This is the fourth chapter of my book The Broken Tournament, to catch up with the story so far you can read the first installment, the prelude here.
“KIL RUN” I shouted as he got pushed into the dungeon, I was too late. My friend was trapped. That’s what these monsters do, they lie to you to keep you for as long as they like.
“Kil, are you ok?” I crawled over to meet him, he looked rough and dishevelled but I knew that I was a whole lot worse. He was the kind of guy who wouldn’t realise he was trapped so I either had to comfort him if he worked it out or slowly break the news to him. I had a theory though, and it was confirmed with his next sentence.
“Who are you? What’s going on?” Kil said looking at all of the other bodies in the room before returning back to me. So he had no memory of me at all, too many people had forgotten us for it to be coincidence.
“Don’t you remember, I’m Rick.” Confusion swept across his face and I saw that it was futile. Then from his sat up position he glanced at the rest of the people in the room. It was creepy how most of us just lied there in our spots, looking down at the floor and saying nothing. I had tried to create conversation at first, but their pitiful sadness was infectious and I found myself joining them in creating the dire mood of the dungeon.
“No I don’t know you.” He was trying to avoid looking at my face; even in the minor candlelight he could still see my gruesome mutilation.
“Come over here” I said beckoning him to return to my corner at the back wall of the room. A few heads had turned to look at us but they were already bored with the new addition to the group, they returned to the mind games in their head, dreams of home and escapist fantasies.
“This is why you don’t know me. Think about this, how many people are adults in Withwood compared to the number of kids who’ve not passed the trial?” I asked him knowing more or less what his answer would be.
“Well theirs a lot more children.” So Withwood hadn’t changed, everyone including the adults had no idea what was going on behind the scenes.
“That’s because there’s so many people who are taken here! The fact that you don’t remember me when you should tells me that.” At first it was painful when people didn’t know who you were, but you just had to live with it. For some reason it wasn’t their fault.
“Why should that tell you anything? All it tells you is that I’ve forgotten you.” Kil replied, he wasn’t as smart as he looked, or maybe me idea was really farfetched. Despite having the air of intelligence he really comes across to me as someone who doesn’t know what they’re on about. Yes he’s physically strong and relatively good looking but that doesn’t mean anything.
“Well there are so many children compared to the adults because most of the adults fail their trial and are sent here. I failed and was sent here as well!”
“Well maybe but I don’t believe that I would have forgotten you. You’re appearance is quite, something I think I’d recognise.” Kil replied trying not to be insulting, he’d been through a trial and horrific circumstances but was handling it quite well, maybe he was clinging on to a belief that this was another part of the test.
“Think of our group of friends, we’re called the 5 farmers. Who are those members?”
“Well theirs me, Josh, Mike, Jack and a fake fifth member who we have just to make the name sound cooler.” Well he was right on all the members except one. I had no idea how memories could be erased this easily, but I suppose things like this would fill in the gaps.
“I am the extra member, you’ve all forgot me since I went on the trial and lost. Somehow and by some way the people who fail the trial must be forgotten about.”
“How about you tell me something about me a complete stranger wouldn’t know?” Kil said inquisitively, he wanted to believe me, I’m sure. The idea had been repeated so much in my head until it had become normal so I appreciated his doubt. I had to tell him something he only told me or very few people. I decided to tell him about the rat.
“Ages ago when you were younger you found a rat near a road and put it in a massive bottle so you wouldn’t lose it. You would feed it all the time and even asked people like me to feed it as well, at first it would try to desperately escape the container but eventually when you tried to set it free. But the rat had got so used to living there that it didn’t try to escape. A few days later we found it dead in that same bottle.” How was that I thought triumphantly!
“I guess I believe you.” Kil said and even though he was reacquainted with an old friend I could see him almost tear up. To him this would have been his first realisation that he hadn’t won.
“We were great friends, I can tell you more if you want, it’s not like we’re going anywhere.” I realised I said too much, that light hearted statement might have been too soon. Kil ignored it.
“What happened to your eye?” he asked me, interested. “How did you lose it? Maybe I’ll remember something.”
Kil would not have any memory at all because I lost my eye here. After days of wasting away I decided to escape, but I was caught way too easily. They cut it out at punishment, not before mashing a tiny knife the size of a pin into it and moving it around while I was still conscious. It was the most painful experience of my life and made the dungeon look like heaven in comparison. Telling Kil that would shock him, I couldn’t do that to him yet.
“I fell over and grazed it with a rock, they had to take it out because it messed up my vision so I couldn’t see properly, and luckily it healed.” I felt a little bit bad about lying to Kil, but it seemed miraculous to have a conversation again that the topic didn’t feel like it matted.
