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Corruption, Part 3: No Hope

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(Read the previous entry here or refer to the Fiction Index for a full listing.)

Bells.

Again with the bells.

Although, this time, Corrigan could not only hear them, but see them as well, for the bells were tolling within his skull.

After what seemed like hours, the pain subsided to the point where Corrigan dared open his eyes. He opened his eyes to nothing.

Panic instantly struck Corrigan. Light save me, I've been struck blind! Raising his hands to his face, Corrigan realized that he was not blind. Rather, he was enshrouded in total darkness. He was incapable of seeing anything more than a finger's length from his face.

Lost, confused, numb and alone, Corrigan lay on the floor. As feeling slowly crept back to his extremities, he began to wish it had not. Corrigan had no idea how long he was out, but every muscle in his body ached. Attempting to stretch his legs, he found the walls of his cell too close to extend them fully. After some small exploration, Corrigan discovered his cell to be no longer than five feet on any side.

Gathering his strength, Corrigan rose to his feet, but not fully. The cell was too tight in that direction, as well. Slumping back to the floor, Corrigan thought back to the events leading to his capture. Who was that Warlock? Was he even a Warlock? To his knowledge, Warlocks did not possess the power necessary to put down a Paladin in a matter of seconds.

After a seemingly endless time, Corrigan heard something. A light sound, almost a shuffling. As it grew closer, Corrigan realized someone was walking toward him. "Who's there? Why have you imprisoned me? What do you want with me?" Corrigan's pleas were met with silence. "Answer me!" Still, silence. The footsteps paused momentarily, and Corrigan heard his visitor place something on the ground. Slowly, the footsteps began moving away. "No, wait! I am a Paladin of the Silver Hand, you cannot imprison me like this." Alas, his words fell on deaf ears.

After his anger subsided, Corrigan moved towards the bars that made up one wall of his cell. Feeling around, he found a small bowl just outside. The bowl contained a broth of some sort, weak and cold. Corrigan gulped it down greedily, not realizing how hungry he was until the liquid was gone. The meal came nowhere close to satisfying him.

Corrigan began to search his cell, looking for any hope of escape. His search did not take long, as his cell consisted of nothing more than a stone floor and cieling, three stone walls and a barred gate of some sort of metal, iron most likely. The stone was smooth, with no flaws to be found. The iron was rusted, but still far stronger than Corrigan. The search also revealed no mattress, no straw, not even a place to relieve himself. He had been stripped of sword and mail, with only his under-pants covering him. Corrigan could only hope his stay would not be long, as it was definitely going to be unpleasant.

In time, sleep took him.

And so, the next several days, weeks, months passed. Corrigan had lost all sense of time. He could have been down there for hours or years. The time passed uneventfully. His jailer came and went, never making a sound but for his steps. After the first several visits, Corrigan gave up communicating. They kept him fed, but just enough to keep him alive. Water, bread, broth. Once his broth contained a piece of turnip. It must have been an oversight.

Left alone in the dark, Corrigan spent his time with the only activities available to him: sleeping and praying. Sleep came in fits. If he was not awakened by the vermin sharing his cell, it was the dreams. His malnourished mind was giving him bizarre, hallucinatory nightmares. He would wake with a start, but be unable to recall anything.

More distressing than his fatigue, prayer was equally unfulfilling as sleep. Despite his repeated efforts, Corrigan was unable to reach the Light. He was unable to plead to it for help. He was unable to draw strength and resolve from it.

For the first time in his life, Corrigan was truly on his own. He decided to make one last attempt at communicating with his captor. As his next feeding approached, Corrigan weakly called out. His voice had grown raspy from his tiredness and long silence. "Please. Speak with me."

Nothing.

He tried again on what he presumed to be the next day. "If you do not say something, I may die from madness."

Again, nothing.

At the end of his wits, Corrigan found himself actually sobbing when he was next visited. "If you will not speak, at least light a torch. Bring me a light so I may know the world still exists beyond these bars. I can take no more." Rather his words or his emotions got through, Corrigan heard the visitor hesitate, even if only for the briefest second. He could not let this opportunity pass. "Yes! A light. A torch, a candle, an ember, even. Return my sight, and I can carry on." The visitor stood there, silent as ever for a long moment, then turned and left.

Believing he had gotten through to the jailer, Corrigan anxiously awaited his next feeding. Bashing his head against the wall began to seem like a promising option if he was disappointed. In time, the footsteps returned. He was given his meager meal, but the footsteps did not leave. He heard a match strike, and a small candle was lit.

Even the tiny flame was too much for Corrigan's eyes. It took several minutes for them to adjust. A figure was seated outside his cell. Small, slender, perhaps even feminine. As his vision slowly grew sharper, a face came into view. A face with piercing green eyes.

"You! You're the woman from the city. You lied, you led me here. You're responsible for my torture."

"I am not responsible for your torture, Paladin. That has not even begun yet. I also spoke no lies. My sister was being held captive. I merely traded your life for hers."

"Then why help me now?"

"I may be outside these bars, but I am no less a prisoner here than you. I harbor no love for the ones who put you in here, and could no longer ignore your helplessness."

"So, you now have pity for me?"

"No, Paladin. Much like yourself, I am alone here. I have freedom of movement, but no companionship. They could decide at any moment that I have outlived my usefulness."

"Why now? Why not when I first called out?"

"I feared for my life. If I were caught speaking with you, I could find myself in the next cell. However, tonight, they are performing a ritual of some sort, preparing for your treatment on the morrow. I would like to bear my soul to you, Paladin. I have wronged you and would like your forgiveness. My life has not been an easy one."

"Very well, woman. It seems you have a captive audience. Speak, though you will not be likely to find forgiveness from me."

"My name is Sylphine, and this is my story..."

1 comments:
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Syrana said...
September 24, 2009 at 7:05 PM  

As I said on Twitter, excellent job. And, yes, it gave me chills. I really had thought he was going in to save Sylphine, not that she sent him there.

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