His groans of pain echoed in the Church hall, blood splattered on the walls decorated with old paintings of Priests on the left side and High Commanders on the right. He couldn’t feel his palms for the chains were too tightly pressed against his hard, pale skin. He felt blood in his mouth, gathered it all in one place, sloshed it against his cheeks, gargled it and spit it out on the cadaver of a dead, black robed man. The soles of his feet were aching with every hard step he took, the heavy balls chained to his ankles dragging on the stone floor, leaving a black smudge on it. His long hair was getting into his eyes, so he had to flick his head every so often, feeling his neck crack most of the time. He couldn’t look down that much, could barely see his toes because of his twitchy left eye. Prolly popped a vein.
The bell had been rang and he was sure that some force would come to oppose him, maybe even feel arrows into his abdomen and chest as soon as he’d push the big, brown wood door, but it only revealed the empty street. He could have made his escape, but decided against it. He would have been naked, if not for the metal chains and the ripped pants that covered some parts of his body. He close the door, shoved a plank of wood into the handles so it would take some time for it to open if someone would come knocking. He turned around, looked at the massacre that had ensued, the blood on the carpets and decorations, especially the dead people and their missing limbs. I don’t much dislike it. While walking over to a body in order to get some proper clothes, he heard a shove against the door, a quiet ‘What the hell?’ He took in a big breath, continued forward. Just another man fooled. He heard it a bit louder now, making him nervous. He remembered how one of the Priests used to talk, shouted:
‘It’s closed, son. I am terribly sorry!’
Nothing could be heard, except for a window that was broken by a rock. Neither him nor the curious man could be seen from that angle, so he decided it was time to get himself a disguise and leave as soon as possible. Wounds don’t heal themselves. He took a second to think about that. Not mine, at least.
There was no more noise except for the rare sound of his shackles brushing against the ground, along with his grunts of displeasure. Blood was oozing from his left hand. He touched the large anchor, felt it jiggle and then the rush of pain that was caused by it. He had another one on his right hand and other parts of his body, to keep the chains in place. They were thick nails with multiple inward-facing tips at the end that would sting and claw. He looked at them with bitterness inserted in the flesh when they realized handcuffs would no longer do the trick. Looking in a mirror that was no longer blood-covered after a few wipes, he realized that he wasn’t looking all that badly, wearing a shirt, pants and running shoes. It wouldn’t be so bad if I also had chains tied to my skins, but beggars can’t be choosers. He took a black robe off a dead body and covered himself with it, took the man’s gold necklace with the Church’s symbol just in case. As he was stepping towards the exit, he looked back at the broken window, saw nothing, heard only the wind and his breath, pulled the log out and heave-ho pushed the doors with both of his bloodied hands. Nobody, huh?
He started laughing to himself slightly while going down the steps towards the main street that led to the bazaar. He stopped, remembering that if he were to leave the doors opened any passerby would see the dead bodies inside. He returned inside, put the log back in and climbed out of the window. He didn’t even bother removing the glass shards. It would almost make a difference if my pain receptors were close to dead. Now that he was free, he needed a name and currency. Never a problem for a man who’s rarely seen the light of day. He saw an overweight man with a scraggly beard wearing green clothing from top to bottom, had a gold ring on most of his fingers. Approaching swiftly, he asked the pedestrian:
‘May the Power serve you, son. Say, would you be so kind to make a sort of donation?’
His double chin shaked as the man talked:
‘Sure, why not?’ he looked at his fingers and pulled out three of the rings. ‘I always have spare,’ he continued and winked.
‘Your addition will be very much appreciated. Say, young man, if you were to give me a name, what would it be?’
‘In the land with no name, every man must find his way.’ Both of the men turned to face the person who spoke. It was a tall man, dressed in a mixture of black and burgundy pants and suit, wearing a dark blue hat. He was leaning on a cane in his left hand that matched his hat colour, but had the wider tip made out of gold. Inexplicably, the chained man always had a good eye for real jewels. Now that he was thinking about it, he never remembered having a name. The only thing I was called all throughout my life was ‘monster’ and the sort you’d expect.
‘Anyhow,’ the fat man spoke ‘I must get going, I have urgent matters I must attend to. I bid you farewell, Father,’ he continued, bowing his head.
‘That was quite innovative of you. My name is Aileen,’ the man said, offering a handshake. ‘And you must be… yes, you must be Blind.’
‘I won’t take that as a compliment,’ he responded, accepting the handshake ‘but pleased to make your acquaintance nonetheless.’
‘My apologies, it must be read as ‘bleed’ somehow.’
‘Well, you see, I have overheard your discussion and figured I’d look around I’d suggest as a name. The first name that popped into sight’ Aileen pointed towards a dirtied envelope on the ground. ‘It says ‘for Mr. Blind.’ It must be important.’
The two spent a few seconds in silence.
‘You want to see what’s inside?’ the man continued. ‘Not like the man that’s supposed to open it is here to see.’
‘Why not’ he thought to himself, but as he lowered for the item, he felt both the chains drag at his skin and Aileen’s hand under his collar.
‘Calm, now. If I pull this, everyone’s going to know who you are.’ He lowered and whispered into his ear ‘I know what you’ve done.’ After a few seconds of silence, he continued ‘Let’s have a walk.’ He pushed Blind upright, put his hand on the back of the robe and grasped it tightly. They began approaching the main square, known as ‘No Man’s Land.’
