Name: Vanya Galadlin
Character personality: Once a playful and happy child, Vanya learned the harsh roads of life through terrible twists in her life. Because of all the troubles that have plagued her short but painful life, she finds it very hard to trust new people and finds it harder still to be able to depend on others. Though it does take a while for her to open up, the task is not impossible and upon gaining her trust, Vanya will honour, respect and protect those she holds dear. To those she doesn’t know too well, she will appear very quiet, trying to keep her unusual past hidden from others. Vanya only has two fears, both she tries to keep hidden along with her past, one related to an experiment and another from an early memory. Though she is secretive, she is open enough to tell her tale to all and any that question her reason for being in Hjalhelm.
Now I warn you, this isn’t a happy tale of leaving the nest and growing up. This isn’t a tale of true love and a happy ending. No this is my story, my life. The reason I am here. This story isn’t for the faint of heart, nor for the easily disturbed. Still want to hear my story? Then please get yourself comfortable and I will begin.
My first memory was when I was 6. The morning had started out the same way it had for years. I slowly opened my eyes, greeted by the warmth of the rising sun and the golden rays that bathed my entire being. I gently pushed the thin covers from my small body, clad in a pure white night dress which symbolised the innocence I clung to desperately. I turned my body, gently reaching out for the cool floorboards which sent tingles from the tips of my tiny toes, up to the top of my head. The morning was amazing. How the sun would lightly highlight all the notches in the wood below my feet, how the warmth would encircle my body, invigorating all my muscles for the day ahead of brutish childish chores and how a lungful of such clean fresh air would leave even a stressful workaholic feeling revitalised and secure. My feet dragged across the floor lazily as I stretched out, faded memories of my nights dream lingered but only for a second before disappearing into nothingness. Moving the workbench, that always lay dormant in the corner of my bright room; I pushed it under the window which faced my bed, before carefully crawling on top of it to gaze out at the surrounding beauty. Emerald leaves glistened with fresh dew as sun beams bounced from droplet to droplet. Trees stood up high and proud, their branches praising the rising sun as a soft breeze danced between each leaf. The gentle wind pulled petals and pollen, from the swaying flowers, into a complicated dance only fit for nature herself to join. Little white birds perched themselves on the russet branches, their tiny talons gripping to the resistant bark, their beaks wide open, allowing such a serene and intricate melody escape into the environment. Other birds joined in, a chorus of chirping and singing, enhancing the foreign dance of nature. The scent of fresh grass swirled into my room, the aroma filling my senses with warmth and care. I closed my eyes, allowing myself to get lost in the new world, I allowed myself to get dragged into the secret land of nature. A high pitched noise dragged me from my dream, pulling me back into reality. I ran, feet scuffing the floor as I ran towards the source of the noise.
It was my mother. Her cheeks were reddened in pain, her eyes wide with surprise. Each breath she took caused yet another horrible whimper. Once caring brown eyes; were dilated heavily, filled with panic. She lowered her body onto the floor, her extended stomach, bulging out of her body much like a monster, taking over most of her frame. Brown locks were plastered to her face with sweat as another scream tore through her throat. I ran to her, half skidding on the polished floors. My hand found hers and her grip tightened, knuckles white with effort. I remember a sharp pain passing through my fragile hands as my mother held on, each contraction causing her grip to get tighter and tighter. Another woman was there. I don’t remember much about her apart from her voice. It sounded so kind and caring, like a melody. I clung onto her every word as she reassured me that everything was going to be okay. Her fingers gently brushed over the soft skin that was my cheeks and caught a single tear. Tears ... I had been crying? My mother was having complications with her pregnancy, she wasn’t supposed to give birth for another month yet but something had happened during the night. Now she was half lay on the floor, panting and screaming, tears dripping from her chin onto her neck, pooling in the hollow of her throat. I looked into my mothers eyes, the ones that mirrored mine, she was scared, so scared of losing the child that was forcing its way out of her womb. The woman grabbed our hands, slowly and surely loosening the iron grip my mother had on me. Spikes of pain and relief shot through my hand as blood rushed down the blood vessels, painting colour back into my almost lifeless hand. I whimpered as tingles travelled up and down my arm, causing a slight twitch. She screamed once more, her voice laced with agony as she pushed. The woman by our side spoke slowly, guiding my mother through the final push. Her chest heaved with might as she attempted to control her laboured breathing. Everything was quiet as the woman moved. A different noise broke the silence. The small figure in the woman’s blood stained hands gasped for its first breath. Tiny lungs filling up for the first time and then it cried.
