(written by Hanah, with some slight edits by Thomas)
The steady yet slow dripping noise and the smell of rotting sewage brought Ariea to her senses. Her mouth was dry and her head was pounding as though she had been beaten for a number of hours.
She knew what that felt like.
Ariea began doing what she always did in a situation where her life was in danger. She began to investigate her surroundings and to look for a way out. Without the ability to move, and in pain, she started only with what she could see and hear. She figured she was in some sort of damp cave, with very little light. Even her elven vision didn’t help much. Her hands she soon discovered were tied behind her back and her feet were tied together as well in front of her so that her knees were pulled up to her chest. Her vision was distorted as if she was drunk or drugged. “Ugh, this feels like déjà vu…” she thought, chuckling to herself. She never dwelled on those days much anymore but from time to time the aches and pains of battle brought the memories back. To her right, came shuffling and footsteps approached. They were crisp and clear, but she figured they belonged to something less than an adult. A smaller thing, but what was smaller than an adult. A child? But how would a child be here?
The figure stopped in front of Ariea, out of her field of vision as she now lay. It then placed what sounded like a small wooden stool onto the moldy surface with a thud and sat down. Trying to turn towards it, she made out what she assumed was his face but only slightly. It was still covered in shadows, and with Ariea’s mind feeling groggy at best, she couldn’t tell who was sitting in front of her.
“Who are you, where am I, and what do you want with me?” Ariea growled finding her mouth free to speak.
“Relax rogue.” The voice was cool and calm, and slick but it was cloaked, as if by the fabric enveloping it’s face. It was hard to tell age, or gender. It was just a voice, dark and somber . But it was not the voice of an adult. That much she knew, and even though it made no sense to her, it was the voice of a child. “You have nothing to be upset over. I am only interested in some information.”
“And who the night are you?”
“That’s not important right now, my little Hero. We don’t have much time, soon the others will wake. It’s been a long night hasn’t it, down here in the sewers? So much at stake….” The voice paused, and she began to make out a silhouette, a small figure, cloaked sitting on a stool just as she had thought. Little white hands on it’s knees, the only parts of it’s body showing.
“Let’s begin, Areia of the night’s shade. I’d like to get to know you a little better. You don’t mind do you?” The voice paused again. The figure, draped completely, did not move at all. “Tell me about yourself please. Have you always been a citizen of the Far Realm?”
“What makes you think I’m going to tell you anything you bastard, let me go!”
“Daughter of the Light, please. You will eventually tell me everything, so do not struggle. Besides, you have much more to do this eve, and you will need your strength. The syrum running through your bloodstream now is probably taking effect as we speak. Do you feel it, the urge to spill everything to me? Daughter of the Night, I am in control here…” Ever the fighter, Areia’s hands fought against the bindings. She arched backward, and with the little vision she had she saw that nothing in fact bound her hands at all. They simply would not budge.
As the voice spoke again, Ariea did feel something, a fogginess in her brain.
“The harder you struggle, the more I will have to persuade you, Hero. So again I ask, were you always a citizen of Far Realm?”
Ariea tried fighting the urge to say anything, but it was impossible. Her lips moved despite her fighting back the words. “No, I wasn’t. When I came to this shithole, I was but a child.” Angrily, but unable to stop she continued. Her words were growls as they spilled forth. “I can’t remember much before then.” She paused as if she forgot the next part of her story, but then something inside her found a memory she didn’t know was there. “I do remember! I remember a field full of red poppies and mother smiling.” In the dark, she couldn’t help it. She was remembering! How long she had hoped to know. She hated this bastard for bringing this from her, and yet she had dreamed of this moment. “ I think that’s the only time I ever did see your smile, mother. And there was a man dressed all in black, I can’t see his face. Behind him was a great… was a great structure, a building of some sort . I can’t recall much from that time… all I can remember was my mother was happy. I don’t know if it was just a childhood dream or a fantasy I made up.” The words were just falling out of her. She couldn’t stop them.
“Is your mother still alive, young one ?”
In the darkness, Areia cried, quietly. “No, she isn’t you piece of shit. My mother lost her mind or so I was told. She would sometimes say strange things, mumbled to herself about someone coming for us. I don’t know who she meant, nor did anyone else. Maybe she was talking about my father. Maybe she was a crazy woman. I don’t think we came here out of choice. This damn place destroyed my mother within only a few years after we arrived. I had lived six cycles, when she died.”
“That’s quite young. How did you survive on the streets of this place, on your own?”
“I remember being always hungry, always wandering through the alleys. Too afraid to leave because of what lurked beyond the gates. There were many of us, the lost or abandoned ones, children of the Realm. I watched many die, claimed by any number of diseases, or beasts. At the sport of the pirates, or worse the Lighted Infantry. We were lucky to see into our adolescence! We all just clumped together for safety. I made the mistake of meandering through the market one time before I knew better. I had a fellow street kid with me by the name of Molly then. She attached herself to me and although I couldn’t feed myself, I looked out for her. Only four, at least it’s how old I thought she was. The nobles were no better to us “urchins”. Their sneers and laughter at our misery made me hate them all the more. Don’t ask the clergy for help. Don’t ask the barkeeps for scraps. Don’t get caught in the way of the caravan, and never find yourself around the officers during target practice. Come out at night. And then only in groups. Those were the rules we lived by. We weren’t worth the divine price of an enlightenment, so we weren’t inquisitioned.”
It was like water now, a great flood of emotion, and she couldn’t stop it. The figure on the stool became clearer, as were the men sleeping around him. The pirates and soldiers she had just rescued, but Areia wasn’t an adult right now. She was a little girl. “Most of the soldiers were just as bad. Used us as target practice should we make the mistake of pestering one for a scrap of food. Molly didn’t survive one assault on us, they beat her, thought it a laugh to throw knives at a starving child begging a soldier with his belly full for a few scraps from his rucksack. I tried to stop them but I was just little then, hungry, weak. I wasn’t strong enough, and I wasn’t a killer.”