Sara's Awakening Ch. 07byHelenofTroy©
Outside the car, day came. Inside, Sara slept. They'd left the tarp with the truck they borrowed from the Knights, so she had to make due with Merton's suit jacket thrown over her arms and head and a guarantee that if he started to smell burning he would stop driving and help readjust. With the light of the day, despite the energy from her recent meal, Sara's eyes turned heavy and her mind turned foggy. Merton assured her it was a normal part of being a fledgling vampire, so she let sleep claim her.
In the darkness of her mind, she was twelve again. She was staring at two bodies on the ground, face-down in an alley's refuse. Blood trickled slowly to mingle with water and other things in the ground, and she just stared... two bodies... her parents!
Sara was twelve and she was staring at her dead parents. Standing above them was a large person with bulging muscles and green skin. An orc! His tusked face was curved into a ferocious grin and he held a blade that was as long as she was twelve. She wanted to scream, to cry for her parents, to shout for help, but she couldn't. She was rooted in place, her eyes moving between the orc and the bodies.
"Shit, this is all?" The orc was flipping through her father's wallet, shaking it out to see if he could magically make more money appear. Twelve year-old Sara didn't have a good concept of money, but she knew that her family lived in the Seattle Underworld because they couldn't afford something nicer. They sometimes talked of apartment buildings and blue skies, but those were just words...
Finally, her feet unglued and Sara darted backward, farther down the alley. Piles of garbage flew past her, but it felt like her legs couldn't move fast enough. The alley stretched and twisted and for a moment it was like she was running through molasses, working very hard to get nowhere. The orc gave an ugly laugh before chasing after her.
He was so fast!
His green body flashed in front of her, and he brought the blade down menacingly in front of her. Now she found her voice. Now she shrieked!
"At least you'll fetch a good price." The orc leered; it felt like a thousand of his tusked mouths grinned at once, all aimed directly at her, all mocking her with dirty yellow teeth and the promise of pain.
"No!" She shrieked again and ran the other way. She couldn't make her legs move fast enough. She couldn't run! The air was thick and heavy in her lungs, and every step she took was like three steps the other way...
A heavy green hand grabbed the back of her dress. It was her nicest, put on every Sunday when her family took her to church and she got to play with dolls while the priest talked about things she didn't understand. His fingers were dirty and bloody and she was afraid her parents would be mad that her dress got so dirty... her parents...
The orc hoisted her in the air, laughing and cackling and lifting her up up up until the ground disappeared and a world of fear and pain stretched down from the horizon...
The orc grunted in pain and stumbled away from her, blood streaming from his mashed up nose. What was happening? The orc swung the blade at someone who was standing behind Sara, but that someone moved too fast. Like lightning a dark body dodged around her, dodged around the blade, and hit the orc again. And again and again. The orc cried out in pain and fear and stumbled away from the new person. He tried to run away, but whoever it was, was fast. So fast! The orc flew out of the alley and into the street, where the same people that ignored her parents being attacked ignored the bleeding green body in the middle of the ground.
"Are you okay, little one?" A warm voice, a safe voice, spoke from above her.
She looked up, and for a brief moment a corpse stared back at her. No... not a corpse. That was now. This was Gareth, but alive and well. His smile was like a brilliant sun, beaming down at her.
"Mom..." She looked, almost afraid to do it, at the fallen forms of her parents. With the orc gone, now she ran to them. Now she fell to her knees in front of them and shook them, and shouted for them, and begged them to get up so she could get them to a hospital.
"Little one, my name's Gareth... I've called the guards; they'll be here soon." His voice, Gareth's voice, was like liquid light. It cut through her pain and brought some focus to the world. "Do you have any other family?"
She shook her head no.
"Come with me... we'll sort you out." She looked up at him, and she believed him. He would make things right, he would bring the world back into order.
"We'll sort you out."
"We'll sort you out."
"We'll sort you out."
