The world was as black as pitch, black as ink, black as a starless void. The twin moons hid their lambent lunar faces behind stubborn melancholy clouds, if it wasn’t for the crunching of well-travelled path, under his horse’s hoofs, to guide them, Ali Saris feared they would have fallen foul. Eventually a rubicund speck of light in the distance heralded the City of Faustenberg. Ruefully Ali Saris admitted that he should have camped another night in the wilderness, but he would make the city and a warm bed by sunrise.

He had travelled for weeks now since he deserted his post at the frontier. No more could he endure the senseless battles serving little more than to stoke the ego of some fat duke or another. No more could he suffer the narrow-minded officers who sent them to fight, with no care for their lives. He missed out on a handsome pouch of silver, but silver was no good to the dead. He resigned himself to finding employment in the free city of Faustenberg, be it as a trapper, labourer, or mercenary or whatever he could acquire. Anything would do to till he got some coin behind him. He was still young, but old before his years. There was blood on his hands that couldn’t be washed off with ale and wine, and there were nightmares of such potency that no pipeweed or opiate diminished them. And so it was he lumbered on, his face longer than his horse’s.

A hatched-faced sentry eyed Ali Saris distastefully.

‘Where you think you’re headed, eh?’ Sneered the sentry from his vantage point above the portcullis.

‘Why my good man I seek an inn for the night before I conduct my business in the city.’ This kind of tedium was excruciating to the weary traveller.

‘What business is that then eh?’

‘My business is my own, but this silver piece is yours if you open that bloody gate.’

That settled it and Ali Saris was soon trudging through wet mud and detritus as the cityscape opened out before him. If you could see Faustenberg from above then its scope would be appreciable, there were two great towers surrounded by marble temples and great statues before the homes of the rich spread out in a haphazard spiral intermittently interrupted by barracks, tabernacles and arenas. From the ground though, the sickly hand of decrepitude gripped the dark-wood and brick facade of every structure from the guard towers to the walls of the battlements themselves.There was an air of destitution about the place, an almost palpable weight of doom settled on its denizens as surely as dilapidation settled on its buildings.

Ali Saris found a lackluster stable for his dispirited horse and flipped the simpleton stable hand a copper piece for his troubles. The Snug Badger Inn was the first he happened across, driven on by thoughts of a warm bed and cask of ale he made his way to its sturdy open door. He ran a hand over his unshaven doleful face as if to wipe away its cheerlessness then pushed the heavy door. Inside he was greeted by a wall of noise….

…The room fairly bristled from wall to wall with all manner of merchants, mendicants and miscreants. A stench imbued him and swept past through the open doorway, making good its escape into the fuliginous streets beyond. Nobody looked at Ali as he closed the door gently, cutting off the shrill wind that shrieked and buffeted into the inn. He pulled his green traveller’s cloak about him and fingered the handle of his bull-whip anxiously as he scanned the room’s occupants. Nothing to fear here, no sign of armour or uniform – that was good, he wanted to avoid soldiers, most the Snug Badger’s denizens appeared to be workers, labourers and traders. As he strolled forward, pipeweed and cigara smoke hung diaphanous in the air like ethereal cobwebs that wafted out his way as he brushed past them.

The overwhelming din was coming from the band that played in the corner, strumming and fiddling their instruments with savage intensity, the music was strange, outlandish, aggressive even – Ali didn’t like it. He nudged his way up to the bar, the mahogany worktop was sodden with spilled whisky and sour ale, bodies pushed in around the counter, clamouring for the attention of the serving wench or the innkeeper. After patiently waiting his turn, Ali got the innkeeper’s attention by flashing some coins, the owner behind the bar was a heavy-set saturnine man,with an ostentatiously permed grey moustache and a glabrous bald head that gleamed in the dim lights, he had cunning blue eyes and they bore into Ali’s dark brown ones and cast themselves over Ali’s sharp, salty, unshaven face, he had decided to start growing a beard to hide his features a little.

‘I need a room, a meal and a cask of ale if possible?’

‘Sure, sure,’ murmured the innkeeper, ‘but it’s late, we only gotta’ double room left, you’ll have to pay more fer’ ‘dat.’ He had a thick Southernlands accent and seemed to be chewing tabac, which his breath reeked of and his teeth were stained brown from.

‘Fine.’ Said Ali, he was too tired to argue, ‘but see to it that the meal is hot and the bed warm.’ The innkeep nodded, grumbling and Ali handed him some coins, marked with the Mask of Toroz. The inn-keep spoke briefly to the serving wench and the big-bosomed blonde-braided backdoor-beauty nodded and approached Ali, indicating that he follow her upstairs, he obliged and they ascended a rickety wooden staircase to the upper floor.

