SCARS OF THE SEA / book two /// chapter 64 - spark in a pool of oil
Posted January 6th, 2018 by Garrett
in a city drinking coffee
an/ probs not one of my BEST chapters. but i had loads of fun writing it. i got sucked into writing for most of this chapter, which was nice, since that hasn't happened for a while.
so yeah enjoy. this is unedited as usual because i'm a lazy fuck.
| 64 |
A Spark in a Pool of Oil
Brana knew the man standing ten feet away from her. One of the few men packed into their little, smelly prison. She knew him by the stubble on his cheeks and the shadows under his eyes. By the snarl of his lip and the sharp edge of his jaw. She knew him. And the sight of his face made her nauseous. It turned her stomach and itched her throat and spun her head around and around and around. How had he ended up here? An Exiled Savage imprisoned by his own kind.
Phillip saw her. His dark eyes widened. He looked, for a moment, as if he would come over and speak to her. Like an old friend. But he must’ve seen her recoil, seen the tightening of her shoulders and heard the prayers she thought up to keep him away. Because he stayed away.
He was the last person Brana wanted to see, much less speak to. She was stuck in a prison with the man who’d raped her sister. The man who took their lives from them. On top of that, he led them through the wilderness for weeks, only to betray them once they reached civilization. Brana hoped he could find it in himself to feel guilty. She almost smiled at the thought of that guilt eating at his insides every single night when he tried to keep his eyes shut and his mind quiet.
She stopped smiling.
Because that was her. Quaking with tears, or unable to close her eyes at night. Because every time she did ease into sleep, her dreams burned away and revealed the truth behind. The nightmares her mind conjured. Her family being butchered and screaming and burning. Crying out for her. If she’d just gone home. If she had never begged for that job at the bookshop. Then she would’ve been there. When the Savages invaded, they wouldn’t have stayed to wait for her, because she would have been there.
And if they had died escaping, at least they would’ve all died together.
Brana distracted her mind from dreadful thoughts at the sight of a Savage walking between the crowded cells. She prayed he was delivering food—anything to eat. But he just passed by with a flickering torch and vanished around the corner.
Those damn Savages were going to starve them.
Brana tightened her jaw and went to work.
Ejiri had given them two weeks. They’d already used over half of that time, and she decided that anything more without progress would be a waste. So as soon as the day turned to night and the Savages set up guard outside of their cave, Brana started whispering.
She tapped on a sturdy woman’s shoulder.
“Yes?” the woman said, turning around. She had long black hair and a face set with high cheekbones.
“Don’t be afraid,” Brana said.
“Then you’re just the type of person we need.”
“We?” She raised an eyebrow.
“The Resistance,” Brana said, chin high, coming up with a title off the top of her head.
“Please keep your fantasies to yourself.” The woman’s voice was hard. And cold. And hurt. “You’re just a little girl with high hopes who hasn’t had her dreams crushed yet.”
Brana crinkled her nose. “What’s your name?”
“Isa, did you have a family before this? Are they dead now?”
Isa scoffed and averted her eyes.
“Did you see their bodies?” Now Brana’s tone was the one dripping with ice.
Isa’s jaw twitched.
“I had dreams once,” Brana continued. “I wanted to be a writer. Or an actress in one of those fancy plays. I had dreams. And they are now as dead as my mother, my father, and my brother.”
Isa opened her mouth, no doubt to say something sardonic.
Brana didn’t give her the chance. “The Resistance is not a dream. It’s happening. Now. This is it. And you say I have high hopes. Damn right, I have high hopes.”
“Go play somewhere else.”
“You’re going to die succumbing to the Savages, or fighting them. Either way you’re a goner.” Brana started to turn, but turned her head to add, “If you want to not be a coward, I suggest the latter.”
Then she started walking, but it wasn’t long before she found someone else who looked like a good foundation for spreading news.
This girl was curled up on the ground, trembling. Not crying, but muttering things under her breath.
Brana put a hand on her shoulder and gently squeezed. The girl froze and craned her head up.
“Hello?” She said, squinting as if she were staring at the sun.
She was pale. And clammy. Long hair sticking to the sides of her face and her thin arms.
“You don’t have to be afraid anymore,” Brana said.
The girl didn’t speak.
“I’m with the Resistance. If you join me, we can work together to save all of us.”
