The Dungeon of Perception
Elysia’s Training with the Grimm Family
The small tiny, seven-year-old sat as still as a statue in the middle of the inky darkness, muscles quivering with tension as she took slow, panicked gulps of breath in the stale putrid air.
Two years of the Grimm family training and the young girl was still, unfortunately, unused to the terrible environment she was about to be hurled in.
The dungeon’s doors boomed before her, admitting the previous trainee into its dark maws, the lack of sight before the young child exponentially increasing her fear, as screams of terror and choked gargles of bloodied lungs ripped through the air before her.
The young girl lifted her dirty arms slightly to sniff her own dirty skin, the dirty and bloody one-piece dress shifting across her marred skin.
Probably due to the fact she hadn’t been given a chance to bath in five days.
Well, they all weren’t. Not at least until they came out of the dungeon, passing the week’s training with barely a scratch on their youthful bodies.
Tiny but slender fingers prodded the scar at her stomach, at the side, and phantom pain flared delicately along the edges of the old wound—a definite reminder of her own carelessness in the sightless Dungeon.
“Scared?” Damon’s voice floated from the opposite side of the room into her ears. Funny, how comforting his voice sounded to her own ears, when it was just them all alone, with a gaping abyss of darkness swallowing everything between them. “I’m scared too.” Elysia twitched slightly at the admission her adoptive brother gave.
Damon was never one to share any of his feelings, nor repeatedly show his own weakness. Stubborn like a mule, he was, and as temperamental as the most vicious typhoon on land. You never knew when he’d strike, lashing out like a venomous snake hidden in a child’s skin.
Her ears pricked with sound as the twelve-year-old at the opposite side of the room shifted his knees slightly, the sound of dirty, rough skin shifted against each other filling her ears.
The Sightless Dungeon, it was called, by the Grimm family elders.
All children who bore the name of the Grimms had to be subjected to this one out of twelve Dungeons.
Like its namesake, the Sightless Dungeon blocked all trace of light, only letting darkness envelop its confines, the inky darkness cloying and too pitch black to see vague images of anything, the air too stale and putrid with dried blood and guts spilt.
“You’re Damon. You can’t be scared.” Elysia whispered, feeling almost stupid as a huff of irritation rushed from her brother’s chest, his emotions rising temperamentally. “And you aren’t supposed to be nice.”
“Right.” The stiff answer of her brother told Elysia everything she knew. “Don’t ever expect it again.”
Silence ensued between them, as the loud sounds of snapping bones and blood-curdling cries washed like amplified waves over them.
Without sight, all their other senses naturally amplified.
That was the sole purpose of the Sightless Dungeon—training the children in the art of fighting not just with what they see, but with their animalistic instincts and other valuable senses, a proven exploit that had shown considerable results in sharpening the accuracy and predictions of the trained children’s various attacks.
Elysia sniffled, terrified to the bone as the doors creaked open yet again.
“I can smell you crying, Elysia.” The scorn in Damon’s voice was clear in the inky dark air. “The smell of salt and days of unwashed hair.”
“I..” The apology was naturally affixed to the edge of her tongue, desperate for approval and yearning for solace.
“Save it.” The heir of the Grimm family retorted grimly. “It’s my turn now.” The rustle of his ripped pants filled the air, and the sound of cracked nails groping in the dark for the well-made staff provided for every child before they challenged the Dungeon filled Elysia’s young ears.
“Good luck.” The frail strain of her good wishes followed the sure sounds of her brother’s footsteps into the abyss of violence and irreversible loss of innocence.
The air whooshed slightly as Damon gave an offhanded wave of his hand.
“Don’t need it.”
Bright blue eyes followed the direction of the sure sound of footsteps echoing further into the Dungeon before the doors clanged shut—and she was left all alone.
It had to be hours after Damon’s rampage in the Dungeon that Elysia was let into the Dungeon itself.
She could vaguely hear the sounds of bodies being dragged away, the raged, crazed screams of her adopted brother as he was dragged down the hallway amidst a ravishing rage.