That was the birth of my baby half brother. He was born very small, skin light and pure, stained with the carnage that he had dragged out of my mothers body, which had acted as a host for several months. The stranger gently dabbed the new born with a white cloth. The soft fabric seemed to calm the child, if only a little. She cooed gently, leaning in to slowly nuzzle the child’s nose, a strained smile plastered across her face. My mother had fully collapsed back, her cheek pressed against the cool wooden floor. I moved slowly and carefully, tracking down another cloth that could be used to wipe the sweat from my mothers aching body. Fingers clutching round a coarser red towel, I moved back to my mothers side, dabbing at her forehead and neck, fingers deftly moving the hair from her face. Her eyes slowly closed, shutting away the world for the briefest of moments. I spoke softly, muttering quiet reassurances, knowing my voice fell upon deaf ears. She was in her own world now, lost in the realm of fantasy. Faint whispers of memories slowly dragging her deeper into the kingdom of dreams and I left her, left her with the pleasant visions that she so desired.
My attention was then directed at the small mortal that squirmed in the grasp of the other woman. Such wide brown eyes that mirrored mine, filled with a genuine curiosity, a thirst for knowledge, wanting to know about the new world that had enveloped him after the birth. Bright colours filled every inch of the room. Vivid potted plants stood to attention, bowing towards the light as if to praise the sun itself. The golden light which had lightly shone through the window, now directed all its attention to the child which giggled quietly in his confines. He was beautiful; he was my brother, if only through our mother. The other woman turned to me, lowering the boy until I could see him properly and that is when I felt it. The first time I had felt the need to protect something so small, something that wasn’t fully mine, something ... special.
Now, you may be asking why he is only my half brother, well, I can explain that quite easily. My father was a pirate. He had moved to Sylvalia a year before I was born. He was far from home, hoping to be able to sell a few of his “treasures” to some gullible and greedy men. I never really asked my mother how they officially met, I think it was by pure chance, but it was love at first sight. She was a hopeless romantic, fresh out of her parent’s house and yearning for love that is as deep as the oceans. She wanted the fabled unrequited and forbidden love that would leave her utterly distraught when they parted. It wasn’t just a want, it was a need. A need to feel such passion that burned through her and that is what she received. For weeks, my father played her, using her to gain more. Days would pass and each second she spent with him sent her further and further into a love crazed trance. Under his spell, she would do everything, and when told to, she would willingly bend over and bark, lowering herself to the position he had placed her in. A dog, a bitch, nothing more and nothing less. I found all this out from her diary. A deep brown book, filled with yellowing pieces of parchment only bound together by a thin line of string. Her hand writing was scruffy, sometimes smudged with dots of what I presumed to be tears. They explained so much, like how she got all the scars across her face and arms. When she found out she was pregnant, he had left, taking all traces of his presence with him. My mother received the heartbreak her young self wanted, she also was left with the silver ravines that coursed over her skin and the blossoming violet bruises that threatened to stay forever around her tear filled eyes. 5 years after I was born she found another man, that gave her what she wanted, another lust filled craze, only to leave her, once more, pregnant and alone with a small child. I’d always wanted to meet my father, wanted to know what life was like being a pirate. I had so many questions. Why did he leave my mother? Did he know about me? Did he have other children? But … I guess they will always remain unanswered.
