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 Saigetsu: The Awakening

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PostSubject: Saigetsu: The Awakening   Sat May 21, 2011 11:18 am

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G et Up. Saigetsu was awake instantly. Something was wrong and he noticed it immediately. Quietness. Emptiness. A vacant realm. It was as if time itself had suddenly stopped. Instinctively he went through his survival checklist instantly. For each question, there was only a terse answer. Each sensation got only the briefest moment of his attention. What woke you? Warning Tingles. What do you see? Darkness, trees, forest, red sky. What do you smell? Sulfur, plants, death. Can you move? Yes. Is there danger? The last question, of course, was the culmination. He could move, but he was unarmed. He was not safe, his location was unknown, his apparel was stripped down to torn worn out trousers. Saigetsu quickly raised to his feet.
High pitched screeching, strong thunderous roars, battle cries, yells, an assortment of calls quickly flooded into the air. Apparently, other creatures awoken not to happy about their sudden confusion. Chaos was born. Demons, creatures, hell’s many dwellers attacked one another. Saigetsu felt a built in anger as well but did not feed to it. His next thought was of a creed: Life is empty. It was a creed he somehow knew he had betrayed, an empty creed. It neither saved life nor made it better. For a demon, it made life safer because it obliterated his conscience. Or tried to.
Saigetsu wondered what had brought him to this. He was ready to die. Was it pride, that he thought he could defy any odds? A sudden demand to survive, ripped through his thoughts. What was his purpose, why did he exist in such a time of chaos? Was it revenge? Was it love?
Love? He felt something, it was true. Something intense and intoxicating and unreasonable. Maybe it was love, but what did he love. He wind was lost. No memories. Just a rumble of emotions. It’s time to kill. The anger boiled stronger, his heart yearned for blood shed. The sounds of raw meat beating against raw meat draw Saigetsu’s attention. Saigetsu went into the fighting feeling confident. As he stepped into an opening in the forest, Saigetsu felt at peace.
A high-pitched whine cut the air. The men who’s been fighting in the area paused to looking at the new threat. Their grips adjusted on their weapons.
A magical alarm told them I’ve arrived, then.
There were large cannibalistic demons, of course. He’d expected that. But he had not expected thirty. And there were a few magic users, mages of some sort. He had expected that, too. But not five. A tree from where he had came from behind uplifted, uprooted and came to a crashing land in the forest and another ten large demons poured in behind him. Taking a few quick steps, Saigetsu leapt up to a level ground, hoping to make it past the first attacks. The area was huge. The leap took him past the whirring swords of two cannibals who were cutting blindly at the air in front of them, hoping to get lucky and hit the fast moving Saigetsu.
Foot steps shuffled and quickened at an uneven pace. Saigetsu paused as he heard the sound of bare feet crunching the dying leaves beneath their weight. His eyes closed in, as the sound grew louder, closer. -
- Saigetsu steps back on his right foot, pivots, back handing the wrist of an attacking imp. A bladed weapon, was knocked from its grasped and hissed as it slid across towards Saigetsu. Using the same hand Saigetsu jams his open palm up beneath the imp’s beak, breaking the jaw bone, before it released it‘s traditional battle cry. The creature was thrown back from the blow stumbling, until it eventually fell.
Saigetsu looked down to the squirming creature, then turns nonchalantly making his way towards the fallen katana. His body had reacted instinctively he, his mind was still questioning this new world.
Drawing the katana from its resting place. Saigetsu made his stance firm preparing for the next attack. A swarm of tiny hands appeared in the air as the magic users chanted. The hands were looking for him, plucking at him. They seethed over the ground leaping and clawing at each other as they groped for him. He jumped away, cutting at the hands, but his sword passed through them harmlessly. There was nothing for him to cut. They swarmed over him and the hands thickened, strengthen as two of the mages chanted in time with each other. Then, as the hands pulled him upraight, Saigetsu felt something else seize him. He felt like a baby caught in giant’s fingers. It tore at him and he felt his strength strip away.
Well, that was glorious. Intentionally springing a trap for himself, that was probably the lamest result ever. Saigetsu had hoped. Expected. That he would at least take a more demons with him. Maybe a mage, two would have been nice. Grinning to his stupidity, as he shook his head.
Saigetsu had lost his focus, gotten distracted with the chaos. Fear and horror had made his mind wander from the puzzle, when nothing should have been as important. Fear was to be acknowledged, then ignored. Where had he been? Cannibals? Magic? “Hell?,” he said, not realizing he spoke aloud. A human formed demon stood in front of the confined Saigetsu. The man looked no more than eighteen, wielding a sword like it was a child’s toy. His grip tightened on his sword, and his shoulder rolled back, as he sent a devlish grin down upon Saigetsu. He smiled grimly. “Any Last words?” The blade was coming up. The man was going to cut his head off. Everything in Saigetsu cried out for help.
