The stranger awoke to darkness, to the moans of the damned and to the stench of the broken, the unholy pits of despair mankind was famous for across the continent, the place where lives went to rot and die.
He was in a dungeon. Again.
Suppressing a sigh he sat up, taking stock of all he could, the tiny cell made from moldy stone slabs he had been placed in, the fact that he’d been striped of all his gear, beng left entirely nude save for his undergarments, the lit torch that was dimly flickering just behind the iron bars and the partly rusted iron chain around his left wrist that was attached to his rancid, disease ridden cot.
Outside his cell there was no guard.
There was no guard, and only a single flimsy shackle with no visible runes of power engraved on its surface, nor were there any runes anywhere else that he could see in his cell. All this information and more rapidly processed through his mind, as probabilities were calculated, plans and contingencies were created and everything was triple checked for mistakes as he stood up from his cot with a groan, joints popping as he stretched out, rolling his shoulders back, before finally standing still once again.
The conclusion was fairly simple. Someone had tipped off the king about an attempted assassination attempt, and his mage had set a trap to incapacitate the would-be assassin, no doubt to coerce the agent into revealing information about his employer. Unfortunately for the king, he had miscalculated two very important things. One, he had assumed a normal human would come for his head. Second, he had assumed a simple shackle and some iron bars would hold him.
He would pay dearly for these assumptions.
The man hooked a single finger under his manacle, lifting up, and with a deafening cry the iron began to warp, twisting and becoming deformed as it bent out of shape, until with a resounding crack it broke, clattering to the ground. Similarly the metal bars to the cell screamed in futile protest as they were effortlessly bent apart, and the man stepped out into a hall. To his left ran a hallway further into the dungeon, steps leading to places still unknown. To the right there was a plain wooden door, reinforced with iron studs and mounted into the old stone walls that comprised the castle.
There was also a very alarmed guard.
Now, King Bran was a good king, a kind man who looked after his subjects and always treated his men well. His guards and soldiers were loyal, well trained, well geared. Unfortunately for the good king, there was only so far a man stuck on dungeon duty would be willing to do for his liege before the situation fell firmly into the “not my job category,” and mostly nude prisoners bending iron bars and casually striding towards him while whistling a merry tune most certainly fell into said category.
“H-h-halt, wh…” the guard stuttered out, only to be cut short as the man strolling up to him held up a hand, requesting his silence. A request he was more than willing to oblige. Dealing people who could bend iron bars was most certainly not in his job description.
The man continued his merry tune and leisurely stroll, and the guard had a chance to look him over, noting only that there was nothing to note. Before him was truly the most average man he had ever seen. He had the black eyes and hair of most imperials, himself included. His body was well muscled, yet retained a compact form, more muscle tone and a whip-like strength than the bulging muscles more prevalent on true warriors and soldiers. His face was equally unassuming, just a man in his mid 20’s, and as he continued his approach he noticed his height was just short of his own 5 feet and 11 inches.
At last the man came to a stop, his merry whistle ending along with his final footstep, placing him within an arm’s reach of the trembling guard. Then he spoke, his voice clear and commanding, a deep and rich voice that carried with it the kind of authority most nobles could only dream of.
“Hello, good sir. Could I trouble you for some help? It appears i’ve woken without any of my clothes, and there’s a rather terrible draft down here. If you could simply point me in the direction of your armoury, or better yet, where my own equipment is being held, I would own you a debt of gratitude.” The man spoke with a pleasant smile on his face the entire time, seemingly paying no mind to the continued screaming and crying all around him, nor the fact that he was, technically speaking, an escaped prisoner facing down the guard in charge of making him a former escaped prisoner.
“A-a-ah, y-yes, w-well, u-um” began the guard once again, stuttering out the beginnings to a response, his mind failing to understand anything other than the fact that whoever this man in front of him was had bent the iron bars of his cell, had casually strolled up to him while whistling, and had asked for help finding clothes.
“Ah, come on lad, spit it out,” replied the unassuming man, his small smile still on his face, “I promise I won’t bite. Ah, but where are my manners, here I am beseeching you for favours, and you don’t even know who I am! Now I have many names, but you can just call me Linus.”
The guard simply nodded, and with a tremendous force of will swallowed down his nerves and forces himself to form a full coherent sentence. After all, the man seemed nice enough, maybe if he played along he wouldn’t have his neck snapped like a twig?
“My name’s, uh, Jordan, sir, Linus, um, guard to his royal majesty king Bran. Uh, armoury, right, uh, I dunno where your clothes are at, but just through this door is one of the armouries, it’s usually full of guards, so I dunno about just walking up.”
Linus smiled a little bit more now, seeming to nod to himself once, as if confirming something or other, before taking a step forward and putting his right arm on Jordan’s left shoulder, much to the guard’s discomfort if his startled jump was anything to go bye.”
“Thank you Jordan,” Linus said, his smile still plastered on his face, “Now, I think i’ll take it from here. Goodbye.” And with that, the now dead guard’s body slumped to the ground, a horrible crack having echoed throughout the dungeon, intermixing with the ever present cacophony, the body’s neck bent in a truly unnatural way.
There was not even the slightest hint of surprise on the lifeless face, there had been no reaction at all, in fact. It seemed Jordan simply hadn’t realized his life had ended.
And with the, the still smiling and now once again humming man bent down and unsheathed the dead guard’s sword, wondering why the man in question hadn’t bothered to bring it to bear himself, before dismissing it as an idle and ultimately useless question. He looked back up at the wooded and iron door, and softly sang out a sentence, a warning.
“Ready or not, here I come.”