Weeping echoed through the hollow corridors. A great sadness, but also pain, despair. The sound of it hit him deep in his heart. He wanted to go see who was making that sound and tell them... he wanted to tell them that everything would be alright. They just needed to hang in there a little longer. To survive... to... hang... he moved one of his arms, but it was jerked back just slightly. A metallic sound of clanking chains.
He noticed the pain then, on his wrists. It wasn't very strong. Only a minor throb, but a continuous one. Raising his head, he saw the shackles clamped down tight. From them a thick chain ran up and was fastened in the wall. No amount of tugging and pulling would get him free of those. Then there was the itch as something liquid ran down his face. A mixture of blood and sweat dripping onto the hard cobblestone beneath him. Pooling together, making a puddle of crimson. He jerked his head up, eyes watching, ears alert.
Footfalls sounded somewhere beyond the door to his cell. It was solid iron, except for the tiny window. There was no glass, but four bars were spaced along the length of it. Through the narrow openings, he could see the orange, flickering light which he could only have guessed, came from torches.
The footfalls neared. There were two sets and one stopped some ways down, while the other continued for a few paces more, before coming to a stop as well. “This is the one?” the man closest to his cell, asked.
“It is Sir!” another man replied.
By the way the two of them spoke, he guessed they were both military, with the first speaker, being the superior. Metal clanked on the other side of his door, keys inserted into the lock. He watched it as it turned and then clicked as the tumblers tumbled into place. Then the door creaked open. He squinted his eyes against the bright light, but continued to watch as the first man approached him.
“Somethin's not right about the way he just stares at you Sir,” the second man said.
The first man knelt down in front of him, took his chin in one hand and yanked it up. It hurt as the man did that. His head was yanked from one side to the other, as he was being inspected. For injuries? Health?
“Yes, he'll do,” the man said and then stood up. He searched through his keys for the right one and then inserted it into the locks on the shackles.
The tension on his wrists lessened as the shackles both fell free. Then, with nothing holding him up, he fell forward. The first man caught him before his face hit the floor however and placed one of his arms over a shoulder. The man lifted him, but with some effort.
“Stop daydreaming and help me,” the first man said annoyed.
“Oh! Yes... sorry Sir!” then the second man rushed over. His second arm was placed over another shoulder and the two of them, carried him out of that cold, dark cell.
They carried him down one long corridor and then another. Torchlight flickering along the walls, guiding their way. Shadows loomed over them, creating strange, demonic shapes on the floors and walls. They brought with them, a sense of foreboding. Like something was terribly wrong in this place. Whatever it was.
It was huge, with every corridor a mirror image of another. A labyrinth that only a few knew the right passage through. He raised his head with effort, as they approached a large, steel door. Somewhere behind it, came the sound of weeping again. It was closer now and he could tell the person making that noise, was a girl. Something loud sounded in that room. A whip hitting flesh and the girl yelped.
“Quiet!” came the angry shout of yet, another man.
They pushed the door open and in it, he could see the girl. She was strung up to the wall in the back as he had. Black hair which was a tangled mess, hung to her waist. Her eyes, an emerald green were red around the edges and an uncontrollable stream of tears flowed down like a rushing river. Her face, smeared with blood and sweat as his was.
They carried him in.
Pitter pattering rain pelted his face as he lie, belly down on the wet, sand filled beach. Raithe twitched and then blinked his eyes open and groaned. His whole body felt as if it were on fire. The throbbing in his leg was still there, burning more intensely than before. And hundreds of small, superficial wounds covered him from head to toe. Well... maybe not hundreds, but it felt like that. A lot of cuts and scrapes no matter how small, can add up.
Raithe pulled his sprawled out arms, close to him, moving sand in the process. Then with all the strength he could muster, pushed himself into a sitting position. He just sat there for a time afterwords, taking in his surroundings and his own condition.
The sun had long since sank from the horizon and many heavy, dark clouds now created a thick blanket in the sky. They blocked most natural light, made from the moon and the stars, but there was some still available. It came in the form of quick lightning flashes which lit up large areas in an eerie, ghostly white.
