Home > Born in Chains (Men in Chains #1)

Born in Chains (Men in Chains #1)
Author: Caris Roane

CHAPTER 1

Chained to a cavern wall, Adrien hung forward from his shackles, arms shaking. The short length of the wrought-iron loops prevented him from falling to his knees, but after hours of torture he couldn’t stand up straight and his shoulder joints were loose and screaming.

The torturers had come and gone.

Through his pain, he heard his half brothers calling to him, shouting his name, forcing him to concentrate.

He tried. But something else snagged him. The power that always hovered just at the edge of consciousness, the power of the Ancestrals that he rejected every day of his life, whispered to him, She’s here.

The vision came over him and his heart seized. He could feel the future in his bones as the images pressed in on him, of a beautiful woman with soft highlights in her light brown hair, gold earrings sparkling and dangling past her chin, a warm smile on her lips. She wore a deep burgundy velvet gown, the color of blood, trimmed with what looked like gold crystals over a bodice that revealed a deep line of cl**vage. Her shoulders, arms, and back were bare. And he felt something for her, something that called to his vampire soul, something that made him strain against his manacles.

He needed to get to her, to be with her, to keep her safe.

The vision rolled.

Let’s go, she said. She extended her hand to him. He took it, then just as he felt the softness of her palm and fingers, the vision ended, dissipating like dust in the wind.

But not the sensations left behind, the need he felt to be with her, to get to her. He strained harder in his chains, hurting himself all over again.

Suddenly his stomach cramped and his body seized. He cried out in agony. He heard his brothers shouting at him but he couldn’t respond.

The vision of the woman had ignited his blood-hunger.

Getting just enough blood while chained up had been another form of torture. He and his imprisoned brothers suffered the agonies of blood-hunger, the cramps, the saliva that thickened in his mouth, the dreams during the daylight hours of piercing a vein.

If some act of fortune didn’t break in his direction soon, blood-madness would follow.

“Adrien, talk to us. Adrien.”

He recognized the voice. Lucian, his oldest half brother, the one who carried the sins-of-the-father in his soul. He’d been the one to break them out of their father’s compound, leading them into a new life of shedding years of intolerable pain and channeling all their ensuing rage into fierce fighting skills. They’d become peacekeepers in their world.

“Adrien, come back to us, brother.” Marius this time.

The pain ratcheted up, from both deep bruises and surface cuts. He’d been lashed with a whip then beaten with its stick end. He wasn’t sure which hurt worse.

“Adrien, answer us.” Lucian again.

He tried to speak, but his throat felt washed with fire. In the middle of everything, he’d shouted his pain and his rage.

Fortunately his blood-hunger began to dissipate, and he opened his eyes. Man-made dry-stone walls separated him from his two brothers, so that they were lined up on one side of the cavern like horses in stalls.

“Adrien?”

“I’m here.” His voice was barely a whisper.

But vampires had excellent hearing, so Lucian and Marius shouted their joy that he was still alive. They’d been in this Himalayan hellhole for the past year, sent here by the Council of Ancestrals, now ruled by Daniel Briggs, the monster who had chained them up personally, adding a touch of his preternatural power to the manacles so none of them could escape.

Lucian called to him again. “Adrien, repeat the vows.”

The vows. Yes, the vows had held them together all these centuries, from the time of their escape from the monster’s experiments on his young.

Adrien tried to join in. His lips moved, but he couldn’t make the sound come out.

“In times of chaos, what feeds the will?” Lucian shouted the words.

“Blood!” His brother’s voice resounded through the cavern, catching Adrien’s soul and easing his pain.

“What feeds us in the midst of destruction?” Lucian once more.

“Blood!” Marius cried.

“Throughout our lives, what serves the body?”

“Blood.”

“Blood,” Adrien whispered, trying to do his part, but a thousand whip marks all over his body still trapped his voice.

Pain. So much pain.

His turn to recover today. They’d each been put under the whip once a week, beaten and sliced up repeatedly. Sometimes the women who performed the torture brought clubs and battle chains just to mix things up.

“Adrien, do you hear me?” Lucian called out strong and loud. “Give the response. We’re waiting for you.”

Adrien blinked back the stinging sweat that dripped into one of the cuts on his cheek. His dark hair hung in damp clumps in front of him. The humid air, the torture, and his sweat created a cloud of wet stink and pain. Hanging as he was, his shoulders ached as though fire burned in each. He needed to draw himself back, but he could barely move.

