[Story] Story a Week 49

[[ Prompt: A story about justice being done ]]

Tamazi couldn’t remember just how she’d got here. A heavy chain was fastened around her neck, cold and heavy, and she could feel it pinching into her skin. Her front paws were chained too, so she could not even scratch at the wounds that itched along her sides. They needed cleaning most of all, they felt hot and puffy, and she had been out in the damp mud for two days now. Her body felt weak and feverish all over, but she tried not to look afraid. She did not want to give them the satisfaction of scaring her.

She remembered bringing Harvian here, in her jaws. At first she had tried to carry him on her back, but he could not hold on as he was asleep. Not asleep — something more than that. Tamazi did not know anything of magic, but she suspected that the dark creature had done something to him. It was an unnatural sort of sleep, and it frightened her. She knew she needed help from someone trained in that kind of thing. Karama and the others had always warned her to stay away from outsiders, but this was important. Really important. But the villagers had screamed and ran inside their houses, some of them shouting and waving things at her. They hit her with metal things until she bled, while she tried to explain but they didn’t understand her — or maybe they didn’t want to. When she awoke, she was in this small muddy yard, her wounds stinging and with no idea what had happened to Harvian.

Now she had seen him, and he looked all right. He was walking, though limping a little, and he seemed alert. That was good. That night he had brought her food and he cleaned her cuts with a wet cloth as she ate. “I’m sorry,” he kept saying, but Tamazi didn’t understand why. He wasn’t the one who had done this. “I’m going to get you out of here.” There were guards, people standing with more sharp things, so they could not get away during the night. Tamazi waited to see if they would fall asleep, but they didn’t. Harvian brought his blankets and straw out to sit near her, even though a cold, misty rain began to fall.

“What was that thing?” Tamazi asked. She had curled up as best she was able against the cold, but the chain made it difficult. “It knew who you were.”

Harvian broke apart some of the coarse-ground bread and lay her half on the blanket for Tamazi to eat. She’d not eaten bread before, but it was still warm and she found it agreeable. “A drehl pahlokk,” said Harvian. “Something like the deer you have on your plains, but much larger and more muscular. They are keenly attuned to magic, especially dark magics.” Tamazi paused, her eyes widened. So she had been right about that. “That one is named Naxitarius. He is somewhat infamous among we asenji.”

“Why?” asked Tamazi.

Harvian’s muzzle wrinkled in distaste. “He does magic with dead things. Putting them back together, making them walk again. That’s the simple answer.”

Tamazi made a face as well. “That’s disgusting,” she said, and Harvian nodded.

“Exactly.”

With her belly full, Tamazi could turn her attention to other matters. “How will we get away from here?”

Harvian glanced at the guards. They were still awake, still watching from the corners of their eyes. “Could do something to them,” Harvian whispered. “But I don’t think they have the key. Mayor must have it.”

The mayor was the one inside this house. “Can you get inside? He’s probably asleep.”

“I don’t think I can. I tried some spells earlier, none of them seem to work. I think Naxitarius did something.” His voice was steady, but his ears flicked backward, betraying his worry. “Hopefully only temporary. I need to test it more.”

“Can’t you just explain to them?” Tamazi asked. “I didn’t try to eat you.”

Harvian frowned. “I can try. Not sure they’ll believe me. They know what they saw, which is a dangerous savage attacking. None of them have probably even seen one of you before. All they know is stories and rumors.”

Tamazi nodded, closing her eyes. Now that she was no longer hungry, she felt the sting of her wounds more keenly. She was thankful they had been washed, but now she could see just how deep some of them were. They would most likely scar. What would the Huntress do in her place? No doubt she would break free of her chains, devour the villagers in a flash of fangs and claws, and run away into the night. But of course she couldn’t do that. Nor did she think she wanted to attack them. It would only prove their fears about her correct. She just wanted to leave, to go home to her clan or — wherever it was she belonged now.

The morning dawned chilly, dew clinging to her fur and the metal chains. Already the crowd had gathered around her. Harvian was among them, speaking to the mayor. Tamazi tried to listen above the clamor, but so many were speaking at once. Many of them were watching her, perhaps judging if she was as dangerous as they first believed. Did any of them doubt now? Did any of them regret what they had done? The crowd hushed, as Harvian stepped forward from them.

“So you see,” he said, gesturing toward her. “This is not some lawless beast, but a sign from Miralana herself.” The villagers murmured amongst themselves. “A prophecy — no, the key — to the Ascension. She must be allowed to reach the temple.”

Tamazi stared as the chains were unlocked and fell away from her. What had Harvian said? Was it really true? As they walked away, the crowd drew back from her. “I’ll explain on the way,” whispered Harvian.

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