Four years past and I helped my mother tend to my brother. He was a needy child, always sick. His deep brown eyes became sullen, almost sinking into his skin. The once creamy flesh upon his body became almost translucent, so delicate to touch. One finger upon his being caused violent bruises to erupt on the surface, turning black in extreme cases. His skin was so sensitive, many materials causing angry red rashes to form in clusters, bubbling under the surface. Most days I spent by his side, nursing the new wounds that had appeared through small circumstances. There was one horrible winter, where fever struck our house. I remember waking up one morning, chilled to the bone as I threw off the blanket which had encased my form in warmth. The floor had also frozen completely, the wood creaking as the material had contracted under the temperature during the night. My body shivered unconsciously, hair standing to attention under the cool conditions. Dragging my feet across the floor, I turned my head, gazing out to the dreary morning. Grey clouds blanketed the skies, a never ending cover of haze that blocked out the sun I so desperately wanted to see. The fog was beginning to rise, impairing my vision further. My hand settled on the handle of the door and I pushed slowly, wanting to keep the noise to a minimum, my brother slept in the room next door, I didn’t want to wake him.
I made my way to his room, peeping in before entering. The sound of laboured breathing reassured me funnily enough. Treading carefully I crept up to his bed, looking down at the frail boy beneath the cream coloured fabric. His dark brown hair splayed out messily, like dark tendrils spreading against the innocent white pillows. Flushed cheeks stood out against the pale complexion, a sign of the fever spreading. Sweat glided down the side of his face though he shivered heavily. Dark circles stood out under his sunken eyes. My fingers pried the shadowy locks from his forehead, only cringing slightly at the damp strands. His eyes shot open, dark pools of agony looking straight up at me ... or so I thought. I moved back and he didn’t blink nor move his gaze away from the ceiling. His breathing became heavier, raspy breaths being dragged through taut lips. Everything looked so dead within him. He was so small upon the single bed, so frail and thin, almost blending into the covers. Taking a damp cloth from his bedside, I wiped down his feverish skin, trying to cool his aching body to no avail. He groaned in pain, a small whimper coming from his chest as a few tears trickled down from his eyes. I couldn’t stop the tears flooding down my cheeks; I whispered small promises and reassurances that he would get better, my fingers brushing over the heated skin. I leant down to press my lips against his forehead and caught the tears with my fingertips. I would protect my brother, I had to. A few days later my brother died. The fever got so bad, his body silently writhing around in agony. No medication worked, no prayers reached our goddess, and we were alone with the illness with no help. I wanted the pain to go, I wanted to protect him, and like I promised to but ... I couldn’t.
We buried him that day, under the soil of our house. My mother slipped deeper into her state of depression and refused to leave his room. I had spent the day and most of the night by his graveside, reciting stories I had been telling him for years. It felt so natural to be there, even if he had passed away, it felt normal to be by his side. I looked up at the night sky, a harsh breeze whipping my hair into the air before allowing it to fall once more onto my shoulders. The sky looked so beautiful at night. The stars twinkled brightly, dancing across the ebony stage. Graceful as dancers but with the beauty of our Goddess Elysia. The moon hung in the sky like a polished diamond, clear in the murky depths of the night. The tendrils of cold glided up my skin, raising goose bumps everywhere. I closed my eyes, breathing out a wispy fog. Birds of the night sung a low tune, the melody hung in the air, each note sharp and clear. Such beauty that was because of the night, such art that surrounded me, all because of my goddess. Keeping my eyes closed I stood and inhaled deeply. The cold had calmed my nerves and I went back up to check on my mother.
