Chapter 10: Of Nightmares and Warriors

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We were the pinnacle of civilization. We were the place where one could earn a fortune by the work of their own hands. We had masses of plague victims come to our fair city and leave, hale and full of life. And now, we are dust, our great city a grave of millions.

***

Laidu stared at the top of the cave, exhausted, but restless. He leaned on his back, a small stone digging under his shoulder blade. It actually felt nice, as his own body weight pressed it on a knot in the muscle. It hurt a bit, but it was a good kind of hurt. He shifted slightly. First watch was kind of tough, as it always left him tired, feeling like he didn't get enough sleep, but it was easy enough for now. And after a day of hard riding, it felt good to just lie down. He'd sleep like a rock.

He heard a sharp intake of breath next to him. Kyra. Laidu turned to look at her, the horns jutting out the back of his head making it a bit difficult. She turned in her sleep, eyes closed, face troubled. Laidu rose slightly, propping himself up on an elbow, frowning. That didn't look good.

She turned again, her face in pain before her eyes opened and she sat up, breathing heavily. She didn't scream, didn't make any sound besides her labored breath. Laidu watched her, and she caught his eye, before looking down. "Sorry," she said. "Just a nightmare."

Laidu looked at her. "Are you alright?" he asked.

Kyra paused, then looked around. "No," she said in a tiny voice. "I keep dreaming of it." She seemed to crumple, to draw herself in. Laidu shifted, moving next to her, and put an arm around her. "Thanks," she said, her voice breaking up into tears.

Laidu didn't say anything. He just sat there as Kyra cried, sat there and held her. She had been through so much, she deserved someone to help her. She may have been safe, but she wasn't out of it yet.

"Sorry. I... I don't want be like this," Kyra said, the tears finally drying up. "You help. I see you, it reminds me I'm not caught." She sighed, tired, exhausted, worn out. "I guess it's when I woke up not in chains. You were there. Thanks."

"You don't have to thank me," Laidu said. Kyra nodded against his shoulder.

She's easy prey, you know. Take her. The voice echoed in his mind. Laidu frowned.

"You alright?" Kyra asked, noticing his face.

"Yes. I'm fine," Laidu lied. He didn't want her to think that her savior was insane. He wasn't. Was he? "The stew must be bad."

"Oh," Kyra said. She had buried her face in Laidu's chest, right near his shoulder.

You're not insane. The voice seemed almost kind now. Old, powerful, but kind.

I'm not the one thinking of acting like a savage, Laidu thought back. The voice vanished. And then, a profound shame settled on him. The shame of a life betrayed. The shame of a loved one betrayed.

Dear God, the voice said. What had I done?

Nothing, Laidu thought back. The voice was silent, and the only sounds he heard were the crackling of the fire and Kyra's slow breathing.

It was me, it was me, it was me. The blood on my hands... no. Please, no! It wasn't me, it wasn't me, it wasn't me, it wasn't me, it wasn't me, it wasn't me, it wasn't me, the voice babbled, almost pleading. Laidu frowned. He didn't feel insane. If anything, he felt like he was listening to a madman. The irony of it all. He wasn't mad; the voices in his head were.

He heard a soft snore from right next to his head. Kyra. He looked down and chuckled. She had fallen asleep on his chest. He left her there, let her rest, even as he leaned back. Laidu didn't have the heart to move her off of him.

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