I’ve never been a stomach sleeper. My grandma always said only afternoon farmers and gentlemen of four outs sleep on their faces. But when your arms are chained behind your back there’s not many other options, so face-down it was. I was so exhausted I didn’t even have any nightmares because I didn’t dream – it takes energy to dream you know and I had none left. So that was a good I guess, in a silver lining kind of way. Martialla wrapped the end of the chain attached to my leg around her hand so I wouldn’t be able to slip off in the night. My plan was to wake up when she was sleep and put my knee on her throat and suffocate her, but the problem is I didn’t wake up when she was asleep. By the time morning rolled around she was already up and around. While she looked pale and clammy she no longer looked like she was about to drop dead at any moment – I guess a good night’s sleep is all you need to recover from being clawed by a hag, hacked with axes, and shot with crossbows. All those disabled war veterans are real whiners it turns out.
I was so thirsty when I woke up that I tried my best to suck the water off the grass around me – it was a whole lot of work for maybe two thimbles full of water. It’s amazing when you consider the number of times I’ve done insanely dangerous things that probably should have gotten me killed but I came out the other side fine that it seems like starvation or dehydration are the things are likely going to get me some day. After I finished my grass licking I managed to lever myself up in the awkward way that you do when you don’t have the full use of your arms.
“Gods, my shoulders are killing me, can’t you move these manacles to the front while we walk?”
Martialla was looking around like she didn’t know where to go, the usual “No.”
“Look, I won’t try anything, you have my word.”
Her look was rightly incredulous “Do you honestly think that I would put any weight in your word? All you do is lie. Why on earth, now when you’re at your most vulnerable, would you tell the truth about anything.”
“I never lied to you.”
“You lied to be all the time Ela, and even if you didn’t why would that matter? Are you suggesting that if you had been honest with me in the past that should mean that I would believe you when your life is on the line?”
“Please Martialla, this is awful, what can I do to convince you?”
“Nothing.” She waved her are vaguely “Let’s go.”
“Can you at least take this chain off?”
She pointed “Walk.”
I started shuffling through the grass with her “Do you even know where you’re going?”
“Why haven’t you ever bought a map or something by this point? You get lost all the time.”
“What good would that do?”
“Uh, what kind of question is that? Maps tell you where to go.”
“Are you being intentionally stupid? People find their way with maps all the time, that’s why they make maps!”
“How Ela? How do people find their way with maps? If we had a map how is that going to tell us where we are? And if we knew that how is the map going to tell us what direction we’re going exactly and how fast we’re traveling? Assuming the map is even accurate, which most of them aren’t. Even if you know where things are how do you translate that into a picture on a piece of paper? How do you know when the river turns and by how much? Or how long it is?”
“I just . . . . I mean . . . . people use maps all the time. You need a compass right? And then . . . you just figure out what direct you need to go? By looking at landmarks . . . . I guess. People get places so it must work!”
“Do you see any landmarks around here? Do you think a map would even be that detailed? People get places by following roads Ela, or by hiring guides, all the people you’ve traveled with have you seen any of them using a map?”
“Well . . . no, I guess now that I think about it. But someone had to build the road, and the guides had to figure it out somehow!”
“Well when you figure out how they figured it out let me know.”
“I think we should head back to the river. At least then we have water and we can just follow that back to Obsis and then we can take your precious road from there.”
“We’re not going backwards Ela, you’ve already delayed things for a week.”
“What’s the fucking rush? Do you have any food or water? I hate to break it to you but we’re going to be real slow if we both die on the way. How about a few extra days and we stay alive?”
She had no response to that. After the rain yesterday it turned hot today and it seemed like we were slogging through a swamp even though there was grass all around. I guess it’s tall enough that the ground doesn’t dry out quickly? I don’t know, I just know it was like walking in mud, because it was mud. Add in swarms of biting bugs and the fact that I couldn’t even swat at them and it made for a miserable day. Did you know that bugs love eyeball juice? I didn’t. After a couple wretched hours of slogging through the grass the vegetation thinned out to more normal looking, you know whatever, the kind of land where farms and shit are. We stopped for a rest and after a moment I was able to focus my eyes and I realized that a fox was sitting maybe twenty yards away and looking at me curiously. I used my Beastspeech to ask it what was going on but it dashed away instantly and disappeared.
“Martialla you have to unlock me right now.”
She signed wearily “I’m tired of this, don’t bring it up again or . . . I’ll do . . . . something.”
“I’m serious, a fox was just staring at me! Don’t give me that look! It’s probably a werefox or a fox shapechanger or some kind of thing in the shape of a fox that’s going to come back and attack us! Isn’t there some kind of fey that takes the form of a fox and then rips your heart out or something? There’s no way it’s just a fox.”
“Ela, sometimes a fox is just a fox.”
“Please, please don’t let me get killed like this, not like this. Not chained up and helpless. If I’m going to die I’m going to die, but don’t let it be like this! Unlock me please, if there is anything left of our friendship in your heart, any part of you that still feels any sympathy for me, please don’t let me get attacked while I’m chained up. I’m begging you!”
