flASH fiction: Volume 5: A Proper Introduction (15)

A Proper Introduction
Jason Pere

Today felt different for Aaron Luckworth. He could not exactly hone in on the precise sensation that irked him but he was well aware of something troubling him at the back of his mind. The irony of a suspicious pit in his belly was not lost on him as he was already a prisoner in soundings that could only be described as completely bizarre. Still despite his unusual circumstances the Rayward Lance Commander felt a heightened sense of danger as he continued to sit and wait in his cell. It was not the thickness in the air that preceded a battle or a storm nor was it the burning that took root in his ears before receiving a social beating at the hands of more eloquent and courtly types, this was a feeling like being on a boat sailing on troubled waters and Aaron cared for this breed of phantom sea sickness as little as the genuine affliction.

Aaron found himself second guessing his trepidation almost as soon as he had acknowledge the miserable feeling churning in his belly. After a few moments of honest reflection, the man had come to the realization that some paranoia was not out of the question. He was a prisoner to a strange captor and his jailers had not even shown themselves to him yet. So far Aaron was only postulating that he was at the mercy of the dragoon. He had seen men in prolonged captivity go mad before. He sadly knew how an extended stay behind locked doors and windowless walls could break even the most resolute of fighting men.

Aaron had little to mark the passage of time that had occurred since first waking in his cell. His wounds were healing and his face had grown shaggy as stubble was fully covering his jaw and cheeks at present. The absence of access to the outside was a difficult obstacle to overcome. Being separated for the ability to tell day from night made keeping a proper sleep cycle a near impossible feat. The best tool that Aaron had at his disposal for telling the passage of time was the twice a day feedings that he received through a small slit in the sturdy cell door. At least he ventured to guess that the wondrous bowls of steaming meat that he sustained himself on were a semi daily occurrence. The regular use of his chamber pot in conjunction with his organized meals was the only other means that Aaron had for guessing at the length of his stay within the confines of black stone and ever present heat.

The hair on the back of his neck pricked up and the Rayward solider was brought back to the world around him. Though sounds beyond his cell were muted and garbled he could tell that someone was coming his way. He looked at the still warm bowl of meat on the simple table in the room. It was too soon for another meal so he knew that whoever was coming had some specific agenda. Aaron wondered if perhaps this was his end but he quickly pushed such thoughts aside. Cutting him open of the floor of his cell made no sense after the dragoon had gone through the trouble of feeding him and keeling him alive as long as they had been doing. If Aaron could be certain of anything he was quite secure with the knowledge that if he were to die in this place it would not happen without some form of lengthy discourse preceding the event.

Aaron’s neck and back snapped straight up and he found himself on his feet as the internal locks and mechanisms of the cell door turned and clicked. His reflexes had put him at the ready before the door had even begun to swing opened. He stood at full attention, offering the most dignified and refined image that he was able to muster up to whoever was on the other side of the door.

The heavy slabs of wood and braces of metal ominously creaked open to reveal a familiar face. The Rayward Lance Commander found himself gazing upon the same yellow scaled warrior that he had encountered immediately before Sia of Red had fallen upon his regiment with a breath of fire. He found her eyes were just as fearsome and determined as when she had just burst forth from a mound of dragoon dead and proceeded to hold an entire section of Rayward cavalry at bay. While the golden woman’s eyes were hard and willful there was something kind, even kindred in her darkened stare. Aaron knew that his life was in peril but he got the sense that the threat did not come from this woman.

“Donakis?” said Aaron softly. His voice was little louder than a whisper as he pulled the dragoon’s name from recent memory. He was fairly certain he had recalled the warrior woman’s name correctly but he had to admit that his ability to recall the events preceding his capture might be less than perfect.

“Yes,” responded the dragoon woman. She said the single word with a tone that was dominant but still managed to convey some measure of appreciation, almost as if she had been faltered that the man had been able to remember her name, let alone pronounce it correctly. “Aaron Luckworth, you are in the Red Sanctuary. You are the first human ever to be brought inside these walls… well the first living human,” she continued while evidently making sure to pronounced Aaron’s name with equal weight placed on attention to proper pronunciation.

Aaron had some faded suspicions that he might have been brought to the hallowed bastion of the dragoon but hearing a confirmation of those thoughts spoken aloud hit him in the gut like a hammer. The Red Sanctuary was a place often talked about in the Rayward war camps with a fearful air of begrudging respect and mystery. Never in all of his days had the humble Rayward man thought that he might live to see what lay within its towers and gates. “Why am I here,” asked Aaron. He knew that it was unseemly for a captive to ask questions of a captor but the impossible curiosity of the moment drew the query from his mouth.

“You said that you believe there can be peace between the dragoon and human kind. You believe this still?” asked Donakis. Her tone remained dominant as befit the present circumstances but her words carried some hopeful notes as much as she might have wished to conceal them.

“I do,” Aaron said without even thinking. The speed of his response surprised him and he had to keep from smirking in amusement at how vehemently his heart had commanded the rest of him in the moment.

“Good that is why you are here and why you are still alive,” said Donakis. “Great Mother would hear more of what you have to say on the matter and she agreed to an audience with you,” she continued before turning her head to acknowledge a fast approaching pair of footsteps that were coming down the hall outside of the cell. “I am bound to thank you for staying your men and sparing my life when first we met.”

“I could not let my soldiers kill you like that. Honor forbid it. I was simply doing due duty,” said Aaron before his face contorted in an expression of curios contemplation. “Great Mother… Sia of Red?” he asked.

“Yes,” said Donakis with a downward glance at the mention of the grand matriarch of her people.

“Agreed to an audience,” Aaron echoed reflectively. “Am I to understand that you are to once who got Sia of Red to agree to such a thing?”

“I did,” Donakis said with a tangible measure of conflict presented in the two simple words. She cast one more fleeting glance down the hall in the direction of the new footsteps. She promptly straightened up as the figure of a dragoon wearing the armor and insignia of the Master Black came into view.

“Then I have to believe that I am bound to thank you for sparing my life. I imaging were it not for you then I would be a pile of ashes right now,” said Aaron.

“Do not thank me yet. If Great Mother does not care for what you have to say on the matter of peace then you may still end up, a pile of ashes,” said Donakis. “Come,” she instructed Aaron as the Master Black arrived outside of the cell and let out a huff of disapproval and chiding glare in Donakis’s direction.

Aaron Luckworth reluctantly stepped out of the cell, feeling the impact of Donakis’s last statement rattling in his bones. As he walked the halls of the Red Sanctuary he felt the sweltering heat of the place choking him. Thoughts of a fiery end clouded Aaron’s mind as he followed the two dragoon warriors through the lengthy halls and corridors. Aaron already felt like his flesh was burning.