The words repeated, and the voice changed. So did the world... she was upside down, and her head hurt. Blood ran thick through strands of blonde hair which hung in front of her face, and she ached all over... not her! Mary!
"You can't do this! She was mine!" Connor was running towards her. She realized she was slung over someone's powerful shoulders. "Leave her – ah!"
Whoever was holding her turned easily and punched Connor in the chest. Connor immediately reversed direction and flew backward into a wall. Sara couldn't help but grin at that...
"I will sort this out without any death, and you..." The voice of whoever carried her was harsh with strain and disapproval. "You will return to the facility. I'll deal with you later."
Sara felt herself being slung off of the heavy shoulders and into a car. She flopped limply into the seat, barely strong enough to stay upright, and caught a glimpse of a cowboy hat and a sword. Grant? Why was Grant in her borrowed memories of Connor?
"And you. We'll sort you out... the Draconian markets are the best place I think."
"What?" Her voice was thick and slurred. Her mouth was filled with blood, her own, and it was difficult to form words.
"Don't worry." Grant smiled at her, but it felt false. So false.
Mary didn't know what she'd expected from the life of a slave, but this wasn't it. This was more like being a prisoner... she and a dozen or more people shared a small cage which was suspended about eight feet above the ground. There was not quite enough room to stand up straight, and chains from the ceiling of the cage came down to fit into her manacles. Like the cuffs and the collar, the chains were heavy. Iron. She'd tried to break them when she was first hooked up, but no luck.
For days they'd hung here. At least, she thought it was days. The lizard creatures controlled the lights, and who knew if they worked on a 24 hour schedule? She and the other slaves were fed twice a day, a thin plate of gruel and a bit of water each, but other than that they were left alone.
Several other cages hung in the same area, each filled with slaves, and each similar ignored. Once in a while a lizard would come by and taunt them, but that was it.
Mary's fiery need for revenge cooled with boredom and fear, but still burned within her. What Connor did to her... and then to be sold to these creatures? She needed to get out. She needed to get back. She needed to get revenge.
As Mary crouched in the cage, considering what she'd do when she got out, a lizard creature approached the slaves outside of the normal time. It, he?, used a long metal spike to drive the slaves away from the cage's door, which he then opened and reached a heavily muscled hand in. Mary and the others instinctively shied away, knowing that whatever the creature wanted would not be good.
"Come here, you bastards." The lizard shook the cage, and the people inside cried out in fear and pain. Mary bumped into other unwashed bodies, was thrown against the bars, and nearly broke her nose against the top of the cage. Those things were so strong!
One of her fellow prisoners cried out more loudly than the others, shouts of pain turning to screams of fear. The cage stopped shaking, and Mary could see that the lizard had managed to grab a girl who looked to be in her early twenties. It was hard to tell with the dirt, ragged clothes and malnourishment.
The lizard dragged her out of the cage and threw her to the ground, which looked like it hurt. Then the lizard looked back at the cage, a leering smile painted on its face.
"Don't the rest of you worry, I'll get you soon." It slammed the door before anyone could think about trying to escape. After the creature's display of strength, Mary was running out of confidence that she could get away from them...
Afterward, the creature grabbed the slave it had retrieved and walked out of the room. The woman screamed in terror, struggled and kicked, but the lizard barely paid any attention. Mary wondered if it was actually getting a kick out of the woman's pain? It was a terrifying thought...
Out. She needed out! Next time... next time one of the lizard came, she would make her run for it.
Mary's attention was drawn away from her immediate concerns when she saw the lizard come back into view in the room's only window, which looked out on a strange sandy expanse. She'd often wondered what it was for, but so far she'd never been able to see anything on it. As the lizard appeared in view, far enough away that it looked small and ant-like, a distant roar built and came thundering through the window. The cages rattled with the force of it, and some of the slaves cried out in fear. She pressed closer to the iron bars, wondering what was about to happen.
