Exposure & Disclosure

I don't know who or what I used to be; I only know the here and now. When there is no light with which to see, there are still hands with which to feel. I will pervade against the unknown, and unravel these hallowed secrets lurking beneath my surface.

I wakened among pain and darkness. There were rocks around me and rocks upon me. I sensed ether amongst the dust. A cough wracked my throat and lungs as I rose to my feet. That which had lightly buried me fell to the ground. And I saw nothing.

I felt my eyes, to assure myself that I possessed them still. And the absurdity of that gesture struck me with the realization that I remembered nothing of myself.

"Hello?! -ugh.." I yelled, only to cough out more dust.

There was no echo to answer me.

I cleared my throat and yelled again as I touched around myself. The ceiling was within reach, a rocky cavernous roof. And the walls were also of a rugged, rocky nature. Except one wall. It slopped up, and was full of debris. And unlike the others, I felt no cold metal holder in which to put torches.

Somehow, I knew that torches belonged in them. It was not a guess, but rather some stirring of my past. But there were no torches. The path was dark, and I still knew nothing else of this place.

As I felt amongst those rocks, I touched flesh. I pulled back immediately, and waited. And after much nothing had occurred, I touched it again. I felt it, its form and texture and temperature.

A slender human hand, cold with death. Long fingernails, filed smooth. A cold metal bracelet, and a ring with a grooved emblem upon it. One silken sleeve around the wrist, where it emerged from the rubble.

I smelled no rotting, and thus surmised that we had both been caught in a cave-in. That explained the sediments around us.

I felt the palm. It was without callouses, as were the fingers. Suddenly, I felt grief and a sense of failure. There were tears in my eyes. Surely, I had known this person.

Then, I touched the back of the hand. It was soft, hairless and dusty from the rubble. I sniffed close to it, and a rich perfume met my nostrils. This and the lack of hair led me to the conclusion that it was the hand of a woman, and this logic was confirmed by whatever vestiges of memory remained within me.

And that was when it occurred to me that I knew not my own sex. What was presumably a cave-in had left me so bruised and numb that my own nervous system did not answer my query.

Did I feel feminine or masculine? This question puzzled me greatly.

And so, as if this were not my own body, I began to check. Thus came an awareness of my own vestments. The satin in my hands was either a woman's pleated dress or a northerner's long dress kilt. Beneath it, I was surprised to feel a warm layer of chainmail that ran lower than it and under it.

My legs were muscular. Beneath the chainmail dress, I felt hardened leather joints and plated metal. And the exterior of my boots was wrought of metal as well. However, it was crafted artfully in complex shapes I could not discern from touch alone. All I had succeeded in doing was distracting myself.

I squeezed my thighs close, and felt nothing. I felt my chest, and the armour there spoke ambiguity, of no large breasts yet of no modest pectorals. Was I an adolescent?

Hands to hips from which I could draw no conclusion, I found a belt. I sucked my stomach in, pulled back one sleeve, and reached down.

I was stupefied. I was nothing. There was simply nothing there. I was neither woman, man, nor eunuch. Was I even human?

I removed her ring and bracelet. Bowing my head in reverence, and the words, "My lady," escaped my lips. I felt that it had been said out of servitude more than anything else. That ring felt especially important to me.

I found myself removing a rucksack from my back, and I stowed the jewelry in it. It had been there all along, as had the large sheathed blade that rested against my back; yet I had noticed nothing about them except their weight until now.

If I had to defend myself, would I know how to use that sword? I reckoned nothing. Nor did I know if I was a mercenary, a vagabond or a knight. However, it occurred to me that perhaps what I once was was not as important as the present and future.

In my bag, I found no lantern, torch, candle or flint; yet I knew what such things were. On top, I found half a loaf of bread and six fruit, likely apples. I do not understand why, but somehow not a single apple had been bruised.

There was also a loose arrow, which had pierced my rucksack and left a mark on my sheath. In finding it, I had cut my thumb.

Before I could dig any further into my bag, my nose caught a curious scent. I put the arrow closer to my face, and sniffed. I began to feel dizzy. In complete darkness, it was quite simply a loss of balance. It was accompanied by drowsiness. Perhaps it was that whiff, or perhaps it was when the barb had pierced my thumb. From my seated position, hunched over my rucksack, I fell to my back.

