Sanarie shuffled as quickly as she could to the throne room, it was a long way from the kitchens in the bowels of The Hewn City, to the throne room, a trip she tried to avoid at all costs, hunched over as she always was, disfigured from injuries she couldn't even remember attaining, she had never been able to walk upright, not from her memory, either too far back or blacked out in an effort to maintain mental and emotional equilibrium.
A cold shiver went through her chest, at the words the messenger had said, she was to present her father with his favourite wine, a task he knew pained her and made her perform when he was low on subjects to torment or humiliate. The weight of the gilded decanter he demanded his wine be bought in was too much for her to manage, but she was forced into it, for his entertainment.
The High Lord and Lady were not present, nor anyone who would advocate for any kindness on her behalf, High Lord Rhysand was formidable, there was a healthy fear of him, but it wasn't cruelty she feared from him, just his power and what he could do if he deigned to show them. When he and his court, his real court, were present, no cruelty would be shown to her, well at least nothing a kin to what she would experience today. She had sensed this from the miniscule amount of time, she'd been allowed in his presence over the 500+ years she'd been born, raised, and caged in the city; Lord Rhysand had a kind soul, then he had the mask he wore for his subjects of the Hewn City.
It would be her father, steward of The Court of Nightmares she would be facing today and facing alone, Keir Darkbringer.
As she drew near the last of the steps, the stairs of her ascent from the kitchens took their toll, heavy laden wine decanter or no, stairs were taxing on her back. As she stumbled on a stone step, an arm caught her elbow and righted her gently with a hand also on her lower back to support her.
"It's me, I came as fast as I could, give me the jug, just until we get to the carved halls" whispered Korazsa’s voice in her ear.
Sanarie was relieved it wasn't someone with ill intent, but wary nonetheless at the sound of her voice "you mustn't help me outside the kitchens, you know this, we'll both be punished if were caught"
"I don't care, you'll break your back doing this" Korazsa said.
Sanarie gave her a sideways look under her eyelashes which said 'you will care, when it comes to that'.
Korazsa knew Sanarie was strong, but this torment she could take, what Keir would do if they were caught, would not be so tolerable, so reluctantly she let go.
Sanarie breathed through the burning, cramping pain in her lower back, and soldiered through the last steps.
Korazsa was still close to her, too close to be seen as just passing by, "back off, I must do this alone, you can help me later with some magic and one of your poultices for my back".
She sighed wearily, and fell back.
Sanarie turned to look back and said "return to the kitchens and stay there"
Korazsa nodded and left, a tear escaping her eye.
Life in The Court of Nightmares was an impossible existence, for those whom cruelty and treachery for your fellow fae, was not a natural state.
Sanarie slowly made her way into the cavernous throne room, between the long tables, approaching her father's throne bent and hobbling, to the unaware they may have thought they were observing strict courtly respect, not the posture of a cripple.
Unable to meet her fathers eye, she stared at the ground, feeling rather than seeing her fathers disdain for her.
Keir tilted his head to observe her "Bow for your lord!' he laughed maniacally 'oh I'd almost forgot this is your natural state' the throne room around her rippled with laughter, as the Court of Nightmares laughed with their steward 'Crippled and useless, you couldn't have bought my wine any slower if you'd tried".
His chief attendant approached his throne and whispered in his ear, cold dread expanded in her stomach as she glanced up and watched her father narrow his brows at her, turning his face savage, she looked down again and closed her eyes, and prayed to the mountain -the only thing she believed in- it wasn't what she feared.
Keir flicked the index and middle finger on his left hand towards him, and the summoned subject was bought forward resisting the hands on their shoulders. Sanarie glanced to her left at the sound of the scuffle, as the subject was forced to the ground next to her, she knew as soon as she saw the beautiful twisted black locks and deep ebony skin, that they'd been seen on the stairs, as she caught Korazsa gaze, her closest friend, more akin to an elder sisters terrified, yet defiant royal blue eyes looked back at her. No matter the punishments they'd faced for aiding each other, they never left the other to suffer alone.
Her father stood up from his throne and walked to her, reaching down to grab her by her dirty smock he hauled her up with his left hand, and struck her hard across her face with his right, then backhanding her on the other side, just to be thorough.
