The bath had been educational and stress reliving.
While most of the women in the camp had been pretty much victims, one of their number had been working with the Enseen for petty privileges and had helped to make everyone's life that much more unbearable.
Away from the prying eyes of their host, the freed slaves successfully drowned the woman and then cracked her head against the edge of the bath, making it appear as if she had slipped.
After the deed was done, the women took their time cleaning themselves. For most of them they would never feel clean again. As they thoroughly washed themselves the ex-slaves talked and planned their next move.
Almost every region in the world had a clearly defined kill on sight order when it came sorcerers, and while no one had ever been told why the women agreed that they should escape as soon as possible. They had no desire to swap one hell for another one. The moment they saw their chance they would all run for the door.
Once they exited the bath the women dried themselves and then moved to the exit, that was when they discovered that their torn and raggedy clothes had been stolen and in their place were fluffy white robes.
Tila had told the others that the previous lord that she worked with liked to dress his female staff in exotic and revealing clothing, the memory of which caused her to have a far off look in her eye. Frank, it seemed was preparing them the same way, dressing them all in expensive garments only to rip them off again in a bedroom.
A trained soldier, Cyme lead the women out of the bath. While the sorcerer had saved her, her hatred of men was enough to rule over any sense of gratitude. Before her capture she might have lay with him out of appreciation but the Enseen had ruined the. She volunteered to lead the charge. When the signal came she would tackle Frank, possibly try to kill him, and give the women an open window for the door.
Her plans failed, however, when she walked out and into the bar.
For some odd reason the tavern had expanded. Before, fifty averag people would have had a rough time finding room to stand, now Cyme estimated that it was the size of her old barracks with room for five hundred people to sit comfortably.
The slaves gasped and Cyme gawked as she saw that Frank had been busy. In the corner of the tavern there were a young couple who looked tiered and worn, their eyes telling people that they had spent great amounts of time worrying. At a few other tables there were both men and women, sitting alone, some eating while others drank in sober moods.
It was only the larger of the groups who appeared to be making an attempt to fill the room with senseless yelling and opinions. Sitting at a large table that was worthy of being in any royal feasting room, twenty-two women ate a meal of roast fowl, boar, and cow. Some of them were dressed in rags while others wore bronze armour and red capes.
Cyme was immediately drawn to the woman while the others in her party were eyeing the mounds of food that was laying on the table.
“Stafýli?” Cyme stepped forward. The Orian's eyes scanning each of the faces, trying to identify each and everyone of them. All thoughts of escape from this place where put on hold. The Orian carefully stepped towards the table of women as if at any moment they would all turn into puffs of smoke, leaving her alone once again.
Stafýli heard her name being called out and turned her head towards the sound, her eyes shot open as she recognised her old training partner. “Cyme?!” She stood up fast enough that her chair hit the ground.
The other women tensed up, but their expressions quickly turned to joy when they saw the face of a ghost.
Stafýli gestured her squad mate to the table, “Cyme, I thought you were dead. Don't just stand there, hurry before Kasméni steals all the boar.”
“How are you all here?” Cyme asked, still taking it all in.
One of the older Orian women who was dressed in rags shook her head. “You have me there, girl. One moment I was in a cell, the next I woke up here.”
Cyme looked around excitedly, “Where's the captain?” Following old habit she needed to explain what had happened to her. Some part of her wanted to seek forgiveness as if being captured alive and then humiliated was some crime.
“Orua is dead. I'm in command now,” Stafýli said gravely.
There was a scream and weapons were raised. Over by the tiered out couple, the female had catapulted herself at the little flaxen haired girl who Frank had saved. The girl's apparent mother wept and held her child who had a blank face, a face that Cyme recognised all too well. An hour earlier she too had worn it. The mother had yet to understand that her daughter was still lost to her.
Around the room others were crying and embracing lost friends and family. It was only the woman that Cyme recognised as Tila who stood alone.
“I am glad to see you all again.” Cyme lowered her voice so that only her sisters could hear, “But we must leave quickly.” She did not want to go into details but people don't generally like it when you leave dead bodies in their baths.
“Do you suspect that this is a trap?” One of the Orian's asked.
“I tasted everything.” Kasméni said.
“We know,” another woman said dryly.
“The man is a sorcerer,” Cyme whispered.
Stafýli nodded to the door, “The door appearing out of nowhere and the healing potions sort of tipped us off.”
Cyme wanted to strangle the lot of them, “I left something in the bath that he isn't going to like.” she looked to the other door.
“There's a bath?” Kasméni said in awe. Quickly she tore off a chunk of fowl flesh and ran for the bath.
