Chapter 331: Giving In
Sorrowful rain poured down onto the city, draping the solemn Temple Island in a silver dress. On the fringes of the island slept a path long forgotten by the ages, and that path led into a dark cave facing the sea.
Light from candles and braziers shone upon the stalactites embedded in the walls, and a hexagram sat on the ground of the laboratory.
A disheveled man in tattered clothes was lying in the middle of the magical circle, but then he was jolted awake, and his eyes opened. At first, he looked around in confusion, but then fear settled in and drained all color from his face. He started breathing heavily and tried to move his limbs, but they were cuffed in dimeritium shackles.
It had been thirty years since he left this place, but the days of him toiling away here had left an indelible mark in his mind.
"Remember me, Matteo Sigula?" a raspy voice rang out in the air. It sounded like a hundred nails were scratching across a blackboard.
A few men appeared from behind the shadows of the stalactites. The man in the lead had dark red skin, and his eyes were as crimson as an abyss of blood. He was staring straight at Matteo with palpable hatred and murder. If looks could kill, Matteo would be dead by now.
The men in armor standing beside him had feline eyes, and they too were staring at him.
"I don't know who you're talking about!" Orloff answered without hesitation, and he realized who the men in armor were. "So it's you, Vipers! You kidnapped me! Do you know what this means?" he yelled hysterically, his facial muscles distorting from fear, and no longer did he look handsome. "You're breaking the treaty! You're breaking the highest law of Novigrad!"
He was spewing saliva everywhere. "If anyone finds me missing, you'll be in trouble! Let me go if you know what's best for you, or you shall have no place in Novigrad!"
"Huh?" Auckes sneered. "You don't seem to realize the situation you're in, Matteo. You can't even save yourself, and you're trying to threaten us? Just shut it. Do you remember this place? Do you remember Kiyan, the man you hurt, tortured, and disfigured?"
Matteo puffed his chest, the veins on his neck popping, and his lips trembling, but his eyes were fully on the face of that nightmarish man. He knew who the man was. He's the one Steingard and I tortured. The witcher who lost his mind when that demon took over, but he doesn't look like a possessed man. There's sanity and hatred in there.
Matteo hesitated for a moment. A possessed regaining his sanity. This has never happened before. How did he do it?
Kiyan darted over and grasped him by the collar. Matteo could taste the foul stench wafting off him, but before he could say anything, Kiyan slammed his knee into the mage's chest and flung him away.
The mage felt his chest throb, and blood welled within his mouth, but he couldn't say a word.
An almost inhuman face filled with grotesque scars huddled even closer to him. It was as if the disfigured witcher were judging a dead man, but then his lips curled, though the smile was mirthless. There was even a hint of insanity in it.
"Never expected this day to come, did you, whoreson? I swore I'd repay the pain tenfold… No, a hundredfold! And today… today, you will feel my pain!"
The mage could feel the rage, hatred, and sick delight in the witcher's voice, and his heart thumped furiously because of it. He stared ahead dumbly, his breathing and heartbeat almost stopping in fear. Just the thought of what this anguished witcher would do to him made him shudder. We made his life hell. I have no doubt he'll do the same thing to me.
"But… But you're a lucky man. Please, take a deep breath and enjoy the last happy moments in your life." Kiyan suddenly let him go and stepped back. "Here's another poor soul wronged by your actions."
And then a burly, exhausted man appeared from behind. His face was contorted with sorrow and fury, while his eyes were filled with tears. The man was holding a slender girl in his arms. There was barely any color on her face, but it didn't take away from her beauty. She looks familiar. Ah yes, the girl of the black sun. Been observing her for days, but she's still unripe. And now she's once again in front of me.
Matteo led his whole life believing in science, but now he wondered if there was a god of justice in this world. No other explanation for two enemies coming to me at the same time on the same day.
Todd gently placed Elsa in front of the sorcerer and caressed her golden hair. He then widened his eyes and grabbed Matteo by the neck before lifting him up into the air. "You son of a bitch! Release Elsa's curse right now and wake her up!"
And then he tossed Matteo away like a ragdoll. The mage coughed and wheezed as he said, "S-So the poor orphan has a father." He looked at the witchers for a moment and turned his attention to the cuffs. My mana's locked away, and my gear's gone. The witchers are out for my life. There's no way I can get out of this, so why should I work with them?
"You unartistic brutes. You want me to destroy a piece of perfect art?" Matteo held the bruise on his neck and shook his head. "If I'm dying anyway, why shouldn't I take the girl with me?"
And then someone punched him on his cheek, and he fell holding the bruised part of his face. If anyone could call that piece of skin a face, that is.
"You're negotiating? Fine, I'll turn you into mincemeat then!"
Abuse rained down on Matteo, and the mage was like a punching bag that was about to have his insides punched out. Still, he didn't grunt or flinch. All he did was stare at everyone smugly.
Eventually, the mage fell face first into the ground. His nose was pushed sideways, and blood spurted all over his face.
Todd stopped to catch a breath, and then he raised another fist.
"Killing him so quickly, Todd? Didn't know you were that merciful." Serrit sneered and showed a wooden crate to Matteo. He took the lid off and showed what was inside: a bunch of small, glinting torture tools. Tweezers, scalpels, pliers, steel nails, drills…
Serrit whipped a scalpel out and caressed its back with his finger. He whispered evilly, "I heard most sorcerers are trained in mind control resistance. Signs won't work on you, so why don't we go for something more… exciting?" His eyes were glinting with delight. "Let's place a bet. If you can hold on for two hours, we'll let you go. If you can't… let's just say the results won't be pretty."
"Hey, you're not hogging all the fun!" Auckes crouched down and picked up a pair of tweezers. The light from the flames was shining on his teeth. "Let's take turns. Half hour for each of us? But we can't push this too far. Don't want our toy to break."
"Ah, relax. I have a bunch of potions with me. Marigold potions and some Swallows will be enough. Guy's a mage. He's magically enhanced. Of course he can take a few potions and live to tell the tale." Roy shrugged and laid out a row of pretty potions in front of Matteo.
The mage's arrogance was stomped out, and his face twitched as his body trembled violently.
"There's an arachnomorph in Novigrad, if I remember correctly. Get it here and lock it up with him for a month. We should have enough hatchlings to make some spider barbecue." Letho looked at the mage. "Ever done that kind of experiment? Ever felt spider larvae moving in your body like little insects? Great feeling. Even better than what you can get from the whores in brothels."
"Too much of a hassle. I'll skin him and rub some salt on the whoreson's muscles, and then I'll cut his flesh off bit by bit like a steak." Kiyan and Felix stood side by side, staring at the mage like hungry beasts eyeing their prey. "Feline specialty. Dates back a long time. Three hundred sixty strokes, and the victim dies after the last stroke is inflicted."
Kiyan picked up the scalpel, but then Matteo shouted, "Hold it!" He stared at the ground, and the mighty gang lord of Novigrad knelt before the witchers.
"I'll remove the spell, but please, just give me a painless death." Matteo stared at them, his eyes filled with tears of fear and humiliation. "No torture, please."
"So you're nothing but a coward. But at least you're willing to work with us now. Tell us how to lift the curse, and we'll cut your torture in half. A hundred and eighty strokes." Kiyan held the mage's shoulder down and swung the scalpel around Matteo's eyelid.
It drew a thin line on the mage's skin, and blood trickled out of the wound, drenching one eye in red. "My patience is running… thin. You have three seconds. Yes or no?"
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