My armour was padded within, and so I felt no discomfort to have fallen against my sheathed blade and the finely cobbled floor of this dark passageway. Or mayhap the poison simply gave the illusion of comfort. I contentedly slept so deeply that I recalled no dreams upon waking, though I would have given anything for some insight into my pre-existing self.

I awoke to light.

Her unhallowed face peered down at me. Tusks protruded from her jawline, and a green copper ring pierced her nose. In one hand, she held a hatchet, the blade of which looked carved from stone. In the other gangly arm of hers, she held a flaming torch of a crude making.

She grinned with yellowing fangs to see me stir from my sleep.

"Hello," I said.

Her brow converged above sad and empty eyes. Her bare feet, of three large toes each, stepped back. All the while, she held her axe warily. And after a while, she hissed at me.

"Do you speak my tongue?" I asked her, now taking a liking to my own voice.

She nodded hesitantly. Her grayish-green skin was quite wrinkled and frayed with grief and desperation I knew not. And the horns upon her head, curling about her greasy black hair in perfect symmetry were the only beauty to behold upon her, for she wore only ragged hides.

I had been looking at her curiously for some time then, without saying anything more.

"Wye d'yi nit draw blid as uthers wid?" she expressed with puzzlement. Why do you not draw blood/blade as others would?

"I can't think of a reason to. Did you want to duel?" I asked casually.

She cackled, "Hee hee. A humin thit mik jist! Hee hee, hee! Y're a deelight ta deeceive mi!" A human that make jest! You're a delight to deceive me.

I rose to my feet, almost twice her height, "I take back my offer. It would not be a fair fight. And I did not mean to make jest, rather... sense. Though I cannot make sense of much right now. I deceive you not."

"Tik much, mee nit feellow iit all. I nit seen ai humin beehiav sich as yee." Talk much, me not follow it all. I('ve) not seen a human behave such as you.

"I'm not sure if I am human, to be honest," I grumbled, as I turned around to look at the rubble. I could make out two more bodies sticking out from the rubble, as well as the hand from earlier. "Do you know what caused this? Wait, pardon me. Do you have a name?"

"Miy neeme? Fliinci. Yee?" she looked at me expectantly, as if she suspected I was playing a cruel joke on her. My name? Flintsy. Yours?

"I must have hit my head in the cave-in. I cannot remember it."

Fliinci burst into hysterical laughter, fit for a creature not so ugly. Then she stopped abruptly, "Yee seerious?!" Ye/you serious?

I nodded.

"Thit eis saed..." she mumbled. That is sad.

"Yes, I suppose it is sad."

"Reemimbiir ainythiing?" Remember anything?

I shook my head. "Just a bit of intuition. Nothing tangible."

"Hmph. Yee mee reespict, humin. Yee not ifraid ta turin back to mee awxe. Mich reespict," Fliinci bowed her head. You-me respect, human. You are not afraid to turn back to my axe. "Wee bee friinds?" We be friends?

I nodded, "Sure. We can be friends."

She paused, and scratched her warty little chin. "Mee lit biddies. Gitta surveev!" she nodded frantically. Me little bodies / me lit bodies / me like buddies. Gotta survive!

"Aye, I will assist. Though these may have been my comrades, their supplies should not go to waste. And you don't look strong enough to get many of them out of the rubble."

"Buree deead?" Bury dead?

"Yes, but not her," I said, pointing to the hand I had taken the ring from. "She gets cremated."

"Gid. Ristliss soul nit gid. Theis bee unsicred greeund." Good/God. Restless soul not good. This be unsacred ground.

"Unsacred ground? Hmm... I know not where I am."

And so we began the process of looting the dead around us. Fliinci was strong for her size, and I came to thinking that I may have insulted her earlier.

We worked diligently, putting the rocks to the side and putting her torch in one of the metal holders that she could not reach alone. And we split the earnings evenly. However, I let her take everything from two of the soldiers so that the woman in green, whose jewelry I had taken, and her lady in waiting were both untouched.

Nobody we unearthed was as inhuman as I am. And that made me feel special, though also a bit of an outcast.

It was while taking a break to count coins that I noticed something significant. That is, other than the fact that Fliinci was better at counting than I was. It was the face on the back of the more recently minted coins. The resemblance was obvious. The coins bore the head of a queen, Fliinci told me. And that made me sure that the young woman I feel certain I had been protecting was a relative of that queen, perhaps even the princess of the kingdom from which I hail. Fliinci seemed to have made the connection as well, but was rather unfazed by it.

The End

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