5 years past that event. I was still at home with my mother, helping her overcome the grief she had refused to let go. There is one day that stuck in my mind. Now many that you will meet will say Arborians are peaceful people who love art and romance, but I never seemed to fit that description entirely. I was peaceful, sure. Loved art, of course. Loved romance, maybe. But I wanted to fight, to protect those close to me, so I didn’t lose them, again. I wasn’t strong enough to protect my brother; I wasn’t good enough to have my prayers answered. So I trained. It was one of those days. I was out of the house early in the morning. The sun only just peeking above the mountains in the distance. A copper sword clutched tightly in one hand and clad only in a black shirt and trousers. The metal felt cool and heavy in my hand. I inhaled deeply, aware of the rabbits that frolicked through the damp fields so early in the morning. A few years back I had made my own training dummy. It stood in the middle of the field, pinned into the ground with a thick chunk of wood. All the times I had come here to train, to release the pent up frustration. The dummy itself was made out of a hollow chunk of wood, stuffed with varying materials, from wool to feathers, even some rabbit fur. For a small laugh I had even stuck another piece of wood on top, to act as the head. I spent hours taking small chunks out of the wood and today was going to be no different, or so I thought. Launching forward, I drew my sword upon the wood, grunting with effort as the metal stuck. Arms straining, I pushed down, marring the scarred material. Finally my blade exited via the crotch area, spraying the floor with wool and a few blue tinged feathers. Again I attacked the brittle wood, canyons being engraved into the humanoid dummy. The wood creak with each blow before a large CRACK startled the nearby birds, sending them into a flurry of panic. The contents of the dummy spilled onto the jade grass which glistened different shades of green. Each drop of dew, shining like a jewel in the sun. My ears twitched as something rustled in the grass. I spotted the unknown being, crouched in the long grass, its white ears turning towards me as I walked forward. Its beady black eyes widened and it fled, dashing through the grass, scattering the other animals in varying directions but I kept my eyes on the first rabbit. My feet too glided across the land, the sword slightly behind me as I kept my arms in, not wishing to feel anymore drag on my body. The creature took a sharp left, dodging obstacles expertly. Not to be outmatched I too weaved across the land, gaining on the innocent mammal. I raised my right hand, sword ready to hit its mark. The metal sliced through the air, a metallic whistle breaking the natural silence, embedding itself in the rabbits hide, cleanly cutting through the thick fur and muscle. I stopped, not wishing to expel anymore energy than needed. The rabbit would soon collapse through pain. My eyes followed the small beast as it jumped through the emerald grass, staining each green blade in its life essence. I didn’t have to wait long, the rabbit did collapse, and died through blood loss, its eyes wide with fright as its final moments became too painful for the creature to carry on. Its small warm body lay unmoving upon the ground. Throwing the body over my shoulder I slowly walked back to the house, unaware of the events that were happening there.
I made my way home, the sun coating my body in a layer of warmth. I wriggled my fingers, feeling the heat circulating round my body. Softly I sighed; mornings were so quiet in my home. People were only just stirring as the sun cascaded through their windows. Everything just seemed so peaceful. A noise vibrated through the air, a scream so loud it sent the birds rapidly flying away to seek sanctuary somewhere else. I dashed in, praying to my goddess it wasn’t what I thought. Dropping the dead carcass by the kitchen, I clambered up the stairs, forcing my mother’s bedroom door open.
There she sat, her pale blue dress stained in the carnage that I remember seeing 9 years ago. A pool of blood surrounded her frail body. I stood there, frozen in horror at the sight of my mother cradling a small object to her chest, sobbing heavily. My vocal cords remained tight as I took slow steps towards the hysteric woman. She cried louder, the blood climbing up the fabric of her dress and staining the tan skin underneath. The cloth stuck to her body, highlighting the fact she was underweight. I crouched near my mother, hand soft on her bony shoulder. Her face was a mess, the scars beamed red, as they always did when she had been crying. Tears glided down the rough skin, travelling down the ravines that lined her face. She used to have such bright brown eyes but now they were empty, dull, and almost unseeing. Her face was sallow and sunken. Once beautiful curly brown hair lay limp on her shoulders, wiry and tangled in a mess. I called out to her, but did not receive a response. Moving my hands, I grabbed the lump of flesh she cradled close to her body. She screamed once more, unaware that it was me that removed the dead child from her grasp. This was the third miscarriage. Each time she gave birth too early, grasping at the dead body, willing it to live, so sure that the child would breathe. But the body did not stir. I looked down at the bloody mess that lay limp in my hands. The foetus that was supposed to have been my baby brother or sister, just a mass of flesh and blood. Biting back tears I made my way down to the mini grave site outside our house, trying to ignore my mother’s desperate pleas to have her child back.
I buried the child before cooking the rabbit I had caught earlier. Whilst the cooking pot bubbled boiled, preparing the tender meat. I scrubbed at the blood stained floor. Old rags dripped diluted crimson essence back onto the wood as I ringed out the fabric into an iron bucket. My arms burned with effort as I scrubbed harder, palms going a pale pink colour. My mother had scurried off to the corner of the room, crying and whimpering at the loss of her child. Blood had blossomed on her gown, creeping up on the skin underneath, tainting her fair skin in sin. I sighed heavily, throwing the rag into the iron bucket and leaving the room. This was the fourth premature birth … the third stillborn. I walked to the kitchen, fighting off the tears that threatened to fall down my cheeks.