A boom sounded somewhere below the range of human hearing, but Saigetsu felt it wallop his stomach like a thunder crack. His vision went red with magic. He could see the magic streaming though the air as fast as an arrow, a wall of magic. What was this?
The forest itself shook and everyone fell. Everywhere he looked, Saigetsu saw the same stunned looks. The man with the sword stood sword in hand, mouth wide. Saigetsu suddenly felt one of the magic bonds holding him snap. He looks toward the others and saw that the magic, it looked like a storm of fire rain falling sideways, was spattering against the bonds, collecting around them. The bonds were as black as shadows, and the red magic hissed and spat wherever it touched the black. Then the fire magic latched on to the mage’s magic and roared up the black tendrils like wildfire climbing a hill to the casters holding them. Shrieks burst from three of the mages and the bonds holding Saigetsu disappeared as three living torches lit the area. But Saigetsu’s eyes were drawn to red magic. The magic danced like a fire in the rain, then disappeared.
What?
There was the briefest silence, the man wielding the sword screamed at the magic caster who had not been using their magic. The last two casters in the area still alive, “Get him!” The man plucked his sword from the ground and swung it at Saigetsu’s face. Incredibly, the casters obeyed instantly. Bonds leapt into place around Saigetsu’s arms and legs. Saigetsu threw himself back against the bonds even before they were complete. He burst through them with all his strength, as the sword slashed the air inches from his throat. He tore through the shriveling bonds and flew back clumsily, his feet tearing free last, tripping him. He twisted in the air and threw a knife with his off hand. A demon grunted and hit the floor. Saigetsu landed flat on his back. The impact knocked the wind out of him, but even as he rolled across the ground, he remained control of his sword. Cannibals stood to the left and right of him and his sword flashed twice, cutting through the ankles on either side of him. Three cannibals had fallen, but others were already attacking. Saigetsu flipped his feet over his head and stood, gasping but ready to fight.
As they came within the arc of his sword or the reach of his lashing feet or striking fists, men went down like grain in a summer storm. To Saigetsu battle suddenly made sense. The chaos unfolded into beautiful intricate, interlocking, and logical patterns. Just by looking at a man’s face, he could judge instantly: parry left, hesitate, lunge, clear. A man died and fell far enough away that he did not impede Saigetsu’s movements. Next, sweep right, roll in, bear fist to nose. Spin, hamstring, throat. Parry, riposte. Stab. Parsed to the individual percussion of each chamber of his heart, battle had a rhythm, a music. Music? Not a sound was out of place. The tenor of ringing steel layered over a bass of the fists and feet hammering fish. Soft to hard. Hard to soft. And the baritone of men’s curses, punctuated by the staccato percussion of rending mail.
Saigetsu was a virtuoso. He fought in a fine frenzy, a dancer possessed. Time never slowed, but he found his body reacting to sights he did not consciously see. Turning, dodging under blows his mind never registered, striking with awesome speed and grace. The cannibals sought to overwhelm him by force of numbers. Their blades caught the air within an inch of Saigetsu’s ear, within half an inch of his stomach, a quarter of an inch from his thigh. He rode the front of each beat, cut the margins closer and closer, until the bodies he was killing were being pushed forward instead of falling back, and pressing in closer to him. He dropped the katana and grabbed the hand holding a blade aimed at his belly and yanked a skinny demon across the circle to stab his fellow. Reaching around his own back with his katana, he diverted a sword thrust while his other knife found an eye socket. Two spears came for him and he dropped to the ground, yanking both forward. As each impaled a body, he swung u, destroying another cannibal’s face with a axe kick. Bit the situation was hopeless. Saigetsu was trapped. Trapped within a cage of tangled weapons and thrashing, dying men, he’d be dead in moments. Light as a cat, he sprang to the back of a man dying on his knees and vaulted off the shoulder of one of the impaled spear bearers. As he flipped sideways through the air, a ball of green fire the size of his fist streaked through the air at him. It caught his pants and broke into pieces. He landed on his feet and ducked udner a sword cut. His pants burst into green flame. Aww Great! Saigetsu tore his pants off. Dove between two spears. Holding one leg of the pants, he came to his feet and wrapped the apparel around another of his attackers. The green flame raced for the man’s skin, and there burned fierce blue as he screamed. Slashed at another caster chanting not two steps away. The top of the demon’s head opened, exposing his brain. The man spun, but his lips completed his incantation. Thick black tendrils that had been squirming under the skin of his arms fattened grotesquely like rippling muscles and tore free of the caster’s arms, bursting through his skin. Power riared frim the dying creature and he staggered, trying to find Saigetsu. Saigetsu jumped behind him, he kicked the corpse so hard that the man lifted off the ground and crashed into the cannibals. The flailing black tendrils ripped into the men, sucking them in like greedy hands and chewing through them. A yell conjured up from another demon. Saigetsu spun and hurled his sword at the last cannibal. Saigetsu retrieved the katana, wiping the blade clean with the cannibal’s cloth like clothing. He had fed the hunger to fight. What am I?
