1 Chapter 1

The air reeked of feces with a tint of iron mixed in it. There was nothing that could be made out in this darkness. Kaden moved his hands about, searching for something to hold onto. Tiny, little worms swarmed over the floor he was standing on.

At a closer look, there were all maggots. He held up his fingers to cover his nose as he resisted the urge to puke. The maggots were squirming over the corpses feasting over what remained of them. Cold sweat damped his forehead as he forced himself to calm his beating heart.

"Is anyone there?" he whispered so low that he doubted anyone could have heard him, yet afraid that someone would hear him. He tried again, in a louder voice this time, "Hello? Can anyone hear me?"

A soft moan came from the other end of the room, followed by a shuffling.

"Please ans---," A voice hissed at him. His heart leaped a beat. Eyes widening, Kaden tried to make out the person in the darkness.

"Shut up already. You will draw him to us if you keep making a ruckus," the voice hushed. It was a low, feminine voice, one filled with pain and anguish. Surprised he was not alone, he couldn't hold back his urge to chatter.

"Thank God, I'm not alone here. Where is this place? Are you hurt? Why is your voice so weak?" The woman seemed to freak out as she replied urgently, almost yelling at Kaden.

"Are you dense? Shut up already. He will—." Her voice stopped. That was as far as she got before a stream of light began flowing into the room as if a door opened somewhere. Kaden could barely see the outline of the light, but it was more than enough to see what was going on. The woman, who was curled up in a fetal position, laid at the far corner of the damp room. The skin was torn and bloodied all over. Even her dark, wild hair was clotted with blood.

The room was rectangular and he had been strapped to a torture rack at the far end of the room, opposite to the door. It was easily ten by five with a large stone table in the middle. The ceiling was quite high, giving off a feeling as if standing in a church at midnight.

"Good, you are awake," Kaden turned to the voice that came from the door. Terror crept up to his throat as he stared at the horrifying creature, a half lizard half humanoid. It stood there at the entrance to the room, with a long knife in its hand. It had greenish-gray skin and the head of an alligator. What was worse, there was a bloodied apron wrapped around its body that leaked with fresh blood.

"W-what are you?" Kaden stuttered, at a loss for words.

"Yes, yes. That's good, little piggy. Be afraid." The lizard hissed, "Be afraid because daddy's gonna cut some juicy meat off you." The alligator creature laughed with a snake-like hiss.  Kaden swore he soiled his pants as the lizard crept up on him, eyes slithering over his body. Forcing himself to look away, Kaden caught a glimpse of the woman, who was cowering in the corner, shaking in fear. Seeing how afraid she is, he couldn't help himself to swallow a gulp.

We have to get out of here. This thought overwhelmed him but he couldn't stop himself from shaking.

Before he could blink, pain shot through his body. He screamed so loud, but the pain wouldn't stop. The knife stuck in his right arm, chained him to the wall. The knife turned and twisted a few times in his flesh before being pulled out. A feeling of utter despair swept through him, his eyes bulging to pop as if under pressure.

The alligator took the time to stab him from side to side, laughing loudly as he did so.

"Is that all you can endure, little human? Surely you aren't pissing yourself from this. O' what has this universe come to."

The monster removed the knife from Kaden's arm, leaving it to bleed. His eyes sparked at the sight of blood before he turned to the woman. Kaden could not see what the alligator did to the woman as the enormous pain shot through his body. Screams of the woman filled the air, anguish, and fear, he squeaked out a silent cry.

As if time had stopped, echoes of footsteps faded away. He could feel gentle touches on his face, willing him to stay away. The woman walked over to Kaden and inspected his wounds. They weren't any life-threatening injuries, but he could bleed to death if they weren't taken care of. Tearing off with what little fabric she had on, she wrapped two strips of cloth around his arms, putting pressure on his wound to stop the bleeding.

"Didn't I tell you to stay quiet, you fool!" the woman scolded, shaking her head. A moment later, she started praying with her eyes closed. A faint, white light glowed from her hands as she pressed them onto his wounds.

Pain bolted through his arm, the sound of bone cracking could be heard. He felt his bones rearranging themselves back to where they were before he was tortured by the alligator. Kaden fought back the urge to scream, he felt weary of everything that had happened. As the pain went away, so did Kaden's consciousness.

Kaden groaned as he shot up from his position. He looked at him frantically, eyes searching for the horrifying being that was tearing him apart.