I worked mechanically, tearing the meat off the bone, fingers working deftly. Weaving strips of flesh between toughened tendons and the stringy ligaments. Brown blood clung to my fingertips making work hard as the meat slipped and dodged between my fingertips. I threw the meat into a chipped clay bowl and went over to the make shift sink. It was nothing big, just another bucket of water to dip our hands into and throw out of the window when it became impossible to see the rusted bottom. I marvelled at the feeling of the warm water lacing between my thin fingers, droplets remaining on my skin, like dew on the leaves of trees early in the morning. Drying my hands on my trousers I began working on the mushrooms that I had picked the day before. The knife sliced cleanly through the fungi, making quick work of its delicate skin. The slices flew through the air and into the cooking pot with a wet PLOP before I started work gutting the fish. The knife carved up the fish, separating the scales from the meat beneath. Inwards I cut, trying to blank out the sight of the animals internal organs splashing onto my blade. I delved deeper, gagging as the putrid scent curdled my stomach. The intestines wrapped around the sharp metal, getting uncomfortably close to my fingers, like tendrils of carnage aggressively creeping up to me. I scraped the last traces of the organs out of the fish before slamming the knife down below its gills, severing the head. The dead eye looked up at me, accusing me of sin. My fingers began removing the bones as I chuckled; it wasn’t a sin to kill for food now was it?
After all the food was prepared I set it out on our rickety table, frowning as the old wood creaked with use. I shouted, calling my mother down from her hiding place in her room. Closing my eyes I tried to listen for the footsteps on the newly cleaned wood. Silence. I called out once more. Silence. Deciding I had waited long enough I climbed up the stairs, banging on the door harshly. I shouted for her again, placing my hand on the handle of the door. A violent tremor shot up my spine as my fingers pressed down on the cool metal. The door slid open and speech became impossible.
There she was, my mother, glowing in the morning light. The sun bounded off her fair white skin, looking so angelic, so peaceful. If it wasn’t for the rope that seized her neck, I would have thought she was an angel. Her head was tilted down, shadowing half of her face. Red pooled beneath her feet, like a puddle of red paint. Droplets had strayed from the scarlet lake. Drip. Drip. Drip. Horror took a hold of my body as I took in the picture before me. A knife had been thrown across the room, dipped in ruby ink, a chair, on its side, lay dormant under her. On closer inspection, the blood had travelled up the shallow chasms of the wooden floor. I panicked, trying my best to swallow the lump in my throat. Hesitating slightly, I flew to the body’s side. Tears made my vision blurry as I attempted to stand the chair upright. It took a few attempts, but I was able to get it standing and I too stood upon the warm wood of the chair. Focusing on the rope, I tried to calm myself enough to be able to untie the noose which clung to her neck, stealing her last breath. Manoeuvring her body, I rested her head on my shoulder; one hand curled around her thin waist and slowly removed the last bit of the knot. She was thin, her ribs threatening to break through her thin flesh. The skin on her face and neck was so pale, as the blood had drained from her upper body, settling in her feet, turning the vessels dark. Warm. She was still warm in my arms as I slowly stepped down from the chair, cradling her light figure close to me. Resting her body on the floor, I glanced over the body before me. Eyes bulging wide open as the rope had suffocated her, stealing her right to another breath, once smiling lips, bitten and torn, dotted with blood. My fingers drifted over the warm carcass, stopping dead at the new wounds upon her wrists. Red dripped slowly from the lacerations that decorated her wrists and forearms. They were so deep, like valleys of pain engraved into her lifeless body permanently. I moved, holding her cooling hand gently in my own warm hand. My other hand drifted from her cheek, down her neck, which was marred with superficial cuts and over her shoulder. More gashes littered her body, soaking the floor in her life essence. I leaned down, pressing my cheek against her unmoving chest, tears soaking the ragged material that was her t-shirt. I shook as I sobbed, clinging to the body as regret tore through my body. I should have been there for her; I shouldn’t have left her alone. She was my mother, my friend, the one who gave me life and then took her own. Rising slowly, I ran, mind already made. I left behind the thoughts of having a happy life, of staying in Sylvalia. I had no one to run to, nowhere to go, no place to call home.
