Transcript of An Eye for an Eye
The dull ache faded slowly, along with the dancing lights behind her eyelids. Again she risked a peek, facing the glare that assaulted her and she forced her eyes closed almost immediately. Vision seemed unwise, so she moved to her other senses. She felt the light beat down gently on her skin; a soft, warm sensation that she had not felt in almost as long as she could remember. She let the rest of her senses drift away, so that she could turn all of her attention to that feeling. It was a mistake; as soon as she had done so she was beset by the agonising pain that seemed to course through her blood. Poison, or what was left of it at least. It burned and it stabbed and it ached like an angry mob dancing around her insides. She ground her teeth, letting them grate against one another with such ferocity that she tasted blood.
"Hey, now, come on love, let's not have that shall we?" Said a voice. It was an elderly woman's voice. Stern but not angry. It was calm, serious and carried a sort of gravitas that she remembered from some of the other officers. A gravitas that she would have liked to have cultivated in her captaincy. "You've got a good set of gnashers there, let's not whittle them away into dust now shall we. Come on sit up."
She felt a hand on her shoulders and then a gentle push engineered to encourage, rather than to force. With its aid she forced herself into an upright position. It was agony. Every muscle in her body immediately mutinied against her. Her head began to pound and she felt the nausea rising. The nausea caused her balance to fail her and she fell backwards, but the hand on her shoulder remained steadfast and so she fought through the sickness that had taken over her stomach. A cup was gently pressed to her lips and liquid sloshed around within. She drank deeply, uncharacteristically before even checking what it was, reasoning that it wouldn't be poison as such an act would be redundant. It was, as she had hoped, just water and it was wonderful.
"Slowly now" came the voice, demanding but not impatient. "Sip it"
She didn't and quickly regretted her enthusiasm as the water disappeared down the wrong pipe and she found herself coughing and spluttering. Each cough was a reminder that her body hated her and each of those reminders was presented as a sharp jolt of torment.
"See, that's why I said slowly."
Wanting to know who this voice belonged to, she opened her eyes once more and was thankful that the sun's harsh rays were no longer quite so painful. The world swam and slowly began to settle into something recognisable. Colours that she hadn't seen in years waved to her in blurry clouds and a face began to coalesce. It seemed to be contrived of an endless array of wrinkles arranged such that they might resemble a nose, eyes and mouth. The skin was the gentle leathery tan of someone that spent their time working out in the sun. She reasoned a farmer, or similar profession. Certainly it was no one that she immediately recognised. She watched as the elderly woman reached towards her, gently grabbing her face with fingers that felt like paper. The woman gently turned her head left then right, a look of mild concern hidden away within those wrinkled folds.
"Yes, looking a lot better now." The old woman croaked."I can even see the beginning of colour there, good. Now, do you remember how you got here?"
She didn't. She shook her head carefully, it felt as though her brain were sliding around with each movement. The old woman simply nodded.
"Do you know where you are?"
Again, she didn't and so she shook her head once more. The old woman bit her lip thoughtfully, an act that looked quite strange on her wrinkled features, and nodded again.
"Do you know your name?"
She knew this one, though she found herself unwilling to present it. Another name bubbled away beneath the surface a name she had given herself but a name she was not yet ready to acknowledge. She picked another.
"Kaela" She lied, Kaela was the name of one of her commanding officers, someone she had respected but never really known. It would do. The old woman's features settled into obvious relief.
"Oh good, I was worried we'd have some horrible amnesia situation to deal with. I'm Gohdra, my son found you unconscious in the wilderness and brought you here to safety." A suddenly stern expression rushed over her face."You were lucky to be alive, clearly you were mugged. I'm afraid the only thing my son found of yours was that rather beat up helmet over there. If Cole hadn't been delivering cabbages to Edgeville, you might never have been found. One of Saradomin's little miracles no wonder."
Gohdra gestured to a table in the corner of the room on which Kaela's helmet sat. It was a shadow of its former self, battered, dented and scratch marks lancing all over it. It was barely recognisable as the helm she had worn ever since her promotion, even the yellow she was so proud of had now started to turn a more rust orange colour. She sighed. As she sighed she let her eyes close briefly and was assailed once more by the death cries of friends. Their pleas never left her. The image of their bleeding, broken corpses was forever etched behind her eyelids. She shuddered, opening her eyes instantly. Fortunately the old woman had not been paying attention.