That was all she needed to say. Just a little seed planted in a girl who needed something to make her stronger.
Then she moved on. Person after person, until a good quarter of their cell had heard the news of the Resistance. Some of them were supportive. More of them didn’t believe her. Either way…it was out there. When the little spark she’d struck ignited into a roaring fire, more were to join them.
She just had to be patient for that to happen.
There were whispers all throughout the night. Once Brana had finished and shut her eyes for sleep, all she could hear were the whispers—close and distant—about her Resistance. How insane it was. How practical it was. How some of them had been waiting years for something like this to come about. How it was too good to be true—just a little girl with unbroken dreams.
She didn’t care how people got the news. Or how they reacted. Because they knew.
So when the time came…they would know who it was freeing them. Who started this—who fought back.
The next morning was grueling. Going to the mines must’ve been a weekly thing, because all the other women knew what to do. When the Savages opened up their cell none of them ran out. They shuffled. Chained by the ankles and wrists. Branded. They moved in a slow line deeper into the cave until they reached a dark cavern of halfway exposed ore.
Pickaxes were passed about.
Brana wrapped her little hands around the handle of hers. The stone walls are a slithering orange in the torchlight, and the ore is pitch black. Shimmering.
The slaves begin their labor. Sparks start flying, shattering off the wall with shards of rock.
Brana follows suit, doing as much as she could to raise her pickax above her head. To swing and strike. Her little arms quivered and trembled after only ten minutes. And her breath was gone, what she could manage raspy from breathing in the dust that filled the cavern. Sometimes when she listened past the immediate sounds of the women around her hard at work, she could weed out the crack of a whip. Always followed by a scream.
She flinched every time.
She felt the stinging lacerations in her back as if her scars were sliced open once more.
And she swung the pickax. She tore at the stone, prying out chunks of ore until she had a pile—until she could no longer hold her arms up by themselves, much less a forty pound tool.
That’s when he showed up.
Brana turned away from him, but thought it might be in her best interest to keep her ears wide open.
“Stop,” he said.
Not a word.
“You need to stop doing what you’re doing. You’re going to get yourself killed.”
“Shut up,” Brana snarled.
“I mean it. You think you’re the first one to try something like this? I can’t even count how many rebellions have been started in that very cell, and squashed on the execution block outside.”
His voice was exactly the same. And suddenly it all came back. The weeks in the wagon. Sitting in her own shit. Crying herself to sleep—months of feeling nothing. Being so desperate for survival that both her and Ciara had convinced themselves they could rely on him. That he could help them. And he did. He caught them food, he provided for them while he could. But as soon as they got to Sudbury he was gone. A drunk in a jail.
How had he gotten himself working among slaves?
How had he managed to go from being a Savage to a slave and not change at all?
Brana turned around, her fists clenched around the pickax handle, her face red, and eyes filled with storms.
“I am fighting for something real. If you think this is a hopeless cause…then…”
“Then you’re a hopeless cause,” Brana said flatly. She picked up her sharp pickax, despite the screaming pain in her arms. And she swung it at the wall. Hard.
The impact rattled her entire body and slackened her hands. The pickax clattered to the rock ground.
Heavy footsteps echoed further up in the cave. Phillip tensed and shoved the pickax into her hands. She clenched her fingers around the wood, looking between the entrance to the cavern and Phillip where he shuffled back to his place.
He was halfway across the cavern when the Savage entered, a long, leather whip coiling at his side.
“You,” the Savage said, pointing at Phillip.
The Savage screamed in anger and flashed his whip.
It cracked against Phillip—the grown man crumpling to the ground, arms giving out beneath him. Face down. He groaned and rolled over, facing the Savage that now stood directly above him, holding a dagger out.
“You’re a real piece of shit,” the Savage said.
“I try,” Phillip smirked.
Must’ve been the wrong choice of words. The Savage brought his fist down on Phillip’s cheek.
“You wanna be a little shit again, eh?” The Savage dropped to his knees, straddling Phillip, holding that blade closer and closer to his neck.
Brana relished the sight, smiling quietly as she swung her pickax into the stone. Then her stomach turned, her swallowed thoughts crawling back up her throat. How could she get satisfaction from watching something like that? How twisted was she?
Phillip screamed. Not a battle cry, but a scream of agony.
