Lynda's fingers dug into every handhold the rocky coast could provide as she dragged herself from the water’s edge, her other fist coiled around the collar of her unconscious would-be assassin. Each scraping inch she hauled them both up the stone beachhead was paid for with her ragged breath heaving and gasping against the onslaught of the pulling tide. Her unnatural blood, an oil black and acrid humour, slipped from the knife wound in her side, as the blade remained steadfast like the harpoon in a whale’s side.
Among the crashes of the waves, the dragging inevitability, the world began to dim for Lynda as her grip on her senseless foe began to slip….
She shook her head with the full force she could muster to bring her back and slipped her hand onto her side, gripping the hilt of the knife and pulling at it to send a shock through her system. She gasped loudly, holding back an angered sob, but the fading darkness was once more pushed back and held at bay by the pain.
Taking only a few deep breaths to steel herself, Lynda Redoubled what reserves she had left and dug deep to pull herself further. Lynda was a giant compared to this woman, her balled fist almost outsizing the unconscious woman’s head, however what strength she had was running out quickly.
A few more pained grunts, a few more inches fought for with blood, fighting from slipping back into the tempestuous sea and the death that lay behind them.
After what felt like an aching eternity the giant had nothing left and fell. The only saving grace of being half dead on the edge of an island was she had made it far enough that the assassin wouldn’t slip back into the waves, that and the mossy lichen that clung to the stone gave the giant something akin to a pillow.
All was still. Only the sounds of a lifeless sea, the odd wheeze of Lynda’s breaths and the sound of distant footsteps coming closer broke the illusion that everything would be okay. Soon the clicking of a metal capped heel stopped with a finality of the last second, ticked away leaving only silence.
Drask stood over her, with what little of his features could be seen showing genuine confusion. His burning red eyes bore into Lynda’s black iris’ as he rested his hands in the pockets of his great coat with an easy air. Around him the damp stone began to dry.
“You saved her.” Drask said, his voice backed by the soft pop of a hearth fire as the noise of a burning log crackling under the heat imposed on it accompanying a rather bewildered head tilt. “Why?”
“I had to.” Lynda said, glancing up at the slim man as she re-caught her fleeing breath.
“Had to?” Drask asked. He lifted a hand and pulled at the fingers of his gloves, sliding them free. “You...had to.” He couldn’t help but let out a chortle, almost in disbelief. “I thought you didn’t take orders.”
“I don’t take orders from you.” Lynda slipped her arms under her, trying to brace herself to hoist her to a standing position though only getting as far as resting on her forearms and knees.
“Then why did you do it?” He asked, wrapping his coat around him to protect him from the spray of the waves, not that he should have bothered as each splash ended up in an evaporated sizzle.
“...I guess I…” Lynda trailed off, her eyes trailing behind her with a wince before she cast them back to the standing Drask. “...I didn’t need to, but I felt it was the right thing to do.”
“...You’ve found your own reasons?” Drask asked. There was no rage to his voice, despite the anger fuelled fire that seemed to spill from his eyes, but instead a soft curiosity. Lynda managed, using the last of her strength, pulled herself upright on her knees. Even slumped back and kneeling her status as a giant was without dispute, looking Drask in the eye.
“We...all find our reasons.” She said in return. “Sometimes doing right by people...is the hard part. Doing whatever you want and...damning everyone else is the easy path.”
The playful curiosity in Drask’s face fell away, sliding like ash in an upturned pan before the unbridled rage took over like a fire no longer choked by debris and flaring up.
“Easy? EASY?” Drask’s eyes burned, radiating the baleful glow as a hand shot forward and grabbed the loose lapel of the giant’s stained and worn pale blue tunic. The cloth dried almost instantly as he pulled her forward from her casual slouch. “What part of any of this was easy? The effort? The power needed? The plans? Existing? The...”
Drask’s heated glare seemed to soften as he released the giant’s tunic. The cloth he had grabbed had started to scorch but with no fire or warmth for it to continue the sizzle came to a stop. His eyes seemed to lower, before looking once more out at the chaos of a rolling ocean and the storms that lay beyond.
