The Rest of Forever: Chapter 7
Chapter 7: From the time of Axel's capture:
The last look in Ambrose's eyes haunted him. Three nights had passed since he had been dragged away and ridiculed on his path to the king’s dungeons. There was no trial for those captured by the knights. No justice for those who were against the King and his reign. Here in the dark of the dungeons, where bile and stench became warmth in the chilled night, time had little meaning. The haunting cries of the condemned echoed throughout the metal bars.
“My kids need me, please…I need to get out…please mercy!” someone pleaded into the darkness.
Some of the mad ones cheered and made animal noises. Others would weep, their tears licked by the rats lurking in corners. A week passes.
“Feed me to the Queen,” some tormented soul said.
The desperate ones simply begged to die. Prisoners would rap on the bars begging for release, for food, for peace, but worse yet were those who were going mad with the silver sickness. The madness passed from cell to cell as they waited to die or, worse, be used by the enchanters.
“Apollos approaches, Apollos approaches!!” shouted a woman, whose screeching voice rung in the darkness.
“Shut up ya old rat!” a knight called down from his post at the door.
“Apollos approaches, Apollos approaches,” she muttered now.
“Apollos approaches,” she muttered, shrill as her breath grew ragged.
Axel looked out his bars as a faint firelight approached his cell. Knights hurried and pulled the woman, who had screamed, out of her cell and further into the dungeons. Others, seeing the woman being pulled from her cell, started chanting, “Apollos approaches.” Axel covered his ears, his head humming at the noise in such a dark place.
Two weeks have passed. Axel’s imprisonment was dragging on. His concept of time was kept by the changing shifts of the guards and the one meal they would bring a day. Each new meal marked a day had passed. It didn’t matter if the prisoners never ate the meal because the rats gathered for the warm slop. A melody of scurrying claws on stone marked the arrival of food and that was a sadder sign of time passing further in the dark of the dungeons.
They never returned, Axel noticed. Several of those with the silver sickness had collapsed and knights took them further into the dungeons but never came back the same way. Something was wrong here. His hair had gotten so sticky and clumped together…how long had it been now for him? Axel looked at the markings on the wall he had made with a rat’s claw he had broken off. The little ticks indicated only two weeks and 4 days had passed. He groaned as his eyes, having adjusted to the darkness a little, looked at around the empty cell.
“Please Ambrose be alive…I need you to be alive,” he prayed.
A voice answered in the darkness, “she isn’t alive boy.”
Startled, Axel thought he had imagined the voice.
The strange voice cackled again. “She’s dead boy. General Spector hates disrespect to the king and surely used her.”
Axel’s fist slammed on the wall. “Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! She’s alive you bastard,” he yelled.
The voice in the darkness laughed again. “She’s dead boy! Her body is probably bruised and abused rotting in the wastelands.”
Axel clawed at his arms as horrific visions in his mind started to consume his thoughts. He imagined the torment knights could do to Ambrose.
“Please stop…” Axel pleaded. He cried then. For the first time, he cried in the dungeons afraid of his powerlessness to help Ambrose.
“She’s alive…she’s alive…she’s alive… she’s alive,” Axel began to chant to himself, a prayer in a dark place.
“She’s dead,” a voice whispered. Axel thought it was his own voice.
He clawed at his skin praying for light. Three weeks have passed.
Axel lay his head back gently against the walls, kicking the furry devils that dared to nibble at him. The inner voice of his soul nudged him to the brink of insanity. Soldiers played with his mental stability to the point where Axel could no longer differentiate between the day and night. Days had passed before opportunity presented Axel the mercy he needed from the hell of the prison. On one fated evening, a foolish guard, drunk from the wines of the castle’s stores, left his gate unattended and unlocked. Axel hesitated before leaving his prison cell. Without a steady source of light, he did not trust his eyes to lead him out.
Ambrose, he thought. With the thought of his dearest friend and ignoring the mad words of the prisoners nearby, he walked further into the dungeons. Surely there was another exit for many men walked through the dungeons and did not come out the same way. Axel swallowed his fears and pressed on venturing into the dungeons further.
He couldn't count how much time passed before he found a door. He opened it slowly. Seeing no internal lights, he walked in. The room reeked of metallic scents and it was nauseating. He covered his nose to block out the stench when, no more than a second later, he heard steps echoing down the hallway he just came through. He tried to walk in the darkness. As he continued walking, with a hand on the wall, he bumped into a table. Something fleshy moved and hit his leg. He continued walking down the hallway path, desperately looking for somewhere to hide. He found a large wardrobe and stepped through it crouching as far down as he could. Fires were lit, illuminating the room. Axel peered through the opening, seeing two soldiers in medical uniforms walking in.
"Did you hear something?" one soldier asked, looking around.
"Probably just the rats, those little beasts are popular down here," the other said chuckling.
Axel observed as the soldiers took the covers off one of the tables, revealing a row of bodies.
"The King ordered a fresh cup of the royal elixir. Apparently, Prince Theo has been ignoring his daily dosage," the first soldier commented as he began pulling tools out of the cabinet.
"That spoiled brat gets immortality and doesn't even want it… It must be nice to be royalty," the second soldier said while grabbing the tools.
Axel looked on in horror, realizing that the bodies weren't normal; they were completely silver in complexion, so metallic they looked like statues. The soldiers took a knife and began slicing into the body; silver liquid pooled out as they cut deeper. The first soldier carefully pulled out the heart, which was entirely silver.
"Ah poor bastards, the silver sickness has got to be awful. Your whole body turning to silver can't be easy." The second soldier sighed as he began carving at a second body.
