The cold wind battered the walls of Castle Grey. The castle was positioned on a craggy peninsula that stabbed out into the heart of the nearby ocean. The guards that stood atop the walls of Castle Grey held their cloaks and furs close to their body in the hopes of staving off the freezing night air.
Beneath the castle, protected from the frigid night, yet no less miserable, sat a group of prisoners all crammed into the small, individual cells of Castle Grey’s dungeon. All manner of wretched criminals wasted away beneath the feet of the guards. From thieves to murderers, and even rapists, every disturbing example of humanity’s evil could be found here.
Among this group of forgotten human beings, sat a young boy and a girl in adjacent cells.
The boy sat on the thin straw mat in his cell with his knees curled up to his chest and his back pressed against the dank stone walls of the dungeon. His shaggy black hair hung loosely over his dark red eyes. He was probably old enough to be entering his final year of school, yet his ragged appearance made it clear that he had never and would never have such a privilege in his life.
The girl stood pressed against the cold iron bars separating their two cells. Her hair looked almost blonde but it was so matted with filth and mud that it was impossible to know its original colour. She looked to be around the same age as the boy but her mature demeanor made her seem older than she actually was. The rags she wore were ripped and torn in so many places that they were barely capable of covering her body. Though, these clothes may even be considered an upgrade over what she wore when she was living on the streets.
“Ahri, how long are you going to stay like that?”
The boy’s sullen expression never changed as he pretended not to hear the girl’s words.
“Everything’s going to be fine.”
“Hey, Ahri. I know you can hear me.”
“What was that? I couldn’t hear you.”
“…just stop already. We’re never getting out of here, Mia. We’ll rot in this hole for the rest of our lives or until they execute us. Whichever comes first.”
“Nice to see you so cheerful.”
Mia looked down at the sad sight of her only friend curled up on the dirt floor of the dungeon.
“Listen, all we did was steal some food from a merchant that had too much to even sell. I’m sure once they need to make room for some more deserving criminals they’ll release us.”
“And our parents will be waiting for us when we get out. We’ll never have to spend another night sleeping on the streets.”
“Would you just –”
The sound of the heavy iron door slamming shut at the top of the stairs echoed throughout the dungeon.
The prisoners waited as the sound of heavy boots landing on stone slowly made their way down the steps toward the dungeon.
Shortly after, a lone guard wearing chainmail armour came into view. The crest of House Grey was clearly visible on the surcoat he wore covering his chest. A rat hiding in the shadows of a dying oak tree. An image that perfectly represents a dying family known for its cowardice and strong desire to survive even if they must sacrifice their allies to do so.
The lone guard slowly made his way down one side of the cells. He’d stop and stare at the pitiful prisoners wasting away in their cramped cells. He almost looked like he took joy in seeing these people so miserable.
The guard made his way to the end of one side of the cells and turned to walk down the side containing Ahri and Mia. He stopped after seeing the sad sight of Ahri curled up in the corner of the cell.
Ahri didn’t acknowledge the words of the guard.
To this guard that believed these prisoners to be nothing more than filth, this was a terrible form of disrespect. Scum like this ignoring the words of his betters. Who does this boy think he is?
The guard opened the cell door and cast a cold glance over the boy that sat before him. The guard slowly took out the wooden truncheon that hung from his belt and placed the hard wooden club against Ahri’s chin and forcefully lifted his head so that he could look into his eyes.
“Listen here, boy. In this place, I am your god. Now I can be a benevolent god or I can be a cruel god. It all depends on how you behave. Isn’t that right, Drake?”
“Whatever you say…sir.”
A middle-aged man with greying hair and a thin beard responded from the cell to the right of Ahri.
“Now, what do you have to say?”
“Ah, you’re actually going to make me use this.”
The guard raised the truncheon above Ahri’s head and brought it down in one swift action.
The truncheon stopped inches above Ahri’s head. The wind from the club caused Ahri’s hair to move ever so slightly.
“Hmm? Do you have something to say, girl?”
“Just leave him alone already.”
“Do you think you’re in any position to talk back to me?”
“And who are you? Some incompetent guard that’s on a power trip?”
“Guess I’m going to have some fun tonight.”
The guard smashed the club into the side of Ahri’s face sending him crashing into the cell bars. The sickening sound of bones breaking could be heard throughout the dungeon.
