The Iron Butterfly, p.1Chanda Hahn
The Iron Butterfly
By Chanda Hahn
Copyright © 2012 by Chanda Hahn
Cover artwork and design by Steve Hahn
Smashwords Edition, License Notes
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To my husband Philip Hahn
Table of Contents
About the Author
When I first awoke in the darkness that was my prison cell, I was brave, fearless and I still had enough fight in me to question the rules. But after my third beating by Scar Lip, I learned to hold my tongue while in his presence. After my first taste of torture on the machine, I learned obedience. Down in this hell, silence was more than golden; it was the difference between life and death. And where we were, there was a whole lot of death.
The sound of a distant door slamming snapped my mind back to the present. Footsteps slowed and our cell door opened with an ominous creak. The light from the hall fell across my bruised face making my eyes flinch in pain. A small whimper and the rustle of straw drew my attention to the other forgotten occupant of my cell, a small girl named Cammie. She pathetically tried to scoot away and put as much distance between her and the man about to enter our cell.
My mouth formed the word, NO, as an ugly bulldog of a man ducked under the too short door frame. I knew without looking it was Scar Lip. He had a crooked nose, dark unwashed hair and cruel black eyes that hid beneath a furrowed brow. He smiled in delight at Cammie's attempt to evade him, which made the scar that transected his top lip stand out in paleness.
The smell that accompanied him was a mixture of sweat and rot, which permeated from the layers of dried and crusted blood that coated his blacksmith’s apron. He had come to take one of us to Raven.
Drips of sweat beaded across my forehead as the footsteps drew closer. It was too soon, I wasn’t strong enough for another session on the machine. I groaned when I saw the smear of blood coating the back of my hand, leftover from last night’s experiment. I knew that if he chose me again, I wouldn’t survive. I tried to raise my head from the cold stone floor as he came closer to stand over my prone form. But a sudden wave of fear made me vomit what little was left in my stomach.
Scar Lip paused over my dry heaving body and backed away in disgust. When the convulsions stopped, I heard him move toward Cammie, and the sounds of scuffling as she crawled farther into the darkness of the cell hoping its shadows would hide her from his gaze. It was no use; all she did was back herself into a corner.
Cammie whimpered, “Please!...don’t,” and was smacked in the face by Scar Lip.
“No talking! You know the rules,” he sneered.
Her lipped quivered and a small amount of blood appeared at the side of her mouth. She tried to wipe at it with the back of her hand, but only smeared it across her chin. She bit her bottom lip between her teeth to keep any more sound from coming forth.
“That’s better,” he growled. “The Raven has a new experiment to try and needs another volunteer.” Scar Lip grabbed Cammie by the arms and dragged her out into the hall; her feet twisting and fighting behind her, trying to slow his efforts. She hadn’t lost her fight, but if she survived the week in this pit, she would.
I raised my hand toward them as if by that one action alone I could protect her and stop what was about to happen. The large cell door shut with a thud, and I waited to hear if the lock turned. It did. I counted the steps as Scar lip dragged Cammie up the stairs through another door; mentally tracing the intricate path they would take until they came to a huge iron door that once opened, would let out a smell of iron, sulfur and death. I knew from experience that a table waited behind that door with cold iron shackles and as well as… I shivered at the mental picture that formed of the nameless machine they used to experiment on us.
When the sound of the door at the top of the stairs closed, the pain in my chest exploded because I was holding my breath. I cried in relief that I wasn’t going to be tortured and experimented on again, that I survived one more day. I dropped my head to the floor and let the grief pour out of my body in loud aching sobs, as I realized in shame that I was happy he chose Cammie.
I woke to the familiar sound of a tin plate being shoved through the food slot in the bottom of the door, and bolted upright in fear and anticipation. Hungrily, I snatched the small lifesaving plate of food and dragged it far from the door to where Cammie slept. But where Cammie usually laid curled up in slumber, there only remained a tattered blanket and straw.
I hung my head in shame. She wasn’t strong enough to survive the experiments. Few were, I was one of the lucky ones. If you considered being tortured and beaten on a regular basis and survive being lucky.
With an air of renewed determination, I peeked through the slot in the door and saw boots covered by the blood red robes of one of the Septori. He slowly made his way down the cells delivering the morning offerings of food to the other prisoners. I hunched by the slot waiting for him to pass my way. When he came within reach, I snaked my hand out and grabbed the hem of his robe. He stumbled to a halt.
Gathering my voice I croaked out “Cammie? What did you do with Cammie?” He sneered at me and tried to dislodge my hand from his robe. My courage only increased and so did my voice. “What did you do with her? If you hurt her, I’ll-”
“You’ll what?” he interrupted. “You haven’t succeeded so far in protecting any of the others, so why now?” He kicked my hand away from his ankle and stepped on my wrist, pinning it to the floor before I could yank it under the flap. He leaned down, putting pressure on my injured wrist as I gritted my teeth and sucked in my breath against the pain.
