A-Z April Fantasy Flash Fiction, Part 7. Character: ShaRo
Dear Readers, this is the 7th installment of a continuous story! Please read the previous parts over here!
The war raged on our northernmost islands, where the ‘Nōrian invasion had landed. Knowing we could not fight the vastly superior, modern ships of their fleet, we had let them disembark, taking our chances on land instead. They had the numbers by far, and it was a monstrous piece of brute force. We were outnumbered, but had the advantage of the familiar ground, that had been specifically prepared to repel invaders. The front did not push far inwards before it came to stagnation. What followed was the deadly game of endurance and consistency, a war of attrition. They attempted to hammer at our defences, but we eluded them wherever they went, and struck back from where they least expected it.
Six weeks after the start of the invasion, I was to fly off my course again, to Escaton castle behind the enemy lines. A Joou, a Shadow, had gone missing on a mission there some weeks ago, and there was good reason to believe she was being held captive. Of course they’d normally send another Shadow on such a rescue mission, but most of them were busy around the front, or behind the enemy border, my KanCHo apologised, and this rescue was going to be a little different from the usual. They needed knowledge of the area and the defences, they needed a vampire, and they needed one who was old and strong enough to change someone. According to the records, she just turned fifteen today, the commander assured me, so everything was being done by the book.
Getting into the castle was harder than I had anticipated. The ‘Nōrians compensated for their dull, human senses by the sheer number of guards spying in all directions. I circled overhead, flying high out of sight, waiting, looking for an opening, until I found the one the captured assassin had most likely used; a window at the bottom of the tower, accessible by climbing the cliffs from the water. The window promised a convenient entrance; it was likely close to the dungeon. I veered away with the next gust of wind, plummeting into the depths and plunging into the ocean.
The guards, though vigilant, did not spot me approaching under the murky surface of the water. The crags of the cliff obscured my climb to the window. I listened for guards on the inside but there was not one nearby; the wretched stench and screams of the dungeon kept them away.
I swung inside, and landed silently on my feet. The dungeon was just ahead, behind a locked but unguarded solid wooden door. A noble effort, but no match for my kind’s strength. I pried it open, and the lock was bent beyond repair as I slipped inside. No doubt someone would notice eventually, but soon that would not matter.
I found her at once. Hanging from the ceiling by a chain, between the grey stone columns, racks of grisly instruments, and spiked cages, she was no more than a limp rag. Gaping wounds, an array of stabs and slashes told of the torture she had been through. Her light blonde hair almost glowed in the dim darkness, but was streaked with crimson smears of her own blood. Her heart still faintly beat, though there was not much strength left in her. The dungeon echoed with screams; it seemed another unfortunate soul was in session at the moment. A perfect backdrop. Nobody would suspect anything until it was too late. Keeping to the shadows of the columns, I inched closer and closer, careful not to attract the attention of the other prisoners, who were scattered here and there, tied up on the floor, or locked in a cage, all bearing the same gory wounds.
The girl was still more alert than I expected, a great feat considering the condition she was in. She gasped as she saw me climb a column beside her.
“Who are you?” The whisper was barely a breath.
As was customary, I gave her my formal designation. ŌuekKaShiAn NaiRaShan CheeRionTe ShaRoOuNaiGo Borderguard of the Turqoise Flag, named ShaRoOuNaiGo.
She replied with her own designation. NiikKaShiAn Joou CheeRionTe JaéAnJoou. Shadow of the White Flag, named JaéAnJoou. She was indeed whom I was seeking.
“SeonTéGaai, SaeKi”. Hold on, archer. “This may hurt, but freedom sometimes does.” I whispred as I leaned closer to her neck. Her feeble heartbeat beckoned from below her skin. I drowned out the tempting sound from my mind, steadied myself, and before either of us could hesitate, bit her.
The raw strength with which she screamed as I withdrew into the shadows startled the surrounding prisoners. They stared at her with wide, terrorised eyes. The interrogator walked by to see what was going on, but, seeing her, just sighed, bored, and went back to his victim. Only I knew that Jaé was not dying, but being reborn, and nobody knew I was here. Only I knew that this painful, new-found strength was turning her into a glorious monster.