There was a thing waiting in the darkness.
It was ancient, and cruel, and paced in the shadows leashing his mind. It was not of his world, and had been brought here to fill him with its primordial cold. Some invisible barrier still separated them, but the wall crumbled a little more every time the thing stalked along its length, testing its strength.
He could not remember his name.
That was the first thing he’d forgotten when the darkness enveloped him weeks or months or eons ago. Then he’d forgotten the names of the others who had meant so much to him. He could recall horror and despair – only because of the solitary moment that kept interrupting the blackness like the steady beat of a drum: a few minutes of screaming and blood and frozen wind. There had been people he loved in that room of red marble and glass; the woman had lost her head –
Lost, as if the beheading were her fault.
A lovely woman with delicate hands like golden doves. It was not her fault, even if he could not remember her name. It was the fault of the man on the glass throne, who had ordered that guard’s sword to sever flesh and bone.
There was nothing in the darkness beyond the moment when that woman’s head thudded to the ground. There was nothing but that moment, again and again and again – and that thing pacing nearby, waiting for him to break, to yield, to let it in. A prince.
He could not remember if the thing was the prince, or if he himself had once been a prince. Not likely. A prince would not have allowed that woman’s head to be cut off. A prince would have stopped the blade. A prince would have saved her.
Yet he had not saved her, and he knew there was no one coming to save him.
There was still a real world beyond the shadows. He was forced to participate in it by the man who had ordered the slaughter of that lovely woman. And when he did, no one noticed that he had become hardly more than a marionette, struggling to speak, to act past the shackles on his mind. He hated them for not noticing. That was one of the emotions he still knew.
I was not supposed to love you. The woman had said that – and then she died. She should not have loved him, and he should not have dared to love her. He deserved this darkness and once the invisible boundary shattered and the waiting thing pounced, infiltrating and filling him … he’d have earned it.
So he remained bound in night, witnessing the scream and the blood and the impact of flesh on stone. He knew he should struggle, knew he had struggled in those final seconds before the collar of black stone had clamped around his neck.
But there was a thing waiting in the darkness, and he could not bring himself to fight it for much longer.
Torture connoted imagery, syntax and the use of limited third person narration are weaved together by Maas in this extract to exhibit the most unusual form of imprisonment in this anthology: demonic possession. The syntax and torturous imagery work in tandem to demonstrate how the Valg Prince is slowly ‘leashing [Prince Dorian’s] mind’. In this part of the narrative, Dorian is still barely able to use his mind, but that is not the case for his body. Through limited third person narration, he states that ‘no one noticed that he had become hardly more than a marionette, struggling to speak, to act past the shackles on his mind.’ The fantastical setting accentuates the figurative language used, such as ‘shackles’ which alludes to the mental torture being endured by Dorian.
The extract goes further than just showing the situation to the reader, it displays the effects that this type of imprisonment has left on the remains of Dorian’s mind. His memories are being distorted by the Valg, making Dorian forget ‘the names of the others who had meant so much to him’, leaving him with only a memory of the death of the woman he loved ‘witnessing the scream and the blood and the impact of flesh on stone.’