-----"Even when your hope is gone, move along, move along, like I know you do."-----
~The All-American Rejects~

Chapter 1

The prisoner meandered through the damp and vile passageway. He was carrying what appeared to be a large stone block, which weighed nearly more than the man carrying it. The stone itself, however, opposed to the man, was square and perfectly cut. What the king did with all the stones, the prisoners didn't know. All they knew was they had to keep moving them back and forth, cutting deeper and deeper into the earth.

This particular prisoner was a little different from the others. Appearance-wise, he was virtually the same, with long jet black hair that was currently drenched in sweat and tattered about every which way on his face and neck. His eyes, which were partially covered by the long strands of hair, were a ominous shade of Hazel. His build was lean and muscular, after all, he had been here for a majority of his life if not all, moving rocks too and fro, accomplishing pointless deeds that were evidently not so pointless to the King. His complexion was slightly tan, but his skin had not seen the sun in quite some time. 'The sun doesn't rise over the slaves' humble abode', or at least that was the saying. Needless to say, his hands and feet were dirty. You weren't provisioned shoes as a part of the slave uniform. But...on the topic of what the slave uniform was, here is a description of the way this particular man is wearing it: A collar...the usual metal concoction with a lovely added bonus of pointed spiked steel teeth-like objects fused with the inside of the collar to get that perfect 'snug fit' that everyone always looks for with clothes. In this instance, the spikes grazed the sides of the prisoner's neck while he worked and slept and ate, giving him that extra incentive to not try and escape. That; and also that it would hurt to try and pull it off. This is because of the fact that it would leave you with a few blemishes in the side of your skull that would probably kill the prisoner trying to take it off. As it was, you had to have the key, and the place to unlock it was at the back part of the neck.

The other attire was not quite so interesting: Shabby stained pants that look like they haven't been taken off for a few years....which in a few cases they haven't. In this one however, the prisoner does take them off from time to time for the yearly wash down with water...and also the random monthly one. The reason for the distance in-between is because they only give the revered shower to so many lucky contestants at every washing time. There are far too many prisoners to do otherwise. Oh...and they don't have shirts. They aren't allowed them. Pants only for prosperity purposes and then no shirt because it would only hinder the process. Not only that, but the 'staff' doesn't get enough effect when they are whipping the prisoners. On the topic of whipping though, the prisoner that we have been watching has a few more cuts and bruises than the normal prisoner. He decided to stand up a few too many times and was treated in kind. He has several stylish scars on his back that are inter-crossing from his various 'lessons' and 'examples'. Without a shirt however, you can notice other things about his appearance, such as the fact that he has alot of muscles and not much fat to match it. The 'frolicking in the work area' wears off most of the excess body fat usually, not too mention the lack of legit food. But, as we finish up our description of this particular man-prisoner, we notice that his legs are bound at the ankles by shackles that are connected to each other by chains. There is a keyhole on both shackles so as to prevent easy escape...

Now that we are done with petty descriptions we can get on with the story! As I was saying...

The prisoner was walking like he would any day, the chains rattling as he walked, the neck collar pricking him, but not effecting him too much due to the wear it had already given his neck in the years past. He was carrying a stone that was roughly 1' by 2' by 1', but it didn't lesson the weight of the pure stone. Although...the weight didn't seem to faze this particular prisoner at all. He carried his burden down the murky walkway, his feet grasping the wet ground beneath him firmly. One had to be careful in the caverns. Minimal light and sharp rocky surfaces, not to mention the guards...or the watch...or the peacekeepers...either way you wanted to look at it really. To the prisoners they were just seen as the only thing that was standing between them and freedom...

All of these created slightly hazardous working conditions...