"Shh," the woman hushed him, "Whisper only, no talking." She warned. Kaden nodded multiple times, cold sweat running down his back.

"Where are we? Who are you? What is that--monster?"

"Take it easy. He won't be coming anytime soon, I think," the woman mumbled the last part under her breath. "He never visits more than two times a day, not after what he has done to you, but let us not tempt fate." The woman sighed and sat up straight, leaning against the wall. The look in her eyes was despair and shame. The rags around her were mere patches that could barely cover her private parts. God knows what she had been through here.

"We are in a dungeon, trapped in a torture chamber of Argoth the vile." She paused. "At least that's how he labeled himself. I have been here for god knows how long, so don't expect anything too sane from me." The woman sighed. A trail of tears streaked down her cheeks. Kaden did not reply, he was drowned in thought. There were many things left to answer as the woman cried in silence.

"I have been mutilated many times. The only reason I'm here is that I can heal myself. Argoth—," she spat the name with spite. "That monster indulges himself in torturing me day after day. Many have died from his sickening pleasure while imprisoned. Was it a dozen? A hundred? I don't remember anymore. My mana pool is almost empty without a way to restore it, and Argoth knows it."

"If you have powers, why didn't you try to escape?" Kaden said, louder than intended as he tried to sit up straight, then slammed his hand on his mouth out of reflex.

She chuckled and shook her head, "I tried once and I will never forget it for my entire life. He ripped out my feathers one by one, tearing off my nails and sewing them on my skin." Her gaze seemed so distant. Kaden coughed to get her attention, but it didn't work.

"My name is Kaden," Kaden started, a bit louder than he should have for the fourth time now. She raised her head and looked around frantically as if afraid his voice would attract any unwelcome visitors.

"Why are you so loud! I told you only whisper!" she hissed at him.

Kaden nodded off with a silent apology and whispered, "What's your name?"

"La…Lacey, no, I think it's Laury or something." She pondered for a moment. "Wait, I got it. It's Laney. My name is Laney. Sorry, it's just that, it has been a long time since I heard my own name. Or that I have talked to anyone for that matter. You are the first living being that has survived the first round of torture in a long time."

"Nice to meet you, Laney." Kaden gave her a warm smile, despite her cold eyes looking at him, "Though I rather we would have met elsewhere, to be honest."

She glanced sideways and stood up to untie Kaden's restrictions. "I don't think I can take this anymore. Hold yourself, this might hurt a little."

After a moment, an intense pain coursed through his body. A snap could be heard in the dark room as she broke his wrists. Kaden went limp, cold out from the pain as he fell to the ground.

"How could he be so weak? This human, really. Why do I even bother trying to save him," Laney murmured to herself while she cast a healing magic on his wrist. Laney knew she had the tiniest amount of mana within her, but she would try this one last time. Not that it really mattered in any way to her if she were to die today or tomorrow. She would be dead sooner or later in any case.

The human groaned and moved slightly. She noticed his legs were still restrained. Cursing, she could not see another way to remove them other than the same method. She bent the feet in an unnatural direction, snapping them straight. Then proceeded to heal him. Her mana was now so low that she would maybe be able to heal herself of him two to three times.

Without any warning, the door pushed open, revealing an angry lizardman.

"What do you think you're doing?" He screamed out in anger when he saw Laney leaning over Kaden," You dare to use magic on him and shorten your own time with me? Unforgivable!" The creature stormed to the two weakened beings, with a cleaver in one hand and a butcher's knife in another, swinging over Laney. The cleaver barely missed her head, finding itself on the metal table that Laney had quickly slid under. But before she could dodge the incoming knife, it found itself home and went down to her direction. She yelped in fright and tried to slide away, the knife closing the distance and finally embedding itself deep within her flesh.

She screamed a cry of pain and disbelief.

The high-pitched voice resounded throughout the chamber, waking Kaden in the process. "Laney!"

Kaden shouted before the cleaver slammed right into his shoulder, almost cutting it in two. He cried out in pain, struggling to free himself from the taunting cleaver without any success. His sight was drifting away quickly as blood gushed out of the wound and the pain seemed unbearable.

Seeing the vile creature debating who to kill first, Laney yanked herself out of his grasp, kicking him away with two legs and falling to the stone floor with a thud.

"Run!" Kaden yelled with a weak voice, he managed to throw some of the maggots into the creature's face, blinding him from walking further to Laney. The vile creature fell over on top of Kaden, trapping Kaden's leg under its immense weight. Laney grabbed the knife from the creature and in a swift motion removed it from her side and slammed the knife into its neck. A wet gurgle flooded out of Argoth's mouth, his head slowly turned around. Motionless.

