A single beam of light shines upon the cold damp floor, dust rising up though the radiant column to its origin. The sound of water, ever persistent, echos about the jagged limestone surfaces, overtaken only by the rattling of chains and suffering of men. Eyes gleam in the stygian darkness, revealing melancholy and mania, the twisted gazes of derelict souls.
Out of the corner streaks a gray emaciated figure, mere remnants of human vitality, dragging a chain shackled to a fetid gangrenous ankle. The man ducks nervously behind a mass of rock, stroking his thin white beard. On the other side sits a new shadow among the perpetual gloom, new eyes reflecting the lonely beam of light -- only fervent, vengeful. Inching around the rocks, the old man strains for a closer look, squinting to see any feature of the silent silhouette, but the rubble beneath the infected foot gives way causing an audible stir. Any furtive intentions were rendered moot as the eyes in the darkness shot immediately in the direction of the onlooker. Now revealed to the unseen entity, the old man froze, unsure whether he could reestablish his hidden position.
The old man's frail ankles begin to shake in their binding chains; rheumatic hands now barely grasp the rocks before him. Those eyes, those horrific eyes -- unwavering. Nearly convulsing, the man now looks for any possible escape. Could he abscond this terrifying apparition brooding in the darkness? Pushing away from the rock pillar, he aims to sprint away as fast as his frail body will allow, until a voice growls in his direction.
"What is your name?" the shadow calls out in powerful, undulating tones, shaking the walls of their reverberant surroundings. Again, the old man begins audibly shaking, sure this is the merciful end to his pallid existence. "Th-th-they call me Liko...I don't know why." The eyes now rise up toward the ceiling and move closer. The shape of a gigantic man begins to form, with long black hair and arms that could throw an oxcart. "And how long have you been here?" The old man, now less frightful for his life, takes a moment to ponder the question and stroke the white beard. "I...no longer know. Before I would count the days marking a wall, but I eventually ran out of wall. Long enough for this beard to grow long and turn white."
The large, dark man in the shadow now steps far enough forward to reveal warrior's clothing. He bends down toward the gaunt figure before him and snarls, "So I suppose then you don't know the way out?" The old man, now faced with the immediate proximity of this menacing being, recoils and struggles to reply, "N-n-n-no one has ever escaped, except th-th-th-through death. Many a man has tried and failed." Clenching his fist, the towering man quickly turns from the frail captive and lets out a terrible howl, causing rocks to shake and fall through the dark chamber and sending its inhabitants running for cover.
* * *
Breathing slowly, eyes narrowed, the warrior waits and sleeps tentatively for days. Bound by the same steel shackles and chains as the other poor wretches in the confinement, he seemingly has no means to flee. Like the old man, he begins counting the days -- how many times the narrow beam of light would appear and disappear -- but soon loses interest. Hunger pangs give way to numbness, thirst is forgotten as his mouth is parched shut.
How far he has fallen.
Born in the North, he sought adventure from an early age, leaving home to fight alongside Germanic tribes of the South, reveling in the glory of battle and enjoying the spoils of war. But as his reputation grew, he began to hear tales of a land across the sea, a place for the finest warriors to seek the greatest glory. After a final campaign that would be his finest yet, he decided to stowaway on a ship and find this land for himself.
But not long after setting foot off the vessel, he was assailed by a man clad in burgundy. Though smaller, he moved faster than any warrior known back home -- flying one direction, pivoting, and bolting the other way before the new arrival could draw his weapon. Over and over the man in burgundy did this, spinning his victim into dizziness and confusion before throwing an opaque bag over the Norseman's head, tying him down, and forcing the disoriented man into some sort of transport. That was the last daylight he would see.
* * *
With a sudden bang, the door to the prison flings open and three men storm in carrying torches, all wearing the same burgundy uniform. The experienced captives quickly take cover behind anything they can find, clutching the chains that bind them. Another man now walks in and surveys the room. He has long flowing blonde hair and wears the same uniform, except with the Anglo letter 'C' across his chest. He makes one round about the room before stopping at the newcomer. "This one!" he shouts before marching right back out.
The others, led by a man with curly red hair and no front teeth, converge on the new prisoner, throwing another bag over his head, unlocking his shackles, and standing him up toward the door. The warrior instinctively begins to resist before realizing he is overmatched. The man with red hair forces a malodorous glove over the captive's bag-covered face and snarls in his ear, "Behave nicely, now..."
"You're going to see the King."
* * *
To be continued...