“The tears are a nice touch but I’ve seen you do better.”
I tried to make a stand by not standing, saying that I wouldn’t go any farther until she unshackled me so I could defend myself. That lasted maybe eight second until Martialla punched me in the liver. If you’re never been punched in the liver I hate you, but also just so you know it takes your breath away. I don’t know how, because while I’m not anatomist, I’m pretty sure that your liver has nothing to do with respiratory process. It’s a good way to get a reluctant person moving but not a fast way because it took me a couple minutes before I could get my legs underneath me and catch my wind enough to get up and move. No fox demon attacked us but I’m sure that it’s out there just waiting for its chance. As soon as Martialla turns her attention elsewhere it’s going to pounce and slaughter me while I’m defenseless.
Later in the afternoon we came across several fields that had gone to seed and we saw in the distance some horses clustered together eying us suspiciously that clearly used to be domesticated – the shoes are a pretty good tipoff, they don’t usually come born with those. A little while later we came across a tiny village made tinier by the fact that half of it was burned and the unburned half was ringed by a makeshift wall that was been torn down in several places. Add in the weed choked patches that used to be gardens and what was clearly the signs of a mass grave and the creepy picture was complete. A couple mean looking dogs came out to snarl at us until Martialla sent them running away with a magical splash of acid.
“So what’s the plan, stay here tonight and get killed by whatever comes out of that grave pit after sundown?”
“You’re the one who was crying about wanting food and water, there has to be something around here.”
“Oh, I’m sure there’s something alright.” I gestured as best I could with my elbow at the bridges leading out of the village “Now what the fuck river is that?! There shouldn’t be any river here unless we’ve been on the wrong side of the Scale and heading south!”
“It’s just a stream Ela, there’s streams coming off the river all over the place, don’t get in a panic about it.”
“Looks like a river to me.”
Martialla found a mostly intact house outside of the wall close to the water where she seemed intent on chaining me to a bed while she had a look around. Despite the fact that this would take the pressure off my shoulders I was terrified that a zombie was going to wander in and feast on my flesh while I was trapped. Martialla didn’t seem to care at first, but I’m not proud to say that I got pretty close to hysterical – which seemed to move her somewhat. After all the scrapes we’ve been in I think seeing my panic like that that rattled her some, she made a comment about how I was faking it but I don’t think she believed her own words. She still chained me up but she didn’t shackle my hands together so I guess at least I would have some chance at warding off a zombie. It wasn’t much, but I’ll take it.
As soon as she was gone I got out my wire saw from magic land and started working on the headboard where the shackle was attached. In a couple of minutes I was able to weaken it enough for a good kick to break it and I was free – although now trailing a chain on the foot and shackles on the wrist. One step at a time. Unfortunately just as I was free I heard footsteps coming back, I thought about going for the window, but there wasn’t time. I hid by the door and waited – although the person who came through and got clobbered by the chain wasn’t Martialla. A man came through the door looking like he had been buried under a dung heap for a couple weeks and then thrown into a bramble patch. He was dressed in rags that look like they had once been Adariel robes and the smell of cheap liquor coming off of him was powerful enough to cover up the stench of his body. When the manacles hit him in the face he went down like a sack of wet garbage, bleeding all over the floor. Before I could even see what the drunkard had on him that I could take Martialla appeared with sword in hand.
“Back up. I knew I couldn’t trust you.”
I moved against the wall “And yet you left me anyway.”
“Everyone makes mistakes. Who the Hells is this?”
“I don’t know, but I’m pretty sure his nose was smashed before so don’t blame me for that.”
Revenge List: Duke Eaglevane,
Piltis Swine, Rince Electrum, watchman Gridley, White-Muzzle the worg, Percy Ringle the butler, Alice Kinsey , “ Patch”, Heroes of the Lost Sword, Claire Conrad, Erist priest of Strider, Riselda owner of the Sage Mirror, Eedraxis, Skin-Taker tribe, Kartak, Królewna & Bonifacja Trading Company, Hurmont Family, Androni Titus, Greasy dreadlocks woman, Lodestone Security, Kellgale Nickoslander, Beltian Kruin the Splithog Pauper, The King of Spiders, Auraluna Domiel, mother Hurk, Mazzmus Parmalee, Helgan van Tankerstrum, Lightdancer, Bonder Greysmith, Pegwhistle Proudfoot, Lumbfoot Sheepskin, Lumber Consortium of Three Rivers, Hellerhad the Wizard, Forsaken Kin, Law Offices of Office of Glilcus and Stolo, Jey Rora, Colonel Tarl Ciarán, Mayor Baras Haldmeer, Rindol the Sage, Essa, eyeless hag, Baron Saltwheel, Baron Harmenkar, Colonel Tarl Ciarán’s wizard soldier, Victor, Beharri, Cebuano, Mayor Eryn, Chimera Trading Company