Cedric and the Man in Chains

Writing Prompt: You are the Unknown, the Unseen, the Untold, you are; The Guy Who Lights Candles and Stuff in Caves in Video Games.

“Why do you do it?” Cedric was sat cross legged before the billowing flames of a cave-bound campfire, and as he spoke he set his gaze carefully upon the man in chains. At least, he believed the figure was a man.

This man proclaimed himself to be: The UnknownThe Unseen and The Untold. Fanciful as those titles were they explained not at all why he was chained to the grounds of this endless dungeon, or why his chains moved through the grounds with him.

“Do you believe I have a choice?” the man gestured the chains, rattling them gently against the silence of the ill-lit cave. Trudging over to the far side wall the man withdrew from a leather satchel a pack of matches, flicked open the cover of a wall laden lamp, and lit the candle left dark within.

A new light flooded the cave, abating those shadows that the campfire could not reach, yet still there was so much darkness, so many wayward passages through which the light could not hope to travel.

The man gave a sigh, “I am cursed, bound to wander these plains eternal. It is the dark…” from behind white eyes the man began to shudder, pulling himself and his chains back toward the campfire by which Cedric was seated.

There was a spit over the fire, and several large rats were dripping skinless over the flames, the meat slowly crisping, turning brown.

“What is the dark?” Cedric allowed his eyes to waiver from the man to the tunnels that grew behind him, snaking lengths of black abyss that hissed with a breeze from deep down below. Cedric felt there were eyes, within the dark, eyes set inside the bleak mouth of the dark that swallowed all but the campfire and lamp-light.

With a frail hand the man reached into the fire and tore free the corpse of a barely browned rat, sinking his blunted teeth into the rare and bloody meat, allowing traces of the blood to trickle down his chin, “It is the dark that binds me. It wants me.”

“Wants you for what?”

“So many questions.” the man groaned, groping at the side of his face with one grease covered hand, “It hurts the head to think too much.” the man’s eyes lolled in their sockets, his tongue lapped up the juices of the rat strewn across his lips, “Perhaps I should share with you a story.”

“The story of your curse?” Cedric leaned forward, allowing the fire to bathe his face with its warmth, “I’d hear it.”

The man nodded, suckling down the rat’s tail, “Then I’d tell it.” he wiped his face and sat before Cedric, his chains binding him to that spot on the floor, “It all began in Guileford, that’s when I first saw it…”

**

Guileford, the City of Lights.

The man, who in this where and when went by the name of Foster, was sat alone at a table in the Sun and Stars Inn.

Of the Inn itself there was little worth saying. The front of the timber building was dressed in a flurry of white lights, with lanterns of pale orange and dull red hanging from the balconies, and vines that lit up blue and purple growing around the windows and the pillars. All quite normal for such a place in the City of Lights.

The Innkeeper was a Dwarf by the name of Grass, over eight foot tall, bald on top, with a greenish complexion to her skin.

Foster was quietly enjoying his fifth tankard of Ygrin Ale, with absolutely no intention nor the means of paying for a single cup, when the City Guard came looking for it.

The glass door of the Sun and Star burst inward, giving way to a dozen lightly armoured Guardsmen, each baring the crest of Guileford on their chest (a Sunbear devouring the Night Sky).

“What’s the meaning of all this?” Grass demanded an answer, carefully reaching for the crossbow hidden under the counter.

“I wouldn’t do that, if I were you.” several more Guardsmen came flooding in from the Cook Room, having broken down the Inn’s back door as well. One had crept up behind Grass and now held a knife to her back.

“I pay my damn taxes.” Grass protested, “You got no right coming in here like this!”

“We have every right.” this was Andreas, Captain of the Guard, highlighted by the red cloth that draped down over her right shoulder, “There in this very city lurks a creature that would threaten the Lords Festival of Flame.”

Foster laughed, “Festival of Flame, what a load of bollocks.” he swirled his tankard so that the ale summoned a small whirlpool in his cup, “Just another way of our dearest Lord and Saviour extracting a few extra pennies in the name of faith.” Foster hiccuped as he swigged the last of the ale in his cup.

“I’d watch your tongue, old man.” a few of the Guardsmen had started circling Foster’s table, each with a hand firmly on the hilt of their blade.

“You’d do well to listen.” Grass scowled, “These dogs aren’t likely to take well to that short of talk.”

The Guardsman behind Grass heaved a knee into the Dwarf’s thigh, sending her crashing over the counter. Drawing his knife back up the Guard planted it against the Dwarf’s neck, and whispered, “Keep still, keep quiet, and this’ll all be over nice and quick.”