"I hear the heart gives out first as it turns to silver, then the body turns silver instead of decomposing, it’s quite unnatural! Enchanters have been looking for a cure for ages. It’s downright disgusting."
"What do they need the hearts for then?" the second soldier asked, placing a third heart in the basket. The first soldier hit him in the head.
"Ow!! What was that for?" the second soldier shouted, rubbing his tender head.
"Ya dolt! The purest silver comes from the heart and every other organ is contaminated by the disease because it occurs after they have died. Did you not pay attention in training? Everything must be perfect! One mess up and you could kill a member of the royal family!"
He handed the second soldier the basket of silver hearts.
"Now go take that to the west wing! We need to add the next components. I'll send someone to burn these bodies."
The two soldiers left, leaving Axel alone in the room. He stepped out of the wardrobe and looked at the rows of bodies. Looking closer at the revealed bodies, Axel's heart skipped a beat. Lying there, perfectly still, was Ambrose's mother. He touched her cheek and felt enraged.
How dare they violate her body like this, he thought.
Renewed with purpose Axel grabbed a small scalpel. His body felt inflamed with his rage. He walked out the door not noticing that his very steps singed the floor he was walking upon. Ambrose had to know what foul deeds were happening in the castle and he needed to escape the city of Stemin with her. There was no way he would let his best friend be fodder for royals to consume.
Axel wandered through the dark hallways until he found an old abandoned sewage room. He was surprised a room like this was left unguarded.The stench of human waste filled the air. He covered his nose until he reached the window. A soft breeze touched his face as if welcoming him to freedom. He pulled himself up and through the window, landing on the grass. He paused, looking around, and tried to gather his bearings. He didn't understand where he was. He kept his back to the wall, worried that the lingering stench of sewage would give him away. The moon was thankfully in its shadowed phase. He heard the clanging of armour and his body froze. He contemplated running. Could he make it to District D without being caught? He eased his away from the castle, staying low to the ground and away from the sound of clanging metal. Thankfully, the side of the castle he escaped from was near District C. He wandered through the market, and stopped by the forge he worked at to change into something clean and wash the filth away. As he looked around for something to eat he noted the customer register. Looking at the date his heart fell. It had been a month. A month in that hellscape. His brows furrowed in distress. He grabbed what he could and borrowed a leather satchel. He dropped in his favorite hammer, some rations of bread and dried meat, a weathered black scarf and oil. He left a note for the forge and made his way to District D.
Axel returned to Ambrose's home only to find it emptied and abandoned. He asked around, wondering if anyone had seen her. People said she disappeared before the soldiers had come to pick up her mother's body. Axel examined Ambrose's home one last time. What was once filled with laughter and life was now filled with dust and the lingering feeling of death. He caught his reflection in the mirror and saw his scar trailing down his face.
He recalled the moment he and Ambrose became friends, the outcasts of their districts that everyone once made fun of. He and her only had each other at this point. It was time to leave the city and find his friend; the only question was how could he? The ringing of the war bells alerted him that the dungeon keepers had finally noticed his escape. He looked once more at his unruly hair that, despite his recent cleaning, was matted and knotted with rat bits on the side. He grabbed the scissors out of the kitchen and began snipping away at his hair, cutting the sides down but keeping his hair longer at the top. He had only kept it long to hide the scar. He looked at his face, surprised at how his hair, once powerful, had diminished down to a style he felt revealed his face too much. He could honor his friends mother’s old wish for him to not hide his scar this way. An atonement for not being here for her daughter. He covered his face in a long black scarf and slipped away into the night, letting the darkness cover what he could not.
Axel walked past the mines, the stench of silver whispering out of the caves. The scarf did very little to block the foul stench. The mountains had an ominous feeling in their towering height. As the moon left the sky and the skies lightened, Axel took a moment to rest. Bird calls so early in the morning caused him to look towards the sky. A white raven and a black raven flew towards the direction of Stemin City.
A sign or a curse on the city I hope, he thought.
He closed his eyes and for the first time in a long while, he dreamed.
Axel lay on the sands of a beach gazing at the clear sky dusted with clouds. Out of cerulean waves, a woman stepped out, eyes flashing an array of colors as she stepped towards him. In awe at the ethereal goddess that stood before him, Axel stood and bowed, hiding his face. Her hand reached out and tilted his face to look up at her.
“My son, long have you suffered but tonight you will begin anew.”
She kissed his forehead and Axel cried out in bliss and in agony as swarms of colors and thoughts prodded his mind. The goddess never moved her lips as she spoke. Her voice was not just heard but, to Axel, was felt.
“You are the blade for chaos to come, the avenging messenger of light. You must join my daughter in her fight. Will you go to her Axel, my fire-kissed blade?” she asked him.
Yes, Axel thought. The woman smiled as her eyes turned silver.
“When you awaken at the calls of a raven, you will find her at the end of the curled stone path”
The sounds of crowing ravens awoke him from his slumber. He opened his eyes to see trees surrounding him and a curled path of stones lined with mushrooms.
To Be Continued…
Magical beings I’m screaming I cannot with how Axel’s cover-art came to fruition Middnite Designs has OUTDID herself. The castle reflects the qualities of Obsidian so well. Our cast of male aligned characters is only going to get more reckless, and our femmes more powerful. BIG thank you for the chaos change of two edits a month from my editor Melanie, LOVE YA GIRL, you keep me in check and accountable. I’m excited for another chapter of Rest of Forever in May!
How did you like what we learned with Axel?!