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Chapter 18
How to be Cruel

In an chamber located inside the 98th Dungeon a group of children stood in front of a wooden platform. Another fat portly overseer, stood in front of them, shaking his fist. His face contorted in an ugly manner. He looked as if he was about to hit someone, but was unable to because of the layers of fat on his body, which made it difficult for him to move. His eyes looked to the group of children tied up on the platform next to him. Five in all. They all kneeled on the platform, having cried out for mercy.

“Please, I didn’t mean go. Mommy. Mommy help!”

“Ungrateful wretch!” blustered the overseer. His eyes sank to the child closest to him. She was a young girl, about seven years old.

The overseer struck her on the cheek, causing the child to cry out and fall to the floor. The other four looked nervously at the whip in the overseer’s hand. It was a different whip this time, with barbed thorns on the cord.

“This is the punishment for trying to escape,” said the overseer. He looked to the soldiers behind him and waved his hand. “Men! Ropes!”

Two sets of soldiers came up and tied ropes to a notch at the top of the cave. Five ropes. Five notches. One of the boy’s looked at the ropes completely terrified. The overseer made another signal, drawing a line over his throat and all the soldiers made a noose, placing one on each child.

The rest of the children, stood afraid giving each other silent glances. They did not know what the rope was for.

“Release!” said the overseer.

A trapdoor fell underneath each of the five children, and they began to choke as the noose tightened around their neck. Their feet dangling in the air.

The children watching looked horrified. Many of them covered their eyes.

“Look!” shouted the overseer, snapping his whip. A jolt ran through the children closest to the front. “Anyone who doesn’t look will get five lashes each!”

Terrified. The rest of the children looked, many of them staring as those five flailed helplessly in the air. After an hour, the overseer gave another signal to the soldiers behind him. Slice! A draw of the sword and each rope was cut. Each child falling to the ground, motionless.

“Now back to work!” shouted the overseer.

Grey and Mylene shuffled behind the group of children, returning to the mines. Both their legs were still shaking. Who could have thought someone could be killed like that! His child-like mind had become dreadfully aware that the world was exceedingly more scary than any of his books.

Grey looked back, watching those motionless children, and beneath the pitch black veil of the tunnel, their bodies disappeared into the darkness.

Strike! A pickaxe hits the earth. Strike! A jewel pops out and tender hands go to pick it up. Grey stood with his group of five children. Mylene was next to him with the pickaxe.

“How long have we been here?” said Mylene, wearily. Her hair was no longer a beautiful gold, but a murky dark brown. Dirt was everywhere. On their clothes and on their face. They were only allowed to pull up water three times a day, so no one had bothered to bath anymore.

“Six weeks,” said Grey.

“How do you know?” said one of the boys. His name was Erick. He was a porter’s son who had been taken when he was out helping his father deliver wood to a nearby village. “We don’t see the sun or hear roosters.”

“Every time we go to sleep. I make a mark on the wall,” said Grey, striking the earth. A jewel came out, and he went to pick it up. “When we wake up it must be morning. When we go to sleep. It must be night time.”

“That’s silly,” said Kayla. “If I take a nap does that mean it is night time? I don’t think so.”

“I didn’t mean nap,” said Grey. “I mean sleep, sleep. We all go to bed at the same time right? Even the other children in the tunnels sleep at the same time, so it must be night somehow.”

Mylene thought for a moment, before speaking up.

“Grey is really smart. If he says it must be night it must be true. You know he knows a lot about the other kingdoms too, and can even use magic,” said Mylene, proudly.

“Really?” said Kayla.

“It is true,” said Mylene, holding up her nose.

Lee looked at Grey. He was the one farthest to the back. He was a scrawny child with a gaunt face, and lanky arms. He looked more like a willowed tree, rather than a human up close. He was the oldest of the group.

“I-Is it true,” said Lee, hoarsely. “If you can use magic. We can escape.”

Grey shook his head, returning to his work. “I can do a little thing, but I never learned any spells.”

He remembered that Baylee was to help him with his ritual of awakening, but now that would never happen. Sho. Baylee. They had died so horribly. He had thought with Doyle’s help he could get revenge, but he was betrayed!

If he ever got out of this place. He would not trust another adult ever again!

“That’s too bad,” said Lee, sadly. His eyes became gloomy and returned to mining the tunnel.

