Blood Chained (Dark Siren Book 3)

By: Eden Ashley

PROLOGUE



Silver Buds, vine-like creatures adorned with brilliant blue-green blossoms, flourished only in the shadows of Golden Mountain. Passive until disturbed, Silver Buds possessed a constrictive nature that proved extremely valuable in restraining prisoners. Hair trigger sensors covered the surface of the creatures’ skin. Detecting the slightest movement, their thick bodies would tighten like ropes, setting razor-sharp edges deeper into the flesh of the bonded. Imprisoned in their grasp for months, Rhane no longer had the strength to struggle. All feeling had left his arms some time ago. But whenever the guides yanked his limp body up from the floor, the Silver Buds still tightened mercilessly.

Only three parts of his body did not radiate with pain. The last three toes on his right foot. Everything else was bruised, bloodied, or broken. Enough blood silver pumped through Rhane’s system to make him bleed like a mortal. Healing was damn near impossible. He was pretty certain he couldn’t have mended a paper cut.

Each day, he was transported from prison bowels up to surface caverns and delivered to dealers. Dealers were the few remaining kin in Golden Mountain not of royal lineage. Assigned to carry out Rhane’s sentencing, they meted out punishment with a finesse that gave testament to centuries of practice. Their enthusiasm made Rhane wonder if there had ever been a prisoner strong enough to survive their brutality for so long. But even he was barely surviving.

Nothing compared to the sting of bane silver slicing through skin and muscle. The wounds healed slowly, bled almost non-stop, and skewered obscene amounts of pain through his body as the element leeched into various organs and poisoned his blood.

Lying on the freezing dirt floor of his cell, Rhane tried to breathe as little as possible. Every breath was torture, agony that lasted beyond the rise and fall of his chest. He didn’t dare close his eyes. That put him back in the chamber…in the dark…underwater…with river serpents swimming all around. Trapped. Submerged. Drowning.

Rhane took a breath, winced with the effort. He had not seen night or day in months, but guessed it was near dusk. Dusk made sense traditionally. The torment lasted for many hours, until sunrise. But went beyond that if he lost consciousness, because then inflictions were suspended until he awakened.

Footsteps.

Heavy.

Methodical.

Rhane tensed. Dealers. Their movements were more disciplined than clockwork. Already barely keeping his eyes open, he knew it was going to be a long session. The last time had been so severe. Now came the hour to start again. To receive the judgment his leaders had mandated.

Primes.

They had killed his people and blamed Kalista, sentenced her to death. Back then Rhane upheld her innocence. The woman he knew could have never committed such an act of betrayal. To keep her safe, he’d used Banewolf to destroy an entire legion of his own kin. His actions deserved retribution. He didn’t challenge that. And he could endure it. Lashings with spiked whips laced in blood silver. The strokes of Bellefuron. Beatings that went beyond broken bones and loss of consciousness. Starvation. Sensory deprivation.

But the chamber…

The chamber brought him to the brink.

The Primes would have returned a sentence of death, but executing an immortal was a useless endeavor. So, they stacked his sentence against the lives he’d taken. When he suffered enough to kill a mortal or revived after drowning in the chamber, a name was struck from the judgment. But hundreds of names comprised that list. Rhane’s punishment would continue for a very long time.

The Primes were not free from blame. They were responsible for the plot that ended with the massacre of the entire civilian class of Warekin. Generations old and young had been slaughtered in a single afternoon. Their foundation was gone forever.

Centuries ago, Primes had bargained with Rogues to spill innocent blood. Months ago, they made a deal with Rogues to take Warren, knowing Rhane wouldn’t let the boy die. Not like Rhaven. Rhane had returned to them.

Anger. He felt it constantly, always simmering at the back of his mind. Whenever he thought of his son, that anger bubbled to a violent boil. Spreading through his chest. Threatening to take over. Trying to calm it, he took a deep breath, and almost screamed from the pain that burst through his shattered ribcage. But Rhane had to stay calm. He couldn’t give in to rage. He couldn’t give in to the bane wolf. Not yet.

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