When he came to, Simon was naked and shivering in a dark cellar. The only light came from a small barred window at ceiling level. When he tried to move, he found he was chained to the wall by his legs. He was in pain. His groin area ached. A huge black bruise was evident on his stomach. He gently touched the scab forming on his cheek and remembered everything. He reached for his feet. The boots were gone and with them, the knife that he had hoped would be his saviour. James and Chris had been right; he shouldn’t have come here. Thoughts of his new friends just brought back memories of their deaths. More of his friends’ deaths were on his conscience. He sank into a pit of dark despair. In his anguish, he cried out to Kin Slayer. There was a response. The heavy door opened with a creak, and a huge man lumbered in. While the rest of Dring’s cronies looked like bears, this one looked like a giant ape. His strong muscular arms drooped low to the floor. He shuffled, rather than walked, on legs like tree trunks. His face could best be described as primeval, with a protruding skull, sunken cheeks, and a squashed, broken nose that even a mother could not love. He had almost no hair on his head, several days’ worth of stubble on his face, and the hair on his legs and arms was thick and matted. He wore only a loincloth. His broad chest and ample belly were also thick with hair. His mouth displayed only a partial set of teeth and those that were present were blackened and broken. He lumbered over to Simon, bent down with difficulty, and grabbed him by the hair. He pulled Simon’s face into line with his. When he spoke, his foetid breath made Simon gag.
“So you are awake, red boy. My name is Dag. You’ll come to know me very well in the next few days. If you do well, you’ll get a fairly merciful death. If you don’t, well, let’s just say that I am skilled in making your end long and painful. It’s an art that I have practiced for my master, until I am expert. Overlord Dring has no further use for you. You are to die; there’s no other option. You are my plaything, to toy with like a cat plays with a mouse, until I let you die. I’m not going to torture you to get information from you; we already have everything we need. This is purely for revenge. My orders are to make you feel pain. You caused the Supreme Leader unimaginable pain. Now you are to get your just desserts. I only have one rule. Be a man. Don’t scream and cry or beg for mercy, for you’ll get none. Suffer in silence and I may reward you. Cry like a baby, and I’ll punish you more. Do you understand?” Simon tried to nod.
Sometime later, two thugs came and unlocked his chains. They dragged him into another room and strapped him into a sling-like device that held him suspended in mid-air. Again, Dag left him for a while to contemplate his fate. The fear of what was to come played on his mind. He had never had a great tolerance for pain. A lost memory flashed into his head. He was about two years old and running around the yard. He wasn’t very steady on his feet yet. He tripped over a tree root and fell over. His knee was cut. What was the red stuff that was coming out of his leg? It hurt and it scared him. He screamed. Someone came running and picked him up. The familiar smell of his mother calmed his fears and she soon treated his knee and soothed his pain as well. Then his father put a sticking plaster on it. He saw his kind face smiling down at him and he felt safe again.
Simon blinked and his father’s face was replaced with Dag’s ugly countenance. His vile breath made Simon want to vomit, but his mouth and throat were parched and his stomach empty. He dry retched and his throat burned.
“Where shall we begin, red boy?”
Time seemed to stand still for Simon. Minutes, hours, and days lost all meaning. His universe shrank so that it became his cell, his sling, and his torturer. He didn’t know which was worse: the time in his cell reliving the last session and thinking about the next one, or the sessions themselves where Dag inflicted every kind of pain on his crumbling body. Each of them was hell. Dag became the entire focus of his existence. Perhaps if he could please Dag there might be less pain. He tried not to cry out; he tried not to show the terrible pain he was feeling; he wanted to impress his torturer. Yet, every time he failed. Dag would push him that one step too far and he would break down, begging for it to end. Then Dag would laugh and taunt him and find a new way to inflict yet more pain. Bound as he was, Simon couldn’t even move to try to seek some tiny amount of relief. The pain burned through him so that he thought he would go insane. Occasionally, Dag pushed it too far and he lapsed into unconsciousness. Dag was always waiting for him when he awoke, waiting with a new idea to try on his broken body.
Simon wanted to die. He’d begged Dag, during the last session, but the simian thug had just mocked him. He lay on the cold cobbles of the cellar floor, arms and legs shackled to the damp concrete walls. He was barely conscious, he hadn’t eaten for three days, and he had no strength left. He was severely dehydrated, and once more, he struggled to lick a few drops of moisture off the clammy cellar walls. He had no tears left to cry. His body was wracked with pain. He didn’t think there was a part of him that wasn’t in agony. For the umpteenth time, he cursed giving them the opportunity to separate him from Kin Slayer. He tried to concentrate his mind to search for the Sword. The pain was too great. He tried to focus on one aspect of the pain, in order to relieve the rest. He tried to concentrate on his feet, where Dag had torn off both of his big toe nails. Each of his big toes throbbed mercilessly. He tried to raise his legs a little to reduce the blood flow. This brought his backside into greater contact with the rough floor. A stab of pain shot through him. It dragged back into his consciousness the horror of the objects with which Dag had violated him.
Despite the best of intentions, he cried out in his torment. The door opened and the ugly gaoler lumbered in. “I told you, no noise, scum.” His booted foot thudded into Simon’s chest and a couple of ribs were shattered. The second kick crushed his exposed testicles. The third caught him on the side of the head. He lapsed into merciful unconsciousness. His final thought was of Manfred. He had let him down. He was sorry; he hoped Manfred knew that.
Aftermath of Armageddon is the second volume of the FirstWorld Saga. All four volumes are available here and Volume 1, Quest for Knowledge, can be downloaded for free.