He knew himself, questions would not be answered through meaningless slaughter. And questions riddled his mind, like an unsolvable puzzle. Hell was a chaotic realm, but order would quickly find its place amongst hell many inhabitants. Strong survive, the weak shall perish. The weaker, the powerless would soon find them selves, as entertainment, workers, filth, or find themselves dead lost to oblivion. The stronger, powerful would put themselves listed as upper class, dominating over the weaker, some to become kinds, rulers. Feared amongst the realm.
His memories. Nothing? He could not remember anything before today. It was almost as if he did not exists. It was the most have been the same for every living creature. What happened? What led to today’s events? What caused me and everyone to just … be?
Saigetsu found the katana in his hand as he leisurely walked back over to the still surmising imp. Almost forgot. His confused eyes looking down the katana from hilt to tip. A mere commoners weapon. Wooden hilt wrapped with thin burgundy leather. The blade edged on a single side, chipped and rusted near the middle. Saigetsu’s eyes narrowed as he looked down at the imp. The creature was still squirming but it’s face showed determination, excitement, as if any minute the tables would be torn and he’d walk away with a satisfying kill. But the Gods were not in the demon’s favor today, as the tip of the katana licked through it’s torso. Saigetsu swiftly sliced the blade across the imp, from it shoulder to waist side, in one simple motion then walked off to find his answers. Gods? He knew to himself, that this could not be the day of his birth. He could not have just came into existence from nothing. He had thoughts, he had some form of training, that was now built instinctively into his brain. Questions remained unanswered. Where to find clothes?
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2.313 werds + 2.652 exp + 2.313 pwc
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PostSubject: Re: Saigetsu: The Awakening   Sat May 21, 2011 11:42 am

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T ime passed as it always did. It has been a year, and Saigetsu’s many questions remained unanswered. Besides finding clothing and undemanding questions that he generated the answers just to ease his mind. The Awakening. The name given to the time everything began, as he remembered. The Forgotten. The people, or beings that were apparently here before his time. Survival was the main goal around the time of the awakening. Packs, bands, groups, and guilds had been formed in order to help one another survive. They found safety amongst numbers, creatures of the same appearance or shape were common to find together. Chaos that was once, blind raging fury, was now formed by territorial battles. Head’s were still amputated , over simple disputes. Even now a few undeserving creatures laid dead by Saigetsu’s hands, victim to their own selfishness, and thoughtless attacks. He needed a home, or at least a safe house. The red light that penetrated some of the darkness of the forest grew brighter and brighter, as Saigetsu maneuvered his way though the maze of trees, unenthused in the many blood thirsty demons. He was not afraid, but more important matters where at hand, and also since-less slaughter did not appeal to Saigetsu‘s liking. He cleared away from the forest, seeing a strong abundance of buildings. He could make out castle shaped structures in the horizon. Safety. He needed a home. He needed a safe house.
The area looked to have potential to eventually become a civilization of power someday. Like any town the buildings ranged from low to high class. The castles marked the highest class. The people before, The Forgotten, has built their castles for the royalty. The structures were large, towering, some even freighting. Buildings made of stone, large courtyards and gardens, all protected by large stone gates. The castles stood on the northern end of town, where the land was elevated, so that the higher ups can come out to their balconies to look down upon the less fortunate. Then there came the middle-class homes. Assuming, the nobles of the land, not exactly reaching royalty standards, sheltered here. Finally, the low-class. The society of poverty. Old wooden and clay, small homes and shacks. Cluttered together nearest the forest. The infidels of the land resided here.
Saigetsu made his way swiftly through the city. Structures held ancient battle scars, evident of a great battle sometime ago. Knowing the hunger for power, the dwellers of hell possessed Saigetsu assumed a civil war of some sort, would not be to far off from the truth. The city stunk. Blood, gore, and death lingered around every turn. Every alley passage. Saigetsu felt the eyes watching him as he walked under catwalks, and over hanging structures. The demon quickly made his way through the city, coming across an building still standing, with minimal destruction.