The guard calmly exited Ahri’s cell, slamming the door shut behind him. He opened the door to Mia’s cell and stood there blocking the entrance.
“I’ve got a great idea. If you can make it past me you can go free. I’ll even walk you out of here myself.”
“No…I’m fine here.”
Mia pressed her small body into the corner furthest from the guard.
“Oh, but where’s the fun in that.”
The guard took a step into her cell and moved a little to the side, showing Mia a brief look at the freedom that waited for her just outside the door.
At this time, Ahri began to move. There was blood coming from his mouth and he slowly wobbled back and forth as he made his way back to his feet. After standing back up, he threw himself against the cell bars directly behind the guard causing the guard to jump back and turn to face Ahri. Mia took this opportunity to rush the gap between the cell door and the guard, but she wasn’t fast enough.
Just as she was about to taste the freedom she so desperately desired, the guard grabbed her by the hair and forcefully threw her against the wall at the opposite end of her cell.
“And you were so close too.”
The guard walked up to where Mia sat crumpled on the ground and crouched down to look her in the eyes.
“Is that all you had in you? I can’t say I’m not disappointed; I really did expect more from you. Well, I can still have my fun.”
The guard gave Mia a stiff kick to her stomach with his heavily armoured boot.
The guard continued kicking the defenceless girl as she lie on the ground screaming out in pain. As Ahri stood there helpless against the cell bars, the guard turned to face him.
“Are you enjoying the show? I’ll take my sweet time with her. Ah, but don’t worry, after you’ve watched the life leave your friend’s body, I’ll have some more fun with you.”
Mia’s screams were like needles stabbing into Ahri’s ears as he stood there. He was helpless. There was nothing he could do. Mia was always there to help him. Always stood by his side. And what did he do to repay her?
I’m useless. I should just die. If only I could do something. If only I had more —
A voice echoed out inside Ahri’s mind. It was deep and gravelly, but something about the voice caused Ahri’s skin to crawl.
[Do you want it?]
Great, now I’m hearing voices.
[The power to crush all those that oppose you, do you want it?]
Of course, I want to be powerful. Everyone wants that, but I’m a weakling that can’t even help the one person that’s ever cared about me!
[Good. Then, if you don’t mind, can you kill yourself?]
[Kill yourself. I think the sharp edge of that metal bar should do nicely.]
The voice spoke calmly as if it were asking Ahri to perform an everyday task.
Wow, I really have gone crazy.
“Gah! Please, stop!”
Ahri covered his ears trying to block out the desperate cries of his friend.
[The choice is yours, but I don’t know how much longer your little friend will last.]
The guard delivered another kick to Mia’s stomach causing her to cough up a disturbing amount of blood.
Why? Why am I so pathetic!?
[So, will you let your friend die here knowing you could have done something? Or will you stop whining like a little child and do something!?]
I’m sure he’ll kill me anyway once he’s done with her.
[Yes, that’s right]
Ahri could tell the voice was filled with anticipation
“You hear that, boy? Aren’t you going to help her?”
He’ll kill Mia and then come for me. If I kill myself now, even if I don’t gain any power, I won’t have to sit through this torture anymore.
[Yes! Yes! This is your chance to be great! Do it! Do it now!]
The voice was becoming more and more excited.
I’m sorry, Mia. I can’t take any more of this!
Ahri placed the sharp point of the metal against his neck. Surprisingly, the iron bar was not cold. To Ahri, it almost felt warm and inviting. He took a deep breath and, just as he was about to end it all, his eyes met with Mia’s.
“No…Ahri, don’t do it!”
Mia’s last, desperate cry to her only friend.
Ahri let his legs collapse beneath him and the jagged piece of metal ripped through his throat.
A crimson fan of blood sprayed out over Mia’s cell. Mia and the guard were covered in the warm, viscous blood of her fallen friend.
Ahri’s lifeless body fell to the ground with a sickening thud as blood continued to squirt out from the large gash in his neck.
“Hahaha! How pathetic!”
The guard lifted Mia’s bloodied body and threw her to the ground across from Ahri. Placing his boot on the side of her head, he forced her to look into Ahri’s eyes.
“Look at this miserable little boy you were trying so desperately to protect!”
Mia was forced to look into Ahri’s eyes as the light slowly faded from them.
“There’s no need to cry. You’ll be joining him shortly.”
The guard grabbed her by the hair once more and smashed her body against the unyielding walls of her cell.
