A mocking snicker raked at her ears. She writhed against a cratered wall, a hand at her neck, a monstrous figure hovering before her threatening to run her clear through the battered building she was being crushed into. The figure’s visage, surrounded by serpentine tendrils, held an eerie grin, its jagged teeth pressed in a curve from ear to ear.
Energy crackled between the two, dancing on the air and rending their surroundings. The harder she pushed back, the more the figure pushed forward, rubble tumbled from the caving wall until a resounding clash of fluctuating energy tore through. The pair crashed through the dust and debris, bursting into a desecrated hall where tens of strange creatures battled waves familiar faces. She scrambled to her feet, ready to join her kin, but her insulting foe crushed her attack. Her wail echoed through the hall following the crack and snaps of her arm and ribs.
She lay helpless, a crumbled heap of shattered bones and leaking vitals, a worthless warrior incapable of rising to fight beside her people. Her oppressor let out a heinous cackle, crushing her spine beneath its heel and forcing her to watch carnage ravage her home and her life.
Ceccamun shot up in her cot, dripping sweat, immediately met by the frightened faces of her kin. She searched the faces surrounding her bunk but their confusion seemed to match her own. She clenched her fists and snarled, ready to lash out, but was interrupted by a booming voice from the other end of the room.
“What’re you dreg gathered ‘round for!” All eyes turned toward a massive man, bearded and draped in a thick viridian cloak, pushing his way through the crowd. Usually, Sevajj Akmoya boisterous entrance served as the rousing call; still, his presence conferred the same degree of anxiety and a tinge of fear.
Most of the gawkers were smart enough to scatter but the hulking man managed to grab one of the younger males by the waist and scruff of his armor. He hoisted and brandished the boy, waving him to and fro while barking at the others: “the last one I see gets a lap and a half, and cleans the pits for a week.” He tossed the boy through the opened doors at the other end of the barracks and slammed the doors behind the last of the stragglers. Then he lumbered over to drop his weight onto the end of Ceccamun’s bed; it gave to his girth, tilting, and his lumbering form narrowly fit beneath the bunk above.
Ceccamun’s feet pressed against Akmoya’s side following the sudden angle. Subsequently, a shrill cry, and a heavy bundle toppled and crashed to the floor from the upper bunk. The girl scrambled to her feet to get dressed and retreat and the pair on the bunk below shared a chuckle after the barracks door sealed behind her once more.
Silence reigned. Cec laid her head on her pillow and a sigh escaped her. The faint impression of an overwhelming foe lingered, both terrifying yet exciting. She tried to push the thoughts away, to lose herself in the bundles of feathered baubles woven into the under-workings of the bunk above but when she closed her eyes she heard her own anguished shrieking and could feel pressure on her spine as grisly echoing laughter mocked her.
A heavy hand on her calf shook her and she propped up on her elbows to meet eyes with Akmoya – uncharacteristic worry was etched across his wrinkled brow.
“Ya been ta see the ol’ gammer?”
Cec offered a dismissive chuckle, “ya know, yeema hates when ya call ’er that.”
“S’what she is. She’ll get over it.”
“Besides, she ain’t got but more’n’two greys than you.” She pointed at the silvered strands peppering his otherwise lengthy blond hair. “S’only fair we’d start callin’ you the ol’ gaffer.”
He shifted his eyes to his own greying locks and hurriedly tucked them away behind the thick band about his head. “Don’t dodge my questions, melu’keht,” his voice soured.
“At least she’nt a grumpy crotchet,” Ceccamun mumbled and twisted her mouth to one side. She contemplated her answer then shook her head, shrugging her shoulders, “she’nt say nothin’a’import. Same old.” She began to mock the elder woman, closing one eye and craning her neck forward. Her tone fell to a harsh rasp, “‘bad omens, little moon,’ blah, blah,” she pointed a wobbly finger at Akmoya.
The aged man rolled his eyes and pushed the young woman’s hand away, “have some respect fer yer betters. Anyhow, whatever the ol’skoch had to say, mind’ya, she’s likely right.” With that he stood, the cot settling into place, and he motioned for Cec to get up. “‘nough lazin’ about, get yerself together’n’meet me out front. Kaizar’s waitin’ on ya.” He punctuated, lumbering toward the barracks’ exit.
She stood almost as quickly as ordered, however, the latter statement caused her knees to buckle. Akmoya had closed the door behind himself before she could open her mouth to question. She stood frozen, pondering: perhaps Kaizar Khoriba had gotten wind of her condition, of her dreams and her worsening concentration. Regardless, she couldn’t believe she had warranted a personal audience. She felt sick with worry.