Thunder rolled angrily in the distance and his ears could hear it getting further and further away. So the storm was beginning to abate. How long had he been asleep then? Or rather, the more accurate term would be unconscious. His answer, was a few hours at least. Raithe turned his eyes inland, squinting through the dark line of trees. They appeared like strange entities with thin, mangled hands where their leafless tree branches were. More shadows in an increasingly sinister world. He looked at them and knew that if he was going to survive at all, what he would need, could be found in there.
As much as he didn't like the idea of wandering the night in an unfamiliar place, – not that any place would be familiar to him right now – there was no choice. Raithe breathed in deep and slow, trying to ignore his injuries and force himself to move. He placed both hands firmly on the ground in front of him, put one foot firmly on the ground and heaved himself up. He fell back down literally a second later with and, “ack!” and a few light curses that followed. The foot he had used, was the one from his injured leg.
Raithe sat there wincing, waiting for the throbbing pain to lesson. Then he used his other foot and was able to push himself back up, half standing, half balancing. He hobbled toward the forest, favoring his good leg and managed to reach one of the trees without collapsing again. Raithe leaned against it, thankful for the extra support and then scanned the area for anything he could use that would be potentially life saving.
While he could see well in the dark, like any nocturnal animal, those types of eyes still needed some light in order to work efficiently. So he could only see during those quick, second flashes. He was careful to let his gaze rest in a spot, wait for a flash and take in as much of that area as he could, before moving on. A couple times, he had to stop and wait for several flashes before he was confident enough to know what all was in that area.
A flash of light revealed an area, heavily grown with a weird, thick grass, weeds, shrubs and flowers. Leaning up against one of the trees was a fallen branch. Long and thick. The length of it appeared perfect for what he most immediately needed and its width was just a little bit thinner than what his grip would be on it.
As the flash of light dissipated, Raithe set his gaze in that direction. When the sky lit up once more, he pushed himself away from the tree and over to the stick. With one hand on this tree's trunk, he reached over and picked it up, glad to have something in his grip that could steady his stride.
“This'll do,” he said in a rough tone after inspecting it.
Shelter would be the next thing he needed, but there was a problem. As he scanned the darkness, he caught sight of nothing noticeably helpful in that regard. He was practically blind and Raithe knew nothing about the island where he had washed up on. The island which was apparently supposed to be the second part of their test.
But he couldn't stay here. Steeling himself, Raithe planted one end of the stick on the ground and used it to steady himself as he limped forward into the foreboding darkness. Shadows cast by the trees and the clouds, lent an unusual air to the forest. Every sight and every sound was strange and magnified. Above the roar of thunder and pattering rain, he could hear the wind howling. A sound that was mournful and afraid. There was a howling somewhere, not caused by the wind and something which sounded oddly like the squeal of a pig. The growl of a large feline and a struggle between it and another creature.
When lightning flashed, he could see things he wished he hadn't. The first and most terrifying of the sights were corpses. Not of animals, but people. Others had made it to the island, but many as he could see now, would never be able to go any further.
Lightning flashed again and he nearly reeled back in surprise of what he had seen, letting out a little yelp in the process. The giant form of a bear lying asleep, in the open. Raithe covered his mouth and scolded himself for his inability to keep his mouth shut and then, as carefully and as quietly as he could, limped passed it. He was sure that if it wasn't raining, there would be beads of nervous sweat all over his face and forehead.
Another flash revealed to him, terrain ahead that was becoming rocky. Small ridges were beginning to form in the eerie light and his instincts told him to head in that direction. So he did.
Raithe limped, shivering with the cold and a lot of weariness for about an hour he guessed. Silver moonlight above, shone down from the parting clouds, the flashes of light and rumbling thunder had ceased and the rain slowed to a mere trickle. Everything was calmer now, quieter. Raithe sighed and limped forward again. This time, his foot got caught in a root or something and he found himself lying face down in the wet foliage.