“No, no, no. Oh Gods.” But it was too late. The soldier was already half naked by the time she entered the bath. Seeing that she was probably going to be turned into a frog any way, Cyme sat down and devoured her food. It had been a nice rescue while it had lasted.
The beef should have been tough, but the juices nearly drowned the Orian woman. The meat dripped off the bones and the herbs sunk through the skin and into the beast's tender flesh. The warrior shuddered and had to hold her mouth in case she accidentally vomited the succulent cow flesh. Ever since becoming a member of the Red spears the best that she had to eat was roasted horse.
She was surprised at the how the cow tasted. While cows made horrible mounts they were useful for pulling ploughs and moving stones, this turned the creature's meat tough and chewy. Useful for jerky and rations but not so much as a delicacy.
Mesmerised by the strong flavour and weakened by her time in captivity, Cyme devoured her meal. She took care of her main hunger first, trying to fill her empty stomach, she was not ready to savour anything today.
“I saw you die,” Stafýli said, looking at her fellow comrade as if not believing that she was alive.
Cyme tapped her head where there had once been a truly heinous looking scar, “Club to the had. I was captured.” she did not want to think about the following months, instead concentrating on her screaming belly.
On the other side of the magical room, Kasméni rushed out of the bath, her uniform slightly off. Not trying to gain anyone's attention she quickly moved to the Orian table. Giving Cyme an evil glare as she told the gathering, “We need to go, now.”
While she received an curious expression from her unit, this time none of them asked questions. Kasméni, willing to miss out on a banquet that was right before her was evidence enough that they needed to be far away from this place.
Willing to disgrace their uniform for survival, some of the Orians pulled free their capes and used them as sacks. Each of them knew all too well that the next time they ate could be days.
“What about the other Red Spears?” one of their number asked. It was a reasonable question. Using the sorcerer's magic door the Red Spears were able to meet up with the lost members of their number, there was no telling how many others were still alive and needed rescuing.
Stafýli punched the table with her hand, “We need to report back to the Queen. Perhaps she could batter for the sorcerer's services.” None of the Orian woman wanted to comment on how naïve that thought was.
The Red Spears and the other patrons of the Abstract tensed as the door to the tavern opened.
Inside the sorcerer's arm was another member of the Red Spears, this one naked, her body covered in burns both fresh and old, some of which were infected. Behind the pair there were angry shouts and sounds of an alarm.
With a kick, the owner of the Abstract closed the door.
Cyme and the other Orians were right there trying to take the woman from their host's arm and demanding answers. Frank ignored them, preferring to pushing them aside and then putting the traumatised woman on one of the now vacant chairs.
The Orian was in bad shape. Not only had her tormentors scarred and burned her, but on further inspection they had cut out her tongue and severed most of the fingers of her right hand. It was appearing as if she had been tortured for pleasure and not information.
It was Stafýli who yelled, “Fix her,” as if what had happened to the woman could be mended with a hammer and a bit of effort.
“What do you think I'm doing?” Frank called back as he went back to the bar. Taking out a set of long tongs, the sorcerer went under the table.
“I hate that thing.” Kasméni said, “It ruins my appetite.”
Before Cyme could comment, a piercing scream filled the bar, causing several of the patrons to squirm uneasily. One of the slave girls demanded to know what was happening but the woman that she had been talking to calmed her.
What the sorcerer pulled out was something that did not belong in the world of man. The vile thing was as fat and as long as a blood sausage and its body was covered in chitinous armour, its feet consisted of tiny hooks which tried to find purchase in the air. But what shifted Cyme's stomach was the face. The thing had a baby's head and its eyes were inside out.
“Hippolyta.” Cyme felt her meal come back up, “What is that?”
“The sorcerer calls it an Alzheimer's larva.” Stafýli said, “He says that the demon eats memories. One touch and you forget everything. You lie there like a newborn baby as it borrows inside of you.”
Cyme held her stomach and forced herself to watch the Sorcerer forced a woollen cloth into the wretched thing's mouth. After collecting the demon's saliva, he then put the horrible little thing back under the counter. She watched as Frank began to take out four bottles from the shelf, and proceeded to pour various amounts of liquid into a metal cylinder. Done, he then began to shake the cylinder side to side, his eyes closed as if in focus.
Cyme stared at the sorcerer in fascination. She, like most people had grown up on stories of witches working with cauldrons and the bones of young children. What Frank was doing was so odd and yet there were no incantations nor flashes of energy. She felt a little bit cheated.
Supplying a glass with a large rim, he poured his alchemic concoction. The blue green liquid looked unappetizing, not even the thin slice of green fruit made Cyme ponder drinking it.
