(Please note that this chapter was broken into three pieces to make it easier to read online. Hense the chapter titles.)
A drop of water hit Perin in the face. He blinked and stared up into the darkness. Another drop came. Annoyed, he sat up and moved over. It must have rained a few days ago, he thought.
The darkness was all around him. He had not seen light in quite a while. How long exactly, he did not know. Days. Maybe a week. A month? It was difficult to keep time when it is constantly dark. He knew where he was – a dungeon, located beneath the city of Pons. The dungeon was enormous, stretching for forty feet straight down and a mile wide. It was supported by ancient limestone caves that had been carved by rain water flowing out into the ocean. When the prisons in Pons had gotten too full, they moved the worst prisoners underground.
Perin’s cell was a small square with an angled ceiling. A normal sized man would have difficulty standing, but Perin was quite short and could at least sit up with no problems. Filling in the spaces around the original cave walls was stone, which was covered in mud and clay. Because of the caves, the cells had unique shapes. Each cell had a solid metal door. Because it was underground, there was never any light. Even when the guards brought food, they slid it through a small opening at the bottom of the door so that no light got inside. The prisoners could not even see each other. All they had was the darkness. Sometimes, if Pons got a lot of rain, the cells would flood. Prisoners had drowned in the dungeon. Some had starved. Some had killed themselves. No one ever checked. If you were locked down there, it was a death sentence.
Perin moved backward until his back hit the wall and he leaned against the dirt, trying to sleep again. He wished that he was more tired. If he were tired he could sleep and not stare at the darkness. Suddenly, he heard a small noise that made him jump. The rain drops were still falling and making a splash noise as they hit the bottom of his cell. Perin shook his head. I’ve been down here so long that rain is starting to scare me.
Sleep was not going to come to him now. Perin sighed and rubbed his eyes. He did not know exactly why he was in the dungeon, but he did not expect to be there for so long. A man named Jerek Tyler was the dictator of Pons. Every so often Tyler would throw his associates into the dungeon to teach them a lesson, but he would pull them back after a few days. Perin expected that he had done something to make Tyler angry, but he was not being pulled out. Whatever happened, it must have been severe. Perin did not recall doing anything that far out of line.
The dark and the quiet were supposed to affect the mind, to cause the unruly soldier to come crawling out, begging Tyler to let him return to the surface. But Perin knew something that Tyler did not. The same caves that supported the dungeon served as a hiding place for about a hundred women. Several years earlier,Tyler had decided that women were only good for producing children, and so encouraged his men to treat them very badly. A few of the women decided to protect themselves by going underground, in the same caves that supported the dungeon. Nico had come up with the plan, and Perin had helped to save them. They would pretend to take women into a whore house, doing their patriotic duty. Instead the women were shown to their new home through secret tunnels in the floor. No one ever asked where the women went, and as long as there were not too many disappearing at a time, no one would care. Of course, a few actually were whores, but most chose a life underground. The women that Perin had saved had not forgotten that kindness. When they had found out that Perin was in their caves, they had come to keep him company. Unfortunately for him one of them had shared something very itchy.
Perin stuck his fingers into the moist dirt below him. Years of prisoners had formed a shallow layer of dirt and grime. He had no idea what was in that dirt, and for once he was glad that he could not see it. I’m contemplating the dirt… I have officially run out of things to think about.
There was not anyone up there who would notice that he was gone.Tyler might notice, but he would not care. No one else would dare to try to help Perin. Well, Nico might, if he were in his right mind. Perin had no family and very few friends. Nothing to think about.
Somehow his thoughts always came back to Nico. Nico had found Perin wandering the streets alone when Perin was four years old. Perin had lived on the streets after his family had been killed. Nico, who was nearly thirteen years older than Perin, had taken the young Perin as a brother. They had joined Tyler’s army together. Perin did everything with Nico. Approximately ten years earlier, Nico had changed. Something very bad happened to him. He started drinking far too much alcohol, and then he became violent and withdrawn. One day Perin found him lying in the street. Perin dragged Nico back home and watched over him all night. In the morning Nico left without saying a word to Perin, and the next night Perin found him on the same street. Again, Perin tried to help him, but Nico shoved him away. Nico told Perin to leave him alone, and when Perin refused, Nico had punched him in the face, breaking his jaw. That was the last interaction he had with his brother.
Suddenly he heard a scraping sound. The door was being opened, and a small light appeared through the darkness. Perin was so glad to see the light that he almost forgot where he was. A guard entered his cell and shackled Perin’s wrists and ankles. He could tell that there were two guards, one who was shackling him and one who was holding the light, but he could not see who they were. One of the guards pulled roughly on his wrists, forcing Perin to move. Finally, he was being taken out of the dungeon. Perin was pulled up several flights of grungy stairs, all the way outside onto the streets of Pons.