A persistent click-click in the corner of his cell gradually wakes him from the dazed, trance-like state which is all he manages as rest these days. It takes a moment before his groggy, sleep deprived memories catch up with his current situation.
It's easier when he doesn't remember, dwelling on the past only causes heartache.
He remains in the cell deep underground in a place no sun's rays will ever reach. Pain blossoms in multiple areas. The worst stems from a broken and badly healed wing, though several other parts are as demanding of his attention.
Silence reigns in this hell-hole, except for his raspy breathing and thoughts spinning in screaming circles. The darkness presses against his mind, squeezes his soul, threatens to undo him in the pause between heartbeats. Try as he might, he's unable to summon the memory of wind caressing his skin or the sounds of insects chirping freely in the distance.
Day and night are abstract concepts in this pit. Down here, there is only cold, damp, darkness, and pain.
No one says his name or reminds him of who he once was. Now, trapped in this warped, disfigured body, he answers only to Creature. On occasion, the glimmer of memories brush against his mind, as soft as a velvety petal and as delicate. It hovers near the surface, moments from recognition. Those are the times the mage pays him a visit, grinding the word Creature into his skull until the delicate thoughts wither into dust, leaving him with a vague definition of the monster he's become.
Pupils adjust to the quasi-darkness. The faint glow of magelights which line the corridor filters in from barred windows set high in the door of the cell. Footsteps occasionally echo against the smooth surface of the walls, announcing a soldier making his rounds. They don't matter. The soldier's job is to keep him in, and, on occasion, feed him. He doesn't mind being forgotten. It might be lovely to fade away from time and memory, for his soul to fly free towards the sun and join the stars calling from high above.
Yet he can't. She is still out there. His rock, his best friend. Creature knows she fights for him, fights for all of them. If she refuses to give up, neither will he. The spark of hope from the valiant thought is short lived, unable to ignite on the petrified kindling in the shadows of his soul.
The click-click resumes. Creature searches for the source of the disturbance.
A cockroach the size of his foot freezes at the edge of the mouldy hay littering the ground. Its long black body is covered in a single brown band. Camouflage enough to go unseen in the natural setting above, not enough to hide here in this prison cell against the faint grey-brown of the floors and fading yellows of dried grass.
His attempts to dredge up the memory of his last meal fail. Was it days? Weeks? Not that it matters. His kind can survive a long time without ingesting anything. Memories of daily meals feel like a fantastic tale made up by his wicked mind, illusions which twist his gut into knots whenever he dwells too long upon them.
Drool dribbles down the side of Creature's chin. It's not his kind's way to eat the flesh of living beings, but the small roach has come to the wrong place at the wrong time. Desperation, he knows, makes one try things they wouldn't otherwise attempt.
Like an insect's flesh.
Feelers taste the air, perhaps sensing the change in his mood. Creature doesn't give himself time to contemplate his actions. He lurches towards the promise of food. The cockroach scuttles backwards, realizing too late what's happening. Even in his weakened state Creature corners and catches the roach.
It squirms in his hands. Six stick-like legs flail at the insect's sides while mandibles snap open and shut in anger and fear. Creature closes his eyes and lifts the insect to his mouth. A crunch echoes in his cell. The insect's body falls limp with death. Creature's sharp, beak-like mouth filled with tiny rows of serrated teeth grinds the hard shell into a dry paste, moistened by the juicy flesh within.
He tries his hardest to savor the insect, make the meat last, while simultaneously wanting it over as quickly as possible. This isn't the first time Creature resorts to eating the unfortunate insects who wander into his cell, yet every time he prays it will be the last.
He settles back onto the meager pile of hay, eyelids heavy, what minute bit of energy he possessed completely exhausted. The "bed" offers little in way of protection, both against the chill in the air and the damp of the earth below, yet it's the one thing he terms as his in this frightening darkness.
A clawed finger gently brushes across the skin on the inside of his left forearm. He doesn't need to open his eyes to see the mark etched in silver on the deep gray surface. It's a symbol which once meant so much to him. The sliver of a crescent moon with the ancient script for renewal in its center. Once, it marked him as someone special, someone respected. Now it's banished in the darkness with him, a lost star fallen deep within the bowels of the earth.
Waiting to take its place among the heavens.
YOU ARE READING
The Paths of GreythornFantasy
The dream paths, accessed by a chosen few, reveal the most likely future following any given choice. Unfortunately for the human dreamwalker Daystorm, the decisions made by the fairies of Greythorn make her long for the simpler days of sweat-induced...