Continued from part 1 in our Summer 2021 issue.

Part 2

Content Warning: Psychological and physical torture. Brutality.

Gales shouted their roaring howls as the ship was violently assaulted by raging currents. Ralla snickered, watching the crew scramble to keep the them afloat.

“Just stop this! We both know you can! What is the point of putting them through this?” Sanya was screaming inside her head. She knew Ralla could hear her. This had been her only form of communication through the last three changing of the seasons. She was not permitted to speak, nor yell. The most sounds she had made were quiet whispers. “Please! Just stop! Do I need to grovel at your feet? What do you want from me? I have already made attempts at amends — you do not need to punish them for my offenses.” Her plea fell upon unwavering ears.

With a snicker from Ralla, Sanya fell, crippled with pain, as the winds grew to deafening proportions. The sailors were strewn about, no longer able to fight the tempest. Some were thrown overboard, others dropped where they stood. Ralla turned to the pile of flesh at her back. She looked down at Sanya. “Barely more than the bones of your risen. Stand up.” Sanya did not stir, still pinned beneath Ralla’s control. “Look at you, weak and sniveling; begging like a cur at my heels. Get up, command the new additions I have provided you. Rise!” Ralla saw not a twitch from Sanya, but was pleased when the newly dead rose upon the deck. She began to quiet the storm, allowing her surviving crew to rest. She knelt down beside Sanya and stroked her hair, feeling the course, salt-laden strands between her fingertips. Ralla rested her hand upon her forehead, and gifted Sanya with the vision of Akan’s demise. She felt Sanya convulse in anguish until the gruesome scene was complete. Her voice was calm and soft, “Even then, he never begged at my feet. You will never beg. You will obey.” Ralla brushed a strand of hair from Sanya’s face, revealing her eyes laced with blood. She softened her hold on Sanya, relieving her of pain, but still pinning her to the deck. “Are you pleased with the results of your mutiny? Happy with your attempt on my life?” Ralla paused for a response then outwardly spoke, “No, I wouldn’t think so. I do not blame you for trying, as I would most likely have done the same. It is difficult isn’t it, having thoughts in your head that fail to escape? Difficult to will something, only to be forced into my submission? It took me ages to overcome the despair and broken will and learn to block the control of my father.” Ralla continued to pet Sanya’s hair gently.

“I’m not a god,” Sanya thought in reply. Ralla stopped abruptly, grasped Sanya’s chin firm in her hand, and stared eye to eye.

“You could be.” She released her grip and stood up, still holding Sanya in place. “If you can move, you may speak. Now, get up.” She watched Sanya, momentarily motionless where she lay. She could feel the push of Sanya’s will, but it was slight against her own power. “You want your voice, do you not? Or perhaps you are happy here, in silence, trapped in your head, no will, no desire for greatness…” Ralla felt Sanya push harder. She could feel her centering her energy, finding a quiet spot in her mind. She knew that Sanya was pulling away from her voice, driven by the onslaught of insults and vile images she was hurling at her. She could feel the power that Sanya focuses to raise the fallen be gathered and centered to lift herself. Ralla smiled, thankful she was not wrong about pushing to these limits. She knew the frailty of the body despite the strength of the spirit within. She watched Sanya pull her knees up under her, pushing back against the invisible binding. Ralla restrained herself from adding more pressure, reminding herself that this must be done in small doses. She could feel Sanya’s strength wavering beneath her. The will to succeed was being expended with the last of her energy.

“Perhaps next time, you will make it to your feet by yourself. Recover. You are dismissed.” Ralla retracted her power, allowed Sanya to stand, and waved her aside.

“Yes Commander.” Sanya replied, her voice touching ears other than her own for the first time in ages.

As she stumbled past Ralla, she heard her whisper, “It’s a shame you don’t fight that hard all the time. I do enjoy the sound of your voice. I would hate to have to lock it up again.” Ralla jeered.

“I’ll remember that Commander,” Sanya rasped, determined to have the last word.

