A Crimson Shore: 18.4 The Library Lady

Two Weeks Prior…

The woman awoke to find herself lashed in the most severe way one could imagine, by neck, by arm, elbow, knee and ankle, and even in some manner she couldn’t shake out of, by her forehead. She was bound to a cold, slab of stone, or perhaps metal. Maybe polished wood. She couldn’t be sure because she couldn’t open her eyes. When she tried, her eyelids simply wouldn’t work. Around her, in absolute completeness, was pitch black. It was a darkness so complete she was afraid to breathe for fear it would enter her lungs and suffocate her like it had this space. When she did do so, the air was rank, rotten and loathesome.  It was the smell of death, the smell of things dying, of corpses burned and cooked. The smell behind the butcher’s shop.

The next thought she had was that of pain.  There were several kinds presently occupying her thoughts. First, she felt a stabbing pain in the wrists and ankles, and in trying to wrestle them free, she realized that she she only had one arm, and one leg to work with. The others were either numb, or missing. This made her gasp, and that made her throat hurt, as though it too were now injured.  There was also a pain in her midsection.  A throbbing pain that one was.  She felt little tingles here and there upon her skin, and these sent little shockwaves up her spinal cord to her brain. Far beyond eerie, the unknown quality of the pain made her sick, and fearful.

And then she heard footsteps coming.  Slowly, one after the other. Confident, sure.  Quickly, she tried to remember who she was.  Where she was, what had happened.  But all she remembered were the dreams, the nightmares.  The face, the horrid face.  She called out into the blackness, “Who’s there! Answer me damn you to Ket!”

For a long time, there was no answer. Just a complete silence, as complete as the darkness. The throbbing and tingles in her skin.  The arm and leg she couldn’t feel, or move. The ones she could feel, and the pain of their being bound so tightly, right into her flesh.

“You do not have a name,” said an insidious voice.  Instantly she cringed, trying to curl up into herself, even though she couldn’t. She was vulnerable. Oh so vulnerable now.

She would have answered, but a fear gripped her chest and her throat, a fear deeply within her, primal.  She wasn’t sure if she was a fearful person, she didn’t think so.  But here, now, she was.  She was something else here.

A finger traced along her skin, moving it’s way along her leg and up along her chest.  She felt the nail slide along her flesh.  With sickening realization, she could feel every bit perfectly, the crooked fingernail, the grooves of it.

A stench filled her nostrils as an entity in the darkness moved closer to her.  It was so strong, that she knew where it was by that sense alone now. “You carried a shield to the island with you, aboard your craft,” spoke the voice.  It was so random, so unexpected that she nearly laughed. But she hurt far too much for laughter, even unexpected laughter.

“Where did you acquire the shield?”

“I…I…,” she tried to remember, searching deep into her mind.  It was a jumble. Only parts of a nightmare she didn’t want to remember seemed to be there, searching, trying to make the voice happy, make it leave her alone. And then, she found it. “I took it from one of the island pirates.  The lizardman.”

There was another long pause, and the wicked voice asked, “And who traveled with him?”

The woman tried to think, but couldn’t.  She felt the finger upon her skin once more, and winced, gasping for air as though it had mortally wounded her. “Was there a young woman, an elf?”

“Yes! Yes!” she remembered her now.  “Now please go away, leave me be”, she cried.

The voice seemed please. It asked, “Was she carrying a lanthorn with her?  An intricate lanthorn, magical in nature?”

Again, this piece of information was still lodged somewhere in her mind.  She cried out, certain this time, the voice would have everything it wanted. “Yes! Yes! It would have been the prize, for sure! Now, please,” she whimpered, like a child, “Go away, leave me be!”

“Thank you, young one,” said the voice silkily. “I will leave you now, you must now worry that I will return.”

“Please, please,” called the woman after the voice. “Please, do not leave me here in the darkness! Please, leave me a light.  I beg of you! I beg you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

There was no answer. She heard footsteps trail off, and the smell of the rank creature, left as well.  In a few more moments though she heard a cackling sound, followed by another and another. It was the sound from her nightmares, just as the voice had been.  Around her, a light began to grow, from somewhere underneath her.  Although she now lay in absolute agony. Indescribable pain, a small joy crept into the back of her mind.  “I can see, I can see.”

A slow dim light began to appear around her.  It took her a while to focus and see what lay before her and around her, because she had no eye lids. As the light grew, her eyes, devoid of any protection watered and burned.  And now, with a horror as complete as the earlier darkness, she realized the smell of death, was her.

While the flames rose higher and higher, and her screams took over any thought that might exist in her memory or mind, the woman remembered her name. She tried to move her head to look at the rest of her, but couldn’t so instead she stared straight ahead while her vision blurred. Her last glimpse was of her chest and abdomen or what was once her chest and abdomen.  Now it was nothing but a large gaping hole with her innards pulled out and scattered over her torso haphazardly.

She tried to scream it out. Her name. All that she had left in this world.  But the fire consumed her fully, and she died.  While in the background, three voices cackled and howled.

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