‘Tell me, what time will the band be playing ’til?’ He asked of the wench, watching her wobbling rear in a disinterested fashion as he walked up the steps behind, each one creaking in protest of the weight beneath his soft-soled riding boots.

‘Til’ the ale stops flowin’,’ she replied, curtly. Ali shook his head in annoyance at this, he needed sleep badly. As they reached the top, they turned and walked down a long landing, paintings adorned the walls but their pictures were lost under years of dust, just like everything else he saw around here. They approached a door at the end of the corridor that looked as though it had been kicked in one too many times.

‘This is your room,’ she said and handed him a key with a large number painted on the wooden tag, ‘your ale will be up shortly, followed by your meal, all we got is grits and red-eye gravy, that do ya’?’

‘As long as it’s hot.’

‘K’ then.’ She turned briskly and trotted off, he watched her rump depart and then turned and slid the rusty key into the time-worn lock…

…Ali Saris cast his seasoned eye over the spartan quarters; a lice-ridden bed little more than a pallet in one corner, its unutterable past was preserved for all time by repellent stains, a make-shift crusty dark-wood table and chair, along with a blackened chamber pot, was his lot. He could have hoped for little more.

Using his tinderbox he lit a candle, the tallow had long ago fused with the dusty wine bottle on which it had been placed. The meager glow coupled with the paltry grey morning light seeping through the room’s small window would suffice to have his meal. After doffing his soggy moth-eaten cloak he set his weapons on the table, first his trusty bullwhip and Ventrian saber, then two throwing knives joined them from his bandoleer, however, out of habit he kept a stiletto strapped to his wrist tucked safely under his tunic sleeve. He put the chamber pot to use but when his bladder was emptied he realised he had another need to satisfy. It was then the blonde-braided wench returned with a tray bearing his meal and ale. She stepped over the besmirched chamber pot quite adroitly for one so whale-like. Settling the offerings down she turned to Ali Saris and he surveyed her porcine rosy-cheeked face.

‘Does sir need anything else?’ She asked noncommittally. Ali Saris let his gaze fall to her body drinking in her obese frame his expression indescribable.

‘I daresay… I can think of something else.’ Was his quip. He sent his arms darting around her elephantine torso burying his swarthy grubby face into her cavernous cleavage. In mock outrage she fended him off her chest before saying, ‘Lemme see your coin!’ Impatiently he fished out a couple of coins and dropped them on the table in a small feat of prestidigitation. He turned to her then his need plainly presented on his face and crotch. He had spent too long in the frontier surrounded by only other sex-starved males. She wasn’t the most ardent lover he had ever bedded but a lot could be said for a woman who was buxom and eager to please. The grits cooled on the table and a film of grease formed over the red-eye gravy.

…after a short while of the nervous fumbling that only comes with two strangers copulating, Ali was sated and he lay back and basked in the strange guilt that comes in the seconds after a man relieves himself in an unfamiliar female. Covered in bodily fluids, and not even bothering to wash, she dragged her ragged dress back on and with a nod she left, she had duties to attend downstairs, this had been an extracurricular buck.

She closed the door softly behind her and although Ali didn’t feel much like moving, he got up and locked the door with the rusty key and turned to his meal, it had grown cold, but he was hungry enough that he didn’t care. As he ate the unctuous proletarian fare on the plate before him, the rabble of the live music downstairs filtered through the floorboards below his feet and vibrated through his legs. He tried to ignore the noise as he pondered on finding employment in the morning.

He had acquired many skills through his life that he could put to good use, and at this point, he was willing to resort to temporarily washing dishes if he had to, but that shouldn’t be necessary, in a free city like Faustenberg there was a hundred and one ways to make a buck and a thousand ways to steal one. He formed a mental plan of action as he slowly shovelled the grits into his eager mouth, the watery gravy slopping over the tabletop. At that point he noticed a yellow tin of flea powder on a makeshift shelf above the rudimentary bed. He shook his head in antipathy and then shrugged and thought Oh well, if fleas are all I have to worry about now, then that’s an improvement.