He peered at me under the flap and I could see the bottom half of his face and the crooked teeth that lined his sneering mouth. This one was known as Crow. Knowing his name somehow made him seem less terrifying.
“Don’t worry about your friend,” Crow spoke slowly, cruelly. “She has outlived her usefulness to the Raven. He was extremely disappointed in her results, she lacked, what did he say? Oh yes, the determination to live; unlike you. The Raven was displeased that you weren’t able to help him last night.”
Cocking his head to the side like a bird he went on. “He was quite angry and unnecessarily took it out on the girl. So in fact, what happened to her is your fault.” His eyes lit up with joy in sharing the news. He used his dirty fingernail to dig at one of my barely healed wounds until blood began to pool. I could see the red-raised skin of the brand that marked him for a member o
“Such a pity that she doesn’t have your strength. But few do.” He slowly raised his hand covered in my blood to his mouth. “What a waste.” He moved away, releasing the pressure on my pinned wrist. Quickly, I pulled it back into the darkness of my cell and away from the taint of having been touched by one of the hated and vile Septori. I was horrified and disgusted at what he had done.
“You lie!” I yelled uselessly at the locked cell door.
“Do I?” Crow’s voiced crept through. “You will learn soon enough. You may even see firsthand what’s left of her when the Raven sends for you tonight. And make no delusions; he will send for you tonight.” His evil laughed echoed behind him as he walked away and out the door.
Normally those words would turn me into a terrified bundle of nerves. But I was too shocked by what had just happened and the news of Cammie’s death. I knew better than to get emotionally attached to the other prisoners. I had learned my lesson after my first cellmate. I closed myself off after that as numerous girls came and went. None of them were as strong as me. But this one was different. She was different. A loud droning noise filled my ears and I placed my hands over them to make it stop. Then I realized, I was making the noise and it was only getting louder with my pain.
“Control yourself,” a deep male voice barked from down the hall. “You can’t fall all to pieces down here if you want to live.” The noise just became higher pitched with hiccups as I tried to control the sound.
“C..Cammm…Cammie’s dead,” I stuttered out. “It’s my fault, if I were stronger, I could have, I should have.”
“Hush,” Tym from across the hall whispered. “There’s nothing you could have done. You should be happy it wasn’t you. If you don’t quiet down and stop talking they’ll hear you, and then they will come back.” A week ago his brother never returned to his cell after a night with the machine. I haven’t heard him utter a word since. He had withdrawn into his own pain.
“It doesn’t matter,” spoke the first voice, “Let them come.”
It was a voice I didn’t recognize, so I assumed this must be the new prisoner they brought in a few days ago and it was the first time he’s been coherent enough to speak.
“Who are you?” I asked.
“No one,” he muttered.
“If we are going to die down here I would at least like to know your name,” I pleaded into the echoing halls.
“I’m Thalia,” I said with a small smile. “Why are you here? Why were you drugged for so long? Are you someone important?” The questions came sputtering out.
“Someone important?” he made a snort. “No. They’ve kept me drugged because they know that I will eventually kill them all.”
“Can you do it? Can you break out and take us with you?” The desperation rang in my voice.
A long silence followed and I prayed that Kael was planning an escape. I didn’t expect his painful answer. “No.”
I felt tears of disappointment burn at my eyes but I wiped them away with the back of my dirty hand. Feeling my world crumble around me, once again as my hopes were dashed of ever leaving.
“I could if I were stronger, I’m a Denai, or was,” Tym interrupted sadly. “I can barely shift anything since they brought me here. Wherever we are?”
“Hell!” Kael spoke gruffly.
“It’s the drugs,” I whispered. “It blocks all of your power and gifts like Cammie.”
“If only Sal was still here,” Tym whined. “He would know what to do.” A moment of silence followed before Tym became talkative again. “Why are we here?”
“I don’t know.” We could only speculate at what the Septori’s motives were behind these painful experiments. I had never seen Raven’s true face, for he hid behind a silver, hook-nosed mask and a robe. The sound of his raspy breath and hollowed eyed mask haunted my dreams each night.
“What did I ever do to deserve this? I shouldn’t be here!” Tym argued. I knew he was confused and rambling, but it was becoming annoying.
“I don’t know? Why are any of us here?” I muttered. I started to wind my dark hair around my finger, something I tended to do out of habit when I was nervous or frustrated.
Just then a loud pounding sound came from the cell down the hall. It sounded like Kael was throwing himself against the door, and then he would intersperse it with pounding his plate against the lock.
“You aren’t going to open the lock with that plate,” I remarked dryly.
“Don’t need too, just need to get their attention,” Kael grunted between throws.