"I've never seen metal like that." Said Gohdra absent mindedly.
"It's...not from around here." Kaela offered. Her voice was dry and cracked in such a way that it surprised her.
To her credit Gohdra simply nodded and pressed no further, an act that Kaela appreciated.
"Come on, now that you're up, let's get you out of bed and walking around. You've been out for a while so it'll not be easy."
Gohdra helped Kaela out of bed. It was no simple task. The old woman was right, Kaela's limbs felt impossibly heavy, like they were laden with stones. Leaning forwards she pressed her feet to the floor and began moving some of her weight onto them. It hurt. She'd expected it to though, so through gritted teeth (and as a result Gohdra's gentle tutting) she pressed through the pain and pushed herself to standing. She wobbled forward, suddenly surprised that the world had taken to spinning around rather than sitting still like it was traditionally meant to. Gohdra helped her up and shouted behind her for her son, Cole, to come and help her. He arrived quickly and with the efficiency of a soldier. Kaela noted that. Cole was a well built man, covered in a respectable level of dirt for a farmer, with a crop of brown hair that was sorely neglected and a beard that was comparatively neatly trimmed. He propped the rake he was carrying up against the door and darted forwards to support Kaela's weight on his shoulder. Up so close Kaela noticed the heavy mass of scars on his throat, long since healed, but clearly the result of some grievous wound. Irrelevant for now, she noted it for future conversation.
The three of them said nothing as they slowly moved forward, letting Kaela take each step first and waiting patiently each time she did so. Her muscles were slow to respond and the whole thing felt like she was walking through deep mud, but she persisted. She had, after all, faced far worse. They stepped out of the room and out into the glaring sunlight. Kaela immediately raised her hand to block the light from her eyes and realised, much later than she considered reasonable, that she was now fully supporting herself.
Good. She thought. Means that nothing is broken.
This knowledge soothed her and she began to realise that a lot of her feelings of vulnerability stemmed purely from self-concocted delusions of how badly hurt she really was. The answer, as it turns out, was not anywhere near as drastic as her paranoia had led her to believe. She smiled. She wasn't in perfect health of course, the poison burn reminded her of that with each breath, but it was a manageable level of injury.
"Ah now there you go, that's better" Said Gohdra in that matriarchal tone that she was so well rehearsed at. "You're much prettier when you smile."
Pretty was really not at term that Kaela would use to describe herself and part of her disliked the term, but she acknowledged the kind intent behind it with another smile and a nod of her head. Cole said nothing, but gave her a smile in response. Kaela felt a faint warmth spread across her cheeks that she was not familiar with and didn't particularly appreciate.
Her eyes fell past the friendly face of Cole and to something off in the distance. It was just a little outside of her vision, blurry and half buried in the shadows behind the house, but she immediately recognised it. An inescapable silhouette. It stared straight at her and shook its head. She looked away, her smile gone and guilt, sadness, grief, regret and unbearable fury began to battle inside her. She was snapped out of her melancholy by a slap on the back from Gohdra. It was a stronger slap than she was prepared for and Kaela fell forwards, caught by Cole before her face and the mud became more intimately acquainted.
They walked some more.
This simple act was the first step to recovery and Gohdra made sure that the days be full of such measures. It took weeks, but under Gohdra's tutelage, Kaela began starting to feel like herself again. No, not herself, Kaela. She started to feel like Kaela. Kaela, she imagined, was a down to earth no nonsense woman. She was strong willed, she was pragmatic and she enjoyed the finer points of sarcasm. It wasn't a huge departure from her real self, but it was enough that it allowed a step of divorce from the ghosts that plagued her. As Kaela she got stronger and she paid her way with work around the place. Gohdra had a little farm just outside of a place called Lumbridge. It was simple, but it was honest work and a good step back from the sinister darkness she was used to. Slowly she began to realise a simple, inescapable, truth; she could be happy here.
That thought both delighted and terrified her.
Time passed as it inevitably did and Kaela's world had changed dramatically. Her wounds had all but healed and, though the poison had left its mark in tell tale twitches and the occasional burst of pain.
