TRIGGER WARNINGS: Graphic descriptions of sensory deprivation, violence and bloodshed. In-depth exploration of mental trauma. Graphic descriptions of torture. 

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          Maladaptive Coping Mechanism (mal__daptiv k_piNG mek__niz_m)
 
          Noun
            1- The opposite of normal (positive/adaptive/constructive) coping techniques; non-coping
            2- Reduces symptoms while maintaining and/or strengthening the stressful situation/disorder. More effective in short term rather than long term coping process.
            Example: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

 

          Dissociative Disorder  (di_s_sh_tiv dis_ôrd_r)
 
         Noun
            1-  Condition that involves disruptions or breakdowns of memory, awareness, identity, or perception. People with this condition dissociate, a defense mechanism, pathologically and involuntarily. Thought to primarily be caused by psychological trauma.
            Example: Dissociative Amnesia, Dissociative Identity Disorder
            

Weak struggling, the clink of shifting chains. Breathe- breathe– she couldn’t breathe– 

Without looking up from the porno rag currently in his hands, the imp sitting next to her pushed a simple wooden box under Cael’s feet. She hung from the ceiling by the chains on her wrists, dried blood and pus crusty around the irons. With her weight suddenly supported, she gasped back to life and consciousness as fire burned up her numb, dislocated arms, her circulatory system sluggishly rising back to life. Her chest ached with effort, her diaphragm one mass of acute, hitching agony with every gasping gulp of air. Now that the weight was off her arms, her ribs no longer prevented her lungs from expanding all the way, and she had the leverage her diaphram needed to work properly. One breath, two, three.

And the imp moved the box away as Cael made a terrible choking noise of agony, half begging, before the struggle began again. 

The clock across from her ticked up another notch, 49:24 to 49:25.

Breathe- breathe

x

 

Things as inconsequential as time didn’t have meaning anymore. There was only the now, the moment. Before remained clouded, just beyond her reach, and there was no point thinking about next or future. Nothing good would come of it. Only pain. 

There was pain here too, but strange pain, echoes and throbbing aches, hurts left unhealed on purpose, distant-but-not. In the darkness of the box (it was a box, Cael remembered that, the last sliver of light vanishing as they shut her in) everything closed in and expanded all at once. Somehow, something they did to her…. She couldn’t remember. She wasn’t always here, right? In the box. No There was another life, lost to her now. 

Cael remembered, vaguely, being… warm. Happy. Full. Not thirsty. Content. 

Here, her stomach busily sank claws of hunger pains into her spine, and she would beg for water if she could; but opening her mouth made no noise, and hurt to do, to speak, to move much at all, honestly. There was no feeling besides that. A flash, a memory? Recent? Chanting, she smell of decay and sulfur. Literally, no feeling: she couldn’t feel her fur against the walls of the box, or her extremities, or anything at all. Eyes stared, sightless, seeing nothing but black dark that gave way to dancing visions and spots behind her eyes- were they open or closed? Was she moving at all- even breathing? 

No. No. Don’t think. Don’t think. Don’t panic. No. Despite the cottonball feeling of her drugged brain, she managed to shy away from complete and total meltdown. A surge of brief, dizzy-sick-pain swamped her, then passed, leaving colored lights floating in her mind.

Exist. Exist. I exist. I am alive. I exist. I am alive.


Some of them took on shapes, sometimes, things she knew but couldn’t say the name of. A silvery blue flower, another in rioting red and spectacular bloom; two swords, exactly the same but for tone colors- one bright blue and steel gray, one molten orange and golden; pastries drizzled with something sweet she swore she could smell; a ship; an angry bear; dragons. 

Was it raining? Did she feel raindrops? No- she was itchy, so itchy, but she couldn’t scratch, couldn’t feel herself do anything.

It passed. 

Cold seeped into her aching bones, her poor abused flesh. She didn’t feel it happen. Was she shivering? I can’t tell. 


I don’t suppose it matters much. 


Floating. Floating in darkness, deprived of all sensation. Even her own heartbeat, her own breathing, was muted to her ears. 