“Anything?” Andreas called out, watching her Guardsmen work as they smashed tables, crates and bottles of ale, not finding a thing.

“If you’re searching for something that threatens our Great City,” Foster started to laugh, “then I’d look… I’d look…” he hiccuped again, “I’d look at our beloved Lord and Saviour. He’ll see us all thrown down to Hell’s Fire, the greedy f*cking pig…”

“What was that?” Andreas reared on Foster, drawing her blade, pressing it against the man’s chest, “Say that again.”

“I said,” Foster was smiling, tankard empty in hand, “that our Lord is a greedy f*cking pig.”

With a quickness unheard of from human hands Andreas swept her blade through the air hooking Foster’s tankard by the handle and tossing it to the ground, the tankard shattering on impact.

Grass sighed, averting her eyes.

Andreas searched Foster’s face, “I doubt you’re much of a threat to anyone, let alone our Lord, but better to be safe, wouldn’t you say?” she cut the man’s cheek slowly with the tip of her blade, drawing cherry coloured blood from his face, then nodded to the Guardsmen gathered at his table.

They first dragged Foster from his seat, then threw him against the hard boards of the floor, hammering at the man’s frail form with their heavy boots. Foster started coughing, gasping for air.

“Please…” he managed as the air was sucked out of his lungs, but he managed no more. He could feel the blood curdling in his stomach and the ale churning in his bladder. Don’t do it, not here. Desperately ashamed he relieved himself, emptying his bladder, urine drenching the floorboards.

“Dirty b*stard just wet himself!” one of the Guards cried, shaking off their lightly soaked boot.

Grass gave a short laugh, and grunted something sounding like, “Good lad, Foster.”

Foster watched as Grass was hauled by several men out into the back of the Inn, struggling all the while to free herself from the Guard’s grip. Then came the darkness, in the shape of a boot heel to his face.

**

When Foster awoke he found himself lying in the dirt of a back alley some several streets away from the Sun and Stars. Weary, damaged, every bone in his body aching terribly, he managed to sit himself upright and to his dismay saw smoke rising in the distance. Black fumes summoned from the lick of fire on ancient timber. Foster was not a man for maps, but he knew with almost absolute certainty that it was the Sun and Stars that fell before those flames, and that Grass was likely still inside…

I doubt you’re much of a threat to anyone, let alone our Lord.

“Not much of a threat.” Foster curled his hands into bruised fists (bruised by the grace of heavy boots trampling his hands), “We’ll see about that.”

**

“I don’t know if it heard me,” the man in chains turned to Cedric, “or if it sensed my drunken rage… but it found me all the same. Found me sitting there in that alley covered in p*ss, and not all of it my own.” the man that was Foster shook his head, “I can’t describe it, other than to say it was like muddy water floating just above the ground, gurgling, spitting, and calling out my name…”

“It helped you?” Cedric was starting to understand, though there was still so much left unanswered, “It helped you to become a threat, to exact some sort of vengeance on this Lord of yours?”

The man nodded, “In return it wanted to use me, as a host…” but of that the man would say no more, “So I turned myself over to the only person I still trusted, whilst I still had a mind enough to do so.”

“Who?”

“Her name was Morwenna.”

“Was?”

The man ignored this, and moving on he said, “All that is worth the knowing is that she bound me here, with it. She bound me in this dungeon in the hopes that one day there might come a being powerful enough to kill it, and so set me free.”

“Why then, do you bother with the lights? The candles, the lanterns? By the Gods you even prepared this campfire for me.”

“Isn’t it obvious,” the man was watching the shadows, watching as if they were listening, “to keep it away from me. If it finds its way back inside my mind, then the end has all but come. The light protects me, or at least it seems to. Once the lights go out there’s nothing to stop it from coming for me, for us.” the man jumped around the campfire, taking Cedric by the shoulders, “It is your turn now, to face it, to try and kill it.”

Cedric tried to break free from the man’s grip, but his frail hands were far stronger than they looked.

“Kill it, and set me free.” the man’s eyes were slowly fading from deep white to deeper black, and with a sudden kicking of his feet the man dusted down the campfire, then running for the lantern, “You cannot lose, Cedric. The World depends on you. I depend on you.” with a short breath the man blew out the last light of the cove, and from the within the darkness there came a gurgling, spitting sound, this time calling out another name; Cedric.

Copyright © K R Perry 2019

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