Much to Gohdra's infinite amusement, her and Cole had grown close. His silence, a result of the animal attack that had left his throat scarred, to Kaela's sharpness had worked well and the two had managed to form bonds of wordless communication that seemed in many ways to carry more weight than any language that Kaela knew. Their silent courtship grew until Kaela finally tired of it and proposed, the two of them marrying shortly after.
She had changed. Still stern and headstrong, but now her anger was tempered and she had allowed herself to rely on other people once again. She barely even saw the ghosts anymore. When her daughter, Taeval, was born, she finally allowed herself to be happy. Truly happy. It was a novel experience that she relished.
Naturally the world was not without its imperfections and danger occasionally reared its ugly head. A group of lowlives had foolishly decided that Gohdra's little farm would be an easy mark and had broken in at the dead of night to rob it blind. They were oafish and undisciplined and Kaela had found it all too trivial to dispatch them. She was used to fighting mighty demons from other realms, or chasing off curly horned troublemakers and these thugs should have been easy. But her new life had softened her a bit and she'd grown sloppy and her right hand now bared a deep and angry cut that clearly illustrated this. Gohdra had, after clucking angrily at her for putting herself in harms way, sent her off to a witch in Draynor, who was supposedly good at dealing with these things.
The trip suited Kaela quite well, as Gohdra had insisted on bringing the family to stare at the "strange and wonderful" portal that had mysteriously appeared in town. According to Gohdra it heralded the return of the wise and benevolent Saradomin, her deity of choice. Kaela had seen her fair share of portals, had no interest in gods and so found the whole notion underwhelming. She was keen to take a pleasant stroll through the swamps instead.
As she walked back from Draynor she took a little time to examine the witches handiwork. True enough she had stitched and bound the wound extremely well. The bandage was well tied. The stitches barely felt itchy and whatever unguent the witch had applied had made the wound close at an accelerated rate. At this speed she reasoned that she would be back to full working order in no time.
It wont last. He said. His voice soft, just on the edge of hearing. He walked just to the left of her, always just on the edge of her periphery, but never quite fully there. You don't deserve it.
He was meaner than normal today, but she deserved his ire considering it was her fault that he had died. If she'd been there earlier, then she'd have saved him.
She shook her head. No. He was an old guilt. An old wound. She had new priorities now. New people to watch out for and to protect.
You'll fail them too. Look. Watch.
The ground shuddered.
She looked around desperately and watched as a figure towered into the sky. He was a man, or something like a man, with great horns and wings that seemed to point in the wrong direction. Power radiated from him, a familiar power. For a moment she was stunned, amazed at the vision presented to her. Was this one of the gods that Gohdra spoke of. Surely only a god could possess such power.
Then she looked at where the figure was. There was no mistaking it, he had appeared where the portal was.
"Taevel" She whispered. Her daughters name flitting from her lips wrapped in genuine terror. A feeling Kaela had not felt in years.
She ran so hard that the gravel kicked into the air and struck against her. She ran so hard that at least one of the stitches in her hand was wrenched open. She ran so hard that even he had difficulty keeping up with her. But he did.
See. You failed again.
The giant being began unleashing some sort of magical energy indiscriminately. He was laughing. Was he killing people? She couldn't tell, not from here. Then more light filled the sky and another figure stood before them. Blue, white haired, an old man with a staff. He stood against the horned figure and then the two of them charged one another. A great magical duel seemed to fill the area as these two monumental beings clashed. Pure power radiating off them like lightning.
The beings hurled light at one another. Pure power coursed through the air and even here she could feel it. Raw, indiscriminate, power just being thrown at one another.
Closer now. Each breath was agony. Her legs ached. Her sides ached. The bandage on her hand stained red.
You're going to lose them all, again. You're going to let them die. You're pathetic. A failure. You never wanted to save me. You never wanted to punish them.
She tried to push him out of her mind. This was not a distraction that she needed. She had to get closer. She pushed. She ran. Every ounce of her strength, every piece of her focus, all poured into that single act of movement. She was close now, just on the edge of the swamp, she could just about make out a crowd of civilians cowering. Familiar blurs, Gohdra and Cole.
Then the world exploded.
