'There's nothing for us to learn here.' Kalla said. 'Based on what the undead said, those on the first floor have yet to be bent to Thrud's will. They aren't allowed to move freely and they have been here for too short a time to have heard anything useful.'
While they moved around the floor, waiting for the stairs mark to appear on the map, Lith noticed how the cells were devoid of anything that the inmates could use to hurt themselves.
There was a mattress and a pillow but no bedsheets. Each cell had a sink, a toilet, and just enough space to exercise. Most prisoners were so bored that they either practiced Accumulation or trained with chore magic.
'This is weird. Why don't they talk among themselves?' Vladion wondered after noticing that there was no ongoing conversation despite the open bars.
'Because they can't.' Kalla said while sharing the readings of the Eyes. 'Each cell is not only Hushed, but also blinded. They can only see the space immediately in front of their cells, making it no different from solitary confinement.'
'It's inhumane but makes perfect sense.' The Firstborn replied. 'Isolation makes it much more easy to break someone's will. On top of that, even if a prisoner becomes suicidal, they can't ask the others to kill them.'
Lith had just found the exit when the worst happened.
The trio felt a foreign energy signature invading their bodies and immediately turned toward its source.
"Hello, sweetie. Don't be shy. Come out and play." The voice belonged to a man and judging by how creepy his tone was, he hadn't been sane even before his imprisonment. "Guards have no need to hide nor are they undead."
'Dammit, this guy must be a genius.' Lith thought. 'He has already learned how to use Invigoration to scan his surroundings. What do we do?'
'Ignore him.' Kalla said. 'Judging from his tone, he's this close to losing his mind. The guards will never-'
"I stand corrected." The man thought out loud, cutting her short. "An Emperor Beast, a full red blood core, and… What the heck is a black sphere? I'll have to ask my instructors during the morning training."
'Fuck me sideways!' The trio thought in unison. 'No one would have ever listened to the paranoid ramblings about generic intruders. Yet with so many details, there's no way they won't believe his story.'
"There you are. Was it so hard?" The prisoner said when Vladion stepped inside the area visible from his cell.
He was an average-looking man, with brown eyes and hair, no older than thirty. Under any other circumstances, the Firstborn would have mistaken him for a meek farmer or a clerk stuck with a menial job.
Now, however, with no reason to hide his real nature and the creeping madness from the prolonged isolation, Vladion needed but a glance to recognize a monster whose appearance was the only human thing about him.
His smile went from one ear to another and his eyes were feverish, giving the prisoner the look of a rabid beast.
"Don't worry, we are here to free you-" Vladion extended his hand through the bars just to have it pulled in as the prisoner stabbed at him with a conjured ice knife.
The blade was useless against the tough skin of the Vampire and his enchanted protections, but Vladion didn't miss how each strike was aimed at his main arteries.
"You have seen no one. This is just a dream." The Firstborn exploited the physical contact to lock eyes with the prisoner and activate his Mesmerize bloodline ability, mixing it with a mind link.
Mesmerize made a strand of mana and life force carry Vladion's willpower from his eyes to his cheeks, neck, and arm before entering the prisoner's body and going straight up to his brain.
There, a tendril of Spirit Magic was reinforcing the nudge from the bloodline ability by poisoning the man's thoughts with Vladion's. Together they had allowed the Firstborn to muddle the memories of countless people in the past.
"You wish, you fucker!" The man yelled in outrage not because of the attempt to mind control him, but for his inability to make the intruder bleed. "I don't know who you are, but I'm going to make sure that you get in the cell right next to mine."
Much to Vladion's surprise, between the prisoner's twisted personality, isolation, and the effects of the slave array, both his mind and life force were resistant to his manipulations.
"Clam down. We are your friends." The Firstborn changed his approach and doubled the amount of mana and life force he employed. "Keep quiet about our presence and you have my word that once we're done, we'll free you from this cell."
"I have a better idea." The man said with a crazed smile. "You free me now, we go our separate ways, and you pray I don't get caught on my way out. Because the moment I do, I swear that I'll tell everyone about you and your friends."
"I don't think so." Vladion knew that taking the man out meant rising a flag that would lead the guards to their position so he moved his hand to the prisoner's neck and started to choke him. "You'll stay quiet or else-"
"Or what? You'll kill me?" The man laughed like it was the best joke ever. "Do it! I'll be finally free and you'll be fucked. Why do you think they keep us locked alone like animals?
"To keep us from killing each other and force them to find another sucker and start from scratch. No matter what you do to me, it's nothing compared to what I've already suffered in here.
"Nothing is worse than the prospect of spending the rest of my life as a slave until I die on the battlefield for that madwoman." The inmate stared Vladion in the eyes with an unyielding force of will born from desperation. "If I have to die here, the least I can do is to take everyone down with me."
Vladion looked at Lith and Kalla, not knowing what to do. Killing and freeing the inmate would have sealed the failure of their mission but so would leaving him behind. To make matters worse, it was only a matter of time before he was Warped for training.
'Let me give this a try.' Lith said via the mind link while taking Vladion's place in front of the bars. 'After all, they are trying to break his mind. The guards won't question their own success.'
He could feel the disgust in the Void as he accessed the bloodline abilities that derived from his Abomination side, yet he had failed to understand the reason until he was done conjuring the Demons of the Darkness.
Every one of the souls chasing the inmate belonged to a small child, the older of which couldn't be over ten years old. The Demons wailed their anger, pinning the man to the ground and ripping him to shreds just to heal his wounds and start again.
"That's it? I endured much worse since I've been held up in here." Yet instead of screaming out of fear and pain as Lith had expected, the inmate laughed it out.