Those people training them in the Dungeon had done something that caused him to snap as if the crazed sounds of vulgarities hurled by the twelve-year-old were not loud enough to prove to the young girl what she already, and clearly knew.
Elysia’s eyelids drooped.
She was tired of waiting and hungry.
As though reading her mind, the young cherubic girl’s stomach gave a loud protesting growl.
She shifted slightly in her fetal position, the cold flat surfaces of the cobblestones a soothing comfort in the darkness she was left enclosed in.
“Your turn. Go in.” The procedure for her was obviously different, as footfalls of a well-polished pair of boots fell against the cobblestones, approaching her with a staff in hand. “There were some issues that needed to be changed.” The voice was stiff, cold, and devoid of any emotion, lacking in the well-needed solace Elysia so desired in every way.
“Take it.” Hesitant fingers wrapped themselves around the thick, heavy staff that was thrust before her. “I said, take it!” Annoyance was clear this time in the male’s heavily accented tone. Elysia could only tell that much, given his heavy-weighted footfalls and gruff stiff voice.
The staff was hurled onto her chest, dealing a heavy blow to her creaking ribs as she gasped, winded, for air.
“Go!” Harsh, calloused hands gripped her by the collar, and disorientation assaulted Elysia for a mere second as her feet left the ground—and she was hurled brutally onto the Dungeon’s floor, the heavy staff clattering noisily on the floor close by her, the sound of the metal doors closing stirring the fear in her heart.
The heavy stench of blood assaulted the seven-year-old’s nostrils, and sent her heaving into a corner, bile rising from the back of her throat onto the cobbled floor with a loud retch.
Tears fell, unbidden, as she collapsed on her knees, the suffocating air around her tightening like a noose around her neck, constricting, and vicious, clawing like a wronged man desperate for a chance of survival—for fresh, new blood and flesh.
The first blow of a heavy staff, marked with claws ripped her dirty one-piece apart and into her chest, sending a scream tearing itself from her throat.
Elysia’s fingers desperately clutched at her chest, coming away wet with filthy, hot blood, coursing and spilling over her stomach, plopping onto the floor in loud droplets in her ears.
Remember what you learnt from the last time you were here.
The young girl stifled her screams immediately, chomping down on the flesh of her arm to stop herself from making any more noise.
Trust your instincts.
Your sense of smell, hearing.
Elysia licked her lips lightly, tasting the smelly, blood-filled air.
Teeth nibbled the bottom of her plump lips, her breaths hollowed and low, whispery soft.
Eliminate your own presence.
Goosebumps prickled all over the seven-year-old’s skin as she inhaled a deep breath of the stale air, the dust motes swirling into her lungs, and suppressing the bubble of fear and irrationality into the depths of her conscious mind, hammered and tapered down to the minimum.
Her pounding heart slowed, and gradually stilled to a low hum in her chest, the darkness and silence wrapping around her like a second flesh.
The echo of Damon’s voice rumbled in her ears.
Graceful, but deadly. Light, nimble and quick.
The rush of the wind filled Elysia’s ears as she raised her staff to her left and viciously swung, the sound of wood meeting flesh with an immense impact resounding through the air.
Her opponent grunted at the hit, and adrenaline coursed through the young girl’s veins as the sound of feet skidding back on the cobbled floor filled her ears.
Take your eyes off the distractions.
Focus, on what is coming.
Bright blue eyes flickered slightly before the young girl inhaled a quick breath and closed them, nose to the air and ears pricking with the slightest sound of noise, like a hunter out for its own prey.
Right, over left.
The young girl lifted her feet quickly and nimbly, her soft footfalls light but too quick to detect.
The sound of a miscalculated strike boomed against the ground, a hairbreadth away from Elysia’s original position.
The young girl had instinctively twisted her body, turning it to the right and behind, her right foot stomping back in the dirty ground to regain precious footing.
But that was not to say she had escaped unharmed.
A warm trickle of blood flowed down her neck from where the weapon had nicked her.
“Good.” The low accented voice, lisping from the lack of teeth echoed darkly in the dungeon chambers. “Now, child. Again.”
The young girl’s body tensed, and the sound of wood meeting against flesh filled the air.