For Nothing is Worth the Price of Blood - Chapter 1
Chapter 1 - "Prologue"
"Pretty, isn't it?"
"Very. What's it made of?"
"Hmmm... mostly carbon, I think. Probably some other minerals in there as well, but what makes it so special is that it formed right here under Mt Barrista."
"You mean here? From this ground?"
"I found it just a half hour before you got home, cracking some rocks for wall-stones and there it was."
"Go ahead, hold it."
"Okay... Wow! It's... It's amazing. How does it shine like that?"
"I don't know. But it's incredible, huh? It's much more than I ever thought it would be."
"Does this mean we can start?"
"No... Yes. Well, Eventually. I don't want to start just yet."
"There's still a lot I have to do. I want to finish this house, there's a book I want to write."
"I want to raise a family some time, too. Surely you want the same for yourself?!"
"Are you scared?"
"... Now we're talking about it, yes. A little. I was excited when I first found this, but... Now I think about it, the hardest part is right in front of us."
"Yeah, I guess so."
"It's just going to be the two of us. You realise that?"
"I've been preparing for this for a while. I know what I'm ready for. I'm willing to go."
"Haha... I wish I had your courage, little Sister."
"If you get scared, try to remember what they did to us. If anything it will make things easier."
"I'm not really looking to make things easier. Just more ethical."
"So when can we start?"
"It is beautiful... I wonder what It will feel like..."
The night was all too crisp for Natasha. Though very little wind disturbed the woods where she walked, the icy breeze seeped easily through the rips in the material of her shirt and pierced her flesh, making her feel as though she were naked. To make matters worse, the dew that had collected on the long blades of grass started soaking through the holes in her boots as she scuffed her feet down the small, grassy path. Every now and then a drop of freezing cold rain would spatter onto her head and trickle slowly down her back, making every muscle in her shoulder twitch and her teeth grit even more. Her socks were saturated and her shirt was collecting dew as she walked. As uncomfortable as she was, she kept half-walking on as though it didn't matter.
Besides the icy dampness, other things were afoot with Natasha. Even in the dark light it was obvious she was dirty as sin, one leg coated in dried mud, up to her knee. Splotches of mud on her left cheek and neck, as well as clumped up in her dark hair. All and all she was a mess. To the passerby she would have looked like she'd lost a battle with the bog monster. Though the stinking mud was nearly all dried and devoid of odor, another smell wafted in the air as she staggered along in a daze.
Here eyes were half-open, one doing it's best to focus on the path, the other looking to close fully any second. Her teeth were nearly grit all the time, and breath came in short, sharp gasps, leaving a ghostly smog as she exhaled into the cold. Occasionally her teeth would chatter slightly, and she looked a little more lively for the effort. One arm cradled into her waist, holding the opposite side. The other arm hung akwardly from the shoulder, hardly swaying with her footsteps. She loped along nevertheless. Her skirt, however, was died crimson at the front right, and closer inspection would reveal that the stain started from the bottom of her shirt, under her clutched arm. The red trail continued downwards to the hem of the skirt, where it had oozed down her leg, covering the front of it, and dripped off her achilles-tendon. Despite the knowledge of her injuries, Natasha continued her limping walk down the frosty cold pathway.
A noise in the bushes nearby made her stop and open both eyes as wide as possible. she stood dumbfounded for a second, then habitually grasped for her sword with her working arm, revealing the bloody wound in her right side. The sword, to her annoyance, was absent. Though she tried snatching at it's usual placing on her side, she failed to find it, remembering the reason she did have it with her. Her Bow and arrows left back where she came from and no other weapons, she stood still and waved uneasily in the freezing wind. If it were a bear or a wolf or a robber, she was no match. She stood resolutely for some time.
Nothing moved. No sounds. Nothing. She kept her post, upright, but barely. It was many minutes she stood semi-consciously, until a wet leaf from a tree slapped her gently in the face as it blew past. She opened her eyes a little again, and kept walking. if it were a threat, it would have appeared by now. Even if it was waiting for her to make a move, she figured she may as well start moving again. She wrapped her arm back around her waist and continued scuffing along the path. Her eyes beginning to close again and her head reeling, she had no idea how long she had until she passed out again. Luckily, the last time she had blacked out she'd been awoken by the stinging cold of night coming up. She was almost grateful for the cold, it let her know she was still conscious.
A light in the distance made her hopes rise slightly. It was a house. And the only houses in this area were in the small town of Rockford, her home. She would be looked after there, and praised as she always was. She was so relieved she tried to cry out for someone. The doctor would have been a good bet.
The whispered scream barely escaped her mouth, and travelled no further than her own ears. With the exertion, she suddenly became aware of how much her wounds hurt. She doubled over, refusing to breathe because it hurt so much. She had no energy left to talk, let alone cry for help. She cried quietly, trying to keep herself from shaking, a tear streaked down accross her lips.
After a few moment, she tried to straighten up. It was like trying to bend a brittle stick, she could feel herself breaking as she lifted herself, the pain was crackling through her upper body like lightning and she stopped halfway. It was enough to walk, and she stepped slowly towards the city, whimpering softly.
It had not been the best of days.
"Ahhh, we're awake now, are we? Don't talk, it'll just hurt."
She hadn't opened her eyes yet, but she instantly knew who it was. Samuel Schuurman, the town's medical expert. She was so happy, the voice sounded so close and so real. It was like spending an eternity underwater, listening to the garbled waffle, then finally surfacing and hear the voices so clear. She wanted to ask him where she was, but she figured that would be a pretty redundant question.
"Here, feel my hand? Squeeze it with your's... Good, very good. That means your arm is better."
She realized she had used the hand of the useless right arm.