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A gain time was gone, quicker than is had came. Five years became nothing more than memories. Civilizations began to birth, as the stronger demons took order. Took control. Saigetsu’s survival merely managed through avoiding the chaotic creatures. Keeping to himself. Studying the evolving world around him. Not many questions were answered. Through the years, imagination only took play as he studied the abandoned world. The shelter he called home, was not going to provide safety much longer. Raids became increasingly popular. The ruling demons wanted everything. Everything they could gain their hands on to show or prove their raw power. He left the structure, not of fright but in search of his place, his role in this new society. And it wouldn’t be at the edge of some lucky demons fangs. His conquest was just beginning.
Lord Aliene. The voiced echoed in Saigetsu’s mind. Walking aimlessly down the paths of what the demons now called. Seyjer. The buildings held a darker style of construction. Gothic like. Castle stood strong to the north. That’s where he was headed. Fate directed him, unknowingly. Saigetsu was led through the close packed manses. Surely the stronger demons resided in such high classed structures. Some of the buildings had even been remolded. Recently. Trades were being picked up and taught. All the remodled buildings were ostentatious, trying to rival their neighbors by their exotic design, whether in builders’ fantasies spires, appealing domes. The large castles loomed ahead, differentiated from the others not so much by the size of the buildings as the amount of land within the walls. Where the manses were packed side by side, the estates sprawled. Guards presided over gates of ironwood rather than intricate grillwork. These gates must have been built long ago, before the Awakening. By the forgotten as he called the. Not for decorations but for defense. Courtyards filled with statues, some ruined, some new. Some covered with beaten gold. All the guards were feral demonic creatures.
“I am Saigetsu Kumora. I’m here to see Lord Aliene,” Saigetsu sad as he arrived in front of the estate’s gate.
“The lord?” the guard asked. He pushed a metal helm back and scraped his claws across his flea bitten scalp.
The man’s a simpleton. “Yes, Lord Aliene.” He spoke slowly and with more emphasis than was necessary, but he was tired.
“That’s a crying shame,” the guard laughed.
Saigetsu waited, but the man did not elaborate. Not a simpleton, as ass. “Is Lord Aliene gone?”
Saigetsu’s nerves quickly dissolved. He wandered why he hadn’t beheaded the man by now and made his own invitation through the castle’s gates. But something drawn him to the castle. And why did the name Aliene come to mind. He surely did not remember over hearing and beast amongst the street speaking of any lords by the name. But it was the only path that was shown to him. Perhaps answers to his riddling questions laud down the road, however long it may take.
“Nawp.” The guard sat spitting a black mucus onto the hard stone ground.
“May I speak with Lord Aliene?”
“Can you use that steel?” the guard asked. “If you can’t I’d suggest you hide it.”
“Excuse me?”
“Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Come with me.” The guard called to another atop the wall, who came to hold the gate while the feral demon led Saidetsu into the caste.
Saigetsu could not help but be impressed. The manse itself was daunting, all heavy stone and broad arches and thick doors that could withstand a siege. The only compromise strength had made with beauty were the climbing blood roses that framed each door and every ground floor window. Against the backdrop of black stone and iron-barred windows, their perfect red hue was striking. Saigetsu did not pay attention to the ringing of steel until the guard walked past the entry to the manse and around to the back of the building. Several guards were watching as two men bundled in practice armor pummeled each other. The smaller man was retreating, going back in circles as the larger man’s blows thudded on his shield. The smaller man stumbled, but the next blow sent it flying and the next rang his helmet like a bell. Lord Aliene tore off his helment and laughed, helping the guard to his feet. Saugetu’s heart sank. This is Lord Aliene? He was a demon of course, but the face of a child in a giant’s body, baby fat still on his face. The feral guard stepped forward and spoke quietly to Lord Aliene.
“Hello,” the child lord said, turning to Saigetsu. “Calin tells me you fancy yourself quite a swordsman. Are you?”
Saigetsu looked over at the feral guard, Calin who gave him a self-satisfied smile. “I can hold my own, Lord Aliene. But it is words I wish to exchange with you, not blows”
“We will speak then, after we spar. Calin, get him some practice armor.” the men looked pleased, and Saigetsy saw that they feared this young lord, like he was their own deity. And laughed too easily and spoiled him. He was suddenly the Lord. A man giving these lost demons some form of comfort knowing to have a little order, in a time of chaos. The men were still entranced by the novelty of the idea.
“I don’t need it,” Saigetsu said.
The chuckling stopped and the men looked at him.
“You want to spar without armor?” Aliene asked.
