Too Far From Redemption (unfinished)

Two figures crept forwards in the darkness pressing against them from all sides, treading carefully in the feeble light emanating from an old, rusty lantern held by one of them. His eyes flickered nervously, but there was nothing in the darkened hallway leading to the Choir Entrance. He cast a glance at his companion behind him.

”Let's go,” Daniel whispered, and they stepped in to a candle-lit corridor. Philip closed the door after them as quietly as he could, extremely careful not to alert one of those hideous creatures of their whereabouts.

Running to the blonde man much earlier in the gloomy archive rooms had been the most unexpected turn of events but Daniel had been grateful for every minute of his company, fearing to think how slim his chances of survival would have been on his own. Philip was a reassuring companion and patient, always so patient, keeping a level head where Daniel felt his grip on his sanity was slipping. During their slow descent to the castle's depths they had come to trust one another more than Daniel would have expected in such a short time. Philip was as close to a friend as he could possibly have hoped for in his situation, but he valued his companionship nevertheless.

They took cautious steps, advancing as quietly as possible and coming to a halt between two identical doors. The air was strangely warm and humid here, quite unlike the rest of the castle and Daniel found his dirtied shirt to sticking to his skin unpleasantly.

“Where to?” he whispered, wiping away lone beads of sweat from his brow.

They had three options; to continue down a staircase to another ornate door, which looked like it would take them even deeper into the castle, or to explore what lay beyond the two less impressive doors. Philip's fingers enclosed around the door pull and he bit his lip, praying that none of those nameless abominations were lurking and waiting for them in whatever lay beyond. He pulled and the door swung open with an ominous creak.

It appeared to be a small, relatively empty room illuminated by myriad of still-burning candles, and Daniel wondered vaguely who had lit them. Alexander or his servants, surely, or maybe even his former self...

His attention was drawn to what appeared to be a stone altar in the very centre of the room, stained heavily by dried up blood, large enough for a man to lay on it. He shuddered and ran his fingers gingerly over the cold surface. A ritual. A diary entry he had found not too long ago had spoken of a ritual. His head throbbed nastily at the thought, as though warning him to keep from probing at those memories any further. Still, that room had a none too pleasant sense of familiarity to it. He glanced at the heavy iron rings, meant to shackle down a person from their wrists judging by their positioning, and somewhere on the back of his mind something clicked into place.

“The ritual took place here,” he breathed, his voice barely audible.

“The one mentioned in the journal?” Philip asked, discarding his jacket and stuffing it into his backpack with a lone tinderbox he had picked up and turned to look at Daniel. Daniel nodded, looking grave.

“That means we're in the right direction. If those orb pieces have been used for torture, they should be somewhere around here,” Philip said thoughtfully. “We should press on. There's nothing in this room, that's for sure.”

They crept back into the corridor again, looking both ways several times before daring to close the door behind them. Opening the other door revealed another room lined with burning candles, almost identical to the one they had just exited.

“Doesn't seem to be anything special here, either...” Philip muttered, examining each corner carefully but only finding more tinder. He turned around hastily when he heard Daniel gasp, his heart thumping loudly in his chest as he feared another monster had pinpointed their location.

“What?” he exclaimed, relieved, seeing Daniel standing in front of the altar.

“It appears to be another journal entry.” His voice was quiet, almost reluctant. They were desperately in need of more clues to aid their search but the further he read these notes his former self had jotted down, the less he wanted to keep reading. His hand hovered over the pages, indecisive.

Philip looked at his friend, taking in his frightened expression. “I understand how you must be feeling, but we could really use some help in this situation. There's no trace of orbs or anything in these rooms, and who knows what's waiting down there.” When Daniel continued to look hesitant, his eyes wide and scared like those of a child's, Philip added more gently, “please, Daniel. It could be important.”

At the sound of his own name Daniel sobered up, nodding slowly. “Alright.”

His eyes flickered down line by line, cold sweat drenching his skin. His heart seemed to skip a beat, then another, then third, and the papers fluttered on the door. He was on his knees on the floor, though he did not know how he had ended up there.

He whimpered loudly, head suddenly searing with pain so severe he thought he was going to pass out.

The sudden rush of images blinded him, the cacophony of voices long dead filling his ears with screaming, yelling and sobbing. He shook his head violently, clawing at his head, the regained memories flashing all too clearly throught his brain. Philip, alarmed but not entirely surprised by his companion's behavior, put a hand on his shoulder and said something that Daniel could not hear over his own gasps and wails. The walls were spinning around him in sickening motion, the floor quaked and he was scared and confused, and suddenly very aware of the very memories he had tried so hard to drown.

”Daniel? Daniel! Are you alright?” Philip asked in a worried whisper, not daring to speak louder and managing to pull him back on his feet.

Daniel's eyes widened and he started violently, as though mistaking him for another monster. He whipped around and with surprising agility for someone so jittery caught Philip by his wrists, clumsily pushing him down to the blood-stained altar. Philip gasped in pain as he landed hard on his back, eyes watering. ”Christ, Daniel, what are you doing?!”

”Leave me alone!” Daniel shouted, eyes bulging. ”You are dead! You are already dead!”

Philip blinked. A sudden wave of understanding crashed over him as he scrutinised Daniel's distorted expression. Another flashback, he thought, and a real nasty one at that by the looks of it. He sighed in relief. ”Daniel, it's alright. Whatever you saw is not real. Just calm down, okay?”

Daniel's expression faltered, anger replaced with confusion. ”Not... real?”

”That's right. Just another memory of yours.”

”A... memory...”

He bit his lip as his head throbbed like an open wound, but it was useless to try and push back the confusing surge of disconnected visions flashing in his mind.

The man strapped to the altar, and he knew it was the very same altar, cried and begged and struggled as the knife flashed in the air. He could almost feel the cold material of the hilt as the knife, held by his own hand, sliced the skin with skilful cuts, tracing patterns one could almost describe as ornate, painted with the deepest crimson. Daniel had smiled like a demon as he watched the man's desperate struggle, thinking it was the closest thing to beauty he had ever seen in his life. Such craftsmanship, to be able to create something like that with his own hands, and with each passing day he came closer to perfecting his art.

It had been there, in these very same rooms filled with devices designed for the most intricate and exquisite cruelty that Alexander had opened his eyes to what possibilities lay ahead of him. Shaken though he had been after the first ritual he had quickly sobered up, coming to terms with what kind of filth they were dealing with. The lack of remorse in their distasteful lies and claims of innocence were simply maddening. Such insolence. There had been no words to describe the satisfaction of putting the fear of God almighty back in them, and the shuddering body underneath the tip of his dagger had become a routine, a sport to enjoy.