Blind had heard of it before, when Priests would gossip while walking next to this cell. At the time he couldn’t think about anything he heard thanks to him trying his best not to faint due to the pain. Every time he did faint, they would add another binding to the chain. It was unbearable at first, enraging later. The Priests said that only mysterious men would venture into No Man’s Land. Men with gold, willing to hire, ones with eldritch convictions, magicians and warriors, even outcasts brought from corners of the world that were experimented on. Like me. It was surrounded by a thick wall called ‘The Ring.’
As they approached the gate, he felt the grip tightening around the robe. He looked up and saw Aileen speak ‘Stay close.’ He kneeled and pulled out an orange knife. ‘Don’t worry, I’m doing a good for you,’ he said as he cut at the chains that were attached to the metal balls. The links clanked and dragged at the ground until they were finally ripped and left behind. When he finished, he stood up, put the knife back in his pocket and wiped off his sweat.
‘How do you manage to walk with those?’
Aileen chuckled, then nudged Blind, nodded with his head forwards. A tall man wearing a red cape and gray armour was waiting before the purple gate. His hair was black with white tips; a long and thick sword was stuck to his back, its handle above his right shoulder and the tip of the blade surpassing the left side of his lower back. Its sheathe was black, with barely visible lines drawn onto it using a form of ink. Their footsteps onto the hard ground made the man turn around, a heavy frown on his face. He opened his mouth, but closed it as soon as he heard the gate’s heavy creak as it opened. When the man entered, Blind heard a voice.
‘Run! Run like you’ve never run before in your life, like you ran when they tried to shackle you!’ It was Aileen. Time seemed to stop, the door ever so slowly closing. He felt blood going through his body, clashing with the steel inside. Without the chains it was upliftingly easy to run. He could even ignore the pain from the remaining, unbound chains that were striking at his calves with every daring step towards the gate. Still, with every step, a feeling of unease was grappling at his mind, as though it was trying to advise him to turn around and never look back. He fought his primal instincts, realizing that he was running faster than Aileen. He did not feel his lungs pop, or his heartbeat accelerate much, as his body was trained by steel, filled with vigour. The tingling sensation in his guts was an unusual but pleasant one. He had heard that it brought about good things. He started to believe it was true as he was getting closer to the half-closed gate. Judging by the distance and speed, he assumed that both he and his now found partner would make it inside. He heard Aileen’s voice from behind.
‘Don’t stop! Go through!’
He must be out of breath by now, grasping for air, commanding the muscles in his body to push through. I know how that feels. If Blind could prevent the birth of a man, even at the cost of his life, it would be the inventor of the chain. Subsequently, if he could thank a man, it would be the one who killed the inventor. He now was one step away from the opened gate and he could feel like something was cutting at his skin but when he looked down his clothes were intact; even though, for Blind, blade cuts felt like small needles were slowly inserted into his skin. He pushed the gate opened some more and grabbed Aileen’s arm, threw him inside before stepping and closing it. He hadn’t noticed from the outside, but everywhere he looked he could only see dark colours, the walls themselves, on the inside, looked gray, even though on the outside they were black, same with the gate. He looked at Aileen and he almost fainted.
‘Hey… are you okay? You look… pale.’ The man turned towards him and didn’t say anything. ‘Respond, man!’ he grabbed his shoulders and shaked him, making him snap out of his trance-like state.
‘Yeah, yeah. Everything’s-’ he tried to say, but he fell onto his knees and vomited something gray. The armoured man approached them, picked Aileen up and carried him to a nearby bench. It was all gray now, even his previously red cape. He looked at Blind, opened his mouth to speak but then closed it and looked back at the sick man.
‘Is he gonna be okay?’ Blind asked
The man nodded.
‘Is everything gray for you too?’
The man looked at him, raised a brow and nodded a no. He lifted a finger towards the gate, then towards Blind’s head, motioning a circle. Blind couldn’t -of course- understand so he just shrugged and ignored it. He wasn’t much of a man for words. It looked like Aileen could stand back on his feet now, his face as pale as everything else in sight. He looked up at Blind with his mouth dangling open, spit droplets meeting the ground, tongue licking his tiny lips, his eyes half closed.
‘You look like you’ve died and came back twice over.’
Aileen’s response was mostly composed of mumbling, with a final ‘Screw you,’ spit coming out of his mouth.
The man pointed towards Aileen and then to a big building with multiple floors. Must be a hospital of some kind. Blind nodded and thanked him. He put his arm under Aileen’s and whispered into his ear ‘We have to get you walking.’ He lifted him up and slowly started walking towards the building. ‘Baby steps, baby steps,’ he said, looking back towards the warrior. It was like he was surveilling the area, squinting. He doesn’t seem like that bad a guy. Blind glanced downwards, under his robe but appearance is scarcely trustworthy. They made it to the building and the man knocked on it three times with his meaty fist, the hard thuds like war drums. Having stood there for an unbearably long two seconds, the man brought up his right leg and kicked the door in. As the slab of wood fell, it shattered on impact, like a piece of rock, the sound’s echo bouncing off the walls inside the building before slowly dying down.
‘Anyone home?’ Blind shouted into the dark place. All of a sudden, he could feel Aileen starting to get a better grip on his shoulder, swiftly being able to stay upright. He looked towards his friend, said ‘thanks’ and stepped onto the broken rock.
‘Where are you going?’ Blind asked.
Aileen turned back, he looked puzzled. ‘But of course… We’re here to see the Mage, the wonderful Mage of- aaargh!’ As he was talking, he got pulled by his shoulder into the darkness, his voice’s echo remaining behind.