Well of the Damned - By K.C. May

Chapter 1

Sithral Tyr had been trapped in a long, dreamless slumber. He knew as he started to awaken that something was terribly wrong. Before he even opened his eyes, his body was besieged by a pain so intense as to drive him to the brink of madness. It centered in his spine and pulsed with every frenzied beat of his heart and, mercifully, faded to numbness as it spread from his hips towards his feet. He couldn’t move. The lack of feeling in his legs left him with no sense of where they were.

Tyr opened his eyes for a moment and was horrified by what he saw: a monster— no, a demon. Half again as tall as a man but black as night and glossy with a triangular head, it stood over him, blood dripping from its six-inch claws. He shut his eyes again, hoping to be mistaken for dead. This was impossible. Such a creature didn’t truly exist, but the foul stench of decay and the muffled screams coming from below were real. An alien memory came to him of its black eyes glittering with anticipation as it sank its claws into him.

“Stop,” a man cried in a voice shrill with fear. He sounded close, but Tyr didn’t dare open his eyes again to see. “I’m your summoner. I called you forth as my champion. You’re bound to me.”

Familiarity danced around Tyr’s mind. A man he knew perhaps, but the pain in his back made his thoughts sluggish and put recognition out of reach.

“You are mistaken,” it said. Its tri-tonal voice felt like knives slicing Tyr’s ears to ribbons. “I am bound to Crigoth Sevae. You do not command me.”

Then he heard the man choking, followed by a sharp intake of breath and the thud of something heavy hitting the floor.

The screaming below started anew but faded to silence as Tyr’s mind lost the battle with pain. He slipped into comfortable nothingness.

When he next awoke, all was quiet, and a merciful, heavenly warmth was flowing into his body, washing away the pain as water did blood from a wound. He willed it to continue, nearly coming to tears with relief. The sensation of pinpricks moved down his legs and dissipated as the agony in his back faded to a dull ache. After a moment, he could feel his feet and even wiggle his toes. With his mind no longer clenched in pain, a memory began to take shape: being stabbed in the belly by the sword of Daia Saberheart and sinking to his knees in the weeds beside the road while blood and entrails filled his hands. Distantly he wondered why the pain was in his back rather than in his gut.

When he opened his eyes, he saw the warrant knight Gavin Kinshield kneeling beside him, looking at him curiously. “You!” Tyr said. Then he caught sight of his surroundings. This wasn’t the road where he and his friend Toren had battled Kinshield and Saberheart but a cottage upon whose wooden floor he lay, unarmed and defenseless.

Tyr blinked, confused, unsure how he’d gotten here. Images of an otherworldly demon plagued his thoughts. Not far away, his former associate Brodas Ravenkind lay unmoving. He must have been the man Tyr had heard begging for his life. Then that would have meant the demon was real. Ravenkind’s guard Red and two women battlers were also dead. Then he saw what was left of his token, a green cat figurine made of porcelain. He had chosen it to house his soul when the clan elders condemned him for saving the children of his village several years earlier. Now it lay shattered on the floor.

Kinshield took him by the arm and hauled him to his feet. Pain flared in Tyr’s hip and shoulder, not completely healed. “You can thank me later,“ Kinshield said. ”Now you’re going to gaol.”

Gaol? Before Tyr had a chance to understand what was happening, Kinshield pulled him roughly outside. Tyr blinked hard in the bright sunshine while his eyes struggled to adjust. “What are the charges?” he asked. His voice was higher in pitch than usual but not high enough to sound effeminate.

Two women battlers bound his wrists with a leather strap. That was when he first saw that his hands were much paler than they should have been and lacked the tattooed ward lines he’d had since he was born. Seeing his unwarded hands was shocking, but when he saw breasts jutting from his chest, he cried out in