The lizard tossed the woman it had just retrieved onto the sand, then retreated out of view. Mary wasn't sure where it went, but soon several other lizards appeared in the sand and also threw humans into view. A growing sense of dread crept over Mary... what was going on? She could barely pick out that each of the slaves had a brightly coloured ribbon tied around one arm. What did that mean?
The crowd's roar grew. Became a thundering monster as dozens, hundreds?, of lizard feet stamped in unison. The visible humans clustered together: afraid of what was happening around them, afraid of the unknown which was about to happen.
Mary couldn't see or hear what happened next, but the humans scattered. Even at this distance she could spot terror...
Briefly, something very large came into view. She had a brief glimpse of a head filled with teeth. Huge teeth! Even at this distance she could pick them out, each almost as large as a person. That must be what they were running from...
Sick to her stomach, Mary couldn't bear to watch. She also couldn't bear not to watch.
Whatever the point of this spectacle was, it was over quickly. Blood splashed the sand. Screams turned to shrieks. Turned to silence.
Mary didn't know when her tears started, but she found herself crying at the sight of it. She turned away, not wanting to see anymore, and found the slaves were huddled close now, holding and comforting each other. Without realizing it, she'd joined the circle too. Somehow the contact, the warmth, helped.
As they huddled there, crying and seeking company in this strange and frightening place, a single thought repeated in Mary's mind. Out. She needed out.
Sara woke, jerking upright in an attempt to escape her dreams. She growled when sunlight pouring in through the windows caressed her skin with pain and a dreadful sizzling sound filled her ears. She immediately lay back down, repositioning Merton's suit jacket until she could no longer feel the sun's burn on her skin. After several long minutes of pain and effort, she lay under her makeshift shelter, panting.
"Hey, uhh, it's not sunset yet by the way." Merton's voice was tinged with humour, which just infuriated Sara. Of course it wasn't sunset!
"Thanks." Sara took a deep breath, steadying herself after her unsettled sleep and sucking her frustration with Merton into her lungs. She held it there for a moment, then expelled all of her negativity out in a long gust of air. Well, maybe that was stretching it, but she felt better after. "Do you know what the Draconian markets are?"
"Wow. All of the things you don't remember, and that's what comes back to you?" Merton wisely refrained from chuckling, though his tone of voice still made Sara want to punch him. While he spoke, he turned down the volume on the radio. Thumping, classic rock and roll faded until the car gave a little beep to indicate the volume was at minimum.
"Not my memory." Which was almost as disconcerting as the memory itself.
"Ah. Weird... anyway, uhh, they're slave markets."
Sara could feel the Rabbit shift as it took a series of sharp turns before straightening into a downward dash. They were in the mountains?
"That's it?" Well, it was bad enough.
"Not bad enough? Okay, so, the Draconians are a strange bunch. They're... I don't know, dragon-people I guess you'd call them. Tall and muscular, there's no way a regular glamer can hide what they are, and they like it fine that way. They don't spend a lot of time in regular Underworld society, instead they make their own nests and only come into cities to trade."
"Ya. They're the biggest purchasers of slaves in the country, and you don't want to know what they do with them..."
"Actually, I do." Is that what happened to Mary? Grant sold her as a slave? That would make sense... he'd clearly wanted evidence of Connor's deeds erased, and while bodies might be discovered, slaves in a secret city might never be found...
"Really? Okay... well, a lot of them are used for regular slave activities. Cleaning, manual labour, that sort of thing. The rest they... feed to their pet drakes."
"Told you you didn't want to know." Merton pulled the Rabbit through a treacherous turn, too quickly, and Sara was thrown against the side of the car. Maybe his driving had more to do with her waking than the dreams? "They have a whole system of betting around it. Who will last longest, who will go first, that sort of thing. It's like Greyhound racing, only more cruel and they do it to people."
"Humans, mostly. They prefer slaves from the real world."
"Merton. That's horrible!" Sara shook her head, trying to come to grips with knowledge of barbaric practices from ancient Rome happening in this day and age. "We have to help her!"