The corner of his mouth tugging at his lips to force a smile onto a face that had long ago given into despair. “None of this was...part of the plan but if this is what I have to work with then so be it.”
“You don’t have to do this.” Lynda tried, her hand trying to pull at the knife in her side and finding it too slick with her own stygian blood to do much more than aggravate the wound. Another held back sob and an intake of breath and her hand fell away.
Drask sighed, mist leaving his lips as his hot breath broke the air before him.
“No, I don’t.” He said, his voice almost becoming a whisper. “But there’s nothing anyone can do to fix it; sometimes when something’s broken you just have to either live with it or start over.”
“And that’s what you’re doing? Starting over?” Lynda said as she tried to force herself to her feet. Her limbs felt leaden as if one by one they were losing all grip on reality. She felt her own control just drain away as it was all she could do to remain upright.
“No. There’s no way to get back to the past; I learned a long time ago I haven't the stomach to try this again and so I’ll just do with it whatever I want; after all it is my birthright.” He stood and looked around the rocky island, as soldiers gathered up several of the fallen around them; most alive if not badly afflicted. The crash of the waves as they broke on the stone added the feeling that the island itself was alive but it was all but an illusion of life to an inhospitable patch of lifeless stone in the middle of the ocean. “This place...It...it broke my heart. None of this was part of…” He covered his mouth a moment, taking a second to catch his wandering thoughts and to calm whatever counted for nerves in such a being.
Lynda managed to get to one knee, her breath short and sharp as more and more she bled from her wound. Drask turned to her as he heard her iron-clad boot scuffing lichen and his brow lifted in admirable surprise, once more composed and in control with a jovial tone. “Well you’re certainly determined. Will you try and fight again? I didn’t realise you were built so well.”
Lynda attempted a step, but her knees gave way and once more she fell from eight feet to five, to three as her hands slapped against the floor and caught her from hitting the ground face first.
Drask knelt down, resting an arm on his knee, obvious amusement broke through the long seated depression and rage. “You were doing so well. Alright, on this one I’ll bite; what do you expect you can get out of this situation?”
“Please, don’t hurt them.” Lynda begged. Drask held his gaze before realisation erupted and his gaze moved from the giant to the soldiers as they loaded the last of the unconscious bodies into one of the rowboats, the confusion of the non-sequitur giving way to understanding as they were bound tight and dumped rather unceremoniously.
“Ah.” He said. “Them.” He turned back to Lynda with eyes that gave a campfire’s warmth as fire seemed to dance from finger to finger. “...I can’t say they’ll enjoy it, but I guess they can live out their lives.” His energy and fervour drained out of him in the last as the fires on his fingertips went out. “Nothing really matters anymore, anyway.”
“...Thank-you.” Lynda gasped as she slumped and fell to the floor, her strength all but spent.
“After all this you still have manners.” Drask muttered in a playful voice. He leant forward with fingers sliding past the matte-black mane of hair on the alabaster giant and cupped his hand under her chin, twisting her face so that her pitch black eyes were forced to look into his baleful orbs.
He couldn’t help but let out a chuckle. “Now that all of the preliminaries are done, and we’ve gotten to know each other, it’s time to make sure you can help me; time for you to give me everything I want to know.”
“I’m not sure I feel like sharing…” Lynda gasped as he drew her up forcefully by her chin and turned her over so she was splayed out on the rock, as if she was attempting to make the moss equivalence of a snow angel. Lynda let out a gasp as the knife hilt slapped against the stone and tears pricked at the edge of her eyes.
“Since when did your kind have a sense of humour?” Drask asked, the false face of jocular bravado slipping back on and managing to cover at least some of the bitter despair that fueled his furnace.
His free hand took hold of her forehead, the tips of his fingers digging against her bleached flesh and pitch black hair. “I wasn’t asking.”
As fire once more erupted across his fingers the sound of Lynda’s screams fell short against the waves as they worked down the stone into nothing.
It would just take time.
That’s fine; Drask had all the time he’d need.
All else fell away, leaving only Drask’s words as darkness pulled in. “So let’s start at when you got involved, shall we?”