Brana shut her eyes and pretended it didn’t bother her. She pretended she wasn’t in her body, she wasn’t a slave, she wasn’t a sick lunatic thirsty for blood. She wasn’t in this situation. Completely numb from reality, detached from her aching body, she was no longer there. She was at home. In Acantha. In her home with her mother and her father and Leo. Ciara was there, too.
Everyone was home, eating dinner at their little table beside a fire father had gathered wood for that morning.
Windows shut against the chilly night, frost already growing on the panes.
Orange stone peppered with black ore.
Sitting in her father’s lap beside the warm hearth.
The clanking of shackles and the endless shattering of rock.
Leo’s little laugh. Mother’s cinnamon pie getting its finishing touches.
Cold. Bitter winter.
Warm. Cozy winter.
And it all went away. She was in her body again, completely aware of her senses. The way her arms trembled, about to give out, and the buckets of sweat soaked through her clothes and her hair.
“Drop your tools and lets get on with it,” a Savage said from the entrance.
Brana sighed, dropping her pickax, listening to the satisfying sound of it hitting the stone. Her arms pulsed with pain as she dragged along, her shoulders tense and aching.
She sat against the wall in their cell. Phillip was nowhere to be seen. Whatever they’d done to him…
Maybe they’d killed him.
Night came. She whispered again. Later, in the midst of her winding in and out of sleep, she heard the far off voices of other women in adjacent cells.
They spoke of the Resistance.
It was working.
Day. Bright sunlight, chains rattling, vision fuzzy.
Brana yawned as she woke, stretching out her arms, only to feel jolting shots of pain up and down her fingers, her arms, her shoulders. She slumped against the stone. Worthless to even try to move. It would only make her feel worse.
So she didn’t.
Something had to happen. Soon.
Almost as if the gods had listened, a Savage unlocked their cell.
“All of you. Out,” she said.
Brana complied, filing along with the others. This time, the Savage directed them to the mouth of the cave, where they crossed a rope bridge into another cave. And across another bridge, into another cave. The wind was cold, harsh, and slapped at the side of her face each time she crossed a bridge. But she was getting a sense of where things were in this massive camp.
Finally, they reached a staircase, ascending to the top of the very plateau from which it was carved. The Savage led them up, Brana’s bare feet grimy and orange after the long walk. From the top, she had a magnificent view of the surrounding canyons. Endless orange rock, some topped by fine layers of snow. Not the one they stood on. Though the red rock seemed damp, as if it had just dried.
It wasn’t until the slaves were lined up, shoulder-to-shoulder, on the edge of the high plateau that Brana’s stomach started to lurch. Her conscience telling her to run. Run and never look back.
Her toes were so close to the drop off. Less than an inch, and she’d free fall to the canyon floor. The height didn’t scare her. It was the five Savages that had just arrived, each with a different weapon, that made her fear go haywire.
She was sweating, despite the cold. This was it. This was the execution block Phillip had mentioned. Someone told them, someone ratted her out.
The Savage who brought them up here began pacing. She twirled her whip around her lithe fingers.
“Someone has been spreading nasty rumors,” she said, her voice hoarse.
She walked with patience, trailing her words out behind each of their ears.
“Nasty, nasty rumors. About a so called…”
The second the Savage walked behind Brana was the longest second of her entire life.
Every hair on Brana’s body stood straight. She clenched her teeth. Then unclenched them. She couldn’t show signs of nervousness—she couldn’t give herself away.
“What I want to know,” the Savage said.
Brana’s heartbeat pounded in her throat, thudding in her ears.
“Is who? We know it started in your cell. So which one of you did it?”
Brana glanced sideways. Isa was there, down the line. Glaring at her. Glaring with the heat of Saoirse’s flame.
“Hm?” The Savage snapped her whip against the ground.
“I understand,” the Savage said. “You prefer not to answer. You prefer to let others die for you.”
“Fine by me.”
That—that was the next longest second of Brana’s entire life. When she heard that boot hit, when an innocent slave girl screamed with every ounce of her being. And the next second. When she fell like a rag doll. And the next, when she cracked against the hard rock.
And Brana just stared.
She couldn’t think, couldn’t move, couldn’t breathe, couldn’t scream, couldn’t pronounce herself guilty, she couldn’t even cry.
This was it.
This was why she had to fight back.