Downstairs the band were still going strong and the place was still packed with patrons permeating their pancreas in pints of piss-poor malt and staggering and babbling at one another with unintended, drunken aggression. The door opened again, and once more, nobody paid much attention, until six uniformed soldiers filed in with an air of purpose and pushed their way to the bar. The officer leading them was a musteline looking man, with a pencil-thin moustache and an angular face, with beetling brow and protruding chin. At the bar he shoved a drunkard aside, the offended man looked as though he was going to retaliate but then he noticed, through his ale-fogged vision, the blue and white garb of a soldier of the Duke of Strausenham, and instead he slunk off to skulk in the shadows. The soldiers fanned out behind their officer and faced the crowd as he approached the curly-moustached bartender.

‘We’re looking for a man,’ the officer told the inn-keep.

‘Lotsa’ men here,’ replied the innkeeper, almost indignantly, he obviously didn’t like authority figures much. The officer growled at his acerbic reply, but let it pass and said;

‘We have reason to believe he entered the city not two hours ago. Unshaven, armed, possibly wearing a green cloak, brown eyes,mousy hair, medium build?’

‘Nobody by that description passed through here friend,’ the inn-keep was handing out foaming tankards and pocketing coins as he spoke.

‘We’re gonna’ go ahead and take a look anyway,’stated the officer, and took a few short steps towards the stairs.

‘Okay, okay,’ said the inn-keep, hurriedly, ‘don’t go disturbing my guests, the man you’re looking for may be here…’ The innkeeper raised his bristling grey eyebrows at the officer, who understood perfectly, handed him a few coins with a sigh. ‘A man lookin’ like the one you said, he may be in the last room at the end of the corridor, the double room.’ The officer just nodded, then continued towards the crumbling staircase, his soldiers following close behind.

Dust motes swirled in the burgeoning daylight and they drifted and eddied their way around the soldiers as the six men crept along the landing upstairs, three on each side, backs to the wall, weapons drawn and poised. With extreme caution they sidled up to the end room, with its scarred and battered door. The officer nodded to one of his men, and the indicated soldier strode forward and had the door off its hinges with one solid boot, within seconds the men had formicated into the room and spread out…but nobody was there, just a window sitting open, with tatterdemalion curtains dancing in the breeze and a half-eaten meal on the table, the room almost mocked them with its lack of occupancy, the officer cursed out loud and kicked the blackened chamber pot which rolled and clattered as one of his soldiers leaned out the window for a look, but reported nothing, Ali had fled, somehow anticipating their presence…

…By chance Ali Saris had moved to adjust the shutter slats of the window, as he had peered out into the street below he had caught site of two liveried soldiers garbed in the blue and white of Baron Strausenham. The same baron whose army Ali Saris had not long ago deserted. It didn’t make sense that they’d be on his tail already, he had made good time on his departure and dallied very little on the road. Also, he wasn’t the only deserter, many men had fled and the chances of being chased down were slim. He had listened carefully and heard muffled foot falls in the corridor approaching his room. He silently slipped through the small window and slid down a thatched roof to the street below. The two soldiers below were looking the other way from Ali Saris, too interested were they in the chassis of a passing fishwife. The streets were now brighter, dirtier and busier than when Ali arrived at the Inn.

A gaggle of ecclesiastics in garish yellow robes were chanting their way past and Ali slipped into their midst for twenty paces or so till he reached the opening of another back street. As he began to sprint away he heard a booming voice break the morning silence, “There you fools,after him!” Ali Saris turned then to see the hateful moustached face of Sir Ellias Degan sticking through the bedroom window from which he had fled. Saris knew Degan as a devious lickspittle and Von Strausenham’s right hand.There was no time to ponder the situation and Saris bolted up a cobble-stoned through-way, past a huddle of dirty-faced street urchins who were tormenting a dung-covered three-legged dog.

He looked for an alley or side street to flee into. As he ran up the street he came across a barrel-chested masked bravo standing sentry to an opium den. Saris spared a glance to the bottom of the street and could see two blue and white clothed figures fast on his tail. The bravo spied them too and assessed the situation, he wasn’t going to get involved and take down an armed man just to help out some soldiers of a duke. The citizens of Faustenberg owed no allegiance to any of the dukedoms and the presence of soldiers was merely tolerated by the town watch so long as the bribes kept coming.

Ali Saris made a snap decision, he could see a group of off duty town watch guards coming his way, they were visibly drunk and boisterous, they had there colours on, but no helmets. Off duty or not, he fancied they would move to stop him if they seen him chased by soldiers, so Ali Saris sped at the Bravo. The muscle-bound brute was caught quite off guard not expecting to be rushed by the stranger. By the time he moved for his baton Ali had reached him; launching through the air driving his forehead into the Bravo’s nose. They crashed through the door into the hazy den and landed hard on the floor. Ali Saris was atop the bravo’s prone form. He fired a couple of cracking blows to the curve of the Bravo’s jaw, no doubt breaking it, just as he had broken the man’s nose with his head-butt. Ali Saris rose to his feet and moved further into the den.

