as he had no idea where he was now.
The edges of his vision were murky, though he realized with some relief that it was only because of the dim lighting in the room, instead of some damage to his precious eyesight. The sharpest edge of the pain had began to dull, though now it radiated through his body, not offering much respite.
He focused on his breathing, trying to ease it from quick and shallow to something slower. As the moments passed he was keenly aware of the sweat soaking his skin, the uncomfortable heat crawling through his body, and what felt like something else sticky under his shirt.
He didn’t have much time to contemplate it, however, as a figure leaned into view, half blocking out what little light he could see. Blinking up at it did little to help.
“Not much of a doctor, are you, running out of your safe place at the first sign of someone in trouble? Pretty stupid, if you ask me.”
The voice was familiar, but didn’t immediately register. He said nothing, trying to order his mind.
The flat of a hand connected sharply with the side of his face, momentarily chasing the thoughts from his head, leaving a painful sting in its wake.
“What are you, deaf? I asked you a question.” The figure leaned down over him, taking a hold of the front of his shirt and giving him a sharp shake. The pain it caused his still healing body drew another soft groan from his lips.
“The hell kind of people does Lorcasf surround himself with? Are you made of glass? I swear to-”
“He doesn’t look all that good, boss.” A second voice, far more timid, rose up. Its owner came into sight, leaning down over him. These hands were far gentler as they undid the top button of his shirt and drew the fabric aside, revealing the bandages that lay underneath. “I think he might be hurt.”
“The hell?” The first figure brushed the second aside and half-ripped his shirt open. In the light he could see the face twist and contort. Hands took hold of him, roughly pulling his shirt off his shoulders as he was suddenly turned onto his side.
He cried out as his wounds roared to life anew, his vision swimming. It hurt to be in this position, but they held him firmly still, twisting his body as someone began poking and prodding across his back.
“Look at this, Samon, he’s covered all over in lashes.” Fingers pushed against his bandages, inflaming one of the lash marks Domerin had given him. He bit back a cry.
“Seems an odd state for a doctor to be in, boss.” A calloused touch ran almost lightly over exposed skin, across one of the faded scars on his chest. This wasn’t Domerin’s careful touch, but he hadn’t the strength to pull away from it.
The two of them talked over him, as if he weren’t there, his pain growing by the moment. But, instead of running from it, he pulled his mind in, focused on it. He’d learned this precious lesson under Domerin’s care; how to use pain, to let it help him. He wrapped himself in it like a blanket, honing in on every moment, every detail he could catch.
He focused on their voices, and he finally recognized the first one, and just who he was dealing with. Zemo. The very man Domerin had been hunting. A sinking feeling settled into the pit of his stomach. All Domerin’s concerns had come to naught, as he’d been foolish enough to leave the caravan, practically throwing himself into danger.
“-eird, boss, he’s gone all quiet. Is he okay?” The second voice sounded somewhat concerned as he came back to the moment. The pair turned him, laying him down finally. The floor here was hard, but cold, and that helped numb his now half-exposed back somewhat.
Zemo leaned over him, eyes fixed on him. “He’s still breathing. But what do you know? It looks like good old Domerin Lorcasf likes to beat his people. I knew there had to be something wrong with that bastard. Looks like he’s been beating this one for a good long while, now hasn’t he?”
The man clearly expected an answer but he remained silent. He saw no reason to give this mad jackal anything more than he’d already gotten.
Zemo frowned, and laid the palm of one hand atop his shoulder. Then he pressed down hard, grinding the heel of his hand into his skin. Fire blossomed inside him and he cried out before he could stop himself, but even that didn’t make the man stop. He kept the pressure on for several more seconds before pulling back.
“I expect you to answer me when I ask you a question, old man.”
His body trembled, but not out of fear. This was too much, and he knew it. Domerin had been right that he couldn’t handle more than resting. But despite that he turned his eyes to Zemo and just narrowed them. This man was not Ilinir, not Domerin, was no agent of the faith, and had no authority over him. He was dirt under his heels as far as he was concerned.
Zemo let out a growl of frustration and thumped a fist into the center of his chest, not hard enough to take his breath but enough to aggravate his wounds. And he didn’t stop there. With a look of grim glee the man jabbed fingers into his bandages, took hold of his shoulders and squeezed, slapped his back. The moments stretched into what felt like a small eternity, as the pain threatened to overwhelm him.
Screams eventually tore from his lips, unable to stop them, his vision darkening until he was sure he’d pass out. But he still refused to give the bastard anything more, and would never beg for mercy.
“Boss, wait! Wait!” The other voice called out, sounding half panicked now, but fearful too. “H-he’s old, boss, remember? We need him. Lorcasf won’t give you what you want if you can’t give him back his doctor. Look at him, I think he’s probably learned his lesson.”
That, finally, seemed to calm down his captor enough, though Zemo was huffing and puffing, clearly trying to get his rage under control. For a moment he looked as if he wanted to start beating his companion instead, but he finally stilled and his expression became cool. A look of relief passed across the face of the man he’d called Samon.
“At least the old fool knows who he’s dealing with now, don’t you, doctor? You can see just how much Lorcasf appreciates what he’s got if he treats you like this. But, you know, you don’t have to go back to him. You don’t have to go back to being his slave, and whatever it is he does to you. I can take care of you too.”
Seibel was awash in agony, not even having the strength to narrow his eyes. He laid still, focusing on his breathing once again, and trying not to fall into whatever dark pit wanted to swallow him up.
Zemo, at least, seemed to realize this and he pulled to his feet with a dismissive huff.
“Just something to think about, old man. Lorcasf has brainwashed you, but it doesn’t have to be that way. You have other options.”
The two men stepped away, and he heard the thud of a door, and the turning of a lock, though in his state there was no chance he would be going anywhere. But the sound of it couldn’t help but remind him of another lock, another chamber, a different pain.
No matter how much it hurt, the pain Domerin bought him was always welcome. He reveled in the sharpness in the moment, and the ache that he carried around with him afterward was like a warm blanket. It was soothing, familiar, comforting.
Not a day ago his god had turned his eyes upon him, and brought him back to his truth path. Now, some godless heathen had despoiled that divine pain, had tried to make a mockery of it. It filled him with anger, and it hurt in a completely different way. The physical pain had started to fade to aches, but it still hurt inside.
What would his god say to this perversion of his penance?
He closed his eyes and Domerin’s face filled his vision. Despite his torment, thinking of him helped to ease the tension in his body somewhat. He thought back over their recent session, how harsh Domerin was and how gentle in turns. His caresses, the bite of his knives, his soft breath against his ear, fingers tight in his hair. It was all one, hard and soft, dark and light, pain and pleasure.
He thought of the man binding his wounds, tending to him so carefully, carrying him to rest. It was everything his faith spoke of to build a person into a better version of themselves. Zemo’s harsh treatment only made that all the more clear to him. How could any man hope to achieve the perfection he had already experienced?
The realization soothed him somewhat and his breathing became easier.
Domerin would come for him. He knew it as much as he knew the sun would rise. He would not allow a member of his caravan to be stolen away like this, not by the very man he’d been hunting.
He sent a silent prayer to Ilinir to watch over and deliver him. He would ask forgiveness, if it came to that, but for the moment he finally allowed oblivion to take him for a time, welcoming its sweet embrace.