The transport process was a blur for Tythel. She was hauled into a crawler, one of the larger types that she’d seen on her trek to the factory. With her were six soldiers in full imperiplate, the tentacles of their unlight arcwands pointed at her the entire time. They hauled her into a seat where they could surround her, her feet shackled to the floor, her hands shackled together. The shackles on her hands ended in a metallic bulb that completely encased her hands. She could call up dragonflame within them, but wasn’t sure if it would melt the bond.
She didn’t care. It wouldn’t matter if she could. Even as the soldiers relaxed, they still outnumbered her six to one in an enclosed space. If she tried to fight, she would die. Of course, given with Nicandros had told her about how the Alohym dealt with rebels, if she didn’t fight, she would die.
As near as Tythel could tell, all roads ended in her death.
She barely bothered looking at the soldiers, instead choosing to stare at the floor, her nictitating membranes flashing across her vision to clear the tears as they came. They’d lost. Not just they had to retreat, not just they’d taken losses. Tythel thought she could deal with either of those, although remembering Nicandros laying on the ground unmoving made her doubt she could have taken certain losses. But at least there would have still been a chance to fight.
Now there wasn’t even that. Lorathor and Haradeth remained their only hope for rescue, and the two of them had been completely stymied by a single imperipod. Wherever they were taking her, Tythel thought there would be a good chance they’d be guarding her with more than just one imperipod.
I’m sorry, father. I failed. She couldn’t begin to imagine what Karjon would say if he was still alive. Well, he’d first roast them all with his flames, and then he’d pull her out of the wreckage of the crawler, but after that? Would he think she’d done the best she could, or would he be disappointed that she’d failed? Because she’d do so spectacularly – not only had she failed to avenge him, but failed to do anything more than get some people killed with her.
It was her plan, that’s what she kept coming back to as they trudged along. It had been her idea to go after the factory, her idea to stage the midnight raid. Her plan to try and hit the Alohym where they seemed vulnerable, her plan to try and expose a weakness she still couldn’t prove existed.
The tears began to flow more freely, and a part of her hated herself for the weakness. They’re probably smiling behind those helmets, smile some weird smile. They’ll be overjoyed to know how badly you, personally, failed, won’t they? She knew it was irrational – these soldiers didn’t bear her any specific ill-will. Or maybe they did. She didn’t know, and in the absence of knowledge her mind conjured up horribly thoughts of deliberate, malicious judgement, that her crying was giving them some satisfaction.
She closed her membranes, not wanting to lose vision but trying to supress the tears. To her surprise, it worked, and they stopped flowing, though it didn’t nothing for the hitching in her breath, and the shaking of her hands within the metal orbs.
It was a trap, a weak spot they left open and hoped someone would find, and you sure flathing found it. It was blisteringly obvious in hindsight, so obvious she wondered how she had even fallen for it in the first place. Because you’re an idiot, Tythel. Karjon tried to teach you but your head was too focused on stories and tales and wondering about outside you couldn’t even learn properly. The same small part of her that insisted on logic tried to remind her men and women with far more experience had fallen for the same trap, but it was easy to find reasons it was her fault in spite of that.
To Tythel, there was a single inescapable fact – the resistance would have been better had it never found her, and all she had accomplished was getting herself and the first friends she’d ever made killed.
It was around the time that thought had wormed its insidious way fully into her thoughts and she was beginning to think it might be better to die trying to escape than to fail everyone yet again that the door of the crawler opened.
They were near a city, a large one, although still outside it, and Tythel realized she’d completely lost track of time in the travel. It had been long enough that she had to squint at the sudden influx of daylight. The sun wasn’t visible, but without knowing which direction they had travelled that told her nothing. At the entrance were two men.
One was a soldier, and he was dressed unlike any others Tythel had seen before. He didn’t seem to have any armor, just a uniform, a white one with a single red stripe running down each of the sleeves. He had a smug curve to his lips. It reminded her of Haradeth when she’d first arrived, only with far more something behind it. Arrogance? Malice? She couldn’t be sure. Whatever it was, the expression would have infuriated Tythel if she hadn’t been distracted by his companion.
Urdin stood there, with his Abyssals, and somehow had the gall to meet her eye. Tythel screamed wordlessly and, acting on pure rage, tried to lunge for him. The chains on her feet sent her tumbling to the ground. “Traitor!” she shouted at him, her voice still raw from the intense dragonflame earlier. Had it not been so sore, she would have tried to burn him where he stood.
The man in the white uniform ignored her outburst, even as one of the soldiers in there with her drove a foot into her kidney with three swift kicks. “Is this her?” he asked Urdin.
“Yes, Curate. Tythel of no given surname, but she is the lost child of the Royal family.” If Urdin felt at all bad about his treachery, it didn’t show on his face or in his voice, both of which maintained the same dour cast he’d always used before. “She also has some dragon magic and claims to have been adopted by Karjon.”
The Curate smiled, and Tythel could not place this particular smile, but knew it chilled her to her bones. He spoke, still addressing Urdin instead of her, “I lost a good man in that raid.” Tythel stared at him as her sides ached from the kicks. “At least it was a success. Shame the Alohym wants her alive.”
“What…is…your name?” Tythel hissed through the pain, earning herself another kick in the side. She bit her lip to not make any sound at the blow, her eyes fixed on the Curate. The soldier raised his foot for another kick, but the Curate raised his hand to stay the blow.
“I am Curate Lucien Ori, your highness.” Lucien infused the last two words with more venom than Tythel had ever heard when Nicandros had sworn at some unexpected ill news, “why do you ask?”
“Because I want to know the name of the man I’m going to kill,” she growled, trying to rise to her feet on the balls of those orbs around her hands, “I’m going to to burn you to-”
The last word was going to be ash, but Lucien lowered his hand and the soldier resumed swinging his foot the moment Lucien did, cutting off Tythel’s words as she let out a cry of pain at the blow. “You talk too much,” Lucien said, turning back to Urdin and handing him a bag that clinked and clattered as Urdin tested the weight.
She was hauled back into her seat, and the doors were shut. Their trip resumed.
However, Tythel stopping staring at the floor of the crawler after that. Her head was held straight, her gaze level.
Curate Lucien Ori.She repeated the name in her mind, over and over as they entered the city.
She still didn’t have a plan, she still didn’t see a path that lead anywhere but to her grave. But now she had to find a way to survive, because while she was a failure to her friends, she had a name, and a face.
“I lost a good man on that raid,” he’d said, and the implications were clear to Tythel. He’d been in charge, maybe even on the ship the entire time.
He was the man who had murdered her father.
So she had to survive, so she could find him and make him pay for that. Once she did, maybe, just maybe, before he died he could point her at the Alohym who commanded him, give her the real target for her vengeance.
That thought set a fire burning in her belly that helped keep her warm as the cold wind of her failures still tugged at the edges of her mind.