Now I hadn’t fully planned my leave. I had left with my copper sword in one hand and a piece of paper in the other. What was going through my mind? I would say nothing, that my mind was blank, empty, emotionless … dead in a sort of way. All I felt was the need to be free, away from the memories that now haunted that house. I wanted to roam, find a new home, try to find someone … to protect, to help. So I ran westward in hope to find more fortune with luck. I had never stepped out of Sylvalia and why would I? At home I was comfortable, knew everyone I needed to and I couldn’t get lost, even amongst the masses of leaves and vegetation, I was able to find my way through. Outside though … It was so much different.
I had been on the move for a few days, each day alone my mood worsened and my pace slowed. Hunger had begun to set in early on, my stomach growling so loud it gave away my position when hunting. After the seventh day of minimal nourishment, my actions became groggy, un-coordinated, and sloppy. My stomach caused shooting pains around my body, rendering me helpless for hours on end. When night fell it got worst. It became hard to protect myself from the horrors of the darkness, difficult to fend off a hoard of un-dead creatures. The scent of rotting flesh knocked me back on numerous occasions and almost cost me my life. This was hard compared to my previous training and its how I learned to defend myself.
It wasn’t long before I resorted to thievery, stealing small amounts of food from travellers, often getting backhanded or cut up when getting caught. No one pitied the nobody, did they? There was this one time I stole from the wrong person … it was the last time I stole too. I don’t remember much before taking the food; my mind was foggy from starvation and footsteps clumsy. Though I think I can retell what happened afterwards … I think.
Bleary eyed I woke, my head sore from colliding harshly with the floor. Dust was thrown into the air, swirling around my face, threatening to suffocate me. I inhaled deeply, choking on the dust particles that rampaged down my throat. My body bolted upright, fingers gripping tightly around my throat as I willed myself not to cough. Tears dripped steadily onto the sandy floor, patches of dark mud spreading slowly into sight, blooming across the floor. I choked, desperately trying to cling onto the little oxygen that flowed thinly through my mouth. My wheezing ceased as I was able to find purchase on more air. When my coughing fit had ended, I looked up, urgently trying take in my surroundings. Trees. Lots of tree’s standing proudly in the glaring sun. Their jade green leaves shimmering in the golden light. A few leaves dropped from their home, twisting and dancing in the soft breeze which carried them away to faraway lands. I watched in awe, deep brown eyes focused on the floating foliage. Such grace they had as they danced with Mother Nature. A noise sounded to my ears, such a sweet melody to go with an elegant choreographed dance. Birds. Birds sung, all in tune, creating a masterpiece that would make any great composer jealous. I watched as their chests heaved with might, their vocal cords straining with effort. Tiny hearts fluttering in the small bird’s ribcage as the song drew to a climax. A shot fired off, a loud BOOM in contrast to such a serene serenade. Away they flew, wings beating as fast as they could to escape the loud noise. The music was gone.
The only thing left was the echo of the gun shot. I looked left, noticing the two strangers, speaking in a hushed tone. They were conferring between them, their mouths moving swiftly as words tumbled from their lips. I opened my mouth, trying to speak up but only managing a harsh mewl and a few strained coughs. They looked at me, their eyes dark and unforgiving. One of them was tall, his ebony hair lying heavily over his dark skin. He flipped his hair out of his eyes, glaring at me. The other one came over to me, a fierce snarl plastered across his face. I shuffled back, my fingers trying to find purchase on something but I was met with dirt and grass. His hands clasped my ankles and held firm, his accomplice slowly trudging over to me. Panic rose in my body, freezing my muscles in place. I opened my mouth, to scream but a harsh material collided with my head once more. Onto my side I fell, eyes once more blurry and a searing pain shooting round my skull. I cried, trying to raise my knees to my chest but the other held strongly onto my ankles, keeping them straight. Colours flashed in front of my eyes, melding together to form a white orb in my vision. Something hit the back of my skull, a brief moan of pain escaped from my lips before my eyelids closed, blocking out the daytime around me. Darkness enveloped me as my body left the floor.
