24. Broken Voices

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Quick note:  Ugh, this was a hard one to write. It's longer than the rest because it all needed to be together.  Also a warning: I'm rating this chapter M for gruesome scenes of the violent nature. I tried to keep things vague and the descriptions mild, but it maybe unsettling for some.   T_T

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He heard voices.

Drifts of them filtered through the heavy fog surrounding him; slipping through shadows and enveloping him in weeping, in pleading, in soft whimpers of utter despair.

He knew these sounds. He'd heard them before.

It was the sound broken people made.

He listened to the voices as they drew nearer, the fog thinning until each voice was close, crystal clear in their anguish. Men. Women. Children. All of them were here, easily distinguished by the pitch of their voices. No one hushed them, letting them make as much noise as they liked.

Why?

Why did he hear these things? A dream? A nightmare? He shivered, feeling a bone-deep chill settle in. A horrifying sense of dread loomed over him like a collapsing sky - immense and imminent.

"-ake up!" Someone shouted, tugging him away from the fog. Patches of light flashed like sparks of lightening.

He recoiled, frightened. No. No, I don't want to! As scary as the fog was, he didn't want to leave it. Somehow, he knew - if he followed the voices, he'd end up in a even more horrifying place.

Light exploded around him in a brilliant burst. In the same instant, pain seared across his face. The comfort of the dark tore itself away and Jett found himself opening his eyes.

He knelt on prickly dead grass, head bowed, shoulders hunched. Both arms were wrenched up behind him, held tightly by someone standing on either side. It hurt, though it hardly registered.

Fingers gripped his chin tightly, forcing his head up. A cold metal mask floated before him. The darkest of evils gazed through its eyeholes, boring into him.

What -?

"Good," the one behind the mask said softly. "You're awake. Now we can begin."

Jett trembled, and if it weren't for the two people holding his arms, he wouldn't have had the strength to remain upright. He didn't dare look away from the mask, didn't dare to wonder just what was going on, but Ra'Skevvor kept hold of his jaw in iron grip, clearly waiting for a response.

The moment froze. Both of them stared at each other. And around them, rose a broken choir of terrified people begging, crying, despairing. It was like being in Shann Tei all over again, facing the aftermath of destruction.

What . . . what is going on? Jett shivered. He felt the blood rush from his face, skin instantly becoming clammy with a cold sweat. The urge to look around rose, yet he couldn't pull his attention away from the nightmare right in front of him.

All the moisture had left his mouth, so he swallowed once. Twice. He finally managed to get the words out in a hoarse, weak whisper. "Begin... what?"

Ra'Skevvor gave a short chuckle. It sounded like a giant iceberg cracking in half. He released the hold he had on Jett's chin, opting to give the side of the teen's face a gentle pat in exchange. "Your education, my son."

With those chilling words, he rose from his crouch. Standing straight, Ra'Skevvor exuded supreme confidence, leaving no doubt whatsoever that he had total control over whatever was going to happen next. He glanced down, and Jett had the sudden impression that the man was smiling.

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