“I don’t want to spar at all, but if it is your will, I shall consent. But I wont fight with a practice blade.” The men hooted at the prospect of seeing this outsider demon fight their giant, unarmored. Only Calin and two others looked trouble. With the thick armor Aliene wore, there was little danger that he would be seriously injured, even with a sharp sword. But the danger was there. In his eyes, Saigetsu saw that Aliene knew it too. He was suddenly doubting if he should have been quite brash with someone who he nothing about, someone who might well wish him harm. Aliene was looking again at Saigetsu’s lean build.
“Milord,” Calin said, “maybe it would be best if - “
“Agreed,” Aliene said to Saigetsu. He pulled his helmet on and locked the visor. He unlimbered his sword and said, “Ready when you are.” Before Aliene could react, Saigetsu jabbed his figners through the boy’s visor and grabbed the nosepiece. He yanked Aliene forward and twisted. The boy slammed into the ground with a grunt. Solon drew a knife from Aliene’s belt and held it to the boy’s eye, his knee resting on the side of Aliene’s helmet, holding it in place.
“Do you yield?” Saigetsu asked.
“The boys breaths were labored. “I yield.”
Saigetsu released him and stood, brushing the dust from the leg of his breeches. He didn’t offer to help Lord Aliene stand. The men were quiet. Several had drawn swords, but none moved forward. It was obvious that if Saigetsu had meant to kill Aliene, he would have already done it. No doubt they were thinking about what would have been done to them if such a thing had happened. “You’re a fool boy, Lord Aliene,” Saigetsu said. “ A buffoon performing for men you may one day have to ask to die for you.”
Aliene removed his helmet, and he was red-faced, but he did not let his embarrassment flare into anger. He said, “I, I deserved that. And I deserved the manhandling you just gave me. Or worse. I’m sorry. It is poor hose who assaults his guests.”
“You know they’ve been losing on purpose, don’t you?”
Aliene looked stricken. He glanced at the man he’s been fighting as Saigetsu arrived. Then, as if it took an effort of will, he raised his eyes to Saigetsu. “I see that you speak trye. Though it shames me to learn it.” And now his men looked afraid. The men weren’t in pain their faces held misery.
How does this boy command such loyalty? As he watched Aliene look at each of the men in turn. Staring until each met his gaze and the looked away. The pained silence sat and grew. Aleiene’s eyes then captured Saigetsu’s. The boy was different. Darkness developed in his eyes. The eyes of a murderous, blood strived demon. Saigetsu realized why this man demanded such power. Should he attack or should he not? If he’d attack now, he would have to kill every guard in the castle. The men surely praised and respected their lord, they would not allow for him to fall with out them putting their lives at stake. Saigetsu knew he could handle the majority, but could he handle them all? Even if he did manage to survive, this would just become another path cut short. Leaving answers not given, questions not solved.
“Sieze him.” Lord Aliene said still in his child like voice. Calin and one other guard stood on either side of Saigetsu, grabbing his arm. Guards circled him instantly, one man confiscating Saigetsu’s katana. Aliene steps closer to Saigetsu, staring into his eyes. Saigetsu now felt what the men felt, as their lord stared them down. Needles or at least it felt like needles. Millions. Billions. Stabbing and jabbing from the inside of his skin outwards. Saigetsu’s teeth clinched as the pain was almost unbearable, but did not assume to be life threatening. “I invite you into my father’s castle and you embarrass … no make a mockery of me, in front of my men!” The boy’s voice grew louder with rage. “I should have your head for this… no even worse… take him to the Hole!” A devilish grin emerged as the lord spoke the word “hole.”
Addressing the men, Aliene said, “Since you seem to think sparring is entertainment, very well. You will entertain yourselves by sparring until midnit. All of you. Tomorrow, we will start training. And I expect all of you to be here two hours before dawn. Understood!?” The guards snapped to attention.
“Yes, sir!”
Saigetsu fainted from the bind.
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S lap. Lord Aliene slapped Saigetsu. Once and again. And again. And Again. “You wont die so easy. Saigetsu,” Aliene snarled. He turned to his men. The muscle in his jaw twitched. “Take him to the Hole and give him to the sodomites.”
“My lord!” A messenger with elf like ears said, rushing into the room. “You must-”
Lord Aliene grabbed a handful of the messenger’s hair. He stabbed at the man’s face in a fury, wildly, again and again. He flung the man sideways and tried to cut his throat, but caught him above the ear instead. The knife turned and a fat strip of hairy scalp came off in Aliene’s hand. The man wailed until Aliene grabbed him again and cut his throat. This was a different being. A different man. Saigetsu understood even more why they respected the child, he demanded authority. His appearance made him look presumably weak, but he was in truth monster. Saigetsu felt drained. He made what could be a fatal mistake. Underestimating. It was no mistake the child grew to a position of power in jsuch a short time period. Aliene turned panting, the gory strip of hair and flesh in his fist. He trembled with rage and the men holding Saigetsu went as white as paste. “Before you give him to the sodomites, cut his cock off and bring me his sack. I want him to bleed to death as they fuck him.”