Darkness, silence, floating, and pain. 

Different pain had different feels to it. Some came in waves, some in bolts, some in regular throbbing time, some at random. Some almost had a beat like music… like a growing crescendo, starting soft, then rising on notes, howling-

-a wolf’s howl, and icy fear trickling into her heart, she felt that at least, but where was that noise coming from? Aren’t I in a box-? But I’m floating, how can a box float, how big is this box, how…?

The motes of colors slowly began to take a pattern, a form, stopping and sticking until they coalesced- now she felt sand under hands, saw wrists whole instead of seeping infected ooze from a combination of burns and chafing. Whole… and human. 

She was human.

 Where am I-? What is this-? How am I…? What’s going on? Where’s the pain? 


….No, there it is. But so far away…. what’s happening to me? 


Am I dying? 


Huh.


I wonder if I will meet the Light. Or Goldrinn-


“USELESS WHELP!”

Something massive and muscled rushed her from the dark beyond, sand flying. A cuffing blow to the head bowled her over, and Cael yelped, scrambling to recover. 

A great red wolf, emaciated but truly, truly huge, bigger than the draft horses at Westguard at the shoulder, glared at her with hateful molten copper eyes. Scars covered every inch, all kinds, and skinny as it was there was no denying the sheer brutal power in it’s haunches, bristling rage given form. Bloody teeth, freakishly large and far too many for it’s mouth, pierced her with fear. Ears flat back in fury were shredded, one missing a tip. Huge paws sported wicked claws for gutting bellies and rending flesh.
Oh no. No, no, no, nononononono please no no not this not you-!


“USELESS! STUPID! COWERING! ME? YOU MEAN US,” it hissed, fetid breath with rotting meat and blood making her stomach turn. Cael stood, trembling, hands clenched at her sides. “LET ME OUT. THEY ARE KILLING US AND YOU ARE LETTING THEM. LET ME OUT!” it roared, and leaped for her. 

No. No! Never! Never again! You’re a monster and I am not a monster and I will die, first, before I let you make me into that THING again!


Girl and wolf grappled; those jaws lunged for her throat, but Cael caught them and held, held, HELD, impossibly held them fast, inches at bay, shaking with the effort. Hot breath, rank and moist, ghosted her face; saliva drooled onto her neck. 

“I SAVED US, YOU UNGRATEFUL GIRL! I KEPT US ALIVE! YOU WOULD GIVE UP, YOU WOULD STARVE-“


Cael slammed a knee into its belly and rolled away. 

You ATE PEOPLE! You killed and you liked it, and it was wrong, it was WRONG, I’d RATHER die than do what you did, I SHOULD have died instead-


The wolf turned, those eyes, those terrible, terrible raging eyes, pinning her own. “IF THERE US NO ONE ALIVE, NOTHING CAN HURT US! IF WE ARE THE PREDATOR, EVERYONE ELSE IS PREY! WE HUNT! WE KILL! NOTHING WILL HUNT US, NOTHING WILL KILL US! IN THE END, EVERYONE LEAVES, EVERYTHING DIES, AND WE ARE ALONE! LET ME OUT!” 


I’m not alone! I have the Templars! Cael glared back defiantly. Something sharp pricked her foot; a look down told her the sand was littered with bones, many, many bones, and this femur was sheared at an angle sharp enough to use as a weapon. 

Better than nothing. She picked it up.

“YOU DARE BARE YOUR TEETH AT ME? THEY LEAVE, THEY LEFT, THEY HURT, THEY LIE! THEY HAVE NOT COME!” it roared, leaping at her. She barely dodged in time, darting under the belly of the beast and skipping away. 

They’re good people fighting a terrible evil and you’d kill them all! Kory, the Justicar, Aunne-


“NOTHING CAN HURT US IF EVERYTHING DIES! YOU WOULD LET THE DEMONS WIN, YOU WOULD LET THEM HURT AND BREAK US AGAIN! KILL, YES, WE WOULD KILL AND FEAST AND HOWL TO THE NIGHT SKY AND RUN FREE BUT YOU WOULD SIT HERE CHAINED IN YOUR OWN FEAR-” 

 

It lunged again, snarling, and Cael met it. The femur sunk deep into it’s flank. Claws ranked her shoulder. Two howls of pain, almost echoes of each other, split the air.

