Arcana X 1st Assignment: Gunslinger Swordsman Ch.5 Pt.1

Arcana X title

The scent of dank air burns her nostrils. She opens her eyes. At first she sees nothing but the red curls of her hair. She shakes her head until most of them fall to either side of her face. Still, her vision is blocked by a few strands and when goes to brush them to the side that is when she heard the sound of chains. A second pull helps her realize that the chains are shackled to her hands. She looks up as much as she can to see the shackles on her wrists and the chains that tethered them to the wall. Why I am chained to a wall, she wondered. She scans her surroundings. She is in a holding area of some kind. Along the walls were other people who are in the same predicament as she. The room is lit by a single large fire place set on the other side from her. The fire’s glow reflects off the tools of a table nearby. The tools are crooked and dull. No good can come of such things as those. Several more tables are situated about the room, each of them have shackles for one’s hands and feet. A couple of them have head restraints to ensure that the person strapped to it is secure. What is the reason behind their design? Instruments of torture, or are they for something more sinister?

The woman, taking notice that there is another person next to her, decides to ask them about the place. In that instance that she lays her eyes upon them that she saw her answer. The person next her had been the victim of torture. Their body bore deep cuts and gashes. Sear marks are visible from where something, a poker perhaps, was draped in the flames of the fire place and dragged along their body. But what is truly alarming is the captive’s withered body. Their skin pulled tight around shriveled muscles that have long ceased the ability to function. Now fully aware of how dire her situation is, the red haired woman looks around the room at the other bodies that decorated the walls. All of them withered with drum tight skin. All of them are dead. It is then that she notices the table directly in front of her. Another corpse lay upon it. The walls of its abdomen neatly folded back like parchment. She quickly turns away and shoves her face into her shoulder as the bile fills her throat. The growing curiosity is turning her eyes back to the partially disemboweled corpse. She shuts them and fights back the bile stretching her throat.

Then, in the quietness of the chamber, she hears a sound. She is not aware of what it is nor did she care. At the moment, any distraction from the horror near her is most welcome. She hears the sound again. It is a moan. There’s someone else alive besides her. She looks around for this other person who is still amongst the living. She soon spots a table in the upper right of the torture chamber. There is a young woman with dirty blonde hair chained and shackled in the same manner as the corpse before her. The short blue skirt and low-cut matching top tell her exactly who the girl is.

“Larissa?” she said. She calls the girl’s name again, keeping her voice loud enough just for the two of them to hear.

Larissa opens her eyes after hearing her name again. She follows the direction of the voice calling her and spies the familiar green dress, torn and tattered, of her friend. “Aerith? What’s going on? Where are we?” Larissa begins to panic when she realizes she can’t move her arms or legs. Her voice is an octave higher than when Aerith spoke. Whoever has brought them to this place should not be alerted. Aerith tries to quiet her friend.

“Larissa, you have to calm down,” she says. Looking, Larissa sees the urgency in her eyes. She responds with a nod. Aerith searches for a way to free both her and Larissa or else they’ll end up like these other poor bastards. She spots an iron rod resting against the table ahead of her but how would she get to it. More importantly, how would she use it to free herself? Wait a minute, she thought. She now realizes that her ankles are not shackled. To make certain, she lifts one leg as high as she could. She immediately notices something else. She can almost reach the iron rod. It is not long that an idea forms in her head. Aerith stretches a leg out. The tips of her toes are close. If she can get the rod, she might be able to get out. She arcs her back more. Slowly, her foot comes closer to the rod. Just one more inch, she thought. Just a little—

Aerith falls back heavily against the wall, breathless. She stares at the rod resting against the table, taunting her failed effort. However, she cannot give up. She pushes herself back up and gives the rod a determined glare. The red haired woman tries again. This time, she is much closer. She can almost grab the rod with her foot. Now that she has one foot firmly on the ground—

She holds a moment. Just before, both of her feet barely touched the cobblestone floor. Now she is able set one foot fully on the ground. Aerith bring her other leg down. Both feet are fully touching the damp cobblestone. Curious, she looks up at the chains to see they have pulled away from the wall a bit. Time must have eaten away at masonry holding them in place. Looks like that rod won’t be needed after all, she thought. With a potentially easier plan in mind, Aerith begins pulling on the chains. The eye hook holding them gives a little. She manages to turn around toward the wall, grip the chains tightly and pulls with all her might. It gives a little more. Without shoes, her feet slide easily on the floor’s smooth surface. She lets up, keeping the chains taut, gets her feet under her and pulls again. Her arms feel ready to give but she will not be denied a chance to escape. She begins yanking the chain side to side. More pieces of masonry crumble. Her efforts soon tire her. Aerith stops momentarily to catch her breath. She looks at the chains. They are close to giving. She gathers feet under her once more, adjusts her grip and gives the chains one more hard pull. The eye hook gives way the moment the chains are pulled taut, sending pieces of masonry flying. Aerith stumbles and falls into the table, slamming her chest against the edge. She waits for a moment or two to allow the pain to pass before she uses the table to stand up. Her fall has brought her face to face with the corpse. It stares back at her with its hollow eyes and mouth agape in a silent scream. For a second, she thinks about what horrors this person has endured in this place. Larissa will not suffer such a fate. She leaves the corpse and heads over to Larissa.

