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Chapter IV: Locked Up In The Heart of Darkness – Part I

Tiyan woke up with severe and sharp pain in his chest and rats nibbling at his shoes. One separated from the others and started sniffing on his hand; the young hunter kicked it hard, frightening the rest of the animals.

He reminded himself of all what happened before, his hand reached to his chest, expecting a bleeding wound, maybe a deadly one. But he found only a scar in a place where inquisitor’s magic hit him. This was more than foreshadowing of what they plan to do to him, this was a promise.

He cursed, badly, under his breath. He was not shackled but he had no means to escape. The cell didn’t even have a window. Only a short candle was lightening it from the shadowed corner. Yes, and what if he kicked the candle by mistake, or during sleep? All would burn to a stake, starting from the hay on the floor and ending on him.

He tried to stand up, but feeling a weakness in his limbs, he decided to stay in the same position and wait how all of this unfolds. Something in him, deep down in his heart, wondered if the spikes from the emissary’s tattoos weren’t poisonous, he rarely felt so weak and helpless.

Without anything to do, he started to count his chances. He doubted they would free him. Most likely, they will kill him to warn others cursed by any kind of magic. But before, they will make him suffer and that frightened him most. He was not a fool. Pain can break anyone and even if he wanted to show them how little it means to him, to not give them satisfaction… he knew that he will agree on any accusations they will brew, at the end of the day.

The rats didn’t return, hiding in small holes in the walls, holes ready to free the small rodent, but not ready to allow a tall man to escape.

Yes, it was a hideous situation. The only way to not be already dead was not losing hope. If there is any chance, he will see it and use it.

He didn’t know how much time passed and what part of the day – or night – it was, but after he lost hope two times and regained it twice as well, he heard footsteps in the corridor that led to his cell.

He didn’t expect anyone giving him a helping hand, but he saw a chance for himself. If not using talk, he may use force. Anyone can be defeated and he was… desperate.

The key grinded in the lock. No additional light entered the small cell, but rats ran through the open door and a small figure slipped inside. The man held a miniature chair and a book. No hooks and knives, nothing to torment him. At least physically.

The newcomer put the chair before him, sat on it pedantically and settling down, he pierced Tiyan with a gaze of his blue eyes.

The silence became almost a sound, in which Tiyan was fighting with himself, weighing how fast he can attack the man and run, or if it’s even a good idea.

Then, the small man spoke.

Tiyan shivered.

The voice that was coming from him was deep and ominous, like coming from an empty well. But it was not the worst. The man spoke without opening his mouth.

“Repent” was the only thing he said, but Tiyan felt like hundreds of stones hit him in the head.

“Repent yourself” he managed to throw a weak reply.

“Your soul can still be saved. Just bow to me and your sin will be erased.”

“Erase yourself,” said Tiyan.

The man looked at him with a very clever gaze, which hid a lot of things that Tiyan would prefer not to see.

“If you don’t bow, your sin will eat you. Your magic is decay. Your power is unclean.”

“Clean yourself, too. But I sense you never do it.”

The short man laughed. Not through mouth again, but the laughter filled the small cell and caused Tiyan to feel nauseous. What did that even was? Who were these people? What magic did they possess?”

“You will repent. But since you refuse to bow, the path will be painful.”

And he opened the book. His fingers started to run through the text, like he was fast-reading. But he didn’t read. He was weaving a spell. The ink from the book started to swirl and leave the pages, forming a black heart, hanging in the air, like a sign of death .

It started to beat. It started to beat slowly. And then faster.

Tiyan felt with horror, how his own heart started to beat frantically in his chest. The faster the inky heart was beating, the more pain he felt.

“Repent.”

“Repent that your mother gave birth to you!” whizzed Tiyan.

The inky heart became wider and bigger and the hunter felt his chest, just over the place in which the spike hit him in the woods, started to expand and hurt… hurt a lot. His frantic gaze landed on his body, but nothing was changing in it… though the pain grew and grew and soon Tiyan couldn’t stand it. It was like his whole body became one agonizing spot, which grew in intensity and spread… spread mercilessly.

He clenched teeth, his eyes drifted up in a mute plead to any god that could see him and stop it.

The pain overwhelmed him and when he dared to look at the heart again, he saw how it bleeds with ink tears, how ink nerves separate and twist and he felt that too, his nerves drawn on a spool, his tendons dissolving into a sea of suffering.

He felt like the torment lasts for hours, until his brain couldn’t stand anymore and shut off. He collapsed on the floor unconscious. The man closed the book. The ink heart dissipated in the flurry of ash. Taking the chair with him, he smiled at the laying hunter.

“Tomorrow. You will repent.”

And like with certain hesitation, with certain well-hidden fear, he added, his head lowering in respect.

“For the glory of the One.”

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Forest is where I belong. My gods live there.