S aigetsu had no intention of letting anyone cut off his sack. In fact he intended to kill the bastard now. Fuck answers! He was not worried that he was unarmed and now naked, Aliene had supposed it would strip him of his dignity, rage gave him power. Saigetsu figured that even with his hands now cuffed he could kill both guards. With the fury that was arcing through his body, he didn’t think there was much of anything that could stop him. Saigetsu was escorted to the dungeon. Calin had obviously memorized the layout of the castle, because he threaded through servants’ hallways and back staircases and cellars effortlessly. The felons who came here might considered being devoured by the cannibals of the forest, a better fate. A peculiar smell assaulted Saigetsu’s senses, maybe it was called the Hole for different reasons. Fumes were constantly escaping from the north side and filling the air of the prison of brimstone before finally finding the open air. Calin paused before an iron gate while one of the men guarding Saigetsu fumbled for a key. Calin glared at the man and waved a hand in front of the lock. The lock clicked. The guard produced the correct key and smiled weakly.
“I’ve other matters to attend to,” Calin said. “Can you handle him by yourselves from here?”
“Yes, sir,” the guard said, looking at Saigetsu nervously. Saigetsu’s heart smiled. Fighting two armed men while naked was not exactly good odds, but with the iron cuffs holding his arm motionless and giving his legs barely enough space to shuffle, there was nothing he could do.
“Good. The cuffs wont hold long, he’s tough,” Calin said.
“Plenty of time,” the guard said.
With a snort, Calin left them. The big-nosed guard locked the iron gate, giving Saigetsu time to adjust to the dim room. To the right and left were heavy doors with iron-barred windows. “In case you’re wondering,” Nose said. “there are the nicest suites in the place. Real sweet places. For nobles. Not for you, though.” He chuckled. Saigetsu looked at the man flatly. “Ramp up there foes to the surface. Not for you either.”
The weasel-faced guard looked at nose, “you always taunt dead men?”
“Always,” Nose said, stuffing a finger up his nose. “What?” he said as Weasel looked at him. “I was scratching.”
“Shut up,” Weasel said. “We down on three?”
“Yeah, all the way to the Howlers. Let’s make it quick.” Nose tapped on the forth door as he passed it. “I’ll be back for ya, sweetheart!” There was a little cry from the cell, but the woman inside did not look up. “That bitch makes me hot,” Nose said. “You seen her?” Weasel shook his head, so Nose continued. “Got more scars on her face than a jackal’s got fleas, but who needs to look at her face, huh?”
“The lord will rip your throat out if you touch her,” Weasel said.
“Ah, how’s he gonna know?”
“He’s coming down tonight? Wants to check on that wench and some little kid they dragged in,” Weasel said.
“Tonight? Hell, she wont take me five minutes,” Nose said. He laughed. They wended their way through two levels of manmade tunnels, the smells of massed humanity thickening and mingling with potent brimstone, sewage, and other smells Saigetsu couldn’t identify. Or want to. He tested his bonds periodically, but there was no change. He was barely mobile. Nonetheless, he kept his eyes open for his chance. Simple escape wouldn’t be good enough. He had to kill both guards, get the keys, and remember the way out. The howlers were on the third floor, but as they came into the natural caves, merely widened with tools, Saigetsu heard no howling.
“We don’t want to go no further,” Nose said, pausing in front of a double-banded iron door. “These bastards here will do all we need. Im not gonna even try to get him out of the Hole. I don’t go near those animals.”
“The hole?” Saigetsu asked.
Nose leered, but seemed eager to terrify him. “Hell’s Asshole. For the twists so bad that hanging’s too good for ‘em. They drop
Em in there and let ‘em devour each other. They hafta get their water off the rocks, and the guards never through in enough bread. Sometimes they piss on it first.”
“So who’s going to… you know?” Weasel asked, drawing his blade awkwardly. “Those cuffs wont hold forever.”
“Who’s going to what?” Nose asked.
“You know. Cut ‘em off.”
Saigetsu tested the cuffs, but they were still strong. His arms were locked as his sides, his torso held ramrod straight, and his feet could only move a few inches at a time. He was running out of time.
“Ill do it it,” Nose said with a snarl. He grabbed a catchpole and draped the noose over Saigetsu’s neck, then handed the pole to Weasel. “You hold him. We cant take any chances.” Gimme that.” Weasel handed his knife to Nose. It was just an ordinary knife, but Saigetsu was turning purple. He didn’t care Let them kill me now. “It’s too bad you haven’t worked with me longer.” Nose said.