Hookas had been rigged up next to sumptuous mounds of invitingly soft cushions, the dim fusion of orange and red lights from muted lamps did little to cut through the smog. A regal-looking woman with a painted face, no doubt the owner and Mamasan, met Saris and blocked his way through the passage. She cast an eye over the unconscious form of the Bravo and with a savage scowl glared at Ali Saris;

“What is the meaning of this…outrage?” She rasped.

“Get the fuck out of my way!” Ali gave her the back of his hand sending her stumbling onto a bed of velvet, next to the unflinching form of an unconcerned drugged customer. Further into the den Saris passed a nubile young woman pneumatically working on a faceless client enshrouded in the gloom.. These two were also uninterested by Ali’s presence and even paid little heed when he kicked the exit doorway off its hinge. There was a small courtyard outside. The walls were steep and he was blocked in. There was a couple of chairs and an old rickety table, Saris considered dragging it to the side of the wall to aid his escape but it was then one of the duke’s soldiers came through the back door and down the few stairs to the courtyard with his sword already drawn.

The man was in too much of a hurry, he overextended on his lunge with too much momentum. Ali’s saber flashed out with lightning speed and as he side-stepped his attacker’s thrust, the tip of his weapon licked the man’s throat, opening the artery. One down, but the next was through the door, it wouldn’t be long before his companions arrived too. This one looked cruelly at his dying companion, trying in vain to stem the tide of squirting blood.

This soldier knew his comrades were on their way and he just had to keep the target from escaping. Ali Saris had to push the fight, he had to kill or disable this man quick. He knew he would have to take risks, he had to get in close. He sent a couple of searching swipes towards the trident-bearded soldier;the man parried his blows with ease and sent a speedy riposte which nearly breached Ali’s guard.

The man’s eyes met Saris’s own, he was focused. His skill rivalled Ali’s, rivalled but not exceeded. Ali Saris thrust at the man and when he seen his chance he crossed the blades of their swords and pushed forwards. With two hands on the hilt of his weapon the soldier pushed back, pausing momentarily to correct his balance but Ali’s left hand flashed towards his foe’s face, the stiletto hidden in his sleeve darted out too fast for the Soldier to stop it punching through his eye ball and into his brain. Using only one hand on his sword after the stiletto connected, Ali stumbled, and over-balanced, he fell to the ground. As his hands went out to take the brunt of the fall he noticed for the first time a square of sewer grating.

Ellias Degan was the first to to pass into the courtyard. He was the first to discover the two corpses of his men. Ali Saris could add a couple of murders to his crimes of desertion and theft. Not just petty theft either, the theft of a watch of silver, the duke’s silver. Only two men had known where the silver was buried, and Degan had slit the other man’s throat after he had helped him steal it. Saris was the ‘fall guy’ a deserter who Ellias conveniently blamed for the theft. Now all he had to do was catch the arrogant bastard and kill him. When all the dust had settled, Ellias would collect the chest and slip away, perhaps on a boat, to live out a life of vice. Ali Saris was wanted alive but sometimes men would rather die than be caught. They would go to any lengths even climbing into a sewer. He looked distastefully into the gloom, he could make out a couple of hand-holds but there was no way to see just how far the drop down would be. A man could stand at the bottom and make short work of anyone foolish enough to flounder their way down. Ellias Degan sent his men first. He’d sleep better at night with the head of Ali Saris on a spike. The first man to lower himself towards the hatch vomited, such was the malodorous stench.

“After him, you idiots! Earn your damn wage for once you fucking cowards!” Ellias all but kicked three of his soldiers down through the grate, he would keep the rest to spread around and guard other manholes.It was said that unnatural creatures stalked the sewers and that the local beggars would rather brave the elements than seek shelter underground… Best Ellias co-ordinate from above.

Mercifully Ali Saris landed on a solid surface as he dropped down into the aphotic darkness. A rancid miasma warred with him each step. He covered his face with a slightly scented handkerchief and tried to keep close to the filth-covered facade of the wall, careful to avoid the slow-moving river of muck some half a yard away. If he could cover some ground and escape through another manhole then he may be able to elude his pursuers. Adrenaline was keeping him going just now but soon he would be terribly weary. He retched, and what little grits he had consumed joined the lazy tide of feculence.