“Yeah they used to say “Watch out for one eyed Rick!”” I said to try and make light of the situation. One person had called me that once but it was with a lot more malice, then followed by a shivering low key laugh.
“Why did you cause much trouble?”
“No I just kept bumping into people.” I’ve had dreams and thoughts of home just like the rest of them, and that was a joke I had said to them.
I thought that after Kil had lost so much so quickly I needed to present him with my plan. The pain from the previous escape plan hadn’t fazed me, and the fact that Kil was now here only made me more adamant that the idea would succeed. But first I had to make sure of one thing.
“You do know that you’ve lost the trial right?” Kil suddenly looked really sad.
“Yeah” he mumbled the words to himself because he didn’t want them to be true; he knew deep down that he’d done something to fail and that really made him mad.
“It’s not my fault that I lost.” Kil said “There was the wooden cabinet or something and I pressed the other choice and they thought I’d pressed the other one by mistake.” Kil had failed on one of the insanely early stages of the trial; you had to pick a choice where there was no right or wrong answer within a time limit. The way to win was to not answer at all, wait for the timer to run out and have the person give you the right map, and both maps were the same. I decided to ignore this and thought it was best to save this information for a later date; even though he was my friend I hadn’t seen in months I still needed to keep things from him.
“ That’s horrible, which one did you pick?” I asked him so that I could say the same one he did, and pretend that that’s how I got in this situation as well.
“I picked the old woman but they thought I’d chosen the old man, which is why I was sent here.”
“Yeah I picked him, it really sucks, it’s a very difficult question and who are the village to say who’s right!” I promised myself that I would tell him, but there was more time for that later. I had to tell him the plan soon.
“Exactly” Kil responded “This was the most stupid trial possible, so the difference between the child’s and the adults is that one wants to save an old woman and one doesn’t. It’s ridiculous.”
“Yeah, absolutely, it’s so stupid. The whole village is terrible, and here’s what they do and you won’t like this.” I thought I’d tell him about what Jak, the leader of Withwood village did with the people he held captive “Jak sells citizens of his own village as slaves.”
“What! No!” Kil shouted, it made me aware that everyone was looking at us again with quiet and brooding concentration. Sadly this was true though, I had seen many slave masters brought in to choose who they want. Luckily for me my eye had prevented me from ever being bought even though at first I was in much better health than the others.
“Yeah, slave masters come in and decide who to buy, I’ve been here so long because they don’t want to buy a guy with just one eye, and they’ll always choose someone else over me. Also don’t listen to anything Jak says from now on, he pretended to me that I’d won the trial as well and used me, do not do that.”
“Ok” Kil said thinking to himself “how can we get out of here then?” he said it too loud, every single person in the room had heard him. We were obviously being eavesdropped. It sucked, so I had to lie.
“Escape? We shouldn’t escape; they’ll do bad things to you when they catch you.
“How will they catch us?” When I was captured I had a terrible smell on me from the piss and faeces of the room. It was all too easy for dogs to track us.
“They use dogs to follow us.” Realisation appeared in Kil’s eyes.
“Surely it’s better to try to escape?” He asked me, even though I had the tunnel prepared for the plan I wasn’t about to let him know about it yet. I had spent a few days covering a blanket with mud until it blended into the back wall which was mud since we were underground. Then I had stuck it to the insides by wetting the sides so it would stick and form a kind of door. Then by cover of night I had tried to break away into a tunnel. Nothing had worked so far though.
“Yeah but I don’t know how, I tried assaulting the guard one time but it didn’t work out well. Not at all well” I couldn’t help but flinch and grab my eye, the trauma rushing back to me. “We won’t escape”
After that I didn’t work on the tunnel at all and kept Kil Company, I had to make sure he wouldn’t reveal anything to the other people there. I’m not sure why I waited except for the fact that something about him made me think in my head that it was for the best. A few days passed and on one of them Jak came to visit. Kil was appalled by the food as I expected and just generally felt down most of the time. As I had been here so long having Kil around was a welcome diversion from everything else and I honestly enjoyed some aspects of it. On the day that Jak came to visit Kil was taken with him to another room.
I knew what Jak would do to Kil in that room and felt terrible for the experience he and many other victims would go through. I just hoped he wouldn’t lose his mind because of it. I think I had scared him so he never talked to me but from the very few things people would say about him I had my ideas.
When he came back he didn’t say anything, but something was obviously wrong, he was crying and trying to hide it again. I felt a burning sympathy. I left him to rest for that day but planned to tell him the escape plan on the next. The thing that was stopping me was the fear of his commitment to Jak, I wasn’t sure if he would trust the leader of his trial over me. But now I felt like I had my definite answer.