Where’s my power? I have to help her!
Silence. There was nothing but empty silence. The last hope Ahri had of saving himself and Mia was gone.
It hurts. It hurts so much. Mia, I’m sorry….
His vision began to fade and he waited for the cold embrace of death.
Even in the end, I’m powerless….
[Shall I begin?]
The blood stopped spraying from Ahri’s neck and a terrible burning sensation enveloped his entire body.
It was like a thousand burning needles were stabbing into every inch of his body at once.
Ahri let out a blood-curdling scream as he lay on the floor in a pool of his own blood.
“What the hell? Aren’t you dead yet?”
The guard approached the cell bars closest to Ahri’s body.
At that moment, Ahri’s body stood up in an instant.
Ahri’s body reached through the cell bars and grabbed the guard by the head and lifted him into the air and began squeezing.
What’s wrong with my body!?
Ahri’s body was unrecognizable. His arms looked burnt and his veins were glowing bright red.
What have you done to me!?
“No…st-stop…wh-what are — Gah! Gaaahh!! Aaaahh!!!”
The guard let out one final, pathetic scream as Ahri’s body crushed his skull between its hands. Fragments of skull and brain matter sprayed out across Ahri’s face.
Stop! I don’t want to do this!
Several guards came storming down the stairs after hearing the screams of the now headless guard.
The guards looked horrified at the sight of the guard’s mangled corpse lying in Mia’s cell.
Ahri’s body reached for the cell door and, with a loud screech, the iron door was easily ripped from its hinges. Ahri’s body used the door as a makeshift weapon and slammed it into the closest guards. The door caved in the chest of the first guard and completely crushed the skull of the second.
The next guard rushed Ahri’s body with his blade, stabbing Ahri straight through the chest with it. The guard thought he had finally put an end to this crazed monster, but Ahri’s body just stood there smiling.
Ahri’s body punched through the guard’s chest and lifted him high into the air. It threw the body several meters forward into the rest of the horrified guards.
It then slowly raised its hand and pointed it in the direction of the pile of guards and said, “Decay.”
A dark purple cloud of miasma formed around the pile of guards. It started eating through the armour and any exposed flesh of the fallen guards.
“What is this!?”
The miasma made quick work of their armour and weapons and was now continuing onto the flesh of the guards. Within seconds the miasma had eaten through the skin of the guards and the white of their bones could be seen beneath it.
“Get it off! Get it off of me!”
One of the guards had already died or passed out from the pain. After a few more seconds passed, all that was left was a pile of gore. It would be hard to tell if there had been ten guards there or just one.
Please, stop this….
[I thought you wanted power?]
The calm, cruel voice that Ahri hadn’t heard for some time finally spoke.
I don’t want this!
“Ahri, please stop!”
Ahri’s body turned to face Mia.
No, Mia, run!
Ahri’s body slowly walked into the cell and lifted Mia by the hair.
No, no, no!
“What are you? What did you do to Ahri!?”
Ahri’s body stood there for some time, holding Mia by the hair.
Please, stop! Anything! Anything but this! Don’t hurt her! You can have me, you can have my body! I won’t resist! Just let her live!
[You won’t resist?]
Yes! Just let her go!
Whatever had taken control of Ahri’s body seemed to believe in Ahri’s words and let go of Mia’s hair causing her to collapse to the ground.
His body walked to the exit of her cell and stopped.
It looked down at the pile of blood and gore, then over the headless corpse of the first guard.
[Our fun has only just begun.]
In an instant, Ahri’s body spun around and raised its hand towards Mia.
Thin, crimson lines began to appear all over Mia’s body.
Countless crimson rivulets of blood began to streak down her body. Mia tried to take a step forward but, as she did, her torso fell from her body and crashed onto the dirt floor. Her head rolled away from her mangled body and came to rest at Ahri’s feet.
Mia! Please, Mia! Why!? Why would you do that!? She wasn’t in your way!
[That was your punishment. You believed that you could actually resist me?]
[Look at her. This is what your resistance gets you.]
Ahri couldn’t look away. He had no control over his body and he was forced to look at the mutilated body of his friend.
[Now, shall we continue our fun?]
Just as Ahri’s body turned to exit the cell, a brilliant ball of blue flames erupted from his right.
The first time Ahri had ever heard the voice panic.
The ball of fire enveloped Ahri and he could feel the flesh melting away from his body.