Elseworld (inspired by The Princess Bride and the Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom books)
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
Read the previous chapter here.
Read the story from the beginning here.
From the journals of Chloe Sullivan:
No matter how many people one speaks with, how much information one gathers, there are always gaps in one's knowledge... and those gaps usually make themselves known at the most inopportune time. I had believed I knew everything there was to know about the rocks. Based on what I had learned, I had concluded that every person affected by the meteor rocks turns to killing, sooner or later.
But for the first time, it occurred to me that I might be wrong.
"Take them to Level 3."
The words sent an odd shiver down Chloe's spine. She wasn't sure what the words meant, except that they were obviously being sent down into the deeper levels of the dungeon. She wondered what awaited them down there, and suddenly could scarcely prevent herself from shuddering like a small child afraid of the dark.
Clark glanced at her, and seemed to sense her anxiety. He pressed closer to her, his big body protecting hers, and she looked up at him, and smiled a trifle. A look passed between them, a look of affection and understanding that said more than words ever could.
Lana walked in front of them, her head still held at an arrogant angle, and two guards walked close behind them, knives at the ready. The small group went down a curving stone staircase, descending into a Stygian darkness lit only by a guttering torch carried by one of the guards. At last one of the guards behind them indicated they were to turn down a passageway.
Chloe started down the narrow, dank passage... and stopped.
The passage was dark, almost black, but by the light of the torch the guard held, she could see it was lined by iron-barred cells. In each cell crouched a miserable specimen of humanity, clad in dirty rags. They all looked emaciated, filthy, tattered, as if they'd been confined here for a long, long time. Chloe looked into the nearest cell, seeing a gaunt, hopeless face she recognized.
She knew that face well. It was old Mr. Duncan, who'd had a small farm on the outskirts of the hamlet with his son Gabriel. She'd visited his farm to buy eggs on more than one occasion, and he'd always flirted mildly with her, calling her a pretty girl and pinching her cheek. He'd been a sweet, harmless old man, and she'd enjoyed her visits to his farm. He'd gone missing some time ago, and it had been presumed he'd died.
Stunned, she stared, and Mr. Duncan stared back dully.
At a rough shove from the guard, she started forward again, seeing other familiar faces, faces of townspeople long believed dead, as well as faces she'd never seen before. Strange things happened in some of the cells as they passed-- in one, blue flame flickered; in another, the cell's occupant seemed to fade in and out of existence.
Monsters, she thought dully. All these people, transformed into monsters by the rocks.
And yet, did she know they were monsters? Perhaps they all had powers, perhaps they had all been transformed in some fashion, but could she be certain that every one of them had gone into hiding in the woods and begun murdering unwary travelers?
Were they the monsters, or was the monster the man who confined them here in such cruel conditions?
She glanced up at Clark, and saw that he looked as if he was considering the same questions. His jaw was taut, his eyes blazing. Clearly he didn't like seeing these people suffering any more than she did.
These people are monsters, she reminded herself. When people are changed by the rocks, they become killers.
But was that always true? Had these people been confined by Prince Lex because they were murderers, or simply because they were different?
Had Prince Lex imprisoned them here to protect the people he ruled, or was there another, more sinister reason?
She realized she had no way of divining the answer. The score or so of people confined here might all have turned to murder, the way Lana had. But then again, they might simply have been captured and imprisoned because they were different.
Suddenly she remembered Lex's voice: My father spoke of an enormous green lizard. He had plans of sending men to the forest near Smallcroft in order to capture it for his menagerie.
She remembered the way Lex's gray eyes had lit up with interest at the thought of the green lizard, and wondered.
Was this a prison, or a menagerie?
Near the end of the passage were two empty cells. The guard shoved Lana roughly into one, and Clark and Chloe into another.
"In here, freaks," he said coldly.
As the door clanged shut behind them and the torch moved away, leaving them in darkness, she felt gratitude that they'd been confined together. Not that it mattered, not really. She knew that iron bars and stone couldn't hold him.
No matter what, she knew she could count on Clark to save her.
But as she turned to him, he fell to his knees, groaning.
The rocks. There were rocks somewhere.
Clark doubled over in pain, clutching at his midsection. Not that the pain was confined to his abdomen. It was everywhere, deep inside him, burning his bones, stabbing through his head, making his blood boil.
Chloe knelt next to him, stroking his hair in an effort to comfort him. But even the touch of her hands couldn't lessen his agony. He gritted his teeth and forced his eyes open, seeing the eerie green glow that meant a rock was near him.
Or more than one rock, perhaps. Because the cell glowed brightly, and the high-pitched ringing he could hear when the rocks were near him seemed to beat against his eardrums.
"They must have added cells to this level fairly recently," she whispered, her hand caressing his hair. "And when they quarried the rock..."
He nodded, even though the gesture made him feel as if his head were splitting in two. This was bad, he thought. Very bad. As long as he was in this cell, he was helpless to protect Chloe.
But as bad as he thought it was, Chloe's next words made him realize it could be far worse.
"Clark," she whispered, right in his ear. "There are likely green rocks in Lana's cell, too. And if there are, then... well, I suspect it's dark enough that she can transform."
Clark imagined the green lizard using its strength to rip through the iron bars as if they were so much parchment, and then going on a killing rampage, killing and devouring these people, who were confined and helpless and couldn't escape. Whether they were murderers, or simply "freaks," they didn't deserve that sort of death. No one did.
He struggled to get up, knowing that somehow, he needed to get to his feet.
But instead he fell forward heavily onto the stone floor and sprawled there, utterly helpless.
Read Chapter 15 here.