“Why’s that?” Weasel asked, nervously holding the catchpole with both hands.
Nose rammed the knife into Weasel’s eye. The man stood up on his tiptoes and twitched violently, then fell.
“Because I would have tried to cut you in, instead of cutting you off,” Nose said. He laughed to himself and cut the noose off Saigetsu’s neck. Saigetsu stared at him, stunned to silence, his rage and fear slow to fade. Nose didn’t pay him any attention. “When you can move, put these on. Sorry they didn’t send someone more your size,” Nose said, stripping the clothes off Weasel’s corpse.
“Who the hell are you?” Saigetsu asked.
“Don’t matter,” Nose said, throwing Weasel’s breeches at Saigetsu. “What matters is who I work for.” He lowered his voice so the prisoners wouldn’t overhear him.
“Who?”
“Talent said to say he’s the friend of a friend.” Nose cut away Weasel’s underclothes with the knife. “I’m just telling you what I was told to-”
“What the hell are you doing?” Saigetsu interrupted.
“Cutting his sack off.”
“Oh, shit!” Saigetsu shut his eyes, and would have turned away if the iron cuffs had allowed it.
Nose ignored him and cut. “Damn! Well, it aint pretty, but it’ll do. Good fur us his hair’s the same color as yourn, eh?” He stood and shook a piece of flesh at Saigetsu. “Look, pretty boy, this wasn’t my idea. But if Aliene finds this sack after you and I are conveniently killed. We might both stay alive. Understand?”
“No.”
“Too bad. We don’t have time. The shit I was talking about on our way down here was true. There’s a woman and a little girl up in the first set of cells. Talent wants us to get ‘em out. He wants to know why Aliene wants ‘em. Looks like those chains are weakening. Grab a leg.”
Saigetsu found he could move his arms it he pushed hard enough, and his feet were almost loose. He grabbed one of Weasel’s feet and started dragging him with Nose, avoiding looking at the crotch. “So you said all that just so I’d know it?” Saigetsu asked. Nose scowled at the long iron bars set over a dark gap in the floor. The Hole was deep enough that in the meager torchlight Saigetsu couldn’t see the bottom of it. Nose grabbed a key and unlocked a small gate at the near side of the bars. Snuffling noises and grunts that Saigetsu would barely call human drifted up from the Hole.
“And to see if he knew anything I didn’t before I killed him,” Nose said. “Help me dump him in. don’t worry, it’s plenty deep and sides are sheer.”
Saigetsu moved forward reluctantly to help. He still couldn’t move enough to squat to grab the gate, so Nose dragged it open and Saigetsu shoved Weasel into the Hole. Demonic cries of glee pierced the air and a fight promptly broke out below. Nose stared into the Hole, where the unmistakable sounds of feeding could be heard. He turned to Saigetsu and smirked. “Kinda makes you wonder, don’t it?” Seigetsu shook his head, sickened. He looked at Nose in time to see a thin lasso sail out of the Hole. It dropped neatly over Nose’s shoulders. In a blink, Saigetsu saw that the rope was braided of sinews and he had an inane thought.
What animal down here is big enough that they could make a rope from tendons?
Nose’s eyes filled with terror, then the lasso jerked tight and yanked him off his feet. He smacked full length across the open grate and spread his arms and legs to keep from falling in. But raising his arms brought the noose off his shoulders and around his neck. A wild crackle sounded from the Hole. Saigetsu staggered forward, moving faster than he had for half an hour, but he was too slow. Nose’s eyes bulged as pressure mounted on the rope around his neck. There must have been five men pulling it. His arms weakened as he blinked at Saigetsu, eyes bulging grotesquely. Then his arms folded and he slid into the Hole. Saigetsu tried to grab for the man. Instead, he stumbled, tripped against the last on the broken cuffs and found himself rolling toward the Hole himself. He gripped the bars and foud himself staring down. He could vaguely make out the forms of men in a knot, limbs rising and falling, screeching and tearing at each other and Nose, who was flailing and screaming. For a full minute, Saigetsu was stuck there, unable to move his arms and legs far enough to push himself away. Nose gradually stopped shrieking and the dark forms retreated from other to feed. Then one of the men saw Saigetsu and shouted. Saigetsu flung himself to the side as hard as he could. He weakened, strained. He flopped on his back on the jagged stones, then sat and flipped the grate closed. The key had fallen out of Nose’s hand when the rope had jerked him from his feet, but Saigetsu was shaking too badly to lock the grate. Unsteadily, he got to his feet and walked up the hall. Saigetsu pulled on Weasel’s clothes, stretching them over his body. He was lucky that the man’s clothing had been baggy or it wouldn’t have fit him at all. After pulling on boots that pinched his feet terribly, Saigetsu stood.
