It would always be there no matter where she looked. Her only companion was the thick blanket of silence that settled around her, broken only by her shuddering breaths. She couldn’t remember any time in her life that had ever been so quiet that it made her ears ring; it had always been filled by the clashing of steal and the growl of a battle cry, and the shriek of horrified people going up in flames inside their own bases. Flames… Like the ones that had devoured all that she loved outside the tavern.
Useless! Her eyes pinched shut. They’d slipped away in minutes. They all screamed and died in the vat of the merciless white fire… Fire that water could not put out. There was nothing more she could have done to save them but for taking the life of their murderess, Sharugen. And I couldn’t even do that right, she sighed inwardly. She hicced as her hands began to grope about the stone floor, searching for something – anything. No matter how much her chest constricted, or her head throbbed from the loss of her soldiers, the tears would not come.
Cold fingertips brushed against some sort of incline; she scooted towards it instantly, sweeping her hands over it. A wall… Alright Zema, you can do this. Nodding, as though in reassurance, she rose on shaken legs and stumbled. She hadn’t even realized she’d been shaking the entire time. And from what? The maiden wheeled it from her mind; now was not the time to question such a trivial matter. If she felt along the wall, she might be able to find something to escape this dark chamber.
But there weren’t any.
Then perhaps I can… Her hands retreated back to her belt, where the sheath of her twin sabers were. Instead of smooth leather, her digits ran along smooth… skin? What the-
She reached behind her, for the iron spear she carried on her back. The only thing her hand touched was the hair clinging to her back, and the cool skin beneath it. Zema blinked. She pulled up a leg, searching for the lace of her boots where she tucked her wind elemented nunchuku. Yet again, all she found was skin. Her own skin. Why am I naked…? She rubbed her forearms, trying to bring her body a little heat, groaning softly. How, for the sake of all that was benevolent, was she going to get out of this one?
The girl continued to rub her arms, almost feverishly. She could feel the goosebumps rising, feel every hair stand on end, feel her toes going numb… She crouched and turned her attention to her legs, and her toes, almost feverishly. For several minutes, she switched back and forth, trying as best she could to create as much heat as possible for her limbs. But the more she did so, the more her priorities changed – despite her best efforts to keep her goal in mind. She forced herself to stand and return to the cool wall; she flinched when the palms of her hands came in contact with it and shivered, but willed her feet to shift over the ground, to search for anything that would help her get out.
Thirty minutes of searching ended up being in vain. There was nothing there to gain some sort of upper hand. “Nonononono…” She patted the walls, the same wall with the indent in it from fifteen minutes ago, and tried to breathe calmly. Her breaths came in short, shallow bursts, on the verge of hyperventilating. “C’mon, c’mon, c’mon!” She cried, pounding the metal with her fists. It didn’t give in, much less budge. Shaking, she focused most of her frustrated energy into her hands and gave one last pound. “**** it!” Trembling hands slipped down the rough metal of the wall. Zema sat against it, bringing her knees to her chest as she rubbed her arms. Pinching her eyes shut, she let her head hit the wall behind her multiple times, cursing softly under her breath.
If you hadn’t gone off chasing that stupid myth, you wouldn’t be here right now. Part of her hissed. You’d be at home trying to dye that leather armor for the fifth time this week. Or out searching for gems on the plains with your foxes. She sighed.
Her foxes… All of her eight vixen Lieutenants… They were probably at home, whining and pushing their food bowels around the house, waiting for her to come home and feed them. All but for Edelweiss (who was probably happy to be laying around) and Rusalka, trying to bark out orders to the other seven. Zakima the tiger would be likely to be pawing around in the Garden, looking for heaven’s only knew what. Or maybe all of them would be looking for her. She almost chuckled at the thought. She doubted it; the silly critters could barely manage to get out of a base without her help. None of them would be looking for her. They wouldn’t even know where to start!
Groaning, she clawed at her head. No one is coming for me. I’m trapped…
A sudden burst of cold air whipped around her, making her shiver. It was freezing! It was… Zema looked up. It was air. There was a hole somewhere! There had to be, otherwise it wouldn’t have picked up like that. Yes! She crept away from the wall, and followed the direction of cold air. The closer she seemed to get to it, the more the temperature dropped. Near the center of the room, she could hear something on the other side.
Ping ping ping, YA!
Ping ping ping, YA!
She blinked. What could that…
The maiden crawled closer. Her hands slipped on something ice-cold and slippery, unbalancing her form and almost making her fall on her stomach. But her knees held her steady on solid ground. She retreated, and ran a finger along the floor in an attempt to identify it. What is…
It was freezing cold. And rigid. And growing…
But from whe…
Ping, ping, ping, YA!! Light filtered in as the wall came crumbling down; blinded, her arms retreated and covered them protectively. Hushed footfalls came from in front of her, akin to… Zema crawled back.
“It’s alright now,” Her voice was a yew through autumn leaves. “Follow my voice.” The sound alone bewildered the young lady. Who was… That…? The tone was warm and inviting, and whoever it was had shed light into the dark chamber she’d been stuck in.
“Why…?” she asked, mostly to herself.
“Answer my call… And I’ll set you free.”