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An Act of Kindness

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"It just isn't up to my standards."

"I'm sorry. But I've gone through hundreds today. I've reached my limit..."

"Your limit?" There was a loud click of a heeled boot, a cowering clinking of chains. The formidable woman stood imposingly over a ragged male. His eyes were squinted shut, obviously awaiting pain. He didn't have to wait very long at all. Carmilla reared back and punched him in the mouth quicker than the blink of an eye. He stumbled backward with a grunt and touched his hand to his lip. Blood. And the old scab had just started to heal...

His face was grabbed in a death grey hand, crimson nails digging into his cheeks and threatening to stab through. The woman lifted him up until he was straining on tiptoe just to breathe. She glared up at him.

"Your limit exists at the point when I've decided my hordes are large enough. Do you understand that, puppy?"

"Yes," the silver haired man gasped, lifting his hand to gently paw at the one grasping his face. The seductress hissed, offended, withdrawing from his face to deliver a merciless backhand. Hector had gotten better at not collapsing with each blow he was dealt, but Carmilla had gotten stronger. He slammed into the wall and slid down it. It was all too simple to turn the breathless Hector over onto his stomach and pin him.

The vampire stared menacingly down at her pet. "You may never, ever touch me. Haven't I made this clear to you?" She pulled Hector's dominant hand behind him, digging her pointed claws into his forearm, dragging them and opening the skin, making him cry out in agony.

"Yes!"

"Are you going to get back to work now?" She twisted the skin, digging her nails deeper and making blood spurt out.

"Yes!!"

"Good. And this new one will be even better than the last, won't it?"

"It will...!" Hector sobbed weakly. The emotion disgusted his captor, who released his arm. The man rolled over onto his side to hold his injured arm close, protecting it and trying to stop the tears from flowing.

Carmilla huffed. "Get up," she ordered, taking him by his collar and forcing him, choking, to his feet. She threw him against the slab that was his workspace and jabbed him with the head of his hammer before throwing it down next to him. He stood there, shivering, head bowed, as his next project was brought into his cell and laid upon the table.

"Well? Get to work," the woman spat before closing the door behind herself. Warily, Hector looked over his shoulder and sighed in relief to see she really was gone. With shaking hands, sore from overuse, he untied the sash from around his waist. It was stiff and brittle with old, dried bloodstains, but it was the closest thing to a bandage he possessed, other than his torn shirt sleeve that was already wrapped around his skinned knee. He wound the fabric around his arm for healing, and around the palm of his hand for protection. Even despite the sash, the cold bit into his sun starved skin, tinting his work wearied fingers an even deeper, more painful red. But he lifted his hammer and he continued the work. The ringing sound engulfed the cramped stone room entirely. It was a haunting noise on its own, but atop that, it had a penchant for stirring up ghosts of the past. This used to be a proud noise. A sound associated with love and gratification stemming from a job well done and well enjoyed. Now it was hollow. An empty ringing. It sounded again.

Lights flickered, limbs twitched. Reluctant... But reluctance never mattered here. No, the sooner you got up, got to work, the easier everything would be. Because if you got up of your own will, no one would have to come and force you.The night creature would not get up and get to work, so Hector grit his teeth, steeled his resolve, and forced it. He swung his hammer down against the slab, a much poorer quality than what Dracula had given him, but effective enough to send a shattering ring and beautiful magic into the air to fill the grim cell. A flash of blue, a quiet gasp, and a life was restored.

Hector took a step back, wary. Carmilla's creatures were still filled with the bitterness and agony of their deaths, more so than Dracula's ever were. And, just like Carmilla herself, they seemed to see Hector as something to play with, to torment, to use to help relieve the stresses of defeat. He held up his raw, calloused hands to show his harmlessness- as if the collar, rags, and scars didn't prove that enough.

The creature leveled its gleaming blue eyes at its creator as it prowled down from atop the slab. Its massive paw trod upon Hector's chain, which secured him to the wall. He swallowed. Now it would be harder to escape it. The gash on his shoulder throbbed as if to remind him of the last time he let himself be cornered by one of his beasts. The scratch itself hadn't been so bad, but the punishment for it, having the wounded flesh seared and split even further apart, morphed into a permanent reminder of his silly mistake... Hector knew better than to let such careless mistakes happen again.