When he raised his head, his whole body froze. Standing only a few feet from him, was a panther. He didn't know how he knew from this angle, but the panther was a female. Her head bowed and she was watching him with a pair of golden eyes, intently. Then the panther turned and started to climb a thin path onto one of the rocky ridges.
He couldn't do anything else but stare at her for a time. She was the most beautiful creature he had ever seen. With a coat as black as night, golden eyes and a powerful, slender body made for hunting.
The panther stopped about halfway to the top and looked back at him.
Did she want him to follow? Raithe swallowed and pushed himself back up, wincing with the pain throbbing in his leg. It just... would not go away. He shook his head, planted one end of the stick firmly in the ground and then hauled himself back to his feet.
The panther turned around and climbed the rest of the way to the top.
Due to the rain, the path was slippery which meant that he had to be extra careful. A couple times his foot slipped or the... staff he was using to help him walk, but for the most part, he managed to get himself to the top without any major difficulties. His eyes met with the panther's for a moment and then she turned around and started walking again.
Their relationship went on like that for the better part of an hour, with the panther leading the way through some of what seemed to be the roughest terrain of the island. She would always stop when she got too far ahead and turn back, watching his progress. And Raithe never once, allow his gaze to stray from her dark form.
Then the panther stopped by the entrance to a small cave. She watched him intently, eyes never wavering, waiting for him to go in.
“I can't tell,” Raithe said, his voice still rough. “If you really are trying to help me, or if this is a way for you to create home delivery.” he meant it as a joke, but there was still a little part of him who remained unsure.
The panther did not move, nor did she make any sound.
Raithe sighed and then he went inside.
The interior was small, dark and cold. With all that rain, he didn't think lighting a fire for warmth would even be possible and even if he could light a fire, how would he be able to collect the fire wood he needed with his leg in the condition it was in. So even with the current conditions, he decided to at least try to get some sleep.
Raithe set his staff on the floor of the cave, lay down, curled into a ball and then he closed his eyes.
The enormous serpentine creature let out a mighty roar and then crashed, using the full length of its body, down into the already violent ocean. Waves towered over them and then crashed down, causing all three of them to tumble about like rag-dolls.
Raithe kicked up and between a couple more waves, tried to take in as much air as he was able. His eyes darted around nervously from one person to the next, looking for the two people he hoped he could call his friends. But they were no where to be seen. Was this creature really that powerful, to be able to send them to... to god knows where? To separate them that much?
Another crashing wave caused him to go under, Raithe tumbled, kicking furiously to right himself again. He would not die here. He refused to die here! One foot touched down on something... stone? Good! Raithe pushed off with all of his strength, in order to go back to the surface. He winced as pain shot up through his leg. It seemed to climb all the way up to his shoulder. Shaking his head, he managed to forget about it for the time being and focus on the more important thing. Finding his friends.
The massive serpent displaced the water around him as it swam in his direction and Raithe could barely manage to keep himself in control. The huge thing opened its maw wide, but with a few furious kicks, he avoided being eaten.
He paused as his gaze fell down, passed the serpent. Near the ocean floor, hidden within a rocky outcrop and part of a reef, were moving, twisting, wriggling vines. He followed the length of them to their end and there she was. They were latched tightly onto the girl's leg, unwilling to let go. Luna kicked and tugged, but no matter how hard she tried, they seemed to tighten, thorns digging into her flesh.
Raithe kicked down, ignoring everything else around him, in order to go to the girl's side. When he arrived, she gave him a fearful look and also one with sorrow in it. Sorrow because she knew, there would be no way of escaping this creature that had trapped her.
Shaking his head, Raithe leveled himself with her and placed his hands on the thorny vine. He pulled with all his might, trying to pry her free, he kicked, digged in his finger nails and even bit down with his teeth. Nothing he tried, worked. He shot his head up as a shrill shriek echoed along the floor, to their ears. As those other serpents began to approach, the realization came to him that he was completely and utterly powerless to save her.
One last time, they looked into each others eyes and swam back to the surface without looking back. He was a terrible person, who had just done a terrible thing.