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Excerpt from Mynidd: People of the Hills by Rani Divine
©Copyright RAD Writing, 2018
Fysri kept her eyes on the wall in front of her, even as the two humans stepped into the room. This time, the female had brought a helping hand—one of the men who always fought close to her in her battles. As far as her sense of smell could tell, the wound on the female’s leg had been dressed and stitched. She was no longer profusely bleeding. But this also meant that Fysri couldn’t use her pain against her. The two were no longer in mutual pain.
Her own body still ached from the day before. Every last hair had been burned from her arm, the majority of her scales seared together to the point that her skin could no longer breathe at all. Not to mention the chafing of the ropes, scraping into her skin until smooth white blood oozed from her skin. They were testing her, trying her, seeing how much she could take at a time. For that alone, she wished she could succumb into the jaws of death. Her body could not transform into the night, and everything in her being wished that she had been able to do so. It was only during night that her body would be able to regenerate, even in the slightest. She was not a healer, but a wanderer, and far from indestructible.
The male helped the female to keep from reinjuring herself, as they walked farther inside. There was no telling what ends they would go to, this time. Only a few hours before, Fysri’s pain had been greater than she’d thought possible. The Vartes had not wanted any of this. Pain had only been introduced to the world when humanity rebelled.
“Good day,” the female said as she limped closer to Fysri.
She hissed in response. The pain in her arm and joints had been reduced to a dull throb, but one she knew would be amplified within moments. Still her people had not come for her. Was it possible that even Hythdor was unaware she was still alive?
Her eyes remained fixed on the wall before her, even when the female stood in her way. Fysri stared straight ahead, unwilling to shift her gaze for fear of revealing her own pain.
“Maybe you’ll tell me your name today, hm?” the female asked.
The male dragged another chair into the room before he closed the door, leaving them all in only the light of a single lamp.
Fysri had never missed the green flames of the den so much in all her years. She’d never thought that she would be captured and taken to this place. She was one of the strongest warriors in Hythdor’s army, and she’d never suffered a loss like this before. She’d never left her victims alive, in all her time. In the whole army, she was one of few who’d been in the battle from the very beginning. Even the pennaeths hadn’t been able to keep themselves alive. Their plans were always too reckless. But while she’d followed them, Fysri had kept herself alive and well. This should never have happened.
The words echoed through her mind in a way she’d only heard once before. The Vartes’ voice could not be mistaken.
“Fysri,” she whispered through clenched teeth, unwilling to deny the voice of the creator.
“Fysri?” the female said, tilting her head to the side. “I’m going to assume that’s your name.” Her eyes shifted back to the man, who set the chair beside the table.
She glanced quickly to that table, to the bounty of weapons stored upon it. Fysri had never truly seen her weapons laid out in a form like that. They’d always been upon her person, hidden on her body and prepared for use. They were many, and she only wished that she could reach them. So much could be done, if only she could reach those knives. She could break her way out of here. Or she could go to meet the Vartes, on her own terms. Neither option seemed unappealing in her mind.
The words of the Vartes still breathed into her mind, the way they did inside the amphitheater of the witch den. They moved around her, repeating the same two words over and over, words that she began to hate the more she realized what they meant. Her task had been set, since long before. Hythdor knew well of it, for Fysri had told her, the very hour in which she’d had the vision. Things were about to change, and she could not deny it. They were the words of the Vartes, after all, and she was Dewin. She could not deny the creator, despite the fear that roused within her, that these people would slaughter hers when they heard what she had to say.
“Sit,” the male said.
Fysri lifted her eyes to look at the humans, doing her best not to move. Perhaps if they believed she was in too much pain, that doing anything more to her would only be a detriment, they would see no need to continue. She knew it was a lie, that her mind was only grasping at straws, but it was the only thing she could think. Her mind fought against the words of the creator. “Tell them.” The words repeated over and over, to the point that she’d memorized the way the Vartes spoke them. The earnestness in the voice of the creator was the only thing to set her mind in stone. The humans needed to be told. Nothing the Vartes commanded was without purpose.
The female sighed and walked to the chair, and the male helped her into it. “I’ll be asking the questions,” she said. “Maks will be my hands.” Her eyes stared into Fysri’s, as though she expected her to respond in kind. The man stepped behind her, into the only portion of the room Fysri had been entirely unable to see. Anything could’ve been back there.
When she made no move to respond, the woman looked to the back of the room and nodded.
Fysri gasped at the feel of a prick upon her arm, only to hiss in pain when one of her scales was ripped from her burned flesh. Maks repeated the process again and again, slowly, tearing burned skin from her arm until she cried out in pain, unable to stop herself.
“Tell me where your people are,” the female said, her eyes unmoving from Fysri’s. “Tell me where they are, and I won’t ask Maks to continue.”
A sharp hiss sounded behind her, one that she was all too familiar with. There were many poison snakes within the boundaries of Mynidd land, none of which were to be trifled with. They were of the kingdom of animals, those who obeyed their masters. For this one, humanity had become master. She could not trust the protection of Dewin.
“No,” she whispered under her breath, thinking only of the snake.
All she wanted to do was move, to get out of the way, to aid the poor creature the humans had taken into captivity, but her body would not respond. With every tiny motion, her cells screamed at her in agony. Still, the words of the Vartes echoed in her mind, begging for her to do what was right in the eyes of the creator. There had to have been a plan. She could think of no other answer.
“Do it,” the female said.
“The forest,” Fysri cried out. “They’re in the forest.”
The woman got to her feet and approached Fysri. “Of course they are,” she said condescendingly. “Where?”
Fysri shook her head, listening to the sounds of hissing behind her. From the sound, she’d narrowed it down to one of three snakes. She knew many of their brothers, from her time wandering the hills. She knew them as peaceful creatures, cherished by the Mynidd—as every other creature in the hills.
The female shifted her eyes behind Fysri and nodded.
Her entire body screamed when two small pinpricks stabbed into the open flesh on her shoulder. She opened her mouth and shouted in pain, her eyes shifting up to look into those of the female. “They’re eight of your miles from the bend in the river, in the valley of the witch,” she said, though she was no longer in control of her own mind. The Vartes had wished for her to speak, and she could not deny. If only she had done so sooner.