Tin Man: Dragons and Ninjas

Chapter Twenty-Four

Cain wasn't sleeping. He stretched out on the cell's bunk, letting his body conserve energy. This was easier than taking a chance on a damn nightmare attacking out of no where. He stared up at the stone ceiling. At least, DG had escaped, but knowing her, she was off planning something crazy. His lips twitched. Raw and Zack won't be able to stop her.

The door to the dungeon slammed open. He twisted his head to watch the Longcoat marching down the steps and stop in front of his cell. "On your feet, Lord Quelala wants to see you." Cain grimaced but complied. "Turn around with your hands on your head." He glanced at Glitch sitting quietly in his cell before turning his head to look at the back wall. The Longcoat was obviously taking no chances as he pulled Cain's hands down behind his back and closed the manacles around his wrists.

"Watch your step, Tin Man," Glitch said quietly as Cain was jerked past his cell.

"You too, Zipperhead." The Longcoat apparently wanted his shoulder pulled out of his socket. Cain quickened his step slightly to avoid that. The Longcoat took the least direct path from the dungeon to wherever they were headed. It seemed like they were heading up the east side of the tower. He saw a rising moon in an unblocked window and decided he was right.

They didn't stop on the floor of the study, but continued up for one more. The Longcoat finally stopped and knocked on a closed door. "The prisoner, my Lord."

"Enter." So it wasn't a ploy of Zero's to get him out of the dungeon. The Longcoat opened the door and shoved Cain inside a personal gymnasium of some sort. Each of the Palaces had one, as well as the Tin Men Academy, but this one lacked muscle building machines. There was a punching bag hung in the back corner, but the rest of the floor was clear save for the mat on the floor stretching from wall to wall. Swords, spears, and staves were hung on the stone walls. Ichiro had a sword in his hand as moved in a series of complicated steps swinging it in the center of the room.

The Longcoat moved a chair away from the wall by the door. He shoved Cain into the seat and looped rope around its back and Cain's chest. Cain gritted his teeth as the rope was pulled tight, trapping his arms. Ichiro finished his sword dance and turned to them. "Wait outside until we're done."

Cain heard the door shut behind him. Ichiro had another bruise on his face, right under his right eye. "Ran into a doorknob?" he asked conversationally. It was time to see what this slimy bastard was made of.

Ichiro chuckled. "What your Princess lacks in magical finesses, she makes up for in instinct. She didn't even let slip where she is hiding away at."

"She's your Princess too," Cain growled.

"Oh no, she is my Queen. Or she will be as soon as she stops resisting the idea." Cain went stony. This traitor dared to think he could touch DG; that he deserved to touch her. "Which is where you come in." He continued to watch as the young man returned the sword to its place on the wall. "What is a nuclear bomb?"

"I'd guess it blows stuff up, but if Princess DG said it, I only understand half of what she says."

Ichiro considered him. "Jimmy Gulch?"

DG must have let that slip when she punched him. "Nobody on staff with that name. Must be someone she knew on the Other Side."

Ichiro smirked. "With the stories circulating about you two, I would have thought you'd be closer."

"People gossip."

He hummed, not agreeing or disagreeing with Cain's statement. "She put you under a protection spell, but says she'd kill you quickly to save the O.Z." He leaned over Cain. "So which is the truth?"

Cain stared into his hazel eyes. "She's a woman. They're probably both true."

Ichiro chuckled again. "I can see why Akio hates you so much. You have a knack for being truthful and infuriating at the same time." Cain didn't say anything to that. He liked his method of obscuring. Glitch used reciting scientific theory and then a misfiring synapse would repeat it, and nobody really knew for sure if it was faked or not. "I wonder just how far the spell goes." His right hand drew up and it was covered with purple light. But this close up, the red in the purple looked more like jagged welts, ready to start oozing blood. Ichiro clenched his fist.

Cain felt like he was on fire. His head shot back trying to escape the heat. He could feel his skin blistering, charring, and pulling away from his bones. He screamed with the agony of it. As soon as he yelled, something smooth, slippery, and icy skittered over his skin forming armor between him and the fire. He could still feel the heat, but dulled to sitting too close to a bonfire and there was no more pain. The heat stopped and the icy sensation faded slowly. Cain opened his eyes and looked down. He was untouched, except for being soaked with sweat and panting for more air.

