ATTENTION! ATTENTION! ATTENTION! ATTENTION! ATTENTION! ATTENTION! ATTENTION! ATTENTION! ATTENTION!
This is NOT a new chapter. The new chapters are ch. 3 (Forward) and ch. 5 (North). Also chapters 1 through 5 have been edited. I hope to get new chapters to you all soon! But hey quality over quantity right?
Summary: I am drowning in a pool of hazy mist that coats a darkness over my eyes. A constant fog surrounds me. I feel as if I am hearing, seeing, speaking, all underwater. Somewhere submerged deep inside me something is screaming, hysterically crying, breaking, but it is so far down that I hardly notice. Yet it is ever present, a nuisance to my hazy reality that annoys like a persistent gnat. Disturbing images plague my mind and memory, taunting in their familiarity... So I sleep.
Murky distorted light.
Rough woven threads, scratching my cheek. Obscuring my vision.
Frowning, I reach for the offending material. Shoulders jerk and a constricting line bruises into my wrists.
Why are my hands tied? Coiled rope, its fibers curiously soft and hard underneath my nail. Where am I?The smell of maple mixed with saw dust. The Inn. A set of stairs. Who...? Zuko smiling at me over dinner. Faint voices. Zuko leaning against me, his breathe warm against my neck. Prickle of straw against my legs. Dark hair smooth in my fingers... Zuko's hair... no not Zuko's. Dark hair and arched eyebrows... lips always laughing... HIM!
It all comes back in a rush sending spiraling heat to my injured aching head. I force myself to breathe slowly, trying to think, trying not to panic. Because the dead always stay dead.. don't they?
Ribs splintered, lungs pierced. I felt him dying, felt where the rock had crushed his chest, felt his heart slowing, his blood cooling underneath my hands... didn't I?
My jaw aches and my tongue works idly at the knotted cloth. My head pounds a dreadful heated pulse and I push down rising panic and try once again to free my hands. If only I could see, I think.
As if they could hear my thoughts hands push me to my knees and I blink rapidly at the blinding light.
We are still in the same room. Same walls and floor and door. Zuko's still lying there on the straw pallet. And on either side are a man and women dressed in the dark greens and dusty browns of the forest. The man wears a wide brimmed hat that sits low on his face and I can only see the hard thin line of his mouth. The woman caresses the curved spine of her dagger, her agitated hands a direct contrast from the stone stillness of the rest of her. Two lines of red bleed out from the corners of her mouth.
I try to shrug the hand off my shoulder and am rewarded with a harsh shove and my hands twist behind my back, struggling to find balance. I slam into the floor hard, only rolling in time to land on my right shoulder, spearing pain against my spine. I cry out sharply, the sound muffle through the gag.
His laugh rings out and I grit my teeth at the sound of it. Crouching down his fingers grip my chin and I meet his eyes with mine.
I almost quail under his hard stare, sharp and brittle. I almost... because the air is dry and dusty, and even with my hands tied- palms pressed painfully together I know there is not a drop of moisture in the air.
I think instead of what he has done, what he has tried to do. I think of what I did when I had the first bits of my innocence crushed and the river at my back. I gather up all the broken scattered pieces of me and glare back with all the heat I have left in me.
Spits the straw from his lips and hisses, hisses at me. "TRAITOR." Jerks his head, his neck, his hand, like an angry coiled snake.
They drag him up. Head limp and forward. Grasp his bangs jerking his head back. Expose the ruined skin. Expose the damning mark.
He whispers it again, his lips brushing my ear in the mockery of a caress that send a chill of dread down my spine, "Traitor".