 

-You’d kill the only family I can even remember-

 

HE DID NOT DIE FOR YOU TO ROLL OVER AND SHOW YOUR BELLY TO ANYONE! FOR YOU TO LEAVE THE ENEMY ALIVE WHEN YOU HAVE THE CHANCE TO KILL THEM AND ELIMINATE THE THREAT! FOR YOU TO MAKE FRIENDS WITH THE UNDEAD! KILLERS, TORTURERS-“

 

They are my comrades, and allies, and yes, my FRIENDS!! He didn’t die to see me become the kind of monster he would be scared of! Respect-

 

“YOU ARE A WOLF! RESPECT POWER! RESPECT BLOOD AND TEETH! RESPECT THE RULES OF THE HUNT!”

 

Respect fami- pack! Packmates! She’d never used that term before, and it didn’t seem to have a concept of the word from the way it narrowed it’s eyes at her. Respect the code of honor! I’m trying to be better and you’re fucking it up for me all the time, day after day, and I HATE YOU! I’m SICK OF IT!

 

They circled one another, hackles up, teeth showing. 


“RESPECT ME! LET ME OUT! YOU DARE SPEAK TO ME OF HATE?! MY RAGE IS ENDLESS! MY HATE KEEPS US STRONG! KEEPS US WHOLE! MY REVENGE KEEPS US FIGHTING! WHERE WERE YOU WHEN THE DEMON CAME HERE? CURLED IN A BALL LIKE A KICKED DOG, WHINING-” 


I am no one’s dog! Cael yelled, and dashed in to try and slip her shiv between the monster’s ribs. But he was too quick, and a great slashing swipe sent her flying, stars exploding across her vision.


“YOU ARE A WOLF! NOTHING WILL CHANGE THAT! WE SAVED US BEFORE IN THE DARK-PIT-PLACE! ME, NOT YOUR PRECIOUS TEMPLARS! NOT ANYONE! IT WAS US AND US ALONE AND NO ONE CAME AND EVERYONE HURT US! THE DEMONS CAME TO ENSLAVE AND BEND US TO THIER WILL AND WE STOPPED THEM! WE STOPPED THEM! BUT NOW HERE WE ARE, BECAUSE YOU WERE WEAK! YOU WENT BACK FOR THE WOUNDED!”

 

Keleosha was-

 

“IF THEY CANNOT RUN YOU LEAVE THEM BEHIND! THAT IS THE LAW OF NATURE!” It charged her, gaping maw closing in for the kill.

 

That’s fucking bullshit! If they can’t run, by Goldrinn fucking teeth and the holy Light above, you reach down and you pick them up and you fucking CARRY THEM! Cael screamed back at it, just before it crunched, savagely, on her arm.

 

“YOU WOULD KILL US!” The wolf shook her like a rag doll and tossed her to the ground. Sand stained rapidly with blood under where she bounced, tumbled, lay still. 


There- is- no- WE, no US! You- would make me- something WORTH killing! Something- to be- put DOWN! Agony, agony, crystal clear, blood and grit in her nose, her mouth, but somehow she staggered up as she gritted out the words. It was on her in a second, pinning her with a paw on the chest, and she couldn’t dislodge it as it threatened to crush her beneath the weight of hate and ruin, left to fester in a bottle and grow and seethe. 

 

“WE ARE DYING! LET ME OUT! LET ME OUT! I CAN SAVE US! I WILL KILL THEM, RIP THEM, TEAR THEM, EAT THEIR HEARTS AND RUN THEM DOWN ACROSS THE VERY BONES OF THE WORLD!” A snarl of pain again, as Cael viciously stabbed at that giant paw- her left hand exploded into agony. “INSOLENT! IGNORANT! IDIOT! YOU DOG, YOU SNIVELING COWARD! WEAK! WEAK! SO LONG, SO LONG HAVE I BEEN HERE WATCHING AND WAITING! WE WILL STOP THIS! WE WILL FIX THIS! WE WILL KILL THEM! KILL THEM ALL! WE WILL BE SAFE WHEN WE KILL THEM ALL!” 