"Still not following... oh wait! I thought you said she was dead?"
"I thought she was." Sara shook her head, wishing this information had occurred to her sooner. "But now I think that Grant sold her to one of those things..."
"Okay, well, there's a problem with your plan..."
"No there's not." Sara's voice was hard and cold. To add emphasis to it, she flipped off Merton's jacket and stared intently at the rearview mirror. She could see her flesh crackling and peeling, and the car filled with the smell of burning Sara. Merton looked into the mirror to see what was going on and met her stare. For a moment they sat like that, Sara glaring while Merton was caught fast by the intensity of her eyes.
"... shit!" Merton ripped his gaze away when they nearly hit a motorbike, which he swerved into the oncoming lane to avoid. Fortunately there was no one coming, so he passed the bike and focused again on driving. "Alright! We'll turn around."
"The only Draconian nest I know of in the U.S. is out past Dallas. You know, in the direction we just came from?"
"Fine. Turn around." Her point made, Sara calmly put the jacket back on and lay back onto the back seat. The pain was intense, and the smell was worse, but it would ruin the impact to hurry now.
"Just like that? What about Grant, and the Knights chasing us?"
"If they bother us, we'll kill them."
"Just like that?"
"Just like that." Sara stared into the rumpled material now covering her head, her gaze going far past the interior of the car, into the past, into memories that bubbled just under the surface of her mind. Grant killed Gareth... the one person in the world who cared for her! She couldn't remember a lot of details beyond the clear images of her parents' killing, but she knew that Gareth had taken her in. When she thought of him, fond feelings swirled, and the words 'father', 'protector', 'mentor' came unbidden. When she thought of his corpse, raw grief pulsed. She was sick of grief, so she focused instead on anger. Anger at Grant for what he'd done to her. Anger at Grant for what he'd done to Mary. Anger at the Knights, who had taken everything from her.
"Mind if I turn the radio back up?"
"After we find Mary, we'll kill them. All of them... do what they did to the Hawks."
"Go ahead." Sara sighed, but she saw Merton's point. The idea of taking on the Knights was too big, too frightening. Some music would ground them; bring them back to the immediate. First they had to turn around, then cross back over Texas. If that succeeded, then they could think about more lofty things.
"Great. We're gonna do a U-ey now, okay?"
"Uhh..." Sara was about to ask why Merton needed to ask about that, then remembered the rest of his driving. She reached out and grabbed ahold of the console, digging fingers into plastic.
She was just in time. There was a metallic grinding sound as Merton hauled up on the E-brake and cranked the wheel around. Sara squeaked in surprise as she was thrown heavily against the back of Merton's seat, and scrabbled to keep the jacket in place. The car spun, once... twice? How fast had they been going? Tires squealed against the pavement, and her powerful ears could hear the grinding noises of a car protesting Merton's rough treatment.
Finally the Rabbit straightened out, and Merton jammed the gas while using the car's Tiptronic shifting to manage the climb back to the right gear. The car's engine was not used to this kind of effort, but it was sportier than it appeared. It recovered easily enough, and then they were going back up the incline they'd just been speeding down. Throughout it all, Led Zeppelin's Immigrant Song wailed through the speakers, providing a fitting soundtrack to the maneuver.
"You couldn't have just turned off at a rest stop?" Sara felt her body slowly unwinding after the chaos of the turn. Every muscle she had was clenched in terror, and it felt like her stomach had dropped out through her ankles.
"Where's the fun in that?"
The bike they'd nearly hit earlier passed them going the other way, honking as it did. Sara was back under her protective clothing, but she imagined the biker was probably giving Merton a choice gesture in appreciation of his earlier driving.
"When the sun sets, do you mind if I drive?"
"Why?" Merton sounded hurt. Sara was pretty sure he was hamming it up.
"So we don't die."
"Listen, are we dead yet?"
"Miraculously: no." Sara rolled her eyes and wished that she could actually be talking to Merton's face instead of a disembodied voice.
"There you go."