SCARS OF THE SEA / book two /// chapter 71 / embers (OKAY BUT REALLY THIS CHAPTER IS ASDFJ;K)
Posted April 7th, 2018 by Garrett
in a city drinking coffee
A/N: AYEEE is ya boy in a roll i think he might be
lmao i probably just jinxed myself oh well
anyway yeah not edited have fun :))
my word count is currenlty 180,000
| 71 |
Four hours after they left, Brana saw the smoke. Thick columns of billowing black swirling into the sky like ebony towers. She watched them rise higher and higher, dancing with the clouds and choking the birds, strangling the sun in their shadows. Brana buried herself in her heavy cloak and kept her head leaned back against a tree, making sure that her back wasn’t touching it. She’d accidentally brushed her back against the bark earlier and she almost passed out from the pain. Having the shirt she wore was torture enough, and it was a soft material.
What did the smoke mean? Obviously, it meant fire, but it meant something else.
Smoke and Savages meant fighting was happening. People were dying.
Finn, Jack, and Castor had taken most of the women to fight with them, and to help encourage the other slaves to revolt, too. They’d left around thirty. Those left behind either paced around trees—their bare feet wrapped in animal furs that muffled the crunch of the snow—or they sat waiting.
Brana had no choice but to sit.
She’d tried standing that morning, only two days after her brutal whipping, but as soon as she put her weight on her legs they buckled and she crumpled to the ground, her palms scraping against rocks. When she pushed herself back into a sitting position, she left bloody hand prints in the snow. They were gone now, covered up by a fresh layer of flakes.
Brana wondered how much blood stained the canyons where Finn, Jack, and Castor fought. Where all those freed slaves fought. If she could stand on her own two feet, then she would get up and start toward the canyon. She hated not being able to do anything to help.
She was a burden now.
Brana glared at Phillip, still tied up to the tree. The man was awake, but his eyes were looking somewhere distant and forgotten.
This mission was far bigger than the one before. Last time they’d freed hundreds of slaves.
This time, it would be thousands.
“You scared?” That gruff voiced asked.
Brana turned to Phillip.
“You look scared,” he said.
“I’m scared. Not of you.”
Phillip chuckled. “Yes, I don’t think you should be scared of me. I am tied up.”
“So if you weren’t, then I would have reason to be scared?”
Phillip closed his eyes and turned away.
Brana’s eyelids grew heavy, but she pried them open. She was not going to fall asleep, no matter how tempting the idea of slipping into a dreamland where there were no wars or bloodshed was, she could not.
There were a few fires crackling in their little camp, but Brana didn’t have the strength to move to sit beside one, so she stayed put, leaning against her tree, her body growing more numb with every second.
Finn, Castor, and Jack formed a triangle, facing outward to fight the Savages that had encircled them.
How were they getting out of this one alive?
Castor swallowed the knot in his throat and raised his sword. Then he charged into the Savages, breaking their barrier of people. He stumbled through, yelling battle cries after he pushed past person after person to get back to the slaves in their cells—back to where he needed to be.
“Jack!” Castor yelled, signaling for the Mage to follow him.
Together, they sprinted across swaying bridges and through caves until they reached a long hallway of cells.
“How many of these are there?” Castor asked a slave after Jack turned the lock to dust.
“Cells?” The girl asked.
Hundreds. Castor did the math quickly in his head. If there were around thirty slaves per cell, and hundreds of cells…thousands…they would have thousands of women fighting for them.
“Go, go, go,” Castor said, urging the girl on down the cave.
She looked up at him with wide, innocent eyes.
“To fight,” he said, smiling.
Jack was already done freeing ten cells, and he wasn’t wasting any time as he went one after the other, not even bothering to tell the slaves what they needed to do. Castor supposed he was leaving that job to him.
“Everyone fight against your captors! Fight against the Savages!” Castor yelled, his voice lost in the sea of cries and footsteps that filled the canyons. No one acknowledged him.
Suddenly he felt a weight crushing down on his chest. Hopelessness. The slaves would never listen to him, he was a horrible leader, he would never see his father again because he would die in the canyons by the hands of the Savages.
“We don’t have anything to fight with,” a slave said, approaching him.
Castor hesitated and said, “Fight with passion.”
The slave looked unsure as she ran out of the cave. Were they all just trying to escape? How would Castor and the others convince them to fight for King Ejiri against Witches if they weren’t even willing to fight against Savages?
Screams erupted at the mouth of the cave.
Castor wedged his way through the crowds until he could see what caused the commotion. Savages were coming to the cave entrance with their scimitars at the ready, cutting down any slave that tried escaping. Already, a pile had started forming, bodies sliding off the ledge outside, cracking on the canyon floor far below. Castor swung his sword and began a duel with one of the Savages, their blades clashing and clanging like a strange kind of music. Music that they could dance to as they swung their blades and bounced from foot to foot, shifting their weight, ready for an attack from the other.
The Savage raised up to make his attack, exposing his torso for half a second—
Castor’s sword slid between the man’s ribs, stuck in his heart. Castor kicked the man off of his blade and watched his body tumble through the air.
The other Savages started closing in on Castor.
“Watch out!” Jack cried.
Castor jumped back at the perfect time. His back was pressed against the wall as the ledge the Savages stood on crumbled away. They didn’t have time to get off before the stone cracked and fell beneath their feet, leaving a cloud of dust floating at the mouth of the cave.
Jack clapped his hands and went back into the dark cave to continue his work.
Castor took a shaky breath.
They were okay.
They were going to be okay.
It was less than an hour later when Brana first noticed something was off.
