Chapter 21: The Past Returns

Cold steel cut her wrists. She felt blood oozing from a dozen different cuts all over her body, even if the iron mask blocked her vision. She struggled helplessly, muscles screaming in concert.

“Did you think we wouldn’t find you? That we couldn’t bring you back?”

*Crack*

“That we wouldn’t have the sense to follow the trail you blazed? Stupid girl.”

*Crack*

White-hot pain followed this time as the unseen torturer pressed a glowing iron into the wound, something he enjoyed randomly.

*Hiss*

“We’ve caught you so many times, yet you continue to try.”

*Crack*

“That’s enough, executioner. It doesn’t appear to be working.”

*Tsss*

The brand seared into her one last time. The deep baritone voice reverberated endlessly inside the heavy iron helmet. “I think this time, we’ll break both legs.”

Leliana’s heart raced. Cold sweat dripped from the mask onto her lips. She sprayed it in a wide arc between ragged gasps. “I’ll kill you.” The hoarse whisper was everything she could manage.

He laughed.

“No. You won’t.”

The chains binding her wrists lowered, forcing her to bow. The harsh squeal of a rusted lock pierced her mind. A jarring note against the buzz of the overhead lights. A cold, hard bar was forced painfully against the front of her thighs. She bit her tongue. She wouldn’t give this bastard the satisfaction of hearing her cry again.

“Proceed, executioner.”

The nerves on the back of her thigh lit up like a forest fire and she felt the crack of bone. It washed through her in a sickening wave. She screamed. In agony, in fear, in rage. The sledgehammer, a familiar punishment, slammed into the other leg. Sparks of light danced across the darkness while she fought unconsciousness. Her blood boiled. She squeezed her eyes. She was not going to cry. “I hate you.” The metal pressing into her eyes glowed a brilliant white. “I. HATE. YOU!” The mask was gone, molten iron carving little rivers into her flesh as it flowed freely.

*Crack*

She snapped as pain blossomed across her neck. Leliana ripped the chains from their bolts. The pitted metal frame bent and shattered on the stone floor. She glared at the executioner. He took a step back. She stalked forward as he retreated until his back met the cold concrete wall. She grabbed the whip, grating bones and grunts of pain brought a smile to her face. Moments later, a hooded head squelched against the suited man back by the rack.

“You’ve finally managed to do something right. Bra-vo.” Shiny black shoes kicked the head away while fine white gloves raised another whip. This one was barbed and, she knew from experience, coated with a painful toxin. He snapped it at her face.

*CRACK*

“YOU!”

Leliana hurtled across the room and grabbed a fistful of suit. She yanked him off his feet and raised his sneering face, pulling back to smash him apart.

“EEEEK!” His cruel face emitted a tiny squeal as he hit her over the-

What?

Leliana froze. Brutus? The forest. The escape. The ship?

Teena’s pink pigtails trembled behind shaking hands. Her feet dangled helplessly above a small broken box. “I’m sorry! I didn’t mean to drop it I know everyone was sleeping but I just wanted to fix a little hole I missed earlier because it was really cold and drafty and I-”

“Teena?” The reality of what she was about to do hit her like a brick wall. The room tilted and swam around her and she forced the contents of her stomach back down.

Gib watched from his own hammock, one foot on the ground. “Easy does it little friend. Let’s put Teena down, and count to ten.” He stood slowly, breathing deeply, then slowly exhaling. Leliana allowed herself a slow breath, and set the small woman gently on the floor.

“Teena I’m…” No words came to mind. What could she say? The buzz of the overhead lights and those cruel eyes shined brightly at the forefront of everything. She fled from those tiny frightened eyes and took Antros’ spot in the nest.

***

Over a hundred miles from the sailing ship, someone else was living their own nightmare.

“What the hells is going on?” Ricken stomped through his tent’s flap. “How am I supposed to pack the dynamite if you lot keep…” Tools littered the clearing while their owners disappeared into the distance. “HEY! Get back here! Stupid, flea-bitten, ugly sonof-” Tents flew in every direction as an explosion hit the clearing behind him. He dropped to his knees as the world shook. An ear-shattering screech thundered across the forest.

He whipped around to see the demophant corpse struggling to rise. Spasms rippled across its tube-like body like the rings in a lake on a windy day. Everything around him was sucked toward it as the beast leapt into the air. This time, the blast flung him through the camp. He narrowly missed being impaled when a rotted tree snapped like a twig. He gagged as he was covered in a slimy coat of entrails.

An inky darkness he mistook for a shadow slowly grew in size. A small dot under the creature’s eye at first, the dark pool was thrice the size of a man now and boiled like a pot of disgusting soup.

“By the gods!” Instincts took over and he sprinted after the others. First the power core, now this? It was time for a new job.

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Author: keyboardcouple

A couple who write and learn in front of their keyboards.

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