“His eyes! They’re red!” Henry shouted.
“The devil!” A footman raised his weapon and backed up.
“Father? What’s going on?” Ephraim couldn’t hide the fear in his voice.
“Don’t call me that!” his father yelled. “You’re clearly not mine!”
“No, father, please!” Ephraim tried to sit up, but his restraints held him down.
“What do you want us to do with him?” Nichols asked.
His father shook his head. “I don’t care what you do with him. Just get him out of my sight.”
“Father?.....Father!” He watched his father and brothers hurry from the room. No one looked back at him. “Father, please!”
Nichols walked over to the bed, smiling. “Tie the chains around him and make sure he can’t get lose,” he ordered.
The footman hesitated coming any closer. “Now!” The men jumped and did as they were told. Ephraim could now move his arms and legs, but he was too weak to fight back.
“Please, sir, if you let me talk to my father…there’s been a mistake.” The men released the chains from the bed. In one smooth move they flipped him onto the floor, roughly. He felt the wind knocked out of him. They quickly wrapped the chains around his body tightly.
“Stop!” he screamed. It hurt. The chains were too tight, cutting off his air.
Nicholls bent in front of him. “I’m sorry, my boy. I realize this isn’t your fault, but you must realize the position you’ve put me in. I cannot have you running around feeding off people.” He shook his head. “No, that will never do.” He looked up at the men. “Take him to my estate and lock him in the dungeon.”
His dungeon? Ephraim’s stomach rolled. Nichols was known for being one of the most religious and straightforward men in the area. He was honored and accepted by every member of the ton. He was also known for being a sadistic bastard who took his job seriously. He tortured men, slowly.
“Please, sir, no! Get my father! He wouldn’t want you to do this! Please!” He began sobbing.
Nichols knelt beside him at a safe distance. “I promise you I will make this quick out of respect for your father. He wouldn’t want to know that you suffered.”
“Oh, god no!” Ephraim shook his head and tried to fight his restraints.
“Grab him!” Nichols snapped.
The footmen scooped him up, careful to stay away from his mouth. “Father! Henry! Marc! Please help me!” he screamed.
He was quickly carried down the servant's stairs, out the back door and thrown into the back of a carriage. Nichols stood at the door. “I promise you will not feel a thing, my boy.”
He closed the door.
“Noooo!” Ephraim screamed as the carriage took off.
The large door to his tiny cell opened with an ominous creak. Nichols stepped inside followed by five heavily armed footmen. Ephraim pushed his long knotted hair back from his face. His bony fingers shook violently from hunger.
Nichols ran a hand over his now bald head. He sighed heavily as he looked down at Ephraim’s ghastly figure. A look of disgust and revulsion spread over Nichol’s features. He raised a cloth to his face, trying to avoid the stench. Ephraim dropped his shaking hands to cover his gen**als. His clothes had long ago worn away to nothing. His skin was practically black now from the mixture of dirt, burns and dried blood.
“What now? Are you going to set me on fire again? Or perhaps chop my head off for the tenth time? Hmm, oh no, that wouldn’t do for you. Let’s see you’ll want to try something new of course since it’s been five years since you did anything original,” he prattled on, mocking Nichols.
He didn’t care anymore. He stopped caring about everything years ago. The pain didn’t bother him, the hunger even less. They had become his friends, his companions. In an odd way he’d come to depend on the pain to make him feel alive.
Nichols sighed behind his cloth and then coughed from the stench. “I’m tired of your mouth, boy. Before we continue today I would like to say that you have been my greatest and most frustrating challenge. It’s a damn shame this has to end today.”
Ephraim chuckled. “Oh, so today is the day that you finally figure out how to once and for all end me? Why, I’m impressed.” He slowly dragged himself to a standing position. His body was literally skin and bone now with too much hair on his head and face. “Let’s have a go at it then.” He had no illusions over the matter. He would remain here for eternity.
“Bring him.” Nichols left the room.
The footmen were careful to remain out of reach of Ephraim. He was weak and looked brittle, but they’d learned long ago to remain out of his reach or they would find themselves attached to his mouth.
Nichols waited in his favorite torture chamber with another five men and over a dozen buckets of something. Ephraim couldn’t smell anything over his own stench. That was a good sign at least. That meant it wasn’t oil. He hated being burned alive. It was perhaps the most painful of Nichols’ methods. The pain lasted for weeks.
“Over there and secure his foot to the floor.” Nichols gestured to the wall.
Ephraim studied the marked wall. He could make out burn marks, bullet holes and dried blood. It was Nichols favorite spot after all. He leaned back against the wall, waiting for Nichols' brilliant plan.
A footman handed him something. He was too surprised by the action to make a grab for the footman. In his hand he held a long ago forgotten item, one that he dreamed of for years.
He looked up at Nichols, confused.
“Let’s get this over with. We can’t very well allow His Grace to see you like this.” Three footmen carrying buckets stepped forward and threw water on him from a safe distance.
It was cold, but that didn’t bother him. He was always cold in this damp dungeon. The water felt strange on his body. It slowly penetrated the layers of dried grime, making his skin itch. He slowly began to wash. He didn’t wait for Nichols to ask him. He wanted this. It had been so long since he saw his own skin. He had to scrub hard, as hard as his shaking hands allowed him to. He was so weak he could barely move the soap against the resistance the grim presented.
“Get more water. It seems it’s going to take a lake to clean him,” Nichols ordered. Men scurried out of the room quickly. They always did. No one liked being in the room with the “devil.”
“You said my father’s coming here?” Ephraim did his best to sound casual. He learned long ago not to show any emotion to Nichols. He used his fears and his hopes against him. The man was a master to his art.
“No, I said His Grace. Perhaps this is the time to tell you that Edmund Duke of Havenville passed away in his sleep yesterday. The new Duke, your brother by your mother, has requested to see you today.”
Nicholls flipped his hand in an annoyed manner. “Oh dear, I forgot to tell you Henry died twelve years ago. Jealous husband. You get the picture I’m sure.”
Ephraim slowly allowed the information to settle in. If he was upset he didn’t show it. He knew better. This could very well be some new sick torture. He continued to clean as the footmen continued to throw water on him. Slowly, so slowly he saw pale skin peek through the grime. The sight disgusted him. His skin wrapped tightly around bone. He looked like a living skeleton. If he had anything in his stomach he would have lost it right then, but he forced himself to continue. That was after all one of Nichols’ favorite tortures to starve him to death. He’d been doing it for twenty years.