Finished with his creation, he placed the drink in front of the injured Red Spear. His eyes moved to Stafýli, “Are you sure you want to do this? Your tab already at the limit. At this rate, your children's children might be paying it off. There is still time to toss her outside.”
Stafýli displayed her teeth and the other Orian's gathered around the sorcerer, ready to force him to save one of their number if need be, “I am command of this unit. I'll pay whatever the price is. Hear me now sorcerer. I promise you, by the blood of Hippolyta running through my veins, all these woman are going home. Now, heal her.”
Frank went into his pocket revealing a curious device. To Cyme it appeared to be a needle attached to a glass tube, the tube was filled with a water-like substance. Finding the vein in the woman's arms he jabbed the needle into the traumatised woman.
“What are you doing?” Cyme asked, not knowing what the sorcerer was up to. She was cut off as the injured Red Spear convulsed.
It was difficult to truly appreciate the metamorphosis that transpired. To the patrons of the Abstract the change happened too quickly to take in. What Cyme saw was her comrade's scars slowly retreating before her and the burned tissue receding to look like untanned skin.
“Look at the fingers.” one woman breathed.
Eyes turned downward and the Red Spears truly knew that they were witnessing something that was far beyond them. From the infected nubs tiny baby sized fingers started to grow from the soldier's maimed hand.
Cyme looked to the sorcerer, “What did you give her?”
Frank put the needle back in his pocket, “Stim. It is distilled from the essence of an immortal and it grants a regular human with a healing factor.”
Cyme looked at her own arm and noticed many others in her unit were sporting had lighter patches of skin, signs that they too had been blessed with this stim elixir.
Within minutes the woman's wounds were healed and except for some grime she appeared to be fine. That was until you saw the blank look in the woman's eyes. Despite her body being restored, she was still there in whatever dark place the sorcerer had found her, a place were all of her nightmares came true.
Frank sucked in a breath and looked to Stafýli, “You're never going to be able pay me back. You do know that don't you? By my estimates you owe me the yearly revenue of most countries.”
The sorcerer snapped his fingers and a stack of clothes appeared on the counter behind him, materialising from the very air.
There were gasps of surprise and many of the patrons got out from their seats and moved away. The red Spears aimed their weapons at Frank who ignored them as he selected a simple blue dress.
“Dress change,” he said and the garment vanished only to appear on the now healed Orian warrior. His eyes turned to Cyme, who like everyone else was staring at him in a mix of fear an awe. For some reason his smile irritated her. “And for my next trick.” Frank leaned down and whispered something into the now regenerated woman's ear.
When he came back up nothing appeared to have changed. One of the Orian dressed in rags was about to ask what happened when the traumatised woman took up the glass and greedily gulped down its contents.
Cyme moved to the sorcerer, not sure how she should address a man with power, she decided to speak to him like she would any man, like he was grime stuck between her toes, “What did you say to her? What was that potion?”
“Amnesia,” Frank declared. “An effect of the drink is that it successfully removes one year of memories. The trick is getting it as close as possible to a full year as possible. My best record is fourteen days.”
He smiled politely, “And because the ingredients can not be found in this world, I can charge whatever I like.” And with that one sentence whatever respect Cyme could ever feel towards this man fade away.
She could see his charity for what it was, a merchant trick. He would gouge her and her sisters for everything that had and then squeeze what was left. The anger stood with her. Thoughts of killing Frank sunk in. Breaking his bones, gouging out his eyes, biting and tearing. She would do it all.
“Ahhhhhhhh.” The woman who had just drunk the sorcerer's potion let out an unearthly scream.
Cyme grabbed Frank, “What did you do?”
Being the closet, Stafýli put a hand on the traumatised woman and shook her violently, “Tell me what is wrong, are you hurt?”
Instead of expression of terror or agony, which is what one would expect somebody who had been almost tortured to death, the recently restored Orian smiled for just a second before her eyes drifted to her new commanding officer.
“Stafyli!” The woman shot out of her chair and started to back away, “I swear, it's not what it looks like. Linitus and I were just playing a game.” She quickly noticed the change in her environment, “Wait, where are we? Why am I wearing this?”
The other Orians let out a sigh of relief. Stafyli, meanwhile, gave her subordinate a narrowed look, “Do you mind explaining to me what game you and my husband were playing?”
As the other women laughed, Cyme looked down at the empty glass.
Born in Australia I am a late bloomer when it came to books. I started writing when my grandfather died and it just sort of turned into a hobby.
I like science fiction, but not space opera. I like fantasy but I am picky when it comes to epic and urban types. I try to stay away from vampires, zombies and romance novels when I can.