Laney withdrew the knife and slammed it in again, and again, and again until she was sure he would not rise from the dead. His large eyes looked at her, as if not believing what just happened. For so many years he had tortured her, and now she had finally gotten the upper hand. She had gotten her revenge.

The pain on Kaden was too great, it wouldn't let him push the creature off him. Laney, who seemed to be lost in her world, was laughing like a madman, sneering and laughing in turn.

"I told you, that one day I would take your life, didn't I? You didn't believe me, now look at you! Soon, you'll be like those people you killed, eaten away by maggots," A scary smile implanted on her face. She turned to see Kaden, who was bleeding from under the creature. His eyes were already glazed over as if standing at death's door.

"Oh my god, I'll get this monster off you," she jumped off the table and rushed to Kaden's side. With trembling hands, she took the hook and bound it around Argoth's corpse. She walked over the turning wheel and turned it. Kaden pressed his back into the wall and pushed with all of his being against the bulk that was Argoth's body. Centimeter by centimeter, they got him off Kaden's legs and he rolled out of the way before the body crashed down on him again. During the roll, Kaden screamed again, the pain of his broken leg being quite something accompanied by the crushed and bleeding shoulder.

Laney rushed to his side and healed his shoulder and leg that was bleeding to no end. No matter how much one is healed, the fatigue and loss of blood will only recover after resting. Laney had it easier, given that she was something more than a mere human being, though she didn't know herself what she really was.

"Leave me be." Kaden started, Laney put a finger over his lip, silencing him. Her warm caress soothed him. Somehow he felt at home, forgetting the pain and situation they were in.

After some inhuman show of force, they managed to stand and observe the room. It was still dark, even after the door had opened all the way. They looked down onto Argoth's body and each took a weapon, in turn, observing the instruments of death that he had been using for so long.. Laney took the butcher's knife, while Kaden took the meat cleaver, which had been embedded into his own shoulder minutes before.

"These will have to do for now until we find something better," Kaden said and looked at Laney. She nodded with a strange look in her eyes, not giving him a reply.

Should I end him here and save what little mana I have? Or should I wait and let him die if need be to save myself? Don't you dare go there yet! Laney cleared her mind and focused on Kaden.

"Why is this happening to us?" Kaden asked, scooting a bit closer to Laney who in turn moved away from him. Closeness wasn't something she wanted right now, if ever.

''Can you walk?'' she asked as Kaden walked after her into the hallway. He didn't reply, instead just walked after her. Outside, not a single sound could be heard, not even the flickering of candles.

"Which side do we choose?" Laney asked. He shrugged, then looked at both sides a bit closer, but there was nothing to be seen. Darkness as far as the eye could see.

"What side did he come from when he visited you?"' Kaden asked. Laney's gaze shot down as if reminded of something horrible. Her hand which held the knife twitched a few times before she was able to reply.

"I-I do not know." she whimpered and looked up, tears filling her eyes. "I had been in a catatonic state for most of the time, trying to preserve what little sense of sanity I had. Do you think that I cared what side he came from?" Kaden bit his lips, scolded himself for bringing up bad memories.

"I am sorry, Laney. I can't imagine what you have gone through, but we need to make a choice. Do we go to the left or right?"

She gritted her teeth. After a moment, she yelled "Right!" and gasped for air as if hit by something. Kaden took her in his arms as she was about to fall to the floor and sat down, placing her atop of his arms and legs. She felt as light as a feather, all bruised, beaten and hungry.

"We should rest for a while," Kaden suggested, cradling her in his arms. She just nodded her head in silence but looked away in hatred.

If it weren't for you, I wouldn't be all out of Mana at the moment nor in real danger. I still had time to come up with something without you messing up my plans, she thought to herself.

There were dark circles under her eyes, clearly lacking the sleep she needed for god knows how long. A groan escaped her lips as she glided into sleep, snoring peacefully.

Kaden caressed her head, untying the knots that were caught in the hair. Something told him that he was better off staying away from this woman, but she had saved his life many times over now. Still, his guts wouldn't let him rest peacefully, instead, his mind was filled with disturbing thoughts as if reading Laney's. The woman had been kept there for hundreds of years, which was crazy. How could someone live for so long? But then again, she was using some kind of magic

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