Into the Realm: The Chronicles of Carter Blake, Book I (raw excerpt)

I awoke after my latest battle in a small and dimly lit cell. The air was a miasma of humidity and the purification of stagnant water. I felt sweat rolling slowly down the sides of my face as I sat up, wincing as my movements pulled at clotted blood on my stomach. I was fortunate, for while it was a long wound, maybe seven inches, it was shallow, maybe a quarter of an inch deep. Still, as I had recently found out, it hurt like hell when I moved too quickly. That last demon had been the worst one yet, ugly as sin and great with a spear.

The many battles had caused something within me to open. I found memories flooding back to me, everything that had happened to me since my arrival in the Realm. I felt shame as I remembered how I had treated the half-dragon Warmaster. Angriz had been my friend who had helped me at nearly every turn, and I had turned my back on him after a stupid argument. I hoped he was okay and had re-united with Keeper Dearbhaile.

I looked around, taking stock of my prison. It was faintly illuminated: the light came in from the hallway on the other side of the bars which were just beyond the soles of my boots. Looking behind me, I saw that my head had rested maybe an inch from the back wall. The other wall was within my reach as I lay on the bed which was against the third wall.

I placed my tongue against the roof of my mouth, created suction and popped it flat again. The resulting sound echoed through the place, then faded away. The only other sound was the slow drip of water. I rose from the bed and stepped to the wall of bars which rose vertically to the ceiling. I examined the wall nearest the bars and saw that it was solid stone and mortar like the walls of medieval castles in my world. It was covered in patches of a pale pink moss-like growth. I wasn’t going to get through here.

I banged the side of my fist against one of the bars in frustration and cussed at the resulting pain. Instinctively, I stuck the sore part of my hand in my mouth to comfort it. I tore my hand back out of my mouth and tried to spit out the horrible, yet familiar taste of rust. Why was it familiar, you ask? You know how as a kid, you played with random things, bang your finger, then stick it in your mouth to comfort it? That’s why.

My heart leaped within my chest as excitement rolled through my body. I flipped the bed up against the back wall of my cell and eagerly examined the bars. As I had expected, they were iron and the humidity in the air had caused them to rust. The rust was particularly bad at the base of the bars where they went into the floor. I straightened and, without thinking, kicked one of the bars with the toe of my boot. My leather boot.  Agony exploded up my leg and explored my hip. Have you ever stubbed your toe and, in a fit of pique, kicked the offending object, causing yourself even more harm? I did just that, yet was exceedingly lucky in that I didn’t hurt myself further. Instead, the heel of my foot collided with the decayed metal bar, causing a hollow crunching sound from the bar breaking.

Though my wounded foot demanded my attention with its insistent throbbing, I ignored it in favor of surveying my handy- or rather- footwork. Two of the rusty bars had broken just above the floor. I lay down on my stomach, on the floor, with my arms outstretched, knees bent, feet flat against the back wall and my butt stuck up in the air. I gripped the bars, locked my elbows, and slowly straightened my legs. With loud creaking groans, the bars slowly bent out from the cell.

When I first arrived in the Realm, I wouldn’t have been able to do this. Thanks to nearly two months as a gladiator, I was able to push the bars out far enough to escape my cell. I received long, furrowed scrapes along my back from wriggling through the two foot gap left by the broken bars. I rose, wincing, to my feet and felt a trickle of blood running down my belly. I looked down and saw that my exertions had reopened my wound. I looked around, but didn’t see anything I could use as a bandage. I remembered reading that Army Rangers would utilize moss as a bandage of last resort, so I scrapped the pink moss off the wall with my fingers and packed it into my wound.