She barely managed to grip the jug, half its contents had sloshed down her front and her grip was slipping, if she dropped it on him, she'd be whipped until she was bloody and screaming, the mountain only knew what he'd do to Korazsa, she secured her grip with both hands on the handle, transferred the weight of it to her right hand and fumbled it expertly to make it appear to fall accidentally to her right, away from Korazsa and her father.
Fury flared in his eyes, as he held her level with him, "Half high fae and not one ounce of magic, if I hadn’t taken your mother as a spoil of war myself and had her locked away from the touch of any other man, I'd wonder if I'd fathered you at all. Incompetent, filthy, half-breed, I should have beaten you out of your mothers stomach!' He roared in her face, then he looked above her head and addressed his court, 'I don't need to remind you to keep your mouths shut about her parentage, shamed as I am to have this half-human cripple as a daughter, she's mine and I’ll not have her taken from my court".
Her smock was gathered under her chin in his fist, her toes were not touching the ground and she was losing consciousness, she fought it, but as he threw her aside in disgust into the small puddle of wine, the world went black and she fell as a rag doll. Her head collided with the gilded jug, leaving her unconscious and prone on the cold stone ground.
"Sanarie" Korazsa screamed, watching the sickening scene before her eyes and being helpless to stop it.
She could speak up, yes; she could fight the steward like a Harpy, but what then? Sanarie would be punished, or she would be punished, and if the latter happened, she would probably be leaving Sanarie without a single friend in a court of living hell.
Korazsa unsurprisingly shook consumed by anguish & fear, for herself yes, but more so for Sanarie, Keir was not going to be merciful, every ounce of pain and shame would be extracted from them, especially Sanarie, Keirs deepest shame.
"And you. I hear you've been healing my bastard daughter again, with your magic and medicine, that, will stop. She will live with her disfigurements. She is of the Hewn City, she was born of stone and so she will live as stone". Keir spat out his punishment for Korazsa not taking his eyes from her "lock her in an Iron Womb".
Korazsa screamed begging for anything else, so he continued "For a week, on meagre rations of bread and water. Should it be tainted on arrival, is not of my concern" he smirked sadistically.
He turned to his daughter, and looking upon her in disgust said "put her alongside her accomplice, and see that they're suspended so no help can be given them" then as a last addition to Sanaries torment, he pulled a small dagger from a feasting table, grabbed Sanaries unconscious head from the ground by her hair, and added a half centimetre deep slit, to the top of her Fae ear, six rested there on her left ear already and nine on her right, all souvenirs of her father's hate and malice.
"Bring seed oil and rags!" Keir demanded as he dropped Sanaries head, letting her fall to the stone with a thud. He took some spirits from the table and poured it on her bloody ear, which was making a puddle on the stone.
An attendant arrived with a platter holding the irritant that would hinder the healing of her new ear slit, Keir grabbed a handful of the linen rags and threw them first into the alcohol, and then into the seed oil covering them in both "bandage her ear in those, see that it doesn't heal closed or you can answer for it. You may tend her ear once a day, when they lower them for food and drink, to ensure it does not close".
The attendant bowed low, then knelt and quickly bandaged Sanarie's ear, making sure it was separated by the soaked rags, and tied some of the soaked rag around her head to secure his work.
After watching the results of his enjoyment, he became bored, "Remove them" Keir waved from the throne, with bored nonchalance.
Sanarie and Korazsa would be taken to an often busy avenue, placed into narrow, black, iron, coffins, and suspended above, to spend 7 days and nights, unable to sit or lie down, likely given soiled food and drink, whilst also soiling themselves. Their suffering and humiliation would be unrelenting.
No one had ever escaped a womb, but the guards wouldn’t dare risk the wrath of Keir Darkbringer, so every hour they checked that their prisoners were still in their prisons, and made sure they were silent, lest they make plans for an escape come dinner time, which they had done in the past and learned the hard way never to attempt such a thing again; Sanarie’s first three ear slits were gained after the attempt, amongst other scars the two now bore. Never, since the day they tried to escape, had they tried such a thing again, the punishments were not worth it. Even if they could clear the inside halls of the mountain, they knew from experience that they’d never escape Keir’s Darkbringer Warriors, through the mountains surrounding the Hewn City, there was no path to freedom from The Court of Nightmares, save death.
Once the guards were gone for a few minutes, Sanarie whispered to Korazsa "Are you okay?"
Mor and Amren gave Cassian disgusted looks.