Connor didn’t sleep. Whenever he shut his eyes an image, any image real or imagined, would pop into his head and haunt him. He had this constant never ceasing image of all the Raiders gathered around him feasting on his dying body; a mighty slash across his chest, seeping ruby blood. Regior and Nathorn laughing at his expense....
The sound of rustling chain arose him to a sitting position.
“How you sleep?” the girl prisoner asked.
“Didn’t” he replied.
“Should have,” she said. “You will need all the energy you can muster to defeat a Raider, especially one like him.”
“I’m aware,” Connor droned. “How did you know I’d be fighting a Raider?” Connor asked.
“You talk in your sleep.”
“Oh,” he said, “got any other pointers?”
“Cut of its head,” she said.
“What? It head?” he asked.
“Yes. It is the only way a Raider can truly die,” she said.
Connor sat for a moment thinking about how he will have to cut of the creatures head. “This sucks,” he stated.
“Excuse me?” she asked, not understanding the phrase.
“‘This sucks’?” he repeated. “Like this is awful, or this is the worst possible thing that could’ve ever happened to me?”
“Oh, you were being a child,” she nodded.
“A child. You’re acting like a spoiled youngling who has never had the slightest misfortune. I have no pity,” she said.
Connor sat with her words stinging behind his eyes. After a few moments he asked, “What exactly is a Raider? Qui-dem–someone told me they were pure evil, or something.”
“The best way to explain what they are is to explain how they became,” she said. The girl nudged herself up into a sitting position. “King Akbar was the first Raider to ever exists on our lands–”
“The King is a Raider?”
“Yes, do not interrupt again,” she said, her eyes rolling away from him. “Over a millennium ago Akbar killed one of the Devnir Tribes’ last descendants. The Devnir were one of Soarona’s first occupants. They understand this land better than most humans and other races that have walked on it.
“Over time, members, chosen members, of the tribe were granted the ability to turn into mystical, beautiful, and often times vicious animals. It is said that it was because of these abilities that the tribe divided. As the years passed and as wars within the tribes continued chosen members began to die out. By the time Akbar was born and able to kill only one member remained alive of the Rhas’ Tribe. After brutally murdering their last descendant, a curse was placed inside Akbar. A curse, not even, the Devnir were aware of. Akbar rapidly took on many of the characteristics of the being he slew, and with its hideousness, also came power.
“As Akbar began to gain control over Soarona he aligned with many of the mortals within our country, promising them power and immortality if they destroyed the Devnir and helped him gain rule over, the once, beautiful Soarona. That they did, accepting the scar of deformity as a token. Willingly loosing themselves within the curses darkening grasp.”
As the girl finished Connor raised his eyes toward her, “That’s a lot of information.”
The girl smiled, “Do with it what you will.”
Connor sat for some time going over the information he had been giving. The more and more he learned about Soarona the more and more it started to become a real place to him. The idea or the hope of it being a dream slowly crept away, leaving only the very true reality of Soarona.
“What was the animal Akbar killed?” he finally asked, randomly.
The girl turned to him, her face dark and old, “A dragon.”
Connor swallowed, his face turning pale. “It doesn’t seem like quite the curse. Seems like there is more benefits then not.”
“To us,” she smiled, “it doesn’t, but to their human forms trapped within, not having enough strength to over come their darkness, it is.”
“So, in order to become a Raider you have to kill a Devnir?”
“That,” she said, “is something no one knows. The Devnir believe that the curse was placed inside Akbar in order to punish them for all of their fighting in the past. To teach them a lesson. That they stand greater united. By the time they had realized this it was already too late. Akbar had an army of Raiders and thousands of Devnir were already dead."
“Who are you?” he asked again. “How do you know all of this?”
She frowned and turned away from him. Never answering his question.
As the midday sun slunk into the windows, Connor awoke from a short nap. The sound of breaking steps caused him to stir. A Raider came from within the darkness, he was small, and had yellowish-green skin. In his meaty hands he held a raw fish. He threw it onto the damp wooden floor, placing a small bowl of water near it.