"Put right out of place, that shoulder was. You must have hit something pretty hard to do that. I had to jam it back into place quite hard."
Natasha tried to nod, but her head felt numb. Just trying to move it sent waves of dizziness to her. She decided to keep still for now.
"Can you open your eyes, Natasha? Try for me, go on."
It took a few seconds to realise he was actually asking her to do something, but she got the idea. Slowly she opened her eyes. The sun streamed in, to her suprise. Golden and yellow, it filled her senses and made her feel warm instantly. She blinked a few times to get the eyelid levels equal. A blurry Sam hovered to her right.
"Lovely. Let's just have a little look-see... Mmmm... Pretty red, this one is. The other one seems fine. Natasha, can you follow my finger?"
Though blurry, she managed to follow the intricate pattern the finger took in front of her. It weaved and bobbed side to side but she followed it.
"Okay, no you can't. One eye is just following nothing, the other isn't even trying."
Oh damn, she thought. She didn't need to be blinded. It wasn't going to make anything easier.
"I'd say that will okay after a few moments of keeping you eyes open, though."
She decided to ask a question.
Immediately she felt a little ripple of pain through her adbomen and regretted saying anything.
"Told you it would hurt." Sam smugly snickered. "Good news is, I think you'll make a perfect recovery. Bad news is, you stained my steps with blood."
It all came back to her. She had painfully wandered into town, somehow found the clinic, tried to knock, but started coughing. She remembered the pain had been intense, and she'd felt woozy. she must have passed out there and then on Sam's front steps.
"well, I'll be back in a few minutes. I'm just going to check up on my friend Bernie in the other room. Try whispering really quietly to yourself, it'll get some action through your throat again. And get your story straight, I'm dying to now how the great Natasha ended up on my table again."
With that, she heard his footsteps fade into the other room. Bernie was the town's oldest living citizen. Well, he was surviving, anyway. At 102, he barely talked, couldn't see, was pretty deaf, and couldn't move much. He was also Sam's Grandfather, so he got to stay at the clinic for free. Natasha lay on the table, trying to get some wind to go up her throat to whisper. She tried telling herself how she managed to injure most of her body from one simple act of stupidity, but it didn't work, and she didn't want to try any harder in case it hurt again. She was wearing the same clothes she had come in, her usual straw-coloured outfit, a woven shirt, a thick kilt-like woven skirt and her leather steel-capped boots. Most of the material was smeared with dried mud and or blood, or holey and torn. It could be mended easily, though. Maybe when she got home. Right now it was peaceful where she was, so she just lay there, feeling warm in the sun on the soft-blanketed table.
Two days later she left the clinic a healthy young woman. Apart from a slight pain whenever she bent over and an ever-aching right arm, she was quite pleased with her recovery. It showed how strong she was getting. Aside from the puncture wound in her side, she'd accumulated more injuries than she'd been aware of. There was the dislocated right shoulder, which hurt immensely at the time, and even now left a dull thud of pain every now and then. There were several fractured ribs on her right side, each one she feared would snap with any harsh movement. Her lungs had been crushed, and although no permanent damage had been sustained, they still hurt like hell and had been most of the reason talking had been so painful. The one's she hadn't known about were the sprained wrists and sprained ankle, along with the small cut on her forehead. All these injuries proved only one thing to her, though. She was ready to get training again.
She pulled up the bottom of her shirt as she walked away from the clinic, checking out the stitches in the right side of her waist. It was a pretty clean wound and with luck, the scar would be one of those neat straight ones that look cool, not a horrible scraggly tattoo of a scar. She hoped it would be a nice scar, it would be great to wear a waist-revealing top to show how tough she was. She walked casually to her house, where her cat would be waiting to scratch her legs as she walked in and bug her until she fed him some meat trimmings.
Pushing the door open to her house, she was suprised to see her friends Aron and Jay doing some dishes. Aron dropped his dish and dried his hands on the towel he had draped over his shoulder. She walked in and he walked up and hugged her very gently, his whole six-foot-and-then-some build making her look tiny.
"Hey Tasha! Welcome back to mobility. How does it feel?"
She back off from the hug and smiled past Aron to Jay, who flipped a tea-towel over his shoulder and came over.
"Pretty damn good. What's up here?"
Aron looked back at the dishes and acted humble. "Oh, we just thought it'd be nice if you had some things done when you got home. So you don't feel you need to clean the place up and all."
"Ha!" Natasha almost hurt herself with a laugh. "You know I wouldn't clean it up anyway. What's really up?"
"We're bored." Jay answered. "We were looking forward to going on a mission with you when you got back from Garristead, but when you got hurt it's delayed our fun."
"Ahhh, so you're helping me get better so I can take you out, right?"
Aron scratched his head. "Yeah, well. It's just that it gets boring around here and... well, you've got a clean house, what more can you ask for?"
She cocked her head to the side and replied flatly, "How about an hour by myself to have a shower?"
"Good call." Jay added. "You need it."
The two started to leave. Natasha call to Aron. "Hey, I left you some cash around here, did you get it?"
"Yeah, thanks. Call us when you want to do something, okay?"
"Sure." Tasha agreed.
Aron stopped. "Before we leave. How did you hurt yourself? Was the enemy strong?"
Tashi looked sheepish. "Nah, he was a pushover." She paused a bit. "I killed him easy, then when I was walking home in the evening I was watching the sky and I walked over the edge of a cliff face onto the river's edge." She rolled her eyes.
Jay immediately snorted, a painful laugh trying to burst out of his mouth. Aron hid his amusement by grinning casually and blinking a lot until the urge to crack up suppressed itself. Tasha sighed dejectedly and sent them out. When the door closed, a burst of uncontrollable laughter echoed from behind it.
End of Chapter 01
Click here to return to the Literature Page.