He held his ground, knees bent slightly and palms still aloft. The creature huffed and walked closer. Hector didn't have much chain left. He cursed himself for not initially retreating to the same side of the room to which his chain was fastened, but these were things he had never had to worry about before. One more step upon his leash and Hector was forced to bow. His eyes were wide and a little frightened. His forging was usually too immaculate for such a grievous mistake to happen. But to die to one of his creatures... At this point, after everything Carmilla put him through, it would be merciful. He didn't want to take another beating.

Hector slowly closed his eyes and relaxed, accepting his fate. He felt something brush against his head and then settle there. Hesitantly, he opened his eyes once more. The night creature had rested its head against Hector's own, giving a low, slow, hum. The forgemaster couldn't exactly say he was surprised that one of his reanimated beasts would be kinder to him than any other creature he had met in this hellhole. But it did touch him deeply. Hector moved his hands to brush through its fur. The creature shifted so that it wasn't pinning the man by his chains anymore, allowing him to stand back to his full height, just a bit taller than the massive, winged, doglike beast. He looked down with a soft, broken smile- An expression he hadn't worn in too long.

There was a sound outside the door. Hector instantly bristled and the night creature did the same, following the lead of its creator. The footsteps passed, but they had frightened the forgemaster enough that he turned to the beast with urgency instead of tenderness. He ran a hand through the fur on its face.

Listen to me, he thought. Please. Find someone who can get me out of this place. Find someone who can save me, someone able to save me. Hopelessness welled within him for a moment as the thought occurred to him that this might be an impossible task. To find a human being who would want to help him was hard enough, but to find one powerful enough to actually accomplish that directive may simply be nothing more than a tortured man's daydream. After all, it took three people to defeat Dracula, or so Hector had heard, and Carmilla was bolstering her forces far more than he ever had. It was entirely possible that she was truly unconquerable by now. Even unable to be defeated by Dracula's killers... Dracula's son and his friends. He sighed, swallowed the lump in his throat, and finished communicating his intent, even though by now he was certain it was idiotic. Find help. Please.

The creature huffed somberly. Hector was certain it understood. There was another noise outside the door, and this time it did not pass. The locks upon the door began to click. Terror filled Hector's soul. He bowed his head as he heard the door open, having learned by now that only equals are allowed to look each other in the eye, and a pet was no equal to his owner.

"This one was the last for today," a flowing, authoritative voice stated. “Now you are allowed to have reached your limit.” Hector heard the reanimated creature huff and be marched from the room to join the rest of the hordes. The ex-general could only hope that its differing purpose wouldn't be spotted before it even had a chance to leave this place. If that creature was the last one, then surely they would be leaving soon, right? Hector could usually hear the piercing cries of the hordes through the wall as they left. That was the only way he could tell that his cell was on an outside wall- that and the cold, he supposed.

The forgemaster heard more footsteps enter the room and his heart sank. Carmilla alone was bad enough to him, but tonight she was going to share him again.

"On the slab," she ordered, and Hector silently obeyed. As a fearful instinct, he cast his eyes up once he was upon the frigid stone. They met an enraged pair of icy blue hues and he was struck before he could even think to avert his mistaken gaze. His face and shoulder collided with the slab, skinning them in places. He fought back tears, instead simply trying to get himself into position so he could be bound. Hector had been breathing steadily until the cuffs closed around his wrists and his leash was tightened, secured to the table instead of just the wall. It always panicked him. He always thought that maybe this time he could handle it, until the choice to avoid his fate was stolen from him. The vampires could sense it. Though his eyes were closed, he knew that they were smiling. That they could practically taste his fear.

Carmilla's claws traced up his stomach before digging into his chest, piercing his shirt and flesh and warming both with his own blood. Hector cried out pitifully. It was all he could do. He was met with laughter and jeers, but another noise as well. The sound of the hordes screeching into the early night. It was a truly eerie call, but for Hector, it stirred hope deep within. He was certain the one with his own intent given to it was still out there, destined to save him from the torture he had foolishly chosen for himself, or at the very least, that the beast would die trying. All that was left was for him to endure.