A/N: This is very much a story in progress. I'll eventually upload an exposition to introduce what's really going on, but right now this is experimental.

Aiden could feel the cold of the sweat running trails down the back of his neck. There was something about this place that wasn't quite right. He'd been aware of it the moment his mind slowly started to wind its way into consciousness only minutes ago, and now the feeling of unease was as tight around him as the shackles that bound his wrists, weaving in and out of his mind like tendrils of smoke.

He wrenched his arms left and right, trying in vain to free them from the bindings of cold steel that held him fast in the darkness. The visibility was maybe five feet, and it was only murky, empty air and a crude stone floor before sight dissolved into inky black beyond. He stopped his struggle and struggled to calm himself, searching for some vague detail that could bring him a shred of comfort. There was nothing. And as hard as he tried to stop the growing cloud of panic that ensnared him, overruling the confusion he felt, there was nothing he could do to keep the shaky thoughts filled with terror from thundering through his mind.

He was going to die.

The thought sent his world whirling into tides of manic horror, and he began to violently jerk his arms once more. He had to break free. He had no vague notion of where he might be, and he had no idea why he was there, but something inside of him told him that if he didn't make an immediate break for freedom, someone, or something was going to choke the life from his body. He wrenched his arms until his wrists began to bleed from grating against the metal shackles. He didn't honestly believe that he could break free from these steel bands, but he couldn't stand to just stay immobile and allow them to bind him without a fight.

A sudden motion in the darkness made him freeze. His frantic movements ceased and he was aware of the soft trickle of blood down his arms. They were bound over his head, and the rivulets of the warm liquid dripped onto his shoulders. He stared hard into the abyss of darkness before him, struggling to see what lie beyond his line of vision. There. The thing moved again. This time it was closer. It was a large, soft-edged shape that blended with the shadows in an eerie way. The shape was gone as suddenly as it had appeared, leaving Aiden with an increasing feeling of dread. This thing... whatever it may be... it was not going to let him escape.

The thing came by again, even closer this time, and Aiden glimpsed a flash of black fur before it disappeared. It moved far too quickly for anything human. He struggled once more to penetrate the darkness with his eyes, and suddenly, out of nowhere, the thing returned, lunging forward into his line of vision. Aiden's blood ran cold.

He was staring face to face with the strangest being he had ever laid eyes on. The torch that hung behind him gave him a confirmation of what he was seeing. His eyes were not lying to him.

It was about the height of a tall man and covered in long fur, which was actually the darkest shade of brown in the light. It had broad shoulders and a doglike head and face, complete with a long snout and pointed ears perched on top of its head. Its eyes were a bright, glowing orange, and they were locked straight on him like the crosshairs of a gun.

Aiden let out a hysterical yelp and began to struggle once more, even more violently this time. His wrists throbbed and his body began to ache from wrenching so manically. He had no thought of anything but his growing terror, and he could do nothing but fight against the impossibly strong metal rings that held him in that makeshift hell of a position.

"There's no call for such a fuss," said a smooth voice, and Aiden stopped his struggle and looked up in alarm. Before Aiden was a tall man. His build was slim, his manner distinguished. His red-black hair was long and pulled back into a ponytail, gleaming in the torchlight. A dark, smooth mask covered the whole of the man's face, showing only two calm violet eyes and watched Aiden curiously. The strange creature had shrunk back into the shadows behind the man, and was watching the two placidly.

"Who are you?" Aiden demanded immediately. It was better to show he was not afraid. Whoever this man was, he was certainly less terrifying than the beast who sat behind him, head cocked like a harmless puppy.

"There's no need to fear him," the man said, avoiding Aiden's question and gesturing toward the beast. "He means no harm." his voice was deep and smooth, like the voice of a singer. Syllables came and went without catching and every word was flowing and flawless like the ripples of a silken scarf.

"No harm!?" Aiden asked his, shaking his head. This man was mad. "He just tried to eat me!"

A light chuckle floated from behind the man's mask, and he stepped closer so he could look Aiden directly in the eye. "You shouldn't speak of what you don't know," he warned casually, his purple eyes piercing Aiden's. "You may manage to offend someone."

This man was a loony.

"Who are you?" Aiden asked him again, staring him fiercely back in the eye.

"If you must address me, you can call me Atticus," his hands folded casually behind his back as he regarded Aiden with amused eyes. "And you would do well to show a little more patience in the presence of strangers."

"Stop that!" Aiden snapped. "Stop telling me what to do! What do you want, and why am I here? And why am I chained up, by the way?"

Atticus took his time in answering. "If you want to be unbound, you could have asked." and suddenly, the bindings around Aiden's wrists released him and he was sent sprawling to the floor. He leaped to his feet immediately, ready to send Atticus a good kick if he tried anything. But Atticus only watched him, clearly amused. "And you're here because it's your destiny."

He really was crazy! "What!? My destiny..? What are you talking about?" Aiden was almost starting to fear this Atticus. He was talking nonsense. Rubbing his wrists, Aiden watched Atticus suspiciously.

"We've been searching for you, Aiden, for the past three years. We sensed that there was an Akmal in the city, and we were determined to be sure that they were shown the proper path," Atticus said calmly. "And we found you. And so you're here."

"Who's 'we', what's Akmal, and where's 'here'?" Aiden asked him. Atticus walked toward him, and Aiden walked away, being sure not to turn his back.

"You ask far to many questions," Atticus told him. "Patience dear boy, all will be revealed in time."

Frustrated, Aiden made a run for somewhere, anywhere, but slammed into thin air, into an invisible barrier. Atticus walked calmly toward him, eyes burning into him again.

"Oh, no no. You're not going anywhere."

Aiden's eyes widened, and he ran a few steps to the left. Atticus followed with eerie, catlike precision. "Where are you going to run?" he asked in amusement. "There's no way out."

"Get away from me, you freak!" Aiden stammered, trying his hardest to find a way out. He hated Atticus right then, for the way he calmly followed with those violet eyes glittering in amusement at Aiden's hysterics. He had barely met the man and already he wanted to rip him to pieces. Atticus gave a low, deep laugh and hatred with the burning sting of poison coursed through Aiden's veins. "Shut up," he hissed, malice eminent in his every syllable. "You have no idea what you're talking about. You don't know anything about my destiny."

Atticus' head swung back and forth smoothly. "You, dear boy, are the one who hasn't the faintest what he's talking about." his hand clasped Aiden's chin roughly. "You can't run away from what you are. It lies in your veins, in your very core. It is inevitable that you will eventually stand up and face your destiny, though you try now to run away from it." he released Aiden's chin and turned swiftly away from him. "Run away if you must, but you will be back, no matter what you say or do now. You cannot escape what lies hidden beneath your very flesh. It's only a matter of time."

Aiden backed away from him, walking slowly and gingerly, knowing there was always the possibility of running into that invisible wall yet again. But he walked back through only air, away from Atticus' stiff back. He began picking his way along the cold steel wall, searching desperately for some kind of door. "The exit is to your left." Atticus' smooth voice cut effortlessly through the thick silence in the air. Aiden found the seam in the icy metal and pried the heavy door open. As he fled into the open air, Atticus accosted him with a farewell. "Good day, Mr. Dirge. We'll meet again soon."

To be continued…