Creature

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Creature counts the footsteps reverberating off the smooth walls in an effort to entertain himself during his waking hours. Thirty-eight, thirty-nine, forty... They pause, at the end of the hall he imagines, before heading back down the corridor once again.

A second set of footfalls shuffle in the darkness, joining the precise clips of the guardsman's boots. Creature's heart stutters. He prays it isn't the mage. No, it can't be. The mage never drags his feet. To be honest, no sound ever precedes Loth's visits.

Metal grinds against wood. Creature winces. A dim blue light emerges from a rectangular slit cut into the bottom of the cell door, disappearing briefly as an object slides through. It falls to the ground with a metallic clatter, spilling its content onto the dirt packed earth. The hatch slides shut without a word, the rectangle of blue light shrinking until it winks out of existence.

Food.

The dull clang of metal echoes harshly inside his mind. Creature shakes his head, banishing the sound, and crawls cautiously over to the tray. He examines the sloppy contents using the faint light filtering in from the barred window above. A parody of food lies in a gelatinous pile on the metal tray. Something gleams green in the low light. Beside it are overripe berries covered in a soft white fuzz. It smells earthy and sickly sweet, a combination which would have turned his stomach over a year ago.

Sadly enough, to Creature's starved senses, this "food" is the promise of a decent night's sleep and a full stomach. At least it won't struggle as he bites into it.

Creature scoops the splattered mush off the ground and drops the goop back onto the tray, unwilling to waste the foul offering. He carries it to the corner, feeling safest with the wall at his back. It's silly to be worried about what might sneak up on him in the darkness of a locked cell, but, then again, in this waking nightmare anything's possible.

He leans over the tray and shovels the sludge into his mouth. The berries burst into juice the moment his beak-like jaw clamps down, dribbling their precious remaining nutrients down his chin and back onto the metal. He refuses to waste a single drop, licking the tray clean, truly earning his lowly moniker.

He sits back and covers his mouth with a hand. His stomach protests the quality of the meal. One would think he'd be used to this slop by now. He concentrates on breathing, ignoring the rumblings below, refusing to throw up the first meal offered to him in weeks. It doesn't prevent him from gagging. His stomach heaves violently. He once more swallows the sludge now mixed with the bitter taste of bile.

At the beginning, trays filled with similar fare were left to sit a couple of days before desperation led him to eat. Afterwards, the contents of his stomach spewed out, his body refusing to accept the mush as food. No one cleaned the vomit. It remained a rotting pile of sludge and bile until time dissolved into nothing.

The mage stepped in the toxic gelatin once. The satisfaction it brought was short lived. Creature's uncertain if his brief, spiteful laughter was worth the pain which followed.

A sudden metallic click startles him back to reality. No footsteps announced this visitor. The guard making his rounds won't return this way for a while. The unlocking door means one thing and one thing alone.

The mage.

Oh Gods! It's too soon after eating, there's no way he'll keep this meal down if the mage visits now! The door swings open, hinges ominously silent. Creature's pulse beats erratically under the thin, leathery layer of skin covering his body. A hooded figure steps into the cell and closes the door, luminous blue eyes searching the shadows for its prey.

Loth.

"Ah, there you are Creature. So nice to see you again." The feeling is not mutual, but Creature knows better than to say so out loud. These sessions are bad enough without providing the mage with any extra incentive to hurt him. Loth's only ever here for one thing, the same question repeated a million different ways.

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