“Adrien,” Lucian called out again, his voice sharp and commanding. “Give the ritual response. Now.”

“Blood,” Adrien said, the word like a soft scratch against wood, a mere hush in the dark vaulted cavern. A metallic taste filled Adrien’s mouth.

He spit on the floor and tried again. “Blood.” Still a hoarse whisper. “Blood.” Louder. “Blood.”

He repeated the word until his vocal cords decided to function again and now he shouted into the jagged stone walls.

He kept shouting until his brothers joined him. “Blood, blood, blood.”

His strength returned slowly until at last he reached back and grabbed the heavy links of black wrought iron. He drew himself upright, his cut feet bearing his weight and causing a new round of agony. But at least his arms weren’t threatening to pop out of their sockets. He hooked his elbow in the slack loop of the chain and laid his head down on his arm, the only way he could sleep.

Yes, sleep was what he needed, but just as he might have drifted off his thoughts snagged on Daniel and the Council he ruled, which had allowed him to send Adrien and his brothers to the vampire prison in the Himalayas.

Over the past two years Daniel had ripped the vampire world apart, removing authority from the five smaller local courts and transferring it to the weak-willed, poorly governed Council of Ancestrals. He was growing in wealth in a heinous, soulless manner, by dispossessing well-to-do vampires of their fortunes and selling off extensive mineral rights to a human named Harris Kiernan, a typical man of his species, full of greed and little else.

Adrien wanted both Kiernan and Daniel dead so that they could do no more harm against the vampire world. But mostly he wanted Daniel dead, his body burned, bones ground to dust, and every last element salted.

He nodded against the chains, his body aching head-to-toe. So help him God, yes, he’d see Daniel dead.

And with his determination shored up once more, he fell asleep.

* * *

As darkness fell, and with a lantern in hand, Lily Haven moved up the path that led to the secret cavern prison.

She walked behind one of the jailers, a female vampire of Indian origin, her skin slightly paler than that of her human counterparts. The woman flicked the black leather handle of a whip, a sign of preference, ownership, usage.

Lily couldn’t believe she was here, that any of this was happening, that vampires existed and she would soon be bound to one.

The blood-chain around Lily’s neck, the tool she’d be using to take control of a large male vampire, vibrated almost painfully.

She could feel him now, and the terrible pain he endured, the one whose blood had been forged into the metal that now hung in thin loops around her neck.

Harris Kiernan had warned her what the female guards did to the prisoners, torturing the men to the point of death, each of them once a week, something that had been going on since shortly after the prisoners’ arrival a year ago. He’d told her to prepare herself for a rough ride on every front—that her job here in India, to take charge of the vampire known as Adrien, would only be the beginning of a difficult trek.

Difficult didn’t begin to describe her journey of the last two years. It had started with an attack on her neighborhood while she’d been visiting her sister in Oregon. A vicious group of vampires had gone through her neighborhood on a rampage, killing, raping, and stealing, an event the US government still called “an unparalleled gang-related attack.” That night she’d lost what was most precious to her: a beloved husband, a daughter Jessie, just five, and her son Josh, who had been eight at the time.

She’d grieved without cessation until two months ago when she’d learned that her son was still alive. Josh, now ten, still lived, which is what had brought her here. Kiernan had held her son captive for two years, though well cared for, she’d been assured. And all Lily had to do to get him back was take charge of a powerful vampire and use him to find what was called an extinction weapon. Then Josh would be returned to her.

* * *

Lily carried a damp washcloth in her free hand, intending to hold it to her nose given the terrible conditions in the cavern-turned-prison. As she drew near the opening, she saw that the doorway was lined with intricately carved stone blocks, a sign that she had entered a secret vampire world.

The first hint of the stench inside reached her and she jerked her wrist, bringing the washcloth to her face.

The woman glanced at Lily. “Some say it smells like a garbage bin behind a restaurant, only a hundred times worse. I don’t smell it, of course. I’ve got a nose like a hyena.” Then she laughed, whipped her head around, and moved within. “Like the prisoners inside, anyone can get used to the smells.”

Lily remained for a moment near the entrance, breathing through her mouth as much she could, the washcloth pressed over the bridge of her nose. Finally she lifted the lantern high and followed, watching as dirt gave way to a floor made of stone pavers.

Crossing the threshold, she saw that the space rose to at least fifty feet in height, a typical-looking cave made of jagged dark rock, although portions of the walls appeared to have been worked with chisels at one time. Maybe there were even patterns but given the dim light, she couldn’t tell.

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