warning – this content may trigger a negative reaction in some readers who have experienced traumatic events or are deeply empathic.
Prisoner of War
Catori is sitting on the edge of the bed pondering life’s uncertainty when her subduer comes into the tent with a plate of food.
“I brought you something to eat,” he says with a cheerful gleam.
“We don’t even know each other’s name,” she says.
He pauses. She’s right. He’s never asked a captive what her name is.
“Cade,” he extends his hand to her, but she looks at it and scoffs.
“We’re a bit beyond that don’t you think?”
“Suppose,” he sets the plates on the wooden workbench used as a table, “Eat with me.”
She walks over to the food.
“What is it?” she asks.
“You don’t want to know,” he smirks.
“I want to know.”
“Yep,” he takes a bite. Hesitantly, she does the same.
“It’s a little heavy on the cayenne pepper,” she comments.
He lets out a little laugh, because it’s true. Even the men complain about it.
It’s about midnight, but there’s no thought of sleep. The night’s events have been too life changing for Catori to rest.
“So what happens now?” she asks, “How long do I have to stay here?”
“We’re here for about two weeks. There are ways you can make yourself useful to kill the time,” he shows her around the tent which isn’t all that large, but big enough for comfort.
“This is a bag of random pillaged items. There’s some dried food in there too I think. Help yourself to any of it.”
“Is that real?” she asks as he follows her gaze to a golden apple sitting on the shelf.
“It appears to be. Found it in a pillage. Saved it in honor of our goddess.”
“You people have a goddess? What kind of goddess do a bunch of Neanderthals have?”
“Neanderthal?…” his air changes, “Come with me.”
He walks out of the tent. Her heart drops just a little; would he turn her over for something so petty? He peaks his head back in.
“I didn’t mean it,” she’d never heard herself this meek, “It won’t happen again.”
He adjusts his stance, “It’s okay, if you’re with me no one will touch you.”
She cautiously follows him out. The sky is dark with cloud cover and there is a large bonfire in the middle of the camp. Everyone seems to be crowded around it keeping warm. As the two of them approach he points to the burning plank atop the flames,
“On the top of that fire are the remains of the other women prisoners you came here with. I alone am the reason you’re still breathing.”
She’s sick to her stomach. She looks around for a spot to vomit, but Cade distracts her.
“Looks like the chief took a liking to the little one,” he motions to the other side of the fire where the 14 year old girl who had been walking by her stands with a white bearded barbarian. Torn between feelings Catori backs away and returns to the tent. The breakdown is uncontrollable. The tears flood and her muscles numb. She stumbles her way to the bed, burrows her face into a pillow and screams. Surely the mother spirit can hear this. The other side of the universe must be able to hear this. How can such injustice be tolerated? She rolls to her side and stares into oblivion. Vaguely she hears the presence of Cade come into the tent. There’s a silence that seems to last for eternity.
“Are you okay?” he asks coming to stand beside the bed.
“I don’t want to live,” she says. Her focus starts to return.
“Good. Let that part of you die and start rebuilding yourself,” there’s a lack of empathy in his voice. She rolls over and sits up.
“How can you can do that to people and still live with yourself?” she asks accusingly.
“Your attempt to guilt trip me isn’t working.”
“Do you have no soul?”
“I do,” he states, “It’s just different from yours.”
She shakes her head in disbelief,
“They didn’t deserve it.”
“Life isn’t about what we deserve. The sooner you accept that the stronger you’ll be.”
“May karma destroy you all,” she curses in anger.
“I didn’t spare you so that you could sit there and judge me. Anyone with the power to destroy us would be guilty of very similar things. This is who I am. I don’t know any other way of life.”
“Do you want to?”
Irritated at dragging on the conversation he continues,
“It’s not an option. There’s not a society out there that will accept a barbarian as a civilian.”
Another silence falls over them and he starts removing his leather armor. It’s been a long day.
“Shit…” he keels in pain.
“Sometimes I get this sporadic pain in my right side. It might be the worst time to mention this… You wore the symbol of healing so I spared you with hope that you could help cure it.”
“I see…” Catori tries to think of what might help the pain, but then comes up with a better idea, “I will need a few things in order to work my magic.”
“Like what?” he fights hard to not show the agony.
“White clay, cayenne pepper and rose petals.”
He looks confused at such an odd request.
“Unless you have a better idea?” she presses.
“No… I don’t. Don’t know where in hell I’d get rose petals though.”
“There are some near the main entrance to my village. Wild ones along the side of the road.”
He takes a deep breath,
“And if I get these things you’ll be able to cure me?”
“It should work.”
“Get some sleep,” he tells her, “I’ll try to find them tomorrow.”
For this character’s previous short stories click Catori in the category cloud on the side bar or here for Necromancer’s Dream, The Necromancer’s Beginning, Catori’s Village and/or Prinsoner of War pt 1