My eyes feasted on the splendor of a military officer sporting a stiff navy-blue peaked cap (with a band of gold laurel running along the short brim and a gold star for a centerpiece) and dandy double-breasted jacket of the same color, which had shiny gold buttons and polished silver clasps running down the middle of his torso.
His long legs were neatly presented in crisp navy-blue slacks tucked firmly into polished calf-length black boots.
White-gloved hands rested close to the sheathed longsword dangling against his hip.
I found myself swooning from the sweet aroma of vanilla and citrus coming off his body. His tight, striking image of austerity was highly alluring.
His stern gray eyes were fixed on Small Cap perched to my shoulder.
"That is a spider." His deep voice kept a level tone.
"Quite, Master Leinard." Forneas chipped in.
I thought I heard a slight tremor behind the man's voice.
Forneas adjusted the cog ring around his diamond eye, which activated a small stream of blue light. Small Cap stumbled backwards with fright when the light ran up and down his body. Forneas turned it off by readjusting the cog ring again.
"According to data retrieved from the scans. It's a rare Delena Cancerides of the Sparassidae species commonly referred to as the Great Huntsman. This one is of the male kind. The species was last seen in the Tempra desert regions, thought to be extinct due to climate changes, mass exterminations and bird preying over many years," Forneas explained, matter-of-factually.
"That extinct species is perched on this boy's shoulder," the man commented.
His tone of voice hadn't changed but the gulping movements of his Adam's apple gave me an impression that the sight of Small Cap made him uncomfortable.
Detecting the man's discomfort, Small Cap scurried into my pocket as fast as a blink of an eye.
"As you can see, Master Leinard, it is a fast creature. Add to the fact that it is also a stealthy night predator. The Wu King Martial Arts are known to have incorporated this creature's attack strategies." Forneas continued, oblivious to his master's disinterest on the matter.
"Forneas. Why're they here?" Leinard was straight to the point.
"Oh, we have yet to establish this conversation. He was rescued from that juxtapositioner demon, Master Trix's men had been tracking in the South Wing."
Forneas's answer caused the man to pause for words.
"South Wing you say. " His face lapsed into a pensive expression as he mulled over the fact further.
He eventually resumed the conversation.
"Boy, your name," Leinard calmly ordered.
"My name is Famine sir," I answered.
I decided to tell him the truth. I figured there was no point in holding back on information that may help me learn of my brothers' whereabouts.
I explained how I was knocked unconscious by some tree-men in black suits and woke up in a shiny blue room with a court jester.
"Forneas tells me the court jester was a demon. I've still no idea where I am. I want to know where my brothers are."
"How many more of you?" Leinard frowned.
"Um, three. We were separated when my home was on fire. It's hard to explain. I can only say that for some reason I found myself running for my life, knocked out cold and waking up here."
"And home is where?" Leinard's eyes narrowed with caution.
"Gat Shiem," I cordially answered, holding back the tears that threatened to resurface as my thoughts went to my brothers' faces.
"Please, my brothers, if I described them to you could tell me if you've seen them?" I asked the man.
Leinard paused for thought before prompting me to carry on.
I described my brothers' appearances with as much detail and waited for the man's response.
A heavy silence hung about the air before he spoke with another question.
"You say Gat Shiem was on fire? Who set it alight?" His frown deepened.
"I don't know. It happened so fast," I bravely answered.
The gathering tears were stinging my eyes as I remembered more of that fateful night.
Sensing my rising emotions, the man changed the subject by formally introducing himself.
"I am Lieutenant Colonel Leinard Aueralius of the Evadale Knight Order. Did Forneas explain of your whereabouts?"
I shook my head.
Forneas was prompted to explain the geography of where I was positioned.
Leinard's men had discovered us during their patrols of a place referred to as Hell's Labyrinth due to its many red-brick and obsidian stone wall barriers, which formed interlinking corridors of cell pockets and lairs.
The cells and lairs contained wayward demons and the ill favored humankind.
Forneas expanded his explanation.
I learned that I was in a city called Apocalypse and a part of the city called the Second District, which was populated predominately with various army, mercenary and town security factions.
"The city, in its entirety, is an expansive fortress for approximately fifty thousand people spread out across the four-layered districts that make it up."
He rambled on about how the city was purposely populated by invitation from an underworld organization called the Illuminate Group. It wasn't possible to leave the city without the permission from this group.
I frowned, wondering if this group had carried me into the city.
"So, it's likely that someone in this, er, Illuminate Group, brought me here."
"If so, this is a problem." Leinard interrupted.
"Why?" I blurted.
Leinard's eyes narrowed. He whispered something into Forneas's ears before turning to take his leave.
"Forneas will be in your care Famine of Gat Shiem. He will cater for any of your baser necessities."
"By your command Master Leinard." Forneas acknowledged his master's orders with a formal bow.
Leinard left the room.
"Forneas, that man and this place," I asked hoping to gather more information.
"As per previous explanations, Master Leinard is our lieutenant colonel of the Evadale Knight Order who is tasked with the security detail and duties of Hell's Labyrinth, Apocalypse's maximum-security prison for demons and human prisoners," Forneas explained.
"What is Apocalypse's purpose?" I frowned.
Forneas took his time to arrive to an answer.
"Originally a mining city. It has become the seat of power for The Illuminate Group working in lieu of the Armia Dukedom. A lot of wealthy patrons and curious magis have accepted an invitation with promise of acquiring the zirconia stone once mined here."
I pressed my hand to my chest to contain the twang of pain I felt in my heart. The place I found myself in was a far cry from the monastery home I loved.
"I am sure all this information and experiences have tired you." Forneas changed the subject.
A tantalizing scent of what seemed like cinnamon wafted up my nose. I suddenly felt fatigued.
"No, I'm... fi..." I slurred with droopy eyes. "What have...?"
My voice trailed off as my eyes fluttered to a close. I drifted into a deep sleep.
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