“Larissa, are you alright?” asked Aerith.

“What’s going on, Aerith? What is this place?” Larissa asked back.

“I don’t know, but one thing’s for sure we have to get out of here.” Aerith searches around for something to remove the shackles on her wrists and free Larissa from the table. There are all kinds of rods, hammers and other vicious looking instruments that could be useful. However, they will also draw attention as none of them are stealthy enough to remove the shackles. Soon, she spies a set of keys next to the fire pit. Aerith goes over, takes the keys off the hook and begins to work on finding the right key. The first few keys fail before she hears the lock click telling that the right one has been chosen. After quickly removing the shackles and placing them gently on the table, he hurries back Larissa and plays the guessing game again. One by one she tries each key. One by one they yield no results. Despair begins to set in as Aerith nears the last few keys. She tries two of them. Nothing happens. The same outcome plays out for the final keys.

“None of them work,” said Aerith. Her hope of rescuing her friend is fading.

“Aerith, you have to keep trying,” Larissa says.

They soon hear something in the hall leading to the chamber. Aerith goes to and peeks through the small window in the door. She sees a group of figures approaching. At the moment they are too far away to make out their appearances, but that will change soon. She has to find a way to free Larissa. Her despair turns in to worry fueled fear. She rushes back to Larissa, takes up the keys and hastily tries again.

Larissa looks at her friend, seeing the fear and desperation written on her face. “Aerith, what’s wrong?” she asks.

Shaking from fear, Aerith tries each key again. Her only thought is getting Larissa and herself out of the torture. Her overwhelming concern has her periodically glancing at the bodies around the room. All of them withered. All of them with their mouths agape in a silent scream. What a cruel end. An end Aerith does not want her and Larissa to meet. But that end may come if she doesn’t hurry. Her hands are shaking. Her despair grows. Again, all the keys are failures. “They don’t work. I…can’t save you,” Aerith said teary eyed. Any hope of rescuing Larissa has been dashed. The thought of her friend since childhood suffering the same grisly fate as the withered bodies strewn about the chamber like tapestry is unbearable. She cannot leave Larissa to such a fate. She will not leave Larissa to such a fate.

Desperation sets in and reasoning is cast to the winds. Aerith snatches up a nearby rod and raises it high, taking aim at the shackles holding Larissa’s wrists. Larissa will not die. She will not let her die! Larissa sees the desperation in Aerith that has now clouded her judgment. If she strikes down with that rod, the people approaching the chamber will be alerted. They’ll burst in and kill them both. Or Aerith could miss in her target and injure her instead. Larissa wanted to escape with Aerith once she discovered that she was alive. However, that has become a pipedream. All Larissa can do is ensure her friend’s safety.

“Aerith, don’t!” she says, being careful not to yell.

Aerith holds the rod back. Looking at her, she sees the plea in Larissa’s eyes. “I have to get you out of here.”

“You can’t. You have to save yourself.”

“No, I’m not leaving you’re here,” Aerith protested.

“I know,” Larissa says. Then, she begins to cry. “But you don’t have a choice. Better one of us makes it than neither of us, right? You have to get back to the village. You have to warn them.”

Aerith lowers the rod. Her eyes fill with tears. The thought of leaving her friend behind is tearing her apart. Her full intentions were for the both of them to return home. Sadly, that was nullified the moment she could not free Larissa. Faced with a hard choice, Aerith lays the rod down and leans close to Larissa. She looks into her eyes. Then, she kisses her. “I love you,” Aerith says sobbing.

“I know,” says Larissa.

Aerith gives Larissa one last look before she hurried to a small recess in the front corner of the chamber she spied when retrieved the keys earlier. She nuzzles herself into the tight space just as the lock on the door to the chamber clicks. She peeks around the wall’s edge. Two winged creatures enter. These must be the creatures that brought them here. Another pair enters the chamber and the four of them stand to either side of the door. Who else could be entering, she wondered. The person entering is a beautiful woman scantily clad in airy linens that barely cover her expansive bust. The linens flow behind her on an invisible breeze. A senile old man would think she is angel. But Aerith would wager by how the winged creatures revered this woman—bowing in her presence—that she is in command of them, in command of their current situation and a far cry from anything heavenly.

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