As he rounded the first corner, keeping his shoulder hard to the wall, he fancied he heard a soothing susurrant sibilance somewhere in the pitch. A streak of daylight slowly became visible up ahead, another manhole, too close though, he would have to push on further. He heard some muffled curses from behind him and the sound of steel scraping stone. The Duke’s men were now down here with him. With darkness surrounding him and murder at his back, he pressed on frantically…..

…The darkness was oppressive, Ali’s perception was achromatic and ultimately black, but that was nothing to the oppression of the mephitis that clogged his mouth and nostrils, every few staggering blind steps Ali fell retching and stifling vomit, his stomach had nothing left to surrender but digestive fluid and it burned his throat and made his eyes water. The barely comforting scent of the handkerchief was growing wan already, he had sucked all the fragrance from it and it joined the bile to nark his throat and cause coughing fits, which he tried to muffle as they echoed around the sewer. The only way to keep from falling into the perfidious river was to keep a gloved hand against the oleaginous wall tiles, this slowed his pace, but his pursuers would do no better.

After a few dozen yards and a few more rejected manhole escapes, sound came drifting down the tunnel, faint at first, but growing in intensity, Ali’s ears pricked up to a cacophony of squeaking, screeching, rodent-like cries of alarm. Suddenly, enormous sewer rats were all around him, pushing past his ankles with such force they almost tripped him, the tunnel was roaring and resounding with their racket. He clung to the wall as the tide of vile vermin bombarded past in their hundreds, their fur glinting with an oily sheen in the blackness, one such creature panicked and scrambled desperately to get inside his boot, he kicked it away with a flick of the leg and heard the soft splat and whimper as it hit the far wall. Ali’s mind kicked into gear; there was only one reason why rats would be running in one direction, the alternate direction from him, in such terror, completely ignoring Ali as they swept by – it all meant that something bigger and more dangerous this way came. No sooner had the thought swirled flashing through his mind, than a guttural growl erupted and something rose before Saris as he clung to the wall and the last of the rodents flitted past.

In the gloomy depths he couldn’t quite make out the thing, other than as a monstrous black shape, only slightly more visible than the surrounding darkness, one thing he did notice however, even in the poor visibility, was the glint and gleam of fangs and claws. Ali Saris had no other option; he half threw himself and was half bowled-over, into the river, if you could call it a river, for when he struck the surface it was so viscous it almost supported his weight, but then the surface mire broke, and he sunk fast into the syrupy, mucilaginous gloop.

His legs were pinned beneath the surface, and the suction pulled him down to his armpits in no time, the stench that arose from the breaking of the top-surface was utterly indescribable, it crawled into every cavity in Ali’s head like a living parasite and invaded his senses, his ears, eyes and nose were on fire, and his last action was to vomit stomach-bile down himself just as the sludgy ooze dragged him under and the surface re-closed above his head, abandoning him to an unimaginable form of drowning in its revolting depths, the last thing he heard was the commotion of soldiers fighting some unimaginable assailant, that growled and gnashed amidst the clang and rasping of steel.

As Ali went under, the foul and noxious semi-liquid seeped into his throat and down into his lungs like phlegm in reverse. There was only blackness now throughout the last few seconds of Ali Saris’s life, just enough precious few seconds for him to contemplate his own death, one full of regrets, regrets that his last meal had been third-rate, common-fare grits, regrets that he hadn’t pounded on that wench a little longer, drank in the smell of her hair and skin a little more deeply, regrets that he had ever entered this sewer, he should have went over the wall or stood and fought, and the greatest regret of them all, the regret that his final sensations were the taste and smell of human faeces, urine and garbage.

Ali lost consciousness and sank deeper down. He did not notice therefore, the hand that gallantly plunged into the murky, rotten muck and grabbed him by the lapel. It took some considerable strength and endurance to free Ali from the steadfast grip of the thick grunge, once Ali’s saviour had managed with a great struggle, to get the drowning man’s shoulders above the surface, it became easier to hook him out, and Ali was dragged free. He was turned on his side and his lungs deposited their hellish load in a tide of vomit from his mouth, he coughed and spluttered and seemed alive but did not wake. He was lifted and carried laboriously from the sewer by a single man in the darkness.