From where the two figures battled, light billowed out around them. A great wind picked up and smashed into everything nearby. Trees bent sideways, houses buckled under the pressure and it struck Kaela's stomach with such force that she was bowled backwards. A sphere of radiance spread out across what had once been the swamp beside Lumbridge castle. It consumed trees, rocks, people. It devoured everything in its path. When Kaela could finally stand again, she rose to her feet to stare at the aftermath. Where once there had been a swamp, there was now just a crater. A terrible hole in the ground infused with some sort of strange glowing crystal.
There were no people. No sign of the countless people staring at that portal. No sign of Gohdra, Cole or her daughter.
"No" She whispered.
She ran again. Sliding down the side of the crater as suddenly soldiers began to charge towards each other. Knights dressed in black and others dressed in white. They collided with one another and struck each other with insane zeal.
Did no one care about the civilians that were missing?
Did neither of these so called gods stop for a moment to consider their followers that had been swept away in the light?
A knight in black came charging at her, claiming the glory of chaos. His eyes were exposed and he had his sword drawn back over his head. She struck swiftly, two fingers pressing suddenly into the sensitive eyesockets. He fell back, stunned, and allowed her to reach up and grab the sword. With one swift movement she twisted it from his hands and brought it down. Her first swing severed his left arm. The blood loss alone would be fatal, but he was still moving and that was dangerous. She twisted the sword back, carefully gripping it and then bringing its serrated edges down, hard, against his shoulder. It cut neatly through the vital arteries and he fell to the floor clutching futilely at them. It was a good sword. She kept it.
An archer this time. Armour of glistening white. She loosed an arrow at Kaela and struck her on her upper left arm. Kaela winced and stumbled forwards slightly. She reached up and pulled the arrow from her shoulder. It was a painful act, but she barely felt it. Adrenaline coursed through Kaela's body. Hatred, anger, grief, these emotions dulled the pain and gave her a strange sense of clarity. She ducked behind a crystal outcrop, luring the arrogant archer forwards. The archer, clearly intend on securing her kill, foolishly stepped within range. A single swing was all it too to separate the archer from her head.
Aching, she sat back against the crystal outcrop and allowed her eyes to wander. She watched as countless warriors for these two gods stepped forwards. Marveling as both deities struck out with tremendous blasts of power. These beams of raw magic struck one another and the two locked themselves in some sort of inverse tug of war. She made a mental note that the two gods were strategically unsound, as this attack trapped them both, preventing them from alternative gambits.
She let her eyes focus on the adventurers, so called heroes, flooding to either side. These were the people that, according to Gohdra, were meant to protect Gielinor. They stopped tyrants and slew dragons. Yet, here they were. Each of them fighting soldiers. Gathering crystals. Each of them part of the problem. She was reminded of home. Reminded of how these adventurers came and slaughtered her family, her friends, and laughed about it. She watched them with hatred in her eyes.
One group of adventurers cut through a swarm of soldiers. Efficient. They had discovered the point at which new soldiers teleported in and simply laid in wait to slaughter them. It was merciless.
She looked to another group. These were ignoring the fighting, focused purely on gathering crystals. Whatever these green things were, they carried great power. Kaela looked at the green outcropping behind her and snapped a piece off. She pocketed it. It might be useful.
Then her eyes fell on something else. Her heart sank. Every piece of fight fell away. Every ounce of fury. Every drop of adrenaline. She was empty and it was all over the sight of a simple, ragged, doll. It was only half whole. Scorch marks seemed to have cut it down the middle and only the left most half remained. Straw and fabric poked out of it like a gruesome wound. She of course recognised it.
At Gohdra's house she found the chest. She threw the stack of clothes and furs, that lay atop it, to one side. She opened the box, reached down and picked up her face. It was as cold as she remembered. Metallic and sharp where it should have been blunted. It was battered, rusting, but complete. In front of the mirror she covered the lie with it and felt comfortable with once more seeing the world through its filter.
She took a torch, lit the end carefully with her tinderbox and turned the newborn flames on the house.
The cot was first. Erupting into flames that took the memories with them. Their bed next, gone in burning tongues that licked the ceiling. As she watched the house burn and crumble she let every piece that was Kaela fade away.
As the last ember died out, so too did the last part of Kaela. From the ashes she once more took up her real name and wondered briefly why she had allowed herself to pretend for so long.
Come. He said. There is much work to be done sister.