Inmate 400

The Chasm is a secret prison, one that few people know of, and one that nobody has escaped from. Where Anarchy is King and there is no Law, the Chasm is run by bandits and muderers. Convicted for a crime he didn't commit, Inmate 400 is branded as a traitor and threat to the Duke of Gariton, and thrown in the Chasm. Forced to survive in a world of madmen, he learns things that pushes him to the edge of sanity, and knows that escape is the only cure.

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7. Judgment

There is an art to getting beaten within an inch of your life. You have to close your mind to what is going on. Dwell too long on the pain and damage being inflicted on your body, or worry about the permanent consequences your beating will have on you, and you will lose any sanity you had been able to hold on to, any amount of will can instantly dissapear.

I knew that I couldn't give in. Surely I had been tranied for something like this? Torture wasn't torture if you knew you wouldn't give in, knew exactly how to grasp at any small victory. But then again, this wasn't a normal interogation. That would imply that I had some knowledge worth sharing, some iota of information critical to their lives. No. Reaper was doing this to fulfil his own twisted pleasure.

I had woken up to pain once more. My head was throbbing, the brand on my chest was burning, and there was a tickling sensation, teasing my legs. It was only then that I realised I was on fire. I threw myself away from the flames, extinguishing myself on the damp floor beneath me, much to the amusement of the spectating crowd.

"Well that got him movin'!" Reaper declared happily. "You awake now, 400? Good, 'cos we got some work to do. Now I know you can fight. I haven't seen you or nothin', but I know. So if I came runnin' at you know with a sword in my hand, I don't doubt that you could take my life from me. So consider that a moral victory. Take it to the grave with you." and then the situation dawned on me.

I was completely surrounded, not by men at arms ready to kill me in a second, but by people, bystanders, spectators. What I took for a few of Reaper's men was actually the whole community, coming to watch me. Some had even started flogging their wares and food. This was a show. A game. And I was the miserable pawn, something to be sacrificed. Reaper would win, and everyone would see. Nobody would challenge him, through fear and respect. He was solidifying his claim, and getting rid of me in one masterstroke. I just needed to know what game it was I was meant to be playing.

It soon became clear. The man who had set me on fire was standing a few feet away, replacing his burning sticks with a short sword, and nervously started edging towards me. I stood there, aching and slightly charred, and anticipated his next move. He charged blindly forward, a snarl taking over his face, crying a war cry which hinted at desperation. Even in my pain, it was no trouble to sidestep and disarm him in one fluid motion. He looked at me, weaponless and motionless. He was little more than a boy. I knew he didn't want to be doing this.

"You better keep going, boy. You don't want to break your promise to me now do you?" Reaper's taunting of him made it perfectly clear. These men weren't gladiators, they had been blackmailed into fighting me, throwing their lives away out of fear. The boy charged again, and once more I dodged him, refusing to please the growing crowd, refusing to dance to Reaper's tune.

Eventually, he had enough. Reaper stepped in between me and the boy mid-charge and grabbed him around the throat. He lifted the screaming boy off the floor, his thumbs working his way into the boys eyes, and deeper, until the cry became a soft mumble, and eventualy became a mumble which died on his lips.

"Well done 400. You killed him." And with that, Reaper removed himself to the side, where two more men drew weapons and advanced on me. With  a sword of my own, I was more than a match for them. I was relatively fresh, and hadn't yet succumed to the malnourishment of the Chasm, although it was not far off. My muscles were still relatively intact, and although my energy had been sapped in the recent events, I could still ight longer than these two. But again, I refused to make the killing blow. But these two weren't boys, nor were they reluctant. One of them took the opportunity, and managed to score a shallow slash on my leg. By the way the crowd reacted so positively, it was obvious to see who they sided with. Then again, one should not expect the highest moral standards when in a prison full of murderers and rapists.

Blood boiled, I dispatched my attackers, the one who had cut me fell with a puntured heart, the other with a sowrd to the back. Both fell and lingered only for a moment, long enough to see the next three men attack me.

And so it went. Countless fell before me, but I could not dwell on those I killed. It was a dog-eat-dog world, and I had already decided that I would not allow myself to die here. The baying crowd gre more vocal with every man I defeated, and more hopeful everytime my own blood was shed. I had amassed a serious of injuries, all painful but none life threatening. I would be scarred for life after this experience, in every sense of the word.

I couldn't tell how long I would be here. Surely Reaper would get bored soon, and come and attack me himself? I was up to twelve now, and I was wearying. Everyone could see it. Had my attackers charge me, then it would have been over. But I didn't doubt the importance Reaper placed on how I must die. It would be bloody, but it would be a show, not a brawl. They were teasing me, feinting here and there, nicking me with small jabs of their swords. I saw no hope.

Suddenly, hot blood drenched my face. Thats it. I'm dead was my only thought, refusing to believe it was anyone elses. But then I realised that in fact, the man who was standing in front of me was now a crumpled heap on the floor. There were a few confused looks, but from the crowd's point of view, I had simlpy dispatched another man. Then they all started to fall. Men around me dropped like flies, crumpling in a symphony of crimson. This was obviously not my doing, and the crowd reacted suitably, running and screaming in blind panic. Reaper picked up on this and, seeing the murderous look in my eyes, fled. Suddenly, true to their name, the Shadows appeared. Stepping out of niches in the wall and seemingly emerging from the floor, they were weilding all sorts of bows, slings and other implements of death, and had once again saved my life. I saw Sneak beckoning me. I ran over to him, and his secret became clear.

"The waterfall?" I asked, panting. He gave me a mischeivous smile, one that I could not help but return, and looked at the water behind him. Sneak had obviously just been for a swim, as had his men, and I was more than happy to join them on the journey back. Sneak led me into the ater, and we plunged.

Fearing as I was that we might drown, I was relieved when we surfaced a matter of seconds later. The cave we came into was just like any other, stone and cold, but the familiar faces beaming down at me lit it with such a warmth, I immediately felt at home.

Home. It was a strange thought. So often associated with safety and comfort, here I was asscribing it to a stone cave filled with murderous criminals who I had known for a matter of weeks. But seeing as I could call nowhere else home, it would do. Home. Back in Gariton, with the fields stretching out around me, the children playing in the town. Home that was once a great, vast estate wih serving people and advisors was now a cramped underground prison where most people wanted to kill me. When once I ruled, now I was an unwilling subject.

When once I ruled. The world came crashing around me. The beaming faces of those I had come to call friend seemed mocking now, fake. They were here because of the cruel reign of the Duke of Gariton, ages ago, set up to keep those most evil at bay, sending them to a fate worse than death. An evil tradition kept throughout the family.

My family.

These were my people. I had sent them here.

I was the Duke of Gariton.

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