The woods had grown silent. Not a single tweeting bird or bubbling stream.
Even the slaves were quiet, their fires burned down to nothing but ash and embers.
Brana looked around, the air between the trees darker as the sun slipped lower and a purple-blue dusk began, reflecting glimmering white and violet on the snow.
A crunch behind her made every hair on her body stand. The groan and snap of a twig breaking.
There was someone behind her.
Someone who wasn’t a friend.
Brana barely had time to scream before someone shoved something dry into her mouth, a gag that cut into her cheeks and made her gurgling curses inaudible. She twisted and writhed, hoping that she could get free from her restraints if another slave heard her. A closed, hard fist cracked against her face.
Brana trembled, staring at the snow, watching droplets of blood fall from her nose.
Her mind was blank…she thought of Ciara and her mother and father and Leo.
As she watched the Savages walk out of the shadows like wraiths and cut the women’s throats, hot, scarlet blood steaming as it hit the snow, Brana felt nothing. Not even when those women crashed into the snow, sending granules flying into the air, their slit throats leaking around them.
Just kill me now, she wanted to scream at them.
The Savage lifted her and threw her over his shoulder, which was large and muscular and dug into her gut. She wanted to kick and scream and squirm her way out of his arms, but knew that there was no point. If she got down, he would only punish her with something worse than a punch to the face. As he walked, the fresh wounds on her back started pulsing with blood that soaked through her shirt and streamed in trails down her back, leaving a line of blood through the forest. She bit down on the gag, hoping it would help to reduce the pain.
The pain would never stop.
At some point during the walk, while Brana slipped in and out of fuzzy consciousness, she saw Phillip being dragged by a leather collar around his neck, the leash pulled taught and yanked every time he would relax.
That, at least, brought her pleasure to watch.
Finn hacked and cut and fought the Savages as chaos swirled around him. Blood and screams and slaves fighting against the Savages that enslaved them, fighting for their right to live. To breathe. To not fear death every waking hour of every day.
They’d poured out of the caves, thousands of women clashing with the Savages, taking down the men and women who had tortured them for years. The anger and satisfaction on their faces as they tackled the Savages, strangling them and smashing their heads in with rocks, was something Finn found both inspiring and disturbing. But he didn’t stop the fight.
The battle had moved from the bridges and caves to the canyon floor.
Already, the slaves were winning, pushing the Savages farther and farther back into the canyon. And more were coming.
Minutes later, Castor and Jack arrived to fight by his side. Jack threw boulders and rocks across the army of slaves, sending them crashing into the Savages, taking out groups at a time.
“All done?” Finn asked.
Castor nodded. “There are thousands!”
His voice strained over the roar of battle, but Finn read his lips well enough to understand. Thousands of slaves fighting for them. Thousands of freed women fighting for them.
Finn opened his mouth and said, “We need to—”
Silence cut him off. Every slave and every Savage turned their heads toward something on the plateau far above. Three Savages stood, between them a grown man and a little girl.
“No,” Finn whispered, looking around for something he could throw, something that would stop this. But now he saw it, now he saw the true threat.
A knife rested on Brana’s smooth neck. He could see her straining, trying not to swallow in case the movement of her throat changed her proximity to the blade. She looked him right in the eye and all he saw was anger.
Not at him.
Not at Castor.
Not a Jack.
But at the world. At the Savages. At Phillip. At herself.
The Savage holding the knife spoke up, her voice loud enough to hear from a mile away.
“Stop the fighting and return to your cells, or she dies.”
It was a firm, short, and cruel statement to make.
“And after we’re done with her, we will do the same to him.”
Phillip twisted against his restraints, his sweaty hair falling in strings in front of his eyes. Finn couldn’t care less about Phillip’s life, but he would do everything in his power to keep Brana from being harmed. He dropped his sword without a second thought.
Castor and Jack did the same.
The slaves fighting around them looked bewildered.
“What is the meaning of this?” One of the slaves asked.
“The little girl must live,” Finn said.
The woman asked, “Her life is more important than the lives of thousands?”
Finn’s heart broke as he said, “Yes.”
The woman’s expression remained stony as she turned around. She knelt on the ground and set down the stick she’d been using. A few more slaves did the same, but not enough. There were still thousands who stretched the canyons, thousands who weren’t even seeing what was happening.
“Is it done? Can we return to peace?” The Savage asked.
“Yes,” Finn called up. “Now can we have her?”
The Savage paused and nodded, slicing Brana’s restraints and removing her gag.
Brana rubbed at her wrists and braced herself against the plateau with her arms. Finn could see her trembling, even from such a distance. Taking long, shaky breaths.
Then she shocked him.
Brana brought one knee up and pressed her foot against the ground. Then the other. She extended her arms and rose on wobbly legs. He could see her wincing and knew the immense pain she was in.
But she’d done it. She stood.
Why had she stood?
He asked himself that question too late, because she was already opening her mouth to speak.
“Women!” Brana called.
Every head turned to her.
Brana held her chin high and talked with the confidence of a thousand warriors. “This is a war. Us against them. Fight against them. Fight against what is wrong and cruel, and fight for what is good and right. Do not let one person’s life be the reason everyone else is damned to a life of suffering. Do not let the world suffer because we are selfish. Do not—”
That Savage’s big boot slammed into her back, where Finn knew it would hurt her the worst to be struck. Kicked. She toppled forward like a tower, her body convulsing as she went over the plateau’s edge.
Those three seconds while she fell lasted a lifetime.
A lifetime of her body flailing through the air, her arms out and her legs kicking and it was all over so quick because not a second later—
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