Tara Geonette stepped inside her basement lab and closed the double doors behind her.
Mordard, only the second zombie she’d ever created, was dutifully digging in the cavern. The alcove she’d commanded he create was coming along. She needed everything perfect.
Tara turned her attention to Bedore. He stared at her with a baleful look.
She’d had him shackled to a long table, one she’d had for years, specially made for her tougher experiments and zombie creation. The table was long enough for a person to lie on. Shackles were set at four points, so a subject’s hands and feet could be bound. The foot shackles were adjustable for various heights, as were the metal plates one’s feet could rest on.
The plates were needed when she chose to use the table’s best feature. The ability to tilt it up at an angle. Depending on how much she tilted it, her subject’s feet would rest on the plates, so gravity wasn’t pulling too hard on their bound wrists. The table also had grooves cut into its stone surface, making it easy to drain blood and any other bodily fluids, especially when tilted. She’d had a hole dug and a grate set into the floor for that.
Mordard had been used for much of the work. Much like the digging out of the cavern and alcove.
That there was a cavern on the property had been a stroke of luck. Some collapsed ground had been found near the edge of the land, where hills butted up to the property. Exploration had revealed the cavern. Breaking through the fort’s underground back wall to get to it had been a slow process, but now that the cavern was open to them, Tara had sealed the original opening.
Using her destruction skills to explode enough rocks to cause a complete collapse of that side had been a fun distraction. She rarely got a chance to use her skills with abandon anymore.
For Bedore, she had the table slightly tilted up. Enough for the man to see the door and not be completely flat on his back. She walked up to him.
“Mordard has been such a useful zombie, don’t you agree?” she asked him. “Works day and night. Never takes a break.”
She looked at the dark circles under Bedore’s eyes. “I suppose he must keep you up at night.”
“I did as you asked. I didn’t mean to be so violent,” Bedore said. A look Tara had never seen on his face crossed it. Shame. “I don’t know what came over me.”
She tilted her head and smiled at him. “That might be the most honest thing you’ve ever said to me.”
“You were perfect with Lysona. Better than I expected, actually,” she said. She smiled and ran her index finger from his forehead to the tip of his nose. He flinched. She laughed.
Bedore blinked, confused. “Then why am I here?”
“Your assault of her taught me a valuable lesson. I thank you for that.” She gave him a fresh smile and ran her fingers through his hair. He turned his head away from her. She dug in her nails and turned him back to looking at her.
“I’d forgotten how much more rewarding the mental pain someone feels is over physical pain. I don’t think it’s a lesson I enforced enough with you, when I tried to teach you the importance of torture before killing.” She ran her fingers through his hair again. He didn’t try turning away this time, but she watched him grimace.
“So many lessons I tried to teach you. You wouldn’t listen. Now, here we are.”
Bedore swallowed. “I can change, my queen.”
“Do you think I’m stupid, Bedore?”
“No…no, of course not,” he stammered.
Bedore was naked, the same as he’d been while assaulting Lysona. Tara had not let him wear clothes, though he’d asked for some. She ran her fingers down his chest, stopping at his navel. She sighed. What a waste. He was thinner, his chiseled muscles already losing some of their definition. She made note to up his food allowance. She didn’t want him losing too much weight.
She’d entrusted Nira Hawkcroft to bring food down for him. She gave it to Mordard, who actually fed Bedore. Nira was under strict orders not to talk to Bedore or tell anyone he was still alive. So far, Tara’s theory, that Nira’s disgust at what he’d done to Maline would keep her quiet, had paid off.
“Do you really not know why you’re here, Bedore?” she asked him. She kept her hand on his stomach and looked at him.
His eyes had drifted to her hand. Tara admired he’d not flinched. He obviously didn’t want her touching him. Watching him trying to balance his disgust with seeming obedience and attempting to avoid punishment was fascinating. He’d always been calculating, but Tara hadn’t bothered to watch how hard he worked at it. Balancing his ambitions with pleasing her. In the end, he’d failed. For lesser people, he’d probably have them under his control by now.
“I’ve done what you asked. Been with who you told me to be with…”
“Yes,” Tara smiled at him. “You are the father of this order, in many ways. You performed that service almost perfectly.” She moved her hand below his stomach and gently grabbed him.
At that touch, he flinched. She heard his sharp intake of breath. She released him and gave him a grin.
“You used to respond so differently to me,” she said. She walked over to the other table in the room. Her alchemy table. Two bottles of a potion sat on it. Both shone a deep shade of red. She picked them up and turned back to him.
He licked his lips. “My queen, let me change for you. Make amends for…” he paused. “…how I’ve wronged you.”
Tara gave him a wide smile. “Oh, you will, Bedore.” She stepped up to him. “First things first. Drink.” She held the potion to his lips. He kept his eyes on her while he drank, but didn’t resist. He seemed to be studying her, calculating.
“What was that?” he asked.
“A fertility potion,” she said. “We still need to have a third child. I need a red haired one.”
Confusion crossed his face. “You still want a child with me?”
“Want?” She shook her head at him. “Need. I need a redhead. With you.”
“I can’t control the color…”
“I know,” Tara interrupted. “I’ve thought about that.” She reached up and pulled a strand of hair out of her head. Holding it, she cast a lightning spell in her hand, turning the strand of hair into ash. She carefully poured the ashes into her bottle of the potion. She swirled it until the ashes dissolved, then drank the potion.
“We’ll need multiple attempts until I confirm I’m pregnant. We’ll also have to wait nine months, of course. Should give you plenty of time to…contemplate,” she said.
“My queen, let me make proper amends,” Bedore said.
“Do you know why you’re here?” Tara asked him again.
Bedore tightened his mouth and remained silent.
“Of course you do,” Tara said. She ran her fingers along his chest. “Have I told you the good news? You’re a father again. Congratulations.”
“Maline had twins. A boy and girl.” Tara ran her hand down to his navel. This time he flinched.
His face dropped all pretense of appeasing her.
“My niece. Only sixteen. You weren’t to touch her.”
His dark blue eyes flickered to anger.
“You put something in that wine,” he said.
“The wine I told you not to drink?! The wine with my berserk potion in it?!” Tara dug her nails into his stomach until she drew blood. He grunted in pain.
“That wine only made you more violent, Bedore. Why do you think you were so vicious with Lysona, fool?!”
She brought her mouth to his ear and whispered. “It didn’t make you want a child. It didn’t give you desires you didn’t already have.”
She straightened up. “Consequences, Bedore. Making amends.”
“Tara…” he started.
“We’re done talking,” Tara said. She smiled at him. She ran her hand down past his stomach, to where he didn’t want it to be.
“I need a third child. Fitting, you don’t want to be touched that way. Much like Maline didn’t want you touching her.”
Tara watched him struggle against the shackles.
“Why don’t we start get started,” she said.