“What am I supposed to do with this?” Connor asked, looking at the raw fish.
The Raider looked him in the eye. His right eye was made of a blue glass. “Ya’ eat o’course!” he said.
He laughed, his rounded stomach jiggling. “Ya’ point is?”
“I can’t eat this if it’s raw!”
“Tha’s too bad I guess,” the Raider smiled and spat a loogie onto the floor; missing the fish by three inches.
“Well, what about her?” Connor said, gesturing to the girl in the corner.
“She,” he said, “get’s nothin’. Cap’n’s ordas.” He waddled away before Connor could argue.
A moment passed. Connor couldn’t take his eyes off of the phlegm on the floor. It looked as if it were slowly creeping its way toward the smelling fish.
“Are you going to eat that,” the girl asked.
“No!” Connor said, repulsed by the idea.
“Could I have it?” she asked, a tone of shame in her voice.
“Sure,” he said, throwing it to her, slightly embarrassed of his reaction. She caught it in her lap, placed the fish in-between her knees, slouched the curve of her back, and began gnawing on the raw fish. Connor pushed the water bowl toward her with his foot and turned away, thinking that she wouldn’t want him to watch her eat so viscously.
I wonder how long it’s been since she’s eaten anything. Why didn’t they want to feed her? How long has she been here?
Darkness came quickly. Before the sky outside became truly black with night the same blue-glass eyed Raider came bumbling down the stairs. He didn’t have another fish, he didn’t have anything. The Raider came down to their quarters to retrieve the girl.
“Cap’n wants to see ya again, lass,” he said, his black teeth gleaming at her.
She stood slowly, as if routine. He moved toward her and un-cuffed her. She followed him slowly up the stairs.
Connor tried to not spend a lot of time thinking about why Nathorn would want to see her. He tried not to figure out why she was so mysterious, but he couldn’t help his brain and mind from wanting to guess and make assumptions. Maybe they’re going to let her go, he finally thought, after a series of black ones.
Connor did his best to stay awake, awaiting her return, but in the end failed and fell asleep.
A dream weaved of reality raced across his sleeping mind.... He was home again, lying in his small bed, the rocket-ship pillow gently under his head. The smell of ivory fumed from the pillow and into his nostrils. Euphoric nostalgia washed over him.
Connor rose from his bed, and gently placed a toe onto his carpet; easing his way back into the world of his home. His eyes swelled at the realness of the sensation. I’m home. A smile spread across his face and he raced out of his room, the door not closing behind him.
He moved quickly down the hall, turning tightly to be faced at Madison’s door. Connor opened it, his smile ceasing instantly. Frozen with confusion Connor didn’t move. Madison’s room was black and cold. A single cot stood at a wall, Madison sat cross-legged.
“Maddie?” Connor quivered.
Her head raised fiercely, her black eyes peered at him. Madison’s blond hair was in shambles, her clothes ragged.
“Maddie, what–what’s wrong?” he asked. “Who–who did this to you?”
Her eyes shifted with hate and she spoke in a slur, “You did!” she said. Her ‘did’ sounding like ‘dead.’
Connor stumbled backwards, horrified. All the while, Madison’s face twisted tightly, contorting unnaturally. She had transformed into a menacing Raider with fangs, and scales and talons. Then, just as quickly, the Raider-Madison transformed into his father, Malcolm. Malcolm’s blue eyes leaked with tears, “Connor,” he said, “all I wanted was to give you a gift....and you ruined it.” Then he contorted just like his daughter, only this time he turned into a familiar Raider: Regior. Blood dripped from his mouth, as he laughed. He jerked forward, a spring in his jump. His bloody mouth wide as he went to devour Connor....
He sprang from the floor boards screaming.
“Evils haunt you in your sleep,” the girl said. “That is never a good sign.”
Connor ignored her as he cried and panted. I’m going to die.