Ichiro smirked at him. "A slight delay, enough to cause some discomfort, hm? Still, the point of torture is to prolong the pain." He pulled a knife from its sheath, and ghosted the point down the side of Cain's face. "She said I wasn't as strong as tin before that ninja escaped with her. What did she mean by that?"

Did this slimy bastard think he was a DG translator? What the hell kinds of stories were floating around the Zone about them? She saved her companions, they stopped the witch, and the Tin Man is the only one who understands the Slipper Princess? Cain didn't move back from the blade. "Maybe because I show a little restraint. Don't go around murdering innocents to gain magic and take over a kingdom. Maybe that's how you impress a princess."

Ichiro's expression didn't change as he moved back slightly, taking the blade away from Cain's skin. His fist backhanded Cain across the face. The inside of his cheek cut against his teeth. DG's protection spell didn't work fast enough to stop that. "You don't know your place, Tin Man," Ichiro snarled.

"But I'm not getting punched repeatedly by a princess." Cain smirked at Ichiro's glower that confirmed his guess. DG nailed his jaw back in the study.

Ichiro's knuckles backhanded Cain's left side. "Where is she?"

"Don't know. Just told her to run. She's good at running." The fist hit straight this time, missing his nose but splitting his lip. "Spent a whole week chasing after her from nearly one end of the Zone to the other. Good luck catching up." The fist hit his left eye. That would probably leave a shiner.

Ichiro stepped back with a growl. "I don't need to go looking. She'll come back here for you and the headcase. It's only a matter of encouraging her." His eyes swept around the room and he smiled. "Akio can't kill you, and he was so looking forward to it. Perhaps one of Great-Grandfather's techniques will make him feel better."

Yeah, that sounds about as fun as being locked up in a room full of angry Munchkins. Ichiro went to the door. The Longcoat didn't take long to untie Cain from the chair and led him down the stairs again. They reached the dungeon level, but the stones remained dry. So they had gone to a different part of the basement and not back to his cell.

The room he was shoved into was empty except for a short table that slanted one end to just above the floor with manacles at the corners. No wheel to pull the chains, so it wasn't a rack. A bare light bulb illuminated the room. An exposed pipe ending in a faucet was attached to the stone wall almost dead-center from the end of the table that slanted to the floor.

Two more Longcoats came into the room next. Cain's first pal unlocked the manacles and they grabbed his arms. The first Longcoat moved in front of him and started unbuttoning his vest. "I don't get frisky on the first date," Cain growled. A blow to his stomach put an end to the banter part of the torture session.

As soon as Cain was naked from the waist up, the Longcoats forced him to the table. They swung his feet to the higher end, locking the manacles around his ankles. His arms stretched above his head and the manacles closed tight on his wrists. His body lay taunt against the wood.

The Longcoats moved away from the table as the door to the room opened against. Ichiro entered first, and stepped aside to lean against the wall near the door. Zero entered next. He had taken off his leather coat and carried a watering can and had a small towel draped over his other arm. His arrogant smile was back as he stood over Cain.

Zero dropped the towel on his bare chest. "You're about to be in a unique position in the Outer Zone, Cain. You experienced the worst torture the Sorceress devised." Zero moved and Cain craned his neck and back to watch him head to the faucet. The sound of water gushing into the metal water can filled the silence left by Zero. The faucet squeaked as he turned it off. Cain dropped his head and back against the wood. He heard the watering can settle against the stone floor and Zero leaned over him. "Now you're about to experience the worst torture from the Other Side. Be sure to tell us which one hurts more." He pulled the towel over Cain's face.

The white terrycloth obscured the room, but he could still hear. The watering can scraped against the stone floor. Water fell on the towel, soaking into the fibers. It ran into his nose. Cain blew hard to expel it and opened his mouth to breath in more air. Fingers forced the wet terrycloth into his mouth, filling the space while the water rained on his head. Water filled his noses and sinuses and his mouth. He tried to blow it out again and move his face from the water stream, but it followed as his head twisted as much as it could between his arms.

