I wanted to die.
I really did. Every day, nothing awaited me but more pain and abuse at the hands of the Deathwind. At first, I wanted to kill him and escape, but the Fear Legion was well-organized and filled with dangerous soldiers, while I was a malnourished and mistreated prisoner. I could never escape, and now, it wasn’t even worth trying. My hope had died, and now all I wanted was to die with it. But even that was denied to me.
I had tried to escape not so long ago, only to be caught by the Deathwind and beaten bloody for my insolence. Since then, all I ever experienced was never ending assault and constant pain, while chained to a pole in the Deathwind’s tent like an animal. All that was left for me were the memories of the dead and a tiny amulet in the shape of an eight-pointed star.
Well, that, and the mystery of Nesra. That strange name that the Deathwind would mutter to himself whenever he saw me. There was just something about the way he said it that chilled me to my very bones. It was almost as if he was seeing something that wasn’t really there. But what did it mean? What was Nesra? Who was Nesra?
I guess it didn’t really matter anymore, did it? Those things weren’t enough to keep me going. They were all useless to me. Nothing mattered anymore but ending my suffering.
And that’s when I saw it. A long, slender knife, partially hidden by the clutter of the table where it laid, seemed to gleam right before my eyes. The Deathwind was gone… My chain was long enough… Could this have finally been my chance?
Nervously, I inched over to the blade and grabbed it. I felt the weight of the cold, hard steel in my hands as I pressed it against my chest. I felt tears begin to well in my eyes as I prepared to plunge the knife into my heart.
And then, out of nowhere, hideous, high-pitched laughter filled the room. The Hearteater had arrived, seemingly out of nowhere.
“What’s this Natalia? Trying to take your leave of us so soon? What a shame!” he cackled maniacally. “I even had a deal for you today!”
“What could you possibly want from me?” I asked hoarsely. This was the first time I had spoken in gods know when.
“It’s not just what I want from you, but what you want from me,” he chuckled evilly. “You want to be free, do you not?”
I could barely believe what he was offering. Was there actually a chance at freedom?
“What do you want from me?” I asked carefully. I had seen enough of the Hearteater to know that he was far from trustworthy. Cruel, manipulative, and far too clever for his own good, he was behind almost every atrocity that the Deathwind committed. And now he was offering me a chance to finally escape.
“Nothing much really. You see, I am but a simple medicine man. By tribal tradition, I can never become leader unless someone else nominates me. Now, also by tribal tradition, the only way one can become leader is to be nominated, or…” he giggled nastily. “To defeat the current leader in single combat. You see where I’m going? You-” he pointed at me. “You are a warrior, are you not? Trained by the Emperor’s finest?” he bent down next to me and began to whisper. “You see, I want you to challenge the Deathwind, and kill him. Then you can name me the chieftain, and I can set you free,” he sounded giddy with excitement.
He was insane. No doubt about it. Yet he had given me hope, and I was not going to relinquish it so quickly. But still. What he was asking was suicide. He had to have a plan.
“I’ve been defeated by the Deathwind once before. How can you possibly expect me to win, especially the way I am now?”
“Ah! You are a clever one, my dear. But I am cleverer!” he produced a small vial, filled to the brim with a dark, viscous, green liquid. “Just find some way to get this in him, and he will never be a threat to you again,” As I studied the poison, he unshackled me. “Don’t run now, or I’ll have you hunted down,” he hissed. “Now then, I must go. No telling when he’ll be back,” he turned to leave.
“Wait!” I shouted. He stopped suddenly, before he turned slowly back to me.
“What more do you want?!” the Hearteater growled. I felt the hair stand on the back of my neck at his sudden shift in mood. I was taken aback, and more scared than anything, but there was still something that I had to know.
“He had called me Nesra,” I said carefully, trying hard not to provoke him. “Who is that?”
The Hearteater froze. I could feel his gaze focused heavily upon me from underneath his mask, and just like the Deathwind, he seemed to be seeing something, or someone, that was not there. Then, the next thing I knew, he had doubled over in laughter, his manic shrieks once again filling the room.
“Oh this is too good!” the Hearteater said excitedly. “Nesra? That’s his dead wife! Ahaha! Oh! He thinks that you’re her? I knew you were the right choice!”
His shrill laughter still filled my ears even after he had walked away.
It was not soon after he had left when the Deathwind arroved. Covered almost entirely in blood and gore, he stalked over to his bed and collapsed into it. Soon, he was fast asleep, snoring loudly. I gazed upon his form in utter revulsion. The world would not be worse off without him. I would be saving lives by doing this. It would be worth it.
I smiled as I emptied the bottle into his throat.