When I woke up the next day I told him about the tunnel in hushed whispers before anyone else had woken up. I was nervous that he might be annoyed that I kept the secret for that long but he was suddenly extremely happy and wanted to help dig it himself because I was extremely weak from a poor diet of liquid malnutrition and he was still relatively healthy compared to others. And with his increased work effort we had the tunnel done in about a week, making sure to hide each other and watch out for other people who may have been looking.
“What do we do now?” I asked Kil, I was a lot more nervous about this whole thing knowing the risks of failure but as a person who wanted very badly to escape he had taken over everything. He was a better leader than I was and more confident of a person, so I was inclined to trust him. There was a lot of trouble to do with being caught and I would rather someone unworried by the future threats deal with it.
“We do it today.” He said
“Today, but what if we get caught?” I said, we couldn’t be sure if Jak and his dogs would be close by so they could find us straight away. I would rather wait until we were sure he wasn’t around.
“You’re not coming.” Kil said to me, what? How could he say that? I was the one who had the whole tunnel idea In the first place! It was unjust.
“No I am coming.” I said, if I was to escape again I would have wanted it to be with Kil. Whether or not his stupid plan had any merit.
“I can’t have you coming with me if you’ going to be this nervous, you have the mind-set of a person who will be caught.” I realised this was true, I was insanely worried after last time, this was when I resolved that I’d escape no matter what, even if it meant throwing Kil down to Jak at one point.
“No, I’m not going to be caught ever. I just thought it would be easier to do it when we know Jak won’t be around, he’s got his dogs remember?” Kil clearly hadn’t thought about this part of the plan but it clearly didn’t matter to him, he was going to do it regardless of what I said.
“It doesn’t matter, we’re getting away.”
“Alright then I thought, fine by me.”
The tense wait for our escape went by agonisingly slowly, then unannounced without warning Kil silently crawled into the tunnel and I followed, placing the stained blanket I had prepared behind me. I just hoped it would stay there long enough that we wouldn’t be noticed; I had never closed it from the inside and regretted not being that prepared. My heart was racing and I couldn’t believe how well Kil was holding it together. When Kil got to the breaking point of the tunnel, he turned around as if he had no doubts at the speed I could put the blanket on at. He paused for a moment until I turned around and gave him my full attention.
“Rick, when I break this we’re going to run as fast as possible and we don’t stop until I stop, you follow me yeah?”
“Alright” He broke the tunnel with his head as if it was never there to begin with rushing out. I quickly followed, ignoring the dirt sprayed on me and saw him running towards the forest to the east, and realised just how brilliant his plan was.
We kept on running for about ten minutes before stopping at the wooden cabinet which was where Kil lost his trial.
“Help me break this open!” He spoke urgently, so fast he was barely able to get out all the words correctly.
Not wanting to appear foolish I kicked the cabinet to the side and started jumping at it, kicking it with all my might trying to break it.
“Give it to me.” Kil said and I got off, he grabbed the cabinet and flung it on the floor, it didn’t break but it dented slightly. Once that didn’t look like an option we continued to kick it together in the dark of night until finally the contents shattered open. Wanting to hide the fact that all the maps would be the same I pounced on them before Kil had a chance and grabbed several. I couldn’t see the map at all but I knew all we had to do to get to our next town was to go in the same direction we were already going in. That town was called, Canden? Something like that.
It was too late to go back to Withwood, we’d burned that bridge the moment we lost the trial. We had to make our lives for ourselves now and the best way to do that was to start in the nearest town and work from there. It was going to be difficult wearing the clothes of a slave but you had to start somewhere, and with Kil as a companion I was optimistic about our future. But in the heat of the moment, with the stress and high of the escape we made one fatal error. We forgot that the road nearby existed about an hour’s walk away, and instead headed straight to the forest.
We’re finally out of the first section of the book, the shortest section. And I wish I could say it gets a lot better for these characters and they have a lot to look forward too. There is still a lot of hardship and trials to overcome, I hope you enjoy joining these characters in their attempts to find purpose in this new world distant from their home.
All feedback is appreciated but criticism more so, if you have any suggestions or things you thought could have been improved you are actively helping me create a better work by pointing things out to me! So thank you! I had excellent feedback last time so thank you! You’re continued support is what is going to make this project great! Grammar error are probably the most helpful at this point because you don’t know how the story is meant to fit together yet!
It’s been so long since I’ve done an update of this that I thought I better stop scheduling the ADB so that you can finally stop waiting!