Strung up to the wall in front of him, was that girl. A thin, pale, emaciated version of her former self. Bloodstained tears soaked the sides of her face, dripping down to the cobblestone floor in a tiny pool of crimson. The man standing beside her held a whip in one hand and raised it, as if to strike her again.
He felt himself fall, hitting the ground hard and did not have the energy to rise. He didn't care. Maybe dying here where I lay, wouldn't be such a bad thing. Turning his head weakly, he caught a little movement from the corner of his eye.
One of the men who had been holding him up, reach out and grabbed the other guy's wrist. “Enough,” he said in a low, stern voice.
“Tch!” said the man with the whip. After a moment, he lowered his arm.
“Good,” the first officer said, holding out his hand. “Key?”
With reluctance a set of keys were handed over. They were about the length of a man's palm and thick. The keys were also attached to a large, bronze ring. “'Ere ya go my liege.”
That comment didn't go unnoticed and the officer glared at him, though he didn't say anything back. When someone was trying to taunt like that, it was probably the best way to act. Sometimes a single look would be all that was needed. The man backed up as the officer reached above him. With a couple clicks, the shackles fell free. They hit the stone wall with a clang.
An arm reached around him and another arm under. He was being lifted off the ground. “Come on, to your feet,” came the third voice. It was the other man who had been holding him up. “Sorry for droppin ya... just kind of got distracted.”
Yeah, he thought. I bet you did. It was impossible to stand without any extra support, so he clung tightly to the man's collar. His legs wobbled, threatening to give.
“Easy... easy now,” the man said in a gentle tone, removing his hand from the collar of his shirt.
His entire arm was placed back over the man's shoulders and it felt as if most of his weight was now being supported. Not that there was much to support there anyway. He lifted his head just high enough to where he could see that officer, lift the girl onto his back. She began to cry once she was sitting and held onto him as tightly as her emaciated muscles would allow. If he still had the strength for tears... that would be him.
“Follow me,” the officer said and with the girl on his back, he left the room.
Pain coursed through every muscle, every fiber of his being as he tried to push whatever that vision was, aside. Raithe squirmed, writhing where he lay. The cold stone caused him to shiver and convulse. His body trembled with the sheer effort of keeping itself warm. Was this it? The end of the challenge that would bring them to safety? Were they both dead now? The pain subsided and back into the void, his mind fell.
They were in a huge, mechanical structure. A city perhaps... with the ability to move across the land or in the air. The soldier holding him up, placed his exhausted form gingerly, on a cot and then he walked away.
“I'll leave him to you now,” the soldier said. The words were quiet, a faint buzzing in his ear.
“Thank you,” this time, the voice was female.
He tried to open his eyes to see, but they had been crusted closed with dry blood and sweat. Maybe if he... a hand reached out, pushing his arm back down.
“Rest now,” came the voice. She sounded like a spring breeze blowing, making trees sway. “You're safe.”
Listening, he could hear her footfalls as she walked to the other end of the room. There was the sound of a drawer opening. It closed and then the sound of water through... a tap? A cool dampness brushed across his face. His eyes mostly and it felt soft. It brought to him a sense of ease, the kind he had never had the chance to experience before.
“There,” she said. “Try to open them now.”
He did. At first they felt very heavy, like a weight had been placed across his eyelids to keep them closed. After a moment he did manage to get one open. A light poured in and he winked it closed again. Light... that was... he didn't know how long it had been since he had seen... a little more cautiously this time, he opened his eye and then the other.
His whole body stiffened as the pain returned. How much more of this... torture would he be forced to endure? Raithe writhed again as it shot through his stomach, his nose, his arms and legs. Once again, the pain subsided and he could feel something else. A slippery, slimy thing crawling up his legs. Though he tried to move them, to kick the thing away, he couldn't. Like he wasn't in control of his own body.
Raithe felt a chill on his spine as it crawled up his pants. It moved slow... very slow, sliding up his waist, under his shirt. He could here the squishing sound it made as it reach his shoulder and split into three separate beings. One kept sliding up his spine. The other two slid down his shoulders, to his arms, his wrists. He jerked one arm, though it was more of a reflex. He couldn't move it again and again his mind found a dark, quiet place to slumber.
They were standing on a parapet, looking over the chaos that was now their world. He stared at the carnage, both mortified and weirdly fascinated by it all. Dark creatures, black things made of goo crawled out of the earth. Some crawled out of the trunks of dead, fallen trees, others from rocks, some from streams and still more from seemingly nowhere. What were those things and what did they want? A loud explosion sounded from far away and he turned his head.
A billowing cloud of smoke rose up from an explosion. It was new. He could still see the flames and a bit of debris flying away from the site. “Oh mother of stones,” he said. “Please help us all.”
“You see it?” asked a female voice from behind.