When Ali regained consciousness he was greeted by two sensations he never thought he’d experience again, daylight upon his eyelids, and sweet, crisp air in his lungs. He could still taste the despicable fetor of the sewers, it was inside his body, on his skin in a thin layer, and absorbed into his clothes and hair, but it already seemed like a distant memory, and he inhaled deeply like it was the first breaths of his life and indeed they might as well have been. Once he had regulated his breathing he opened his eyes, stinging from the muck in them, there was fear in what he might see as he could tell he was tied to a chair.

It took a few seconds for his vision to snap into focus, and he used these seconds to test the strength of his bonds, they were expertly tied, he could barely twitch a muscle in his wrists, no hope of slipping out of these ropes. As his vision blurred back into sharp accuracy, the form of Ellias Degan materialised before him, complete with sardonic grin and armed with a wicked-looking curved blade.

‘Enjoy your sleep?’ He inquired with an astringent, manic giggle, his blue eyes were bulging and frenzied, he seemed excited at the prospect of whatever it was he was about to do, whatever he had waited patiently for Ali to wake up to perform. Ali gulped and still tasted the cloaca at the back of his throat, he gagged a little.

They were back in the courtyard at the rear of the opium den, the two slain soldiers still sprawled there, blood forming carmine halos around their heads. The sun was high in the noon sky now and from the firmament overhead cast down upon them in mottling shadows and stabbing rays of light. Ellias Degan continued; ‘My lads got into a tight scrape down there in the sewer; one of those bloody sewer crocodiles chasing rats took down three of them before its soft throat met my sabre. I’m glad I came down after you, I knew those monkeys couldn’t get the job done!’

Ali tried to curse his captor but his voice just died in his throat and came out as a strangled garble. ‘Oh, what?’, continued his captor, ‘What? You have something to say? What? Cat got your tongue? No, no, but… I on the other hand, will shortly have your tongue, in my hand, yes, and your eyes, and your ears, your nose, and.. well… anything else I feel like removing from your person…’

He outstretched his arm and rested the point of his sharp blade against Ali’s forehead, pushing his head gently back to look into his eyes he went on in his pompous drawl; ‘Who knows how far I might go in relieving you of your extremities, for I take great delight in delivering pain unto others.’ He paused and thought, lowering his weapon again and staring up into the azure sky, reflected back in his own icy blue eyes, then, they turned their glacial malevolent gaze back on Ali. ‘Call me sadistic, even call me psychotic, but me, I call it gleaning what little pleasures I can in this life, this weary life of a knight – tracking down and disposing of scumbags, mutinous dogs like yourself. No, a quick death is too good for you,even drowning in human shit is too good for you! Your kind deserve to feel the pain of every precious inch of your life as it leaves your body.’

Degan had been approaching, testing the edge of his blade with a tentative finger and licking his lips the whole time. ‘Like this for instance,’ he said, and he gripped Ali firmly by the top of the head and pushed it back, then, he took his blade and slowly and deliberately drew it down his captive’s face, from the temple,all the way down the cheek, to the tip of the chin. The knife bit deep and hotly as it opened up the side of Ali’s face and flapped apart his flesh releasing a waterfall of crimson blood that he could feel saturating the left side of his body. ‘Ooh,’ breathed Degan, mockingly, ‘that’s gonna’ require some stitches, but this, this will require more than stitches!’ And the blade snaked out without warning and with lightning dexterity, and there was a white and red flash in Ali’s vision.

It took Ali Saris a while to contemplate what had just happened – the fact he was looking at the blood-spattered floor whilst somehow simultaneously still looking up at Ellias’ smirking face brought the cold, creeping realisation up his spine and into his thoughts. The suspicion of what horror had taken place was cemented by the delayed but agonising stab of pain that went through Ali’s head, starting with his eyeball and seemingly penetrating all the way to the back of his skull. As the vision in his down-staring left eye became seeped with blood he knew that Degan had removed his eyeball and it was hanging down his cheek.

Overpowering waves of nausea swept through Ali’s body, he groaned in his broken voice and his assailant seemed to take great pleasure in the prisoner’s reaction as Ali passed out again, with his eye swinging wildly from its socket on a chord of flesh, and his face wound still pumping blood out in torrents. Degan took his knife and coldly and casually sliced open the unconscious Ali’s throat. He stood and watched impassively as the steady flow of blood seeped and squirted from the open neck wound, until it died down to a dribble and he then watched the last ounces of life seep from Ali’s body in jerks and spasms,before the bowels opened and the carcass stiffened in the seat where it still sat tied. Degan smiled a smug smile of sick satisfaction and stalked away slowly and slackly, sluggish and serpentine with sinuousness in his snakelike movements….