Not to be safe. But to ruin the evil. To ruin it.
“Still no one?” the Savage purred. “Fine. Next. Jonas, get her.”
There was a moment of pause, and then the distinct sound of breaking flesh, of a blade stabbing a back.
Another girl at the bottom of the canyon.
“No one going to come forth?”
Brana’s mind buzzed. She had to do something. Quick. She had to do something to fight back, to change the course of this execution, to turn her fellow slaves against their captors.
A new pair of footsteps, a heavier pair, crunched the rock only a few women down from Brana. She looked in the corner of her eye in time to see his blade gut her throat, to see her blood stain the snow far below, just before her body splashed in the little creek.
Three. Three lives lost.
Brana had no time to waste.
Somewhere deeper in the camp, a chorus of angry yells rose up. A fresh column of smoke began drizzling into the blue sky.
What was happening down there? Had the fight finally started?
Hope fluttered in Brana’s chest.
But it died as another random slave died. Shot straight through the skull, the impact of the arrow sending her over the edge.
Her body slammed on top of one of the other girls. A reverberating, wet thump.
That was it.
Brana stepped out of line. She turned to face the six Savages. The female one, who had corralled them up there, smirked.
“Always look out for the little ones,” she teased, uncoiling her whip and giving it a test on the rock. It snapped, the sound ringing in Brana’s ears.
But she didn’t back down. Brana stood high.
“What’s your name?” Brana asked.
“Excuse me?” she said.
“Diana. Not that it matters. You’re going to be too dead to bother needing my name. Plus, I trust we’ll be going to different places in the afterlife, so don’t wait up.”
She raised her whip, the leather as dark as black hole, waiting to swallow Brana up.
Brana flinched, squeezing her eyes shut, awaiting the impact.
The whip cracked.
She felt nothing. Was she dead? Was this death? She opened her eyes.
The wind snapped at her, tossing her hair around. The slaves behind her were rattling their chains, moving around to step away from the edge. And Diana—her head was five feet away from her body. And Phillip stood in a pool of blood connecting the two, holding a scarlet scimitar.
“What the hell’ve you done!” A big Savage man yelled, charging Phillip.
“Run!” Phillip yelled into the air, facing his attacker.
Brana knew who he had yelled the order to.
She did, or at least she tried to. With the chain around her ankles it was extremely hard to run, much less walk. She made it ten feet before another Savage man scooped her up, heaving her over his shoulder. She had an obstructed view of the world, but from her spinning sense of direction, she thought he was taking her to the plateau edge. To snuff her fire out.
“No thanks,” she grunted, squirming against him, kicking and slamming her fists into his back. Nothing…none of it did any good.
There was the edge—she could see it in her peripheral vision. Somewhere atop the plateau, a woman screamed.
Brana screamed, trying to bust his eardrum or something.
She pounded her fists.
She would not be taken away by a Savage.
Brana held on as tight as possible to his shirt and bit down on his neck, where it curved to connect to his shoulder. She clenched her teeth as tightly around his flesh as she could, tasting his sweat and grime and blood that pooled in her mouth.
He yelped, throwing her off of him.
For a split-second, she thought she’d won. Then she realized she hadn’t stopped falling yet.
But there was two hands, reaching out. Brana didn’t know where they were coming from. She could barely tell which way was up and down. But she reached out and grabbed onto the pair of shackled hands.
A deep female grunt rumbled inside the woman. Brana screamed as the rocky edge cut into her abdomen. But she kicked back onto the plateau. Back against the stone, she took a moment to gather her surroundings. The woman beside her. Isa.
“Thank you,” Brana said.
“Don’t forget it,” Isa said.
Phillip ran to her. “Holy gods I thought you were a goner. Here let me get your chains off.”
She held out her hands, trusting him to make his mark. And he did. His blade sliced clean through both her hand and ankle restraints.
He did the same for Isa.
“That won’t be the last of them,” he said, unable to wipe the grin off his face. “We’ve got to go…”
Cold fear crept up Brana’s insides. The kind of fear she knew had consequences, knew had truth, knew there was no escaping.
At least ten Savages had arrived on the plateau. And more and more were coming. Twenty. Thirty.
“You three,” one of the Savages said, pointing at them. Singling them out because of their broken shackles and the scimitar in Phillip’s hand. “You’re all dead.”
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