The Captain of the Guard plunged after her target, sheathing her weapon as she fell. Tumbling against the steep cliff face, she covered her head with her vambraces until she managed to grasp some shrubbery strong enough to halt her descent. Not far from the ledge below, she grappled her way along the craggy wall, climbing the rest of the way down. Only a meter from the ground, she dropped onto the berm below.
She shook off the dust and debris, ignoring the tears in her armor. Instead, a glittering plume of emberlight emanating from a pile of boulders in the cliff side stole her attention. She rushed to the stone pile, and tried to remove the rocks from the earth. They were set in place, and had been for a time. She would make no progress with without assistance. She continued on.
She walked for some time along the side of the cliff, the crashing of the great sea’s waves echoing all around against the shore too far below. The weak pulse of dragonfire from the water beneath the cliffs resonated in her veins—not as concentrated as the castle’s—but not altogether unwelcome. It burned differently within her, chilling, but it was of no matter. The Sick never bothered her much.
She continued along the winding stretch, tasting the salty air that seldom reached the stony castle walls. She took only a moment to gaze upon the sea, to the never-setting sun. The ball of blazing flame looked so different reflecting in the open waters. It seemed less…stupid. An unfamiliarity welled within her. There was no memory of a time when she had been alone outside of the castle’s walls. No memory that belonged to her, at least.
Following the trail she came upon her prey, the injured farmer, sitting back against the cliff. He managed a weak, half-hearted smirk as she approached. The captain pulled the farmer to his feet and searched him. With him unable to resist, she drew her sword.
“Was it worth it?” She glared into the farmer’s dark eyes, and received little more than a shrug. The captain slammed the farmer into the cliff side, bringing her blade to his throat. “Toy with us again and it’ll be the last you do!”
The captain’s vision blurred and went black as the world became quiet. A well of deep, isolated anger surged as a foreign memory crept into her existence.
I don’t care if you think you’re evil. I mean, look at me—you say I’m not, but that doesn’t mean I’m some kind of saint. I get mad and hurt people, I hate, and have done terrible things, the same way you can calm your anger and help. Overwhelming guilt burdened the captain’s vicarious awareness as the female voice spoke on. C’mon, trust me, like I trust you. We’ll get through this together.
The world, the guilt, the memory faded—exorcised with the captain’s conscious return to her body. She gritted her teeth, growling as she stabbed her blade into the dirt of the cliff side, nicking the farmer’s cheek along the way. Staring into his eyes, she recognized the fear that comes before drawing the last breath. The fear she had introduced to so many before him.
She clutched the hilt of her weapon tightly, cracking her knuckles as she steadied her shaking hand. She stared into his pathetic eyes, to the weak tears fighting their way through blood on their descent along his scarred cheeks. Slow, deep breaths attempted to abate her blood lust.
The farmer cowered, sniffling as he looked up to her through the soppy mess in his eyes. After a moment, she released her weapon and took a step back. She noticed that, ignoring the bleeding, he was scratching at his throat.
She exhaled. “You can’t speak, can you?” The farmer shook his head. The captain sighed, looking away. Further down the path, into the Thickets, she caught a faint fleck of what looked close enough to emberlight. The captain reached for the hilt of her weapon, grabbing it with both hands to yank the blade from the cliff side.
She sheathed her weapon and pulled the farmer up, turning him around. “You’ll come with us, bound. Resist in any way, both your and the caustic’s life are forfeit.” The farmer sheepishly nodded and kept his wrists together as the captain bound him. Now her prisoner, she dragged him off into the Thickets.