His lungs weren't filled with enough air to expel the water, and he couldn't pull more air past the wet towel. He gagged and tried to push it out with his tongue, but too much was in his mouth. Water poured into his throat and he was breathing it into his lungs. His body convulsed, trying to pull away from the water and back into the air he didn't have enough of.

He was drowning. His body thrashed, but the manacles held him down to the wood. He couldn't kick and free himself from the suffocation. He coughed and gagged and more water poured further into his throat.

DG. Why did he feel her hands clasping his? Get away. DG, don't let them get you.

Suddenly, power washed over his entire body. His head felt like it broke through the surface of the water. The towel shot away and he coughed the water free for his body, getting to breathe again. A loud crack echoed in the chamber and the table fell to pieces under him. Cain sat up on the floor. His arms and legs freed from the shackles.

"Holy shit!" exclaimed a Longcoat in the dead silence.

Before Cain could use his sudden freedom to his advantage, Zero kicked him in the side. He sprawled out in the shattered wood of the table and Zero kicked him again.

"Enough, Akio." The Longcoats pulled Cain up so he was kneeling in front of Ichiro. He struggled to stand, but they kept him pinned down. The panic from nearly drowning mixed with being pinned for a beating. He clenched his jaw to keep the sounds of rage inside him. Ichiro watched his face, fascinated by his expressions. "The Princess felt that. She sent more power through your connection." Cain only inhaled through his gritted teeth. Ichiro looked up at Zero. "Have the blacksmith make a metal table. Then he will have another session."

"And then what?" Zero growled.

Ichiro grinned, but there was no mirth in his eyes. "The sessions will stop when she comes and agrees to my terms. Take him back to his cell. And bring back one of those pathetic creatures. It's time to renew the ritual." One of the Longcoats snatched up his shirt and vest as they dragged Cain up to his feet.

They weren't as far from the dungeons as he thought, because they were throwing him into his cell before he realized it. His hands and knees slammed against the stone floor, but he held himself up. Blood pounded in his head. He panted, then remembered to breathe slower, trying to calm his beating heart, and making sure his lungs were full of air. He coughed a couple of times before he realized the Longcoats were gone, and they had taken the bright green Fae with them. And Glitch was softly calling his name.

He snatched his shirt and vest off the floor where the Longcoat had dropped them and hauled himself up to sit on the bunk. On the other side of the bars, Glitch got full view of his developing bruises. "Cripes, what did they do to you?"

Cain waited until he was stable on the bunk before pulling on his shirt. His wrists were bruised too. "Lord Quelala wanted to have a little chat. He thought I could translate for DG." His ribs ached where Zero had kicked him.

Glitch snorted. "I keep meaning to start writing a dictionary of Slipperisms. So he battered your face when you couldn't?"

He pulled on his vest and waited for the twinges to subside before buttoning it. "He had a chat with DG through magic and she punched him again. He got a little punch happy himself when I teased him about it."

"What is DG going to do with you?"

He leaned against the bars and swallowed against the pain in his sore throat. "He tested the protection spell, made me feel like I was on fire. Then he let Zero have the real torture session, something from the Other Side. They tried to drown me."

"I'm pretty sure we came up with dunking sessions without help from any Slippers."

Cain shook his head. "Not dunking, Zipperhead. That you can resist, fight the panic. They tied me down to a tilted table, head lower than my feet, and Zero poured water onto a towel on my face." His voiced dropped. "I was drowning and DG did something. It broke the table, set me free." He dropped his face into his hands.

Glitch sighed, "That's a pretty effective feat of magic for her."

"Ichiro said he felt her feel what they were doing to me. He ordered a new table and another round once it's ready." He leaned back and took in a shuddering breath. "And we'll keep doing it until DG agrees to their terms."

"DG won't do that."

"No, she'll just try to rescue us and get captured." Glitch didn't respond. Well, what could he say that they both wouldn't know was a lie? "Get some sleep. At least one of us won't feel like hell." Cain lay down and put his arms behind his head. That way he didn't feel like he was back in that room. He had no idea if this would even work, but he closed his eyes. DG, run. Run to the Army and let them handle these bastards. Please, Sweetheart, if you love me, stay away. I'll get back to you, I promise. He sighed, opening his eyes with a sinking realization that even if DG heard it, she wasn't likely to listen.