The prisoner of this story however was sure-footed, which was more than you can say about the rest of them... He walked with a light step, making it seem like he was just strolling down the dark hallway. On his way he passed several other prisoners each working on there respective places on the walls. One would pick away at the stone and the other would carry it...sometimes it took more then one person for either job...sometimes more. But, he continued his walk. Guards dotted every few feet or so, 1 for every 3 prisoners it seemed. They didn't have much faith in the ones that they oppressed, but they would be taught a lesson sooner or later. But back to the story at hand... The man... The prisoner walked and walked, nearly halfway to his destination. Several unseen eyes watched him. Prisoners looked to him for answers, he was the veteran. He had been here longer than any of them and he had been through much more beating than any of them had gotten into. They only looked on with awe, never pity. The eyes that watched were never seen, because they were always being supervised by the guards watching for such things...The guards wouldn't want to get the idea that the prisoners were planning something, because then it would come all back down on this particular prisoner anyway.

And so the prisoner walked with those invisible eyes ever watching. The guards looked from him to the others, but the prisoner's eyes never diverted from the path in-front of him, nor did he show any sign of noticing the guards. When he got to the end of the path, he grunted as he lifted the stone off of his shoulder and lightly placed it on the ground. He then speed-walked to where he had been previously to pick up another stone. On the way he noticed, out of the corner of his eye, a guard whipping what looked to be a prisoner that dropped to the ground out of exhaustion. He frowned and clenched his teeth, his lips drawing back slightly to reveal elongated canine teeth. He turned from his current path and intercepted the guard mid-strike. He grabbed the guard's hand and said in a peaceable tone, although obviously controlled and nearly close to being lost to anger, "There's no need for that, how about a little break...?" He was broke off by the guard who raised his left hand and initiated a punch full-on the side of the prisoner's face. He let go of the guard's arm and stumbled back, his face no longer hiding the disgust with the guard.

"How about you just back off little Shadow..?...Before you get another round of punishment?" The guard spat back at Shadow, the prisoner of this story. The guards knew him by names that they all inadvertently chose to call him. No one had really sat down and discussed it, it was just given to him. His real name was not Shadow of course, but the guards wouldn't acknowledge that so Shadow didn't bother telling anyone differently. Although at this moment, he wasn't thinking too well of the guard in front of him. "Not that I wouldn't mind teaching you another lesson, you never seem to learn anyway. Get back to work!" The guard kicked at the prisoner on the ground.

Faster than the eye could follow, Shadow snarled and lunged forward, grabbing the guard's arm that was still holding the whip and pulled him back and threw him to the ground. The guard landed with an audible clang as the armor that he was wearing resounded with the surface of rock beneath him. He quickly got to his feet again, a haughty expression on his face almost as if he had been expecting this and had wanted it to happen. More guards were already on the move, surrounding Shadow. Shadow looked back and forth between them and then at the prisoner. He did a lift of his head to motion the prisoner to get up, which he did and then quickly fled the scene. Shadow however was not so fortunate. He knew he would now face punishment, but he had done the right thing in his own eyes. And how could he not trust his own eyes? He had nothing else to trust in...no one else was completely loyal to him, or at least enough to stay with him through anything. It seemed that his senses would be the last things to leave him, and that is where his judgement was orginated from.

"I told you to back off Shadow, now you'll face what you had coming to you this whole time." He gave a feigned exhasperated look at Shadow and turned to walk away, "You never listen...sigh..."

Shadow clenched his hands and let out a roar of frustration as he ran at the guard who now had his back turned to him. The other guards quickly and efficiently had him back on the ground again with a few well placed swords and overall man-power. Shadow could have taken all of them on, but he let his anger cool. Such open hostility could get you killed in a place like this. It was better to bear the pain and plan for the time of release from this hell...because it would come, and Shadow would make sure to make full use of it when it finally arrived.

