Artifacts

I sat silently, left to my own devices for the most part. Presuming the centaurs were conferring about my fate, there was little enough I could do about it. They had made that abundantly clear when they resolutely ushered me into a hut, lashing the door from the outside and quite visibly posting a guard outside. I saw a hoof stamp every so often, reminding me that the door may not be solid, but a prompt kick from one of those appendages would be.

It took me a while to adjust to the dim and dusty light. Cracks abounded, tiny slivers of light, and motes rose each time I moved over the dirt floor, if one could call the ground a floor simply because of its location. It was a pretty enough display, and perhaps were my future not to be decided by those most obviously outside my influence I might have found it more entrancing. I had a distinct feeling that I rarely had time to spend watching such dazzling and fleeting patterns.

Once my eyes adjusted, I was able to study the space around me. Although I had presumed the hut to be a storage area of some sort, perhaps even a prison, I was partially mistaken. Around me were stacked, haphazardly, what could only be the artifacts these beings had gathered to this point. It appeared that I was currently to be considered part of the collection.

I shifted where I sat, wincing slightly at the bruises that were beginning to stripe my body from my earlier fall. A clang resounded as I dislodged a nearby pot from the top of a stack, and an angry shout came from without; I settled back into stillness, wincing slightly. So far no harm had come to me, but there was no guarantee that would remain the case. I began a study of the other "artifacts" by sight alone.

The sheer volume was impressive, the variety more so. Weapons, serving dishes, jewels, dolls. Items I could not identify mingled with those that were more familiar. I squinted at a particular stack, trying to identify the top item, at least until it moved slightly and I realized that whatever it was was alive. My hand went to my hip for my sword, encountering nothing as I remembered that it was gone, no longer my companion. There were swords enough in the hut, though. I could always use one to defend myself. I pushed myself to a crouch, biting back a groan of pain. Sitting had been a bad idea; I was going to be stiff if I did not stretch soon. Too many bruises, too much abuse to my body, even if it was used to such.

A soft noise escaped whatever lay on the pile, and I narrowed my eyes in concentration. It was then I felt that flutter over my sternum, the shifting of wings under my flesh. Eager. I shuddered slightly, frowning. What was the thing there?

Slowly, a head lifted; clearly a head once I identified the matted hair, and saw eyes blink at me from a dust-smeared face. Golden-green eyes, shocking to me. The colour felt almost too vibrant, an affront to my expectations. Dark lashes blinked down, feathering across cheeks that were sharp. The dirt disguised much of the details, but as the figure slowly, warily pushed itself up, a brief glimpse through a slash in what appeared to be a tunic led me to believe it was most likely a woman, or at least female. Hard to tell under that dirt if the being I shared space with was human or not.

Then again, my own humanity was under question at the moment. I should not have survived that fall.

"She sent you." The voice was rusty from disuse and perhaps from more. It seemed to scratch her throat as though it had been made raw from screams so many times there was little voice left. I could nearly hear them.

Perhaps those were merely memories shivering beneath the surface of my mind. If they were, I suddenly and ardently wished them to stay gone.

Looking at this strange figure, I was unwilling to relax my guard, although something suggested vulnerability. Licking my lips, I shrugged helplessly; I hated the wholes left in my memories in that moment. "I'm not sure who you mean. I am not even certain of how I ended up here." I felt the urge to unburden myself to this stranger, but clenched my jaw.

"Quiet in there," came the equine roar.

The figure managed to slip from its perch much more quietly than I would have expected, turning a rude gesture to the door before slowly, cautiously moving just a little closer to me. "Are you not one of her guards?" A frown marred the face, or at least I presumed it was a frown from the creases in the dirt that appeared.

"Guard," I mused, turning the idea in my mind. Perhaps. It could be familiar.

As the figure moved closer still, I felt the wings beneath the skin of my chest begin to quiver, the sensation sending a shudder through me, shifting the opening of my tunic to display a swath of patterned skin. The woman or girl or whatever she was recoiled in horror, one hand held out to keep distance between us, although it would have been a futile gesture if I had truly wished to approach; she was far too slight to stop me, even battered as I was.

"You are!" she flung the accusation at me, the air around her seeming to vibrate of its own accord. "You are one of hers, sent here. Sent for me." A slim hand lifted pushing tangled hair back, and I found an idle thought curling through my head, wondering why she had not been given a change of clothes, or at least a bath. The centaurs appeared rather fastidious and he would have expected them to treat her as politely as they had treated him thus far.

Then again, as his stomach rumbled, there had been no food, no offer of fresh clothing, no offer of water in which to wash for him either.

The slim hand that had so recently attempted to make some order of her hair was suddenly curled around the hilt of a dagger, and what I could see of her body suggested a fighter's crouch, waiting in readiness for some attack. "Stay away from me. You will not take me back. I will kill you first, captors be damned," she hissed at me, eyes darting to the door for a moment.

Looking at her, a figure frail enough from what I could deduce despite the shapeless apparrel, I felt laughter push from between my lips. I kept it to a low chuckle, however, mindful of the guard outside. "Child, I doubt you have enough strength to stop me if I wished you harm. But I am not sure why you think I do. I have no idea who you are, nor who you think I was sent to return you to." At those words, I felt a frown crinkle my brow and I lifted a hand to rub along my sternum, seeking to quiet the moth that had somehow lodged itself there beneath my skin. Was she right? Was I sent for her?

The girl, for I could not think her older than that, settled herself against the opposite wall although it was not all that far in truth. Her vigilance did not diminish, but at least she was no longer directly pointing a dagger at me. Instead she merely glared silently, accusingly.

A stalemate for the moment.

The End

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