Ralla kept the crew at sea from the warm winds of summer, through to the sharp biting stings hurled off of the white-capped chop. She made a daily routine of forcing Sanya into some submission or another; taking away the use of random joints, binding her body or mind, whatever suited her fancy at the moment, each time making the pain and resistance harder to bear. She knew that Sanya would never survive her full force, but she was determined to bring her as close as possible, and she was not disappointed with her progress. Today would be a crucial test. They stood upon the bow gazing toward a harbor town.

“Getting off this bloody boat is your choice. If you do as I command, we will drop anchor and set foot upon land. Should you fail, we remain aboard the ship and I turn you out to the crew to do with you as they see fit.”

“I understand, Commander.” Sanya was accustomed to this. At most times when she failed the crew was understanding and gentle with her, but with the prospect of land, warmth, shelter, and food, they would be brutal should she fail. Sanya set her eyes upon her target. “You recognize this place, don’t you?” Ralla tormented.

“Yes Commander, I know this place,” Sanya replied in hate filled tones. “This is my home. Those are my people, my fields, my forests.”

“You know what I want.”

“Yes Commander. No survivors.” Sanya held back the vile bitterness rising from her stomach.

“Do it.” Ralla released all of her control over Sanya as she stepped back to witness the mayhem. She watched Sanya manipulate her battalion aboard the ship with merely a batting of an eye. She watched, no need of a looking glass, as the drowning waters abdicated their dead. She saw the masses spill forth from the sea upon the unsuspecting town. The screams of the innocent carried back upon the wind, and Ralla amplified each individually within Sanya’s ears.

“Oh, there it is. It seems that last one was your mother,” Ralla laughed maniacally, but Sanya pushed her aside, focused only on succeeding. She knew there would be no mercy should she fail and better to go quickly by her hand, then the hands of her tormenter. It took an eternity for the screams to cease, and when they did Sanya remained standing; drained, void of all emotion. She guarded her thoughts, unwilling to allow Ralla the pleasure of taking them from her. She turned toward her commander and was unwavering in her request.

“I’ve done what you asked. I know you felt every life force that my minions took. Give order to drop anchor and proceed to land.” Her gaze was locked, her voice contained every grain of hatred she possessed.

“Of course,” Ralla’s response was whimsical, almost playful. She placed a hand upon Sanya’s shoulder, “Land ho!”

Ralla sat lazily in a large chair by the fire watching the crew settle into the inn as Sanya added the village to her ranks. Mercy was not a thing she showed often, but today it was earned.

“Sanya, come,” Ralla beckoned. She had decided that the next test was going to be loyalty and therefore set aside physically controlling her.

“Yes Commander.” Sanya approached. Her posture was rigid, standing tall, shoulders back, revealing a strength Ralla was pleased she had acquired.

“Do you feel you have completed all I have asked of you to the best of your ability?”

“Directly to the breaking point, Commander.” Sanya kept her response curt.

“I agree. That is why I am affording you a rare opportunity. You may keep your family within your army to use at our disposal, or I will set upon them true rest. The choice is yours.” Ralla studied her face for any inkling of a decision, and was pleased to need to wait for an answer.

“Burn them.” Sanya said, hiding her contempt. She watched from the doorway as the remnants of her loved ones burst into flames only to be ashes scattered by the wind. A million thoughts flowed through her head. Her family was gone. She wished to sever all ties to this place. She hated the hell-goddess more than she ever would have thought possible, but could not deny the progress she had made. She was stronger; able to recognize Ralla’s attacks and compensate for them. She no longer allowed her joints to dismember themselves, nor was her body wracked and aching from bindings. Casting view upon the horde of dead, there could be no blind eyes to the benefits of enduring this torture. Every gift Ralla ever bestowed was designed to break her; each piercing pain, each drop of blood, each unheard, unanswered, tormented scream lingered in her mind. That is the price she has paid for her training. When the dust settled she turned around, sauntered over to Ralla, and plopped down in the chair beside her.

“So, about being a god…”

Concluded in our Winter 2022 edition.