I tried to take breaths and process the bombardment of sounds and feelings I was suddenly hit with. My arm had moved from manageable to excruciating pain, my head pounded like a jackhammer, and my whole body was shivering uncontrollably. I heard Marie arguing behind my back I couldn’t do anything besides moan pathetically.
After a while I was able to open my eyes. The overhead light was on, though so bright. I moved my good arm to shield it and gasped when I looked at my hand. My entire palm and fingers were burned and blistering. Shit shit shit.
“Mace?” Marie asked softly. I turned to her with tear filled eyes. She’s never going to let me live this down. I stared at her pale eyes and the memory of her standing on me slammed back to my mind. I froze.
“Oh my God. Marie, I’m so sorry. I-“
“It’s alright. It wasn’t you. Nobody got hurt,” she reassured me. ME. I was going to use the stupid orb on HER and she is reassuring me. What the actual hell.
“Where- where is it?” I asked as I tried to rewet my mouth.
“It’s been….taken care of.”
“What does that mean?”
“The jockey took care of it.”
“I don’t think he liked being called that,” I replied as I peered around for him. I’d prefer to not get thrown around again. I clenched my jaw against a new wave of misery.
“I know,” she said as she sniffed at my face. “Some refer to redbacks as jockeys. They for sure hate it.”
“So you were intentionally trying to start shit,” I stated, mentally rolling my eyes. “Wait,” I looked over at her “Why did he help?”
“I uh, kinda told him it would kill him if he didn’t.” I remembered after she said it.
“So is it gone? Did that work?”
“Yeah. I’m actually really surprised.”
“You didn’t know if their venom would stop it? I didn’t think anything could,” I said as my voice cracked. Man I’m thirsty. She sniffed at my hand and I flinched when her rough tongue ran over one of the lesser blistered areas.
“I hurt too much to be dead,” I mumbled. As far as I knew, the Raxia’s were impossible to be rid of and the only way to use the power of one was to kill the previous holder.
“Don’t worry about it, okay? Let’s get you to the healer before you DO die.”
I groaned, not looking forward to any more walking. As I began my struggle to stand, I felt a warm presence against my back that helped to lift me to my feet. I focused on not falling back over as I mumbled thanks over my shoulder. This was going to be a long day.
The metal rungs of the ladder were both cooling and painful as I climbed to the top. I couldn’t use my shredded arm at all, or my hand on the other arm, so it was a fun climb. The manhole cover was already shifted aside, thankfully, because there’s no way I would have been able to move it. The light burned my sensitive eyes and I hadn’t even fully left the tunnel yet.
I paused with my good arm hooked on the last rung of the ladder and waited for Marie to return. My head swam from the physical exertion of walking miles and then climbing this stupid ladder. I was grateful that Marie had offered to go ahead. I took my time with the ladder and didn’t have to put up a brave front, cause damn I hurt.
“Mace?” Marie called down. I looked up, thankful she was blocking the sun. “I found a hat and a new shirt. Not much but it’s something. It’s clear here so come on up.”
I nodded and hauled myself up the final foot of the ladder before slowly collapsing onto the ground. I soaked in the heat from the pavement below me and the burning sun above me as the chill slowly left my body.
“Mace, c’mon. Let’s get moving,” Marie prodded and I groaned as the baseball cap plopped on my face. I tenderly settled it onto my head before I took the offered shirt. I sat up and tried to pull off my blood soaked one, but I failed painfully. I squinted over at the white cat.
“I can’t do it, Marie,” I admitted. She tsked and sat down.
“Just wrap it around your bad arm and we’ll go. The shadows can hide you until we get to the healer.”
“Oh can they? Cause last time I asked them to I ended up half naked in the middle of a market.”
“Well that wasn’t the same thing. You were being stupid then.”
“Oh well that clarifies shit.” I rolled my eyes and started to wrap the light blue shirt around my arm. I looked around once I was done, trying to get my bearings. There was a playground to our left and old brick buildings on all other sides. The street we were on was a pot hole-filled single lane road. I had no idea where we were and I said as much.
“This is the western edge of Monere,” Marie stated as he looked back at me around her bushy tail.
“This is really Monere?” I asked, looking around again. I was pretty sure I had been all over our city.
“Yeah. This is closer to the human population than where we live.”
“Oh.” Nothing looked that different, but then again it wouldn’t. Monsters lived among humans for hundreds of years and only a small percent of humans even knew of their existence. Monere was one of the border cities. Border because the monster population was higher than the human.
I got to my feet and swayed slightly before motioned Marie to lead. She set off at a slower-than-normal walk and I wanted to cry at the gesture. She hated walking slowly. I shuffled after her, not ready for the walk across town.
I knew the shadows had me covered, literally and figuratively, but I was still sweating buckets as we weaved through the late afternoon market crowd. No one even looked towards me but I kept my wrapped arm close to me to avoid being bumped again. The first time I cried out and drew attention to Marie, not that she didn’t draw attention to herself.
Her white fur was dirtied and was matted with dried blood. The bridge of her nose was still swollen and she limped slightly. Not to mention that she was a cat walking alone through the market. I hated all of the looks she received; looks ranging from hatred to desire. She easily ignored everyone as she picked her way through the crowd.
There weren’t many buildings here, but that’s why it was a market. The openness of the area made a perfect spot for hundreds of people to pitch their tents and put up stands to sell their wares. One of the ramshackle wooden stands we passed had shiny cans of Unicorn Meat and I gave the guy a look he couldn’t see. Those are so clearly counterfeit. I wondered how well he did. If I could just put up something at a market then I wouldn’t have to deal with hags and Maws and everything I just went through. I sighed as my arm throbbed against the fabric.
As the crowd thinned, the tents became sparser and shabby, rundown buildings took their place on either side of a small street. Glass fronts were either boarded over or just missing completely. One of them was lit by the flickering dance of a fire. I wondered what creature was lurking inside. I kept scanning around us, forgetting I was shielded. We continued on and slowly the buildings became better managed and the feel of the area wasn’t as murdery.
After another half hour of walking, shuffling on my part, we finally arrived outside the single story brick building. It was slightly nicer than the buildings around it. The glass door on the front had a simple sign that read “All Welcome” and I knew it meant all creatures. I shook my head at the thought and pulled on the door.
“Shit, it’s locked,” I groaned. I was ready to go around back when Marie chuckled.
“Mace, it’s a push door.”
I turned around and noticed the small sign that read just that. My face heated as I pushed it open and walked through without a word. Marie laughed behind me, but quickly went silent as she entered the building. You never knew who was around and a talking cat usually caused more problems than she solved. I shuffled painfully to the empty front desk.
“Hello? Is the healer in?” I called out as Marie jumped onto the counter and batted the service bell several times. I gave her a look. That’s very cat-like behavior there. She flattened her ears at me because she knew what I was thinking. I called out again, my pain making me impatient as hell. I jumped when a voice sounded from behind me.
“If you mean the doctor…he’s with another patient.” I turned around slowly to see the woman sitting in the corner of the waiting room. “I’m in line next though,” she said as she wrapped her dark arms around her stomach with a grimace. Shit, please not another spider. I groaned inwardly before turning back around and ringing the bell again.
Faeline- fay line
Araneae – air an A
Hasselti- Hass el tee
Monere- Mon err ahh