 

A great, earthshattering howl, the hunting howl, ripped from the depths of the beast’s very being. 

 

Then the great head dipped-

 

I HATE YOU! Cael screamed at the beast, one last defiance.

 

-and ripped her throat out in a bloody spray of white trachea bits and spurting arterial red. 


“LET ME OUT!” 

 

 

x

 

 

Loud knocks echoed through Felsoul Hold. “Yo, bossman.” 

 

“What is it, Wizzik? You better have a good reason for interrupting Daddy’s special time,” Zenrozem said, gentle tone belied by the look in his eyes. In the room behind him, two succubi giggled. 

 

“Hey, my bad, just- you wanted to know if anything changed. Doggy’s gone awful quiet and still in her box,” the imp reported. “And uh…. We’re getting some activity reports.” 

 

“…Are you going to keep me in suspense?” 

 

“Some, ah, death knights. They’re… being a right pain in the ass, sir.” 

 

The demon rubbed his temples. “Of course they are. Proceed with the plan. Send reinforcements to occupy our frosty friends. Get everyone together, they ought to know their parts by now.” A sigh; he looked back at his room and sighed again. “Ten minutes. Do NOT, under any circumstance, open the box till I get there.” 

 

Zenrozem smiled, then, despite himself. 


Now that I have broken the girl… I am so looking forward to breaking the wolf to heel. And teaching Ryo some respect for his elders. He’s giving rebellious teenage phase a new definition, tsktsk. I wonder if he’ll kill her; out of either self-preservation or after he sees what she does to those poor schmucks. Rather proud of that idea, giving all the rest of the prisoners that illusion and making them fight her. I wonder how she will react to seeing herself kill her precious Templars. 


Maybe that will be a lesson, knock some sense into the boy when he sees what happens when mortals defy the Legion. 



x

 

 

This was, Zenrozem reflected, perhaps, just perhaps, a slight tactical error. 

 

It had to happen sometime, even to the smartest demons, of which he was one. 

 

Blood didn’t lace the air- it practically dripped from it. Sulfur and smoke choked and burned the throat, intestinal reek and fecal stink mingling there from the dead bodies that lay where they’d fallen. A mix of demons and prisoners, they were, and all VERY dead- sliced to ribbons, missing limbs, throats and chests ripped brutally open, gore staining crimson on green in striking contrast. The plateau surrounded by bubbling liquid fel would not contain the growing fury of it’s inhabitants any longer. 

 

“Well, the good news is, my evil plan totally worked! The bad news is… my evil plan worked just a tiny bit too well,” he muttered to himself. As something else exploded and something HOWLED into the smoggy sky. 

 

Pitting the puppy against his own overgrown feckless whelp looked like it was going swimmingly, especially when they started annihilating the prisoners and a few demons he’d disguised as Templars. What a sight, what a glorious sight! No hesitation, no pause, just chaos and carnage on a level that even a demon could respect. Once they’d killed the appetizers, it was on to the main course. Why, he’d even popped popcorn in anticipation of the big event!

 

A shrieking sound like metal ripping from sheer brute force made him grit his teeth. Ow, ow, eardrums, eardrums! There was a bestial snarl, and a yelp of pain. 

 

….But he had mildly miscalculated what would happen if, say, Ryo ripped an entire console free of it’s moorings on the floor, shortcircuiting his systems, and well, from there things devolved rather quickly, as the puppy was thrown into and through a support column housing several important wires. 

 

Zenrozem analyzed the current situation, switching gears easily, computing. 

 

“Total loss. Back to the drawing board…” He sighed deeply, and pulled out a little white and green stone. 

 

“Time to call the Templars to come pick up their children, they’re no fun anymore- and they’re wrecking my stuff!” 

Author Cael
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