This story has graphic depictions of violence, mentions of injuries and loss of limbs. Please read with caution.
The ship had felt tense the last few days. Nethrali wasn’t sure exactly what was going on but as they got closer and closer to their destination some of the other passengers had begun to show hostility towards her. She knew that most people didn’t like Tieflings, it was something she’d dealt with since she was a child. This didn’t feel like that though and she didn’t understand entirely what was happening.
It could just boil down to her traveling without Va for the first time since she met him. That thought made her eyes sting and her throat grow tight, so she shook it off and tried to get some sleep. Her hands still hurt but they were starting to heal at least. The scars would always be there as a reminder, and she’d lost four of her fingers in total, but that felt unimportant next to the loss of her father.
They were almost to Eckrin and she still wasn’t sure where she would go after that. She knew she wouldn’t be staying there because of all the horrible memories from her childhood.
She’d go to the city and go from there, hopefully she could go far enough that her memories of Va didn’t haunt her with every step. Eventually she felt herself succumb to sleep and then everything was black. It took a while before she settled enough to start dreaming, and when she did it wasn’t a comfort. She was jerked awake by Va telling her they had to go.
She was confused and didn’t understand what he was telling her, but everything was hot and there was smoke in the air. Her eyes stung and it was difficult to breathe, the heat was stifling, and she couldn’t seem to get control of her body. Va dragged her out of bed, yelling unintelligibly the entire time. Tripping down the stairs behind him she finally noticed the flames dancing around the floor level of the tavern they’d stayed in for the night.
Even the stairs were on fire and one of them broke under her, pushing her into Va and piercing her ankle. She cried out in pain but tried to keep moving. Va saw she was hurt but he kept pulling her towards the front of the tavern. There were others moving that way, but she didn’t know or recognize them, they were just formless shapes.
When they got within a few feet of the door there was a deafening crack from overhead and Va tugged so hard on her arm that she felt a sickening pop. He threw her towards the door and then the ceiling fell. Nethrali watched as her father was stuck under some of the debris. She tore herself away from gripping hands and ran towards where she could still see him.
The arm he’d tugged on was burning at her shoulder, but she ignored it and tried to shove pieces of the ceiling off of him. He was shouting at her to run but she ignored it, she had to get him free before he died. She couldn’t leave him here. She wasn’t sure how long she tried to move the pieces, but Va stopped shouting at her at some point and then arms were tugging her away and a new voice started screaming.
With a start she jerked awake only to find four men standing over her, men that had been watching her on the ship the last few days. She struck out with her dagger but one of them punched her in the face and another grabbed her by the horns and jerked her head back while another slipped something around her neck. She struggled as best she could but the fourth just broke her wrist and the third tied a rope around her ankles.
She kept thrashing and struggling as much as possibly but four against one was not winning odds. She bit and kicked and squirmed until one of them hit her in the side of the head and spots danced in her vision. They dragged her from the hull to the deck and she put up as much of a fight as she was capable of because she saw bodies of other passengers along the way.
It didn’t make sense that she was being kept alive, when these men had clearly killed everyone else on the ship. When they pitched her over the rail of the boat and attached her to something, she still wasn’t sure what was happening. Then whatever they had attached her to started moving and she felt herself start to slip into the water and her struggles renewed. She felt herself sliding along the boat and she kept struggling and screaming until water filled her mouth and then she felt nothing but searing pain. When she surfaced again, she threw up and prayed for a death that didn’t come.
After the second pass under the water she lost track of time and the only thing she could focus on was pain. She’d never forget the 4 faces that had loomed over her and she hoped that when they died, they suffered even more than she currently was.
Eventually everything stopped and there was only blackness. She welcomed it and hoped that she’d see Va again on the other side. For a time, there wasn’t anything, just the vast nothingness, and then awareness returned. She saw a gateway and moved away from it. She had no desire to go towards it, because she remembered that whatever was out there was painful and nothing good remained. Her mind was foggy and sluggish but fear and pain she was familiar with and she knew that gate would lead to both.