“What!” Tym hissed. “You can’t be serious. You want them to come?” His voice changed to a higher pitch as his nervous laughter got the better of him. “He wants them to come down here? Th-they are gonna be mad, they’re gonna b-b-beat us.”
“Please don’t!” My body started to shake at the thought of the beatings we would receive for breaking the rules. I could handle the pain, I couldn’t handle the machine. “I don’t want to go back into that room.” Now my voice was quavering. “I can’t take it anymore.” Hoping my pleas didn’t fall on deaf ears; I pressed my body against the cold door and prayed.
The noise stopped for an instant as if he heard me, and then picked up again with a desperate fervor. He interspersed the banging of the plate with kicking, pounding and yelling. I pressed my back to the cell door, slid down to the floor and resigned myself to the painful punishment that would be doled out to all of us equally.
“What’s going on?” Scar Lip yelled as he opened the door followed by three guards. None of the Septori in their robes appeared. I wondered briefly where they were. The armed men rushed to the cell and gathered around Kael’s door.
“Over here, you moron! I have information that your master wants!” Kael had immediately directed Scar Lip’s attention onto himself, instead of Tym and me.
Scar Lip halted suspiciously outside Kael's cell door. “What is the information that you have for him and is it valuable?” he asked.
“Oh, it's life changing alright.”
Scar Lip licked his lips in anticipation. “What is it that you want me to know?”
“I thought it imperative that your master knows,” Kael paused for effect, “That you are a slimy, no-good, rotten toad. A bastard son of a flea-ridden donkey.”
“Quiet!” Scar Lip hissed.
“You can’t even think for yourself. You must like the taste of dirt because you grovel so much to the Raven.”
“Shut up!” Scar Lip pounded on the door. “Or you’ll be sorry! I’ll make you wish you’d never been born!”
“I’m already sorry. I’m sorry that I’m subjected to seeing your ugly face every day. You know only a dog or a mother could love that face. No, I’m wrong. Your mother must be a dog to love the likes of you,” Kael taunted.
That did it. Scar Lip with his thick fingers grabbed the keys from his belt and shoved it into the lock. The other guards grabbed their clubs, and entered one by one into the cell.
I ducked to the floor and lifted the metal flap to try and see what was going on. But all I saw was the dust cloud made from the scuffling of their feet. I heard fighting and grunting and I hoped Kael was the one dealing the punches.
Finally, the fighting stopped, the dust settled, and I saw Scar Lip emerge from the cell with a victorious smirk on his face. Following behind him were two of the guards dragging Kael between them by his forearms. The third guard trailed behind.
Kael was dead or unconscious. His long, dark hair covered most of his face except for a blue headband around his forehead. His body was long, lean and well-muscled, if a bit thin. His dirty and torn clothes marked him for either a hired sword or a mercenary. In his current weakened condition it was suicide to try and take on all of the men at once.
“Let’s give him a session on the machine,” Scar Lip roared angrily.
“But we’re not supposed to enter Raven’s workshop when t
“Shut up, you idiot. No one will know but us, and believe me, this one needs another lesson in obedience,” a second guard intervened.
As they drew closer to my cell I started to feel an intense pressure in my mind; a headache that pulsed at my temples. I closed my eyes to stop the pressure and I almost missed Kael spring to life.
Kael, who I thought was unconscious, moved in a flash and grabbed the knife from the guard’s belt. He thrust the blade upwards into the guard’s throat, sinking the blade in to the hilt. Pulling it out, the guard released Kael's arm and fell to the ground choking, his life ebbing away.
Before the guard even hit the ground, Kael had gained his footing and slashed at the man holding his other arm, slicing in a downward arc and forcing the other guard to release him.
The rear guard rushed him while swinging his short sword at Kael. The difference in the two blade sizes made Kael look like he was playing with a toy.
Kael jumped back, missing the swing of the short sword, as he adjusted the weight of his confiscated knife in his hand. When the sword swung at him again, Kael ducked and took the brunt force of the sword handle on his shoulder. Wrapping his hand around the rear guard’s arm, he swung the handle of the knife into the man's temple, knocking him unconscious.
Scar Lip screamed obscenities at the last guard, “Grab him, you fool! What are you doing? Hit him! Don’t let him up!” all the while keeping a safe distance.
But Kael was bleeding from his shoulder wound, and he was still outnumbered two to one and tiring quickly. The second guard, also bleeding from a slash on his arm, carefully stalked Kael; trying to push him back toward his opened cell. He pulled out a knife from his boot and picked up the dead guard’s knife. There was no way Kael could take out the guard with two knives unless he threw his dagger, giving up his only weapon.
The pain in my head began to be unbearable. “Do something!” I yelled at Tym.
“I’ll try,” Tym answered.
The Iron Butterfly by Chanda Hahn / Fantasy / Young Adult / Romance & Love have rating 4 out of 5 / Based on32 votes