Prisoner of War
It’s a damp morning, the rain still sprinkling from the night’s rainstorm. Cade is preparing his leather and armour. Catori sits on the edge of the bed torn between the urge to assist him and the thought of the evil he’s about to inflict on the people of Bullinvard. He can see the disconnect between the look in her eyes and her body language. He doesn’t expect anything of her this morning, especially not after last night.
“I’m thinking it might be better if you leave tomorrow morning,” he says, “It’ll be a long day and I might need your compress by the end of it. The pain usually gets triggered in battle. I can bring you back anything you need. To help you get to wherever you decide to go?”
She thinks on it a moment and then cringes at the amount of blood that will be spilt over it.
“This isn’t the time to hold high morals, princess. You’re going to be out on your own and not everywhere you go will be friendly.”
“How should I know what to ask for if I don’t even know where I’m going to go?” she shrugs. She feels at best around him and the thought of parting ways makes nothing seem to matter.
“I’ll find you something,” he says, “Promise me you will get off the island. The last thing I want is to see you turning up dead in one of our raids.”
“I promise,” she nods.
As he finishes his prep she stands to see him to the exit. She holds back the temptation to hug him telling herself that barbarians probably don’t hug. Just as he’s about to exit the tent he stops and looks at her with that soft glow in his eyes,
“Thanks for last night,” he says before ducking out. A smile crosses her face. Those words feel just as warm as a hug.
Catori spends the morning preparing compresses, sipping tea and trying to decide where to start her search for Thyatira. She studies Cade’s maps, but none go beyond the south shore of the mainland. She pulls out her mixture to see how the fermenting process is going. It looks ready. It’s a perfect time to practice the mass rising spell, but she has too many feelings rushing through her. If she waits one more night, she’ll have the proper things to go about finding Thyatira, but not casting the spell will leave the barbarians strong on their raids. She worries about today’s battle. Worries about the people they’re attacking. She wonders if she had perfected the spell earlier would it have stopped the raid all together?
The afternoon arrives and the camp stirs as men begin to return. Catori stands in the opening of Cade’s tent. There is something comforting about the weather today, the cloud cover and damp ground, as if it acknowledges the heaviness that weighs on her heart. The men don’t appear to be in a celebratory mood. Perhaps they weren’t successful. As the hour passes, more make it back to camp. There’s a bit more ruckus and she notices some women taken captive. That means they must have won the battle. But where’s Cade? She tells herself that he will be among the last to return. After receiving a couple glances from by passers that make her uncomfortable, she decides to wait inside the tent.
Evening comes and things get louder as the drinking gets heavier. She has the spell memorized well now and there’s still no sign of Cade. He would let her know if he’s returned, wouldn’t he? She hopes he’s only delayed, but what if he fails to make it back at all? That leaves her vulnerable. That leaves no choice but to cast the spell and the longer she waits the less likely she’ll be able to help the other women. She pulls together her focus, thinks about every reason she has to be angry with the barbarians and ultimately justifies it as self-defense.
“You want chaos? I’ll give you chaos.”
She sets all the components in place including Cade’s golden apple to combine the power of the rising with the force of the barbarian’s own goddess.
Ignoring the sounds of camp that threaten to distract her focus she breathes deep. It must be done perfectly in order for anything to be effective. She combines the ingredients into a red paste including Dee’s ashes from her medallion and the ashes of previous captives that she scooped from the fire pit. Using a cleaning brush as a paint brush she strokes it onto everything she sees that could have been pillaged. Each item acting as a link to a dead soul. Carefully she speaks the words pronouncing with steady vibration. The red paste begins to steam. The steam thickens into a smoke until forms of ghosts appear. They observe her and their surroundings. Catori addresses them as if still speaking the spell,
“People of the island, you have been slain! Your villages burned to the ground without warning. The barbarians, have raided another village today and they will continue to do so unless you can put a stop to it. So with all your power strike them with a fear they never thought possible. Possess all you can until you render them useless. And you will serve justice. Neeva jan Ura!”
The ghosts, remembering what has happened to them and their loved ones build on their anger then charge out of the tent to terrorize any and all barbarians. Catori stands still.
“You did it, it worked!” Dee comes up beside her. She smiles as she hears the sound of panic start to come from the men instead of the women.
“Thank you Dee. If it weren’t for you I may not have survived the night. I take it you were able to warn Bullinvard?”
“Yes,” the ghost says proudly. He looks ready to tell his story about it when a man comes stumbling into the tent burrowing into the bench. Catori jumps back in shock. It’s Cade.
“He’s possessed,” says Dee, “He’s fighting for control so his coordination is weak. Here, hit him over the head with this.”
Dee falls a studded club from the weapon rack.
“What if it kills him?” she swallows. A streak of guilt runs through her for not waiting longer.
Dee turns to her in surprise,
“You’re concerned about that?!”
“Right… It shouldn’t matter,” she gathers all the courage she can. If she doesn’t at least try to knock him out, the ghost is likely to kill him anyway. As he’s struggling to stand she takes a swing with the club hitting him over the side of the head. It knocks him to the ground, not quite unconscious. Blood starts to trickle from where the studs hit.
“You’re going to have to forgive me for this, Dee,” Catori says to her ghost companion then places her knees on each side of Cade’s chest, leans down and kisses him. She looks him in the eye and says something she always wished he’d ask her about,
“My name… is Catori.”
She strikes him as hard as she can. He’s out. She stands up. The ghost possessing him rises from his body and back out of the tent to find another to terrorize. Looking down at Cade her heart whispers a good-bye.
“I’m not sure what I just saw there, but we have to go!” Dee urges, “They won’t be able to hold their visibility well after the spell wears off.”