He was taken, roughly, to a rather large room that was lit by two large flaming braziers which blazed light onto a device that had manackles and such to chain the unfortunate prisoner's hands and feet to while they were beaten. The ground was stained red underneath for a small radius around the mechanism and, not only that, there was a worn trail of blood leading back out the way they had come in. No longer wet, but it still showed a reminder of the horrors of this place. It reminded Shadow...it reminded him of many other times he had come in much the same way he did now: Escorted by cruel guards and his hands tied behind him tight enough to cut of circulation with a bad rope. A rope that was made so that it would cut as much into the skin as possible. Of course there were no ideas as to what the original purposes for the rope were, but it was as close as you could come to barbed wire with rope. The rope was frayed and the sharp sticking up points rubbed skin raw as it moved around even the slightest bit. His hair was mangled as usual, most didn't really care much for his hair...it just provided a grabbing point for unfriendly guards who didn't like what he was doing. His feet nearly scraped against the ground as he was half drug to the contraption. There was no need for that of course, but the guards wanted to be certain that Shadow wouldn't try to run. His nose already bore witness to the overpowering metallic scent of his blood and others'. His senses had always proven to be more "refined" than other prisoners and even most guards.

As he always was, he was bound to the top and bottom of the holding device, his hands held up above him and his feet locked to the ground. As the guards stepped away one remained. He then recited charges against Shadow with a harsh smile framed on his dispicable face, "30 lashes for uncalled for assault on a guard...-" He was broken off as Shadow cut in with a mirthless laugh.

"Hahahah! UNCALLED FOR?! BULLSHIT!! My actions were justi-" Shadow was quickly silenced by a blow to the head from the guard as the man stepped forward, repeating the punch that the previous guard he was being punished for going against had commited. Shadow just groaned and laughed quietly to himself.

"As I was saying... 30 Lashes for assault and 15 for blasphemy" The guard gave Shadow an evil look and backed away, another guard coming forward. This one held in his right hand a whip with 4 normal whip extensions to it. However, at the ends were small raking blades so that they would cut into the flesh and "help the message sink in".

Such an extreme number was beyond anyone's limits and the guard knew that...but he also knew that Shadow was beyond normal. He had endured punishment similar to this days on end. This particular one was double what he would have normally had and it was meant to either finish Shadow or cause him to resort to being submissive for the rest of his time here which was undoubtably forever anyway.

The collar around Shadow's neck was an unpleasant companion with him in this final hour, cutting his skin just as the whip would. He could almost feel the cold harsh slicing metal against his back, ripping into his skin and tearing apart his sanity....and so it came.

Again and again he was struck. The first was a reopening of previous wounds, painful beyond belief. Shadow had clenched his teeth together before they had started, but nothing could have prepared him for what had arrived...punishment that he might not be able to stand against. He didn't cry out as the 10th blow landed against his bare back even though there was blood oozing out of numerous slashes lining his back. They criss-crossed, they ran parrellel. They crossed, they were perpendicular. They burned like fire, and he felt nothing.

Upon the 20th blow, one that he had rarely even gotten to before, he began laughing. It was not a laughter of the sane... It was the laughter of one who was lost...one who had no hope and knew they were dying. His laughter echoed across the room...mad...insane. The 26th blow met with sob-laughing and at last with the whip-crack of 35 his eyelids flickered and closed. His body sagged against chains and he was conscious no more. The last ten were applied with no resistance or movement from Shadow at all. The blades used in the punishment...the cruel and unusual abhoration...were stained completely with the dark red blood of Shadow, the liquid dripping from the blade to form a union with what had already collected at the floor of the place. Shadow's back was completely unrecognizeable. His entire back was covered with his blood, the back of his pants stained as well as the substance trickled down to the calling of the blood-brethren on the surface beneath his feet.

His body was released from the chains of heresy as he fell to the ground to land in his own blood. He was man-handled and half-carried from the room and into a much too small cell that was barely big enough to lay down in. His body was thrown in and left to the fates. If he would survive...well...then so be it...but the wounds that his body had taken were numerous and they were harsh.

In the end it would take a miracle to survive...


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