Cause I told the Goddess that i would
Cyra couldn't breathe. She could feel the heavy intake of air, feel the gasping pull of breath into her lungs, but there was no relief. Could you suffocate from heartbreak? Her mind struggled valiantly against something her heart already knew.
NO! They LOVED me! They did! I'm their daughter, they can't just stop caring! There's some kind of mistake, they must have thought she was someone else! They can't have meant her. Her father loved her, he would not have disowned her! They couldn't...
The thoughts slowed as she clutched at her chest, wondering if tearing it open would help her lungs get the air they so desperately desired. She made it to the far back field, where the wilderness had reclaimed part of the stone fence and an old drainage ditch created a protective alcove, before the wracking sobs shuddered through her.
When you don't open your eyes, time can't catch you, right?
The next morning dawned grey, and with an encouraging prod from one of the shepherds, she stood, feeling hollow, empty, but not yet shattered. When her conscious thoughts stuttered to a halt, her body took over, taking the steps necessary for survival while she struggled with an identity she could no longer claim.
The body required food, water, and protection from the elements to survive. The coins she had left could be stretched for sustenance in the days ahead, and water was always plentiful, but the winter would be cold and the winds bitter, and it was with that thought that her feet turned south, toward warmer climes and easier days.
The first few weeks passed without incident, skin darkening, toughening against the sun, wind and rain in equal measures. Without the drive to strengthen herself, she became ever more lean, subsisting on what little she needed to put one foot in front of the other, making the few coins she had last well past when they should have run out. When even they, too, ran dry, she took to stealing, an apple or two from the orchards she passed, a few eggs from some unsupervised chickens, only ever enough to get her by.
By the start of the fourth week, like coming out of a fog, she started to recognize the looks of mingled disgust and pity in the faces of the farmers and villagers she passed on the road. With the intrusion of distant memory, dripping like hot vitriol on the cold stone of her numb heart, she now knew what, in her childhood, she hadn't grasped: shame. She had not taken back her life, her freedom, to become a beggar on the streets, scrambling for scraps of food.
Enough. I am who I've always been, and I will be what I choose.
With a little twinge of regret at the need, she went to the far end of the village where the laundry was done and let her sticky fingers gather a sliver of soap and a fresh towel, hesitating a moment before also risking the theft of fresh, if careworn clothes. With the utmost care, she trims her shaggy, disheveled locks, letting the river carry them away as she works to scrub the old from her skin, along with the grime from weeks on the road.
Making herself as presentable as possible, she slips into the first pub she finds, the thick scent of stale alcohol, leather, unwashed bodies and the strong spice of a midday meal marking the building as clear as the bright orange sign above the door.
The room was raucous, a little surprising for the middle of the day, with a large group of men in one corner talking and laughing loudly as they downed a substantial meal, along with equally substantial amounts of ale.
Turning her back on the group, she addresses herself to the woman behind the counter “Excuse me, ma'am, I'm in a bit of a tight spot, and I was hoping you might know of anyone in the area needing another pair of hands, or a strong back? A couple days of food and lodging is all I'm really looking for...”
The place, and the smell, made Cyra twitchy. After months without being confined in any way, being indoors, with only one visible exit and more men than she knew she could defend against, she was a bit jumpy. Flinching a little at a particularly loud bellow from the man in the corner, her fingertips brush over the handle of her knife as she made a concerted effort to ignore the rest of the room.
“Oy! Lad! We need refills over here!”
Logan, with his sable hair and piercing grey eyes, was not a man much used to being ignored. When Cyra continued her conversation, and consequently ignored him completely, he finally stood and made his way over to what he took to be the serving boy. Listing a little from the two strong drinks he had already consumed, he was nonetheless steady enough when he reached her to stand straight.
“Hey! I'm talking to you boy! Are you really going to treat a loyal, payin-,”
As he was speaking, he finally reached out and gripped her upper arm tightly, his large hand easily wrapping around the painfully thin arm, turning the 'serving boy' around to force an acknowledgment.
He only got so far in his tirade before wide green eyes met his stormy grey, and like a punch in the gut, realized his error.
In fact, it was so much like a punch in the gut, it took a moment for him to understand that he was actually wheezing from a jab just under his ribs, and another moment too long to realize that her hand was now somewhere a bit more intimate, and holding a blade where an ill-timed sneeze might give him a bit too much extra room in his pants.
“Do not touch me,” she said in a low growl, the usual cadence of her voice marred by a hoarseness that spoke more to long disuse than the hollowness her eyes might suggest.
His hand springing free of her arm, she slowly straightened, still holding his gaze with her crystal eyes, he caught but a glimpse of black between her fingers, there and gone so fast, he wasn't sure it had truly been there.
Taking a step back, giving him a short nod and a brief, assessing look, she turned and practically fled the pub, leaving him slack-jawed, a half-formed apology on his lips.
When Kesney finally stepped up and clapped a hand to his shoulder, Logan could do little but give a bemused grin, a small shake of the head, and a lingering glance to the closed door before returning to his comrades, with drinks in hand.
Outside the pub, Cyra leaned against the wall, her face had gone a sickly pale beneath the tan, breathing hard as the magnitude of what she had done came over her. Not only had she threatened an armed man almost twice her size, she had run away from a potential source of income and food. If he wasn't angry enough to come after her, she still couldn't show her face there again, after embarrassing herself. Besides, the thought of running into him again made her cheeks flare red, and sent her looking for a different pub where she might manage to go unnoticed.