The last thing he wanted was to go back down the long hallway to the Hole. But he couldn’t let animals like that have even the slimmed chance of escape. He walked down the long hall carefully, slowly, even though he knew he should hurry. Several paces from the grate, he stopped. It was undisturbed, but he could still hear the sounds of men tearing meat. He wanted to vomit. The sound approaching voices came to Saigetsu from above. The long rock halls carried their words. “Hey, you!” a voice demanded.
One of the men in the last set of cells before the Hole answered, but Saigetsu couldn’t distinguish his words.
“Did a couple of soldiers and a prisoner come this way?”
Saigetsu froze as the prisoner murmured something.
“See?” the voice said. “They didn’t come this way. And believe me, you don’t want to go down to the Hole.”
The prisoner had lied. Probably more out of the habit of lying to authorities than to save Saigetsu.
“And you think a prisoner is going to tell you the truth?” a man with low voice asked. “The lord demanded confirmation that Saigetsu is dead. All your men are cooperating and searching the rest of this dungeon. Are you trying to hinder us?”
“No, sir!”
An unnatural, unflickering red light illuminated the long hallway. Oh shit, where can I go? In the feeble torchlight, Saigetsu examined the hallway again. But there were no ninches, no crawl spaces. It was a dead end. Have I been spared from death, just for this? Saigetsu considered a mad rush at the men. With only a knife, it would be tight, but if he could kill one guard, he might have a chance.
“This is a place of power, I feel dizzy with it,” a different voice said. How many is it?
“Indeed,” a fourth voice answered, “I’ve not felt so much evil in one space since … well, since I first met with out Lord Aliene.”
For some reason they found that humuours. Saigetsu’s train of thought broke as he heard at least six added voices laughing.
Ten men. Even if it were only six soldiers, Saigetsu was lost. And the red light was growing brighter; they were only steps away. With dread, Saigetsu looked down the grate. It was the only way. The creed from the day he awakened repeated itself in his head: Life is empty. But you’d be surprised at what you’d do to stay alive.
Saigetsu opened the grate and slipped inside. He hung on the iron bars by one hand while he locked it. Then he tucked the key back into a pocket, drew his knife, and dropped deeper into hell.
+ + +


The guards walked down the last corridor to what they called Hell’s Asshole. The Nauseating intoxicating wash of torment engulfed them. One missed a step and stumbled against the wall. Another soldier turned. He looked scared. “Its nothing,” the stumble soldier assured. They walked to the grate covering the Hole. A few words and red light burned in front of the man. The creatures in the Hole squinted and shrank back. He spoke again and the light descended into the Hole. The guards examined each prisoner. Ten men, one woman, and one simpleton with filed teeth. None of them could be the usurper. They turned and walked out, trying not to flee.
A minute, later Saigetsu rolled out from and over hang carved in stone. The woman looked at him and shook her head. “Youre a fool. Nothing they could do to you would be as bad as staying here. Look at you. Youre soft. The hole will break you, Thirteen.”
Saigetsu stared at her flatly, a grimy woman with gaping holes in her dress, short a few teeth. The look on her face was the only thing approaching human kindness that was to be found in the hole. “Though all the detritus of humanity oass through this hole and all the fires of perdition rise from it, I will not be broken,” Saigetsu said.
“He use a lotta big words, don’t he?” the big man named Grim said. He smiled a smile full of bloody gums, one of the first symptoms of scurvy, and wrapped his sinew rope back around his body. “Lotta meat on the big fucker. We’ll eat real good.” Food deficiencies meant Grim had lived long enough to get sick from food deficiencies. Grim was a survivor.
Saigetsu turned his eyes to him and pulled out his knife. Literally his only edge against these creatures. “Let me make this simple,” he said, having to stifle the impulse to say “really” instead of “real.” “you will not break me. The Hole will not break me. I will not break. I. Shall. Not. Be. Broken.”
“Whats your name, love?” the woman asked.
Saigetsu found himself grinning. Something fierce and primal was rising inside him. Something inside him said, where others have failed, have faltered, have fallen, I will be triumphant. I am different. I am cut of a new cloth. I will rise. “Call me King,” he said, and he smiled a fuck-you though the angst and the sorrow, and was potent.
That was it. That was survival. That was the secret. That was the living flame hidden in the ashes of his burned out heart. If only he could hold it.
My journey begins!
+ + +
5.093 werds + 5.774 exp + 5.093 pwc


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Saigetsu: The Awakening
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