He turned to her and saw his mentor. The one person in their messed up world, who had taught him everything he knew about fighting those things. Which wasn't really that much. The black goo was new to all of them and had only been around for the past fifty years.
“Yeah,” he answered. “Does no one know what they are? I mean... how can we defeat them if we don't?”
She sighed. “That's the big question isn't it? How do we defeat something we know very little about?” she raised a hand and pointed toward something in the distance. “Look.”
As he turned his head he could see them. Some of the creatures were coming together, forming into much larger things. Beasts that could tear apart towns and cities. Wreak havoc wherever they went. There was one that took the form of a human or... tried to look as human as it could anyway. Another appeared kind of like a horse, but the snout was strange. Disproportional to its body. What were most likely supposed to be whiskers, were more like long, thick tendrils. They waved around, grabbing things, leaving a black tar behind on whatever they touched.
“For some reason... well... it's like they are trying to mimic us, to become some of the things we might have in this world. It is just... we don't know why,” she turned to him. Their eyes met for a brief second and then she walked away.
Raithe convulsed again and then every bone and muscle in his body stiffened. Then again, he convulsed. Over and over. A moment of tremors, followed by several long, painstaking minutes when he was unable to move. His muscles contracted, then released. Contracted, then released. Then nothing.
A deafening quiet filled the room. Listening, he couldn't even hear the echoing sound of water. The silence made what he was having to endure, that much worse. Why wouldn't it just kill him already? Then it started moving again. He arched as it crawled, feeling around the small of his back. The creature split into a fourth being then, working its way around his waist.
Then it became five. Raithe cringed as the fifth worked its way down the front of his pants, between his legs, around his... he let out a sound which was suppose to be a scream but ended up being more of a pathetic yelp.
The fourth being worked its way up his front. It found his chin and then became seven. Two of them moved slowly around his mouth, up to his nose. They became eleven. The two at his nose, entered it. Feeling around, working their way through. Deeper... deeper. Then the one at his mouth entered and Raithe could taste its foulness.
Tears welled up in his eyes as he cried... and gagged simultaneously. What was this thing that was molesting him so... thoroughly? The fifth one moved, causing him to jerk with surprise. Then he could feel it as two more split off, working their way down his legs, around his legs.
The four remaining tendrils found their way to his eyes and his ears. Pain struck as the two by his eyes began to look for a way in, searching. He convulsed suddenly and for what seemed like several, very long minutes. When he stopped, Raithe could feel that first tendril reach his neck. It slimed its way around.
“Get off of him!” someone shouted. Not Gin though... then who?
“Let me take care of this... this thing!” a girl said with disgust.
That second voice... it sounded familiar but... in his stupor he just couldn't place it. His eyes felt heavy... they were closing... there was no way he could stay... WOOSH! KBLA! That sound caused him to snap his eyes open and alertness returned. He was so... so tired now but...
“Raithe!” called the man. “Don't you go to sleep now! We gots words to settle!”
Words? What did he mean by that.
There was the sound of more air combusting and then he suddenly felt very very hot. Hot like the kind that might be found in an oven at three hundred and fifty degrees. Raithe was too tired... too exhausted to move. There was a pained squeal and then the thing that had attacked him, began to retreat. From his mouth, his nose, his eyes, his groin. In seconds it was gone.
“Fire works!” said the female.
Raithe continued to lay there, dazed. Footfalls approached him. Silence. Then he felt himself being lifted up. He was sitting now and there was someone behind, holding him steady. He winced as someone slapped his face.
“Snap out of it man!”
“So...Sosuke?” he asked.
“Yay! He's alive!” the girl squealed. She did a little victory dance before running over to him.
More footfalls, this time padded ones and an enormous, black cat head appeared in front of him. Raithe raised a hand to scratch Felix behind the ears. She seemed to like that... a lot. She started to purr.
“I sure hope you can still walk,” Sosuke said. “Cause if ya can't, then we're gonna have a helleva time pullin ya up there.” he pointed to a tunnel hidden behind many of that big tree's branches.
“I can...” he started. “Hey what did you mean by words?”
“Later,” Sosuke said as he helped Raithe to his feet.
“Right now, we've got bigger problems,” he pointed to where the satchel and bag had been set down.
They were still there but all of the contents had been emptied and were now strewn about all over the place. “What... happened?”
“Your friend,” Sosuke answered. “He did this, took something and then ran.”
Raithe ran over to the scattered things and started to sift through them. Many of the items were little, unimportant things which could easily be replaced if they could get to that place called Galeron. There were a few however... relief flooded into him when he recovered the journal. Panic set in however, when he realized that something was missing.
“What is it?” Sosuke asked, bending over with both hands on his knees.
“They're both... gone.”
“What are?” Luna asked.
“The dagger... I don't think we need but.. the medallion. It's not here.”