April 18, 2007

Tiberium Letters

Part Eight

By Dwayne MacInnes

I entered the tunnel and shut the door behind me. A lever on the wall opened and closed the hidden door. Fortunately, I would not have to rely on my dark vision spell in this tunnel because someone had been kind enough to leave an occasional lighted torch on the wall.

I silently crept down the stone corridor, there was nothing interesting to note. The path was long and winding, but there were no divergences so I did not have to make any big decisions like should I go right or left. I just went forward.

After about half an hour, the tunnel led me to a set of stairs. I looked up and the stone steps ascended upwards for what looked like eternity. There was no other way, so I began my ascent. Even here, there was the occasional torch burning away in a metal sconce.

I would really hate to be the one to make sure those torches were lit and replaced once they burnt down to nothing. I could not tell you how many torches I had already passed, and I cannot imagine that even these torches would burn indefinitely. Nonetheless, I proceeded with the utmost caution. After all, I could unexpectedly meet the caretaker of those torches.

The climb up the stairs was just as uneventful and monotonous as the trek down the tunnel. Eventually I reached the top to find the tunnel resumed its twisting path forward. I was about to take a quick breather after the long climb when I heard a blood-curdling scream.

My instincts told me that something was not quite right down the tunnel. Actually, you do not need instincts to tell you something bad is down the road when you hear a blood-curdling scream like that. In fact, you should probably consider one of two options. The first is to run away from the source of the scream. The second is to proceed forward with the utmost care and caution. Therefore, I split the difference. I ran forward with some care and caution.

Though the hallway was more or less straight and narrow for most of the way, I drew my short sword. The tunnel was winding enough that it did not favor the use of my bow. I did not know if the next boogeyman was literally around the next bend. Furthermore, trying to ready a bow on the run does not facilitate a good shot, not even for an elf. In addition, on my climb to Grand Champion of the Imperial Arena, I had become more proficient with the blade.

I heard the scream again. The hairs on the back of neck began to rise. I am sure that if anyone saw me from behind, he would have thought I had a frightened black cat on my head. For, the fears that rain through my body would have made my trademark ponytail shoot straight up behind my helmet.

Nonetheless, I continued my journey down the tunnel. I soon found a wooden door on my left hand side. The smell emanating from it was almost overpowering. Blood and decaying flesh were behind that door. The next scream told me, so was the person who was either in agony, fear, or both.

I checked the handle on the door. It was unlocked so I slowly opened it up. I poked my head around the door to see the prostrate form of a Lizard-man strapped down on a table. Between him and me, there was a short hunched figure in dark robes. The figure was obviously torturing the poor Lizard-man. I could see blood funneling off the table into several buckets on the ground around it. The hunched figure had already plucked out the left eye and chopped off the corresponding hand. The scales on the Lizard-man's upper torso had been flayed back to expose the still functioning organs to the air.

The poor creature panted in pain. I witnessed the rapidly beating heart and inflating lungs under the exposed ribs. The torturer was a professional to keep one still alive and conscious under such treatment. I am sure some form of magic was involved.

I cannot ever remember seeing such a gruesome and malevolent sight before. I knew that if I did not act soon the Lizard-man would die. He did not have much longer to live. I was also on the verge of becoming violently ill.

As the dark figure raised the dagger in his right hand in the air for another chop, slice, or plunge into the helpless victim I instinctively yell, "STOP!"

The figure jerked his head around and glared at me maliciously. I was staring eyeball to eyeball with a goblin. His beady black eyes stared at me from his mottled green face. A wicked grin revealed his yellow sharp teeth underneath his long hooked nose.

I turned and fled. I know what you are saying, "The Grand Champion ran from a goblin?" Yes, I ran. However, I did not run in fear. I ran to draw the nasty creature away from the Lizard-man. Even the Grand Champion can accidentally miss her target and hit an innocent bystander. Notwithstanding that, the sadistic beast could kill the victim in an act of spite.

I paced myself to keep the goblin just a few feet behind me. I was tantalizing close but still out of reach of his dagger. I am sure if he wanted, he could have thrown the little blade. However, I am sure he realized that even if he hit, it would more than likely bounce off my armor.

As we approached the stairs, I suddenly fell to the ground and pulled my legs in close to my torso. The goblin, caught off guard, tripped over my balled-up body before he could slow down. He sailed over me and proceeded to bounce down the stairs at full speed.

After the first few bounces, he stopped screaming. I could have made my way back down the stairs to ensure that the goblin was indeed dead. But, I had to return to the torture chamber immediately if I had any hope of saving the Lizard-man's life. In addition, I did not relish the idea of climbing back up those stairs.

As I ran into the torture room, I had thumbed the cork off a healing potion I pulled from my haversack. I was relieved to see that he still lived. I poured a little of the draughts down his gullet, enough to give him some strength. I then started to repack and replace his cut muscles and organs inside his chest. I am not a physician so I am not an expert on anatomy, but I made my best guess. I poured a little of the healing potion over the muscles to help them knit. Then I pulled the skin back together and doused it with the remaining healing draught.

I watched as the skin magically reunited. A raw pink scar ran the length of his brown torso. The Lizard-man started to relax. I could see that he was still in a lot of pain and very weak. So, pulled out another healing potion and made him drink it all. The gaping wound of his bloody eye socket and his severed left wrist instantly healed up. I would have tried to reattach his hand and/or eye but I could not find them. Moreover, the Lizard-man did not have the luxury of waiting while I searched the blood-filled buckets for them.

After the Lizard-man regained his strength and seemed to be out of pain, I cut his bonds. He sat up and looked me over with his good eye.

"I am Sleestak and I thank you," he said as he sat up and rubbed his stump.

"Gwendolyn, at your service," I bowed, "what is going on here?"

"Look friend Gwendolyn," Sleestak motioned for me to look around the room with his right hand.

I turned around and realized I was not so much in a torture chamber as much as a butchers shop.

Posted by deg at April 18, 2007 7:02 PM

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