She searches around the tent putting on any leather and fur she’s able to fit to her. She straps on some knives and the lightest sword.
“How much longer do you think they have?” she asks Dee.
“Probably about 10 minutes,” he says.
“I need you to check the watch on the northwest trail. Scare them off if you can. I’m going to look for the other captives and send them that way.”
She’s about to leave the tent when she remembers to grab a just few other things. Money among them. Then she walks out through the camp with the most confidence she has ever found in herself. The ghosts fly about making high pitched shrieking sounds. The men are terrorized, some stumbling around possessed, rolling into campfires, impaling themselves and slaying each other. There’s no way she can search the entire camp for other captives, but with a little help she might be able to delegate the job. She goes straight to look for Jared’s tent to find the other girl who had arrived with her. It takes peeking into a couple different ones before she finds the right one. As Catori opens the flap, the girl spins around wide-eyed with fear.
“It’s okay, no one is going to hurt you. If we don’t go now we’ll miss our chance to escape,” Catori notices a bloody knife in the girl’s hand and Jared lay dead on the ground. She swallows trying to keep her poise. Jared is the one soul here worth sparing. No chance of that now.
“War messes with our heads,” Catori says, “Arm yourself and grab his money. Look for any captives in this sector and meet me by the northwest trail in 8 minutes, near where we were last night. Hurry, survival depends on it.”
Catori walks back out into the middle of camp. Scanning the area she spots a woman taking cover from the chaos. She runs over to her, tells her she needs to search for captives in the south sector, delegate parts of her search to anyone she finds and where to meet in less than 7 minutes. She finds another and tells her to do the same in the west sector. She has trouble finding one more, so she takes the final sector herself. Finding one other there she delegates half that sector to her and rushes through. Finishing her search to find no one else she heads for the north trail.
Just as she starts to think the ghosts have disappeared one charges at her shrieking her name,
“Neeva Ura!” Catori speaks with a raspy undertone while waving her hand outward. The ghost fades to nothing, but she stands frozen. A chill up her spine. That ghost had directly meant to attack her. That is not part of the spell. She feels a hand on her shoulder.
“Come ‘on!” says the girl who searched the last sector with her as she runs ahead with one other. Catori follows cautiously while looking around. That seems to have been the last ghost.
When they make it to the trail the girl who killed Jared is waiting with three others. The girl searching the far sector arrives at the same time with one more.
“Good,” says Catori. We’re just waiting on one other, “What’s the count?”
They look around at each other counting nine. Catori nods and tells them to head up the trail not stopping until they reach the north shore.
Tree climbing is something Catori spent a lot of time doing as a child and as such is very swift at it. She climbs a nearby tree to get a better view of the camp. She can’t see any more ghosts and the men who survived are starting to re-grip themselves. In the distance she spots 3 shadows running between tents. A few men are making their way around the northwest exit. They don’t seem threatening, but it’s best to avoid any attention. She makes her way down and over between some tents to meet the girls part way. They should be coming around this bend any moment.
“Girl!” comes a deep voice behind her. Catori whips around to see a barbarian towering over her.
“Where’s Cade?” he asks.
“He just went to the south sector,” she lies. He rushes past her to find him. They’re all a mess. She half wonders if the girls could just walk out of the camp in plain sight. Then he turns back to addresses her,
“You’re that one who told the ghost story right after the spottings. What is this? Why are you armed?” he comes too close for comfort and she backs away.
“Gahh!” he cries out in pain as he falls to his knees. A girl stands behind him holding a dagger. A second girl steps in from the side slicing his throat and the third girl kicks him to the ground.
Catori lets out a deep breath of relief,
“They’re blocking the exit, this way,” she leads them into the bush.
“There was one girl who refused to come,” one of the women tell her. “We tried to convince her.”
Catori nods, her gut wrenching. Cade’s words from yesterday flood her mind. Choose your battles… It’s a female survival instinct…
“It’s not our fight then,” Catori assures the women as they head for the main trail. Just as she starts to wonder about Dee he appears to her. She falls farther behind the other girls to speak with him.
“It’s all clear ahead,” he informs her.
“Thanks Dee,” she says with a sigh of relief. She follows the girls while keeping an eye out to be sure they’re not being followed.
“Ah, Catori?” Dee starts, “Would I be right in thinking you have feelings for that guy?”
Caught unprepared for that question, her heart leaps into her throat and she coughs. Dee has always been her love. She never even thinks about taking interest in anyone else. But it’s been a while since his death and Cade… well…
“Not now Dee, I’ll tell you anything you want later.”
She picks up her pace and Dee slows to a stop. Focused on getting to safety she doesn’t notice that Dee isn’t there. Not only did she cast the spell successfully and manage to escape, but she rescued 12 other captives too. So why doesn’t she feel good about it? Is it Cade? Or the girl that refuses to come? Maybe it’s knowing she should have done this all before the raid on Bullinvard. Then she remembers the ghost screeching her name. It all makes her feel a little sick inside.
As she exits the north trail onto the shoreline where the other girls wait Catori takes a deep breath of the fresh ocean air. Despite all the things to feel bad about, she has succeeded at what she knew she needed to do and was able to help more than just herself. She smiles at the revenge, the good things to be thankful for and pulls out the golden apple from the fur vest she’d wrapped around her,
Thank you so much for taking the time to read my work. It was my goal to compete this mini series by the end of the year and I did it! I am so happy with this story, so I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I did writing it. These characters will come back in some later stories, but for now please feel free to read Catori’s past stories by clicking her name in the category cloud on the sidebar. And please check back in the new year as the next story will be taking place within Thyatira where a new Lord of Hell is on the rise.
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