They collected their jewels into their cart and began to push it up to the trading station in a section of their tunnel. A bright sign that said ‘Station 3″ was written on a plaque over a wooden desk laid out with food.

“Team Eleven,” said a woman, dressed in fine robes. She held a piece of paper clipped on a wooden board. “One full cart. One full meal.”

Five loaves of bread were handed to each of the children. A soldier came up and pushed the cart away.

“Back in the tunnel,” said the woman, curtly.

Mylene looked pitifully at her loaf of bread. They had spent so long digging to get only one piece of bread. Would she ever feel full again? Her stomach growled miserably.

“I think they are getting uglier and uglier,” said one of the soldiers. He stood at attention, a sword strapped on his waist.

“Yeah. I think your right. Especially that girl over there. She used to looks so nice, but look at her now. Like pig rolled up in the mud. Shameful. You hear that? Her stomach growled. Haha.”

“Like a pig. Like a pig!” laughed the other soldier, pointing his finger at Mylene.

Anger flushed down Mylene’s cheeks. She was so hungry and these soldiers did nothing all day and ate good food. It wasn’t fair! It was fair at all!

“If I am a pig then you are worm. You scum!” said Mylene, disgusted

“What did you say girlie?”

The soldier’s expressions darkened. Grey who was walking next to her was absolutely mortified. The rest of the children, were frozen stiff, and dared not interfere.

Mylene began to realize too late her mistake. All the color drained from her face as a group of three soldiers walked towards her.

“Say that again to my face.”

Mylene shook her head and crouched down, trying to be as small as possible.

The soldier drew back his hand to slap her across the face, but Grey stepped in and protected her. Smack! A long red mark ran across his face.

“Sorry!” cried Grey, tears falling from his face. It really hurt. His eyes had gotten all blurry. He didn’t know what to say, but he couldn’t let him hit Mylene. “Please! I know you are upset, but she is very sorry.”

“Sorry. Doesn’t cut it!” the soldier drew back his hand to slap Mylene who was hiding behind Grey, but Grey would move in front of them. He slapped Grey again, even harder.

“Please. She is sorry,” said Grey, pitifully. The man had struck the same place, and it hurt even more. No matter how the soldier tried, Grey would get in the way.

“What the hell is this,” muttered the soldier. “He thinks he can protect her?”

“Maybe he likes her,” laughed the other soldier. “What does our little kid her have little ittle crush?”

The soldier kicked Grey in the stomach, sending him sprawling on the ground.

“A kid thinks he can protect someone,” said the soldier, spitting on Grey’s face. “What a joke.”

“Hah. Did he move? I don’t think you hit him hard enough.”

“Guy is tougher than he looks,” muttered the soldier. He kicked Grey again, deeper in the stomach.

Grey coughed, and rolled over. Mylene raised her hands over him, trying to stop them.

“N-No! Stop hurting him.”

“Shut up!” said the soldier. He was about to strike her in the face, but Grey held on his leg, causing him to pause. Grey did not say a word, but looked pleadingly. The soldier grinned and stepped on Grey’s hand, crushing it painfully on the cave floor. Grey gasped and released his grip.

“We got a fighter guys,” said the second soldier. “Let’s take rounds. Kid’s need to be taught when to stay down.”

“I’ll be first,” laughed the third soldier. He kicked Grey in the face. Grey grimaced and tightened his nerves. When adults were angry the only thing a child could do was endure.

“Hey. None to the face. It won’t last long if it’s to the face.”

“Sorry,” laughed the third soldier.

The beating took thirty minutes. He watched as the men laughed and played as it were a game. Whenever he would buckle over, or cry. They would howl louder, as if they had won. When he got silent. They would beat him more viciously until they got a reaction. At first, Grey could not understand why they were beating him. His father had said if you apologized then the other person would let it go. Even if you hurt someone, after a bit of a fight, it would be all settled. But these men beat him for no reason.

It was only after the beating was done, that Grey understood why. He looked up at them, with his swollen eyes. The look of relief on their face. Bored. They had been bored of doing nothing, and so for a little thing they beat him for thirty minutes straight.

Mylene sat next to Grey in grief. Twice. She had gotten Grey beaten up twice. She did not even know what words to say that would make it better. Grey looked up at her, a smile cracked on his bruised face

“It’s okay,” said Grey. “It’s…okay.”

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