I don’t know how long I was out for but I remember opening my eyes and being met with darkness. The men were gone, no traces of them anymore. I raised my hand, feeling round the back of my skull, noting that it was heavily crusted in a substance. Blood maybe? Prodding it gently, pain flared throughout my head forcing a pathetic scream to pass through my lips. I blinked back the tears and my hand dropped. With no energy left all I could do is lie on the cool floor. I don’t know how long I was there for, I don’t even know if I was conscious or not but a small light came from the far corner of the room. A small light, maybe the flame of a candle? The floor gave a metallic gleam as the light got closer and I held my breath, trying to remain still. I couldn’t see the person holding the candle, or see anything that could have identified where I was. I truly was petrified. The footsteps got closer, louder, vibrating throughout the room. I reached out, for help and my hand was met with an iron bar. Eyes widening; I recoiled, trying to put as much space between the candle and myself. I wasn’t saved, no, just captured. My body scraped across the floor until I hit the back, bars pressing against my skin, the glacial metal soothing my heated flesh. I winced at the temperature change. The figure put the candle near the bars, the light bouncing off the metal and over its clothing. It didn’t speak, only shuffled round the room, moving objects around. My eyes focused on the glimmer of the flame, watching the wispy smoke, dance and disappear. Red embers swirled round the wick, giving off only a hint of heat in the frigid area. I shivered, goose bumps rising on my bare skin. I closed my eyes, unable to keep them open much longer, curling up into a foetal position, trying to block out the world.
The next thing I remember is screaming in agony. Blistering hot pain shot through my arm and I struggled to get free, unable to move my arms. Eyes shooting open; I tried to identify the reason for my confinement. Chains wrapped around my arms, binding them to the wall behind me. The cool kiss of the metal also wrapped around my legs, snaking around my waist, gripping tightly round my body. The pain flared in my arm again and another scream tore through my body. It felt as if my arm was being pressed against a hot stoker, burning me to the bone. The pain … really was unbearable. I looked at my arm once more, trying to get a better look at the damage. Bile rose up in my stomach as my eyes caught the sight of my skin, slowly melting off my arm, dripping onto the floor beneath. The scent of burning flesh filled the room, invading my senses and finally, my stomach contents exited, flowing steadily down my frame. Closing my eyes, a small whimper built up in my throat. Where was I? Why were they doing this? Who are they? The fire in my arm was finally put out when the being before me doused my body in murky water. The only light radiated from the one small candle, so I could not make out if the person was a he or a she. They didn’t speak; movements so precise, almost as if everything was calculated. I watched through teary eyes, grimacing at the smouldering pain that invaded my arm. My gaze moved once more to my arm, noting that the flesh had once more hardened to its original state. The wound itself looked messy, blood clinging to the pale flesh before finally releasing its grip and trickling to the darkness below me with a muffled splash. I heard the person mutter on about fireblossom, how maybe they shouldn’t have added it in. The being came closer to me, the candle casting a menacing shadow. A vial glimmered faintly in the dim light. The container got closer and closer to me, the rosy coloured liquid spilling over my wound, sending a spiral of panic throughout my system. The burn in my arm got hotter as the liquid slowly sunk into the new indent in my once flawless skin. I screamed, vocal cords straining with effort. Someone had to hear me. Someone had to free me. Then … well I passed out …
Coming round the second time in that position, wasn’t quite as nice. A pain coursed through my skull, sending spikes of discomfort down my neck and up to my aching arms. The burning pain had disappeared within my arm, and was replaced with a cool sensation. I tried to search for the injury but my arm was perfectly smooth once more, almost as if the cells within my arm had … regenerated. But that was impossible right? The figure came out of the inky darkness once more, another bottle in its hand filled with a golden liquid which gave off a slight light. The fluid swirled around in the glass bottle, seeming as if the creator had captured the sun itself in the flask. Within seconds it threw the liquefied sun rays at me, the concoction drenching my ragged frame. I squeezed my eyes shut, waiting for the pain to dose my being. When the agony didn’t come, I opened my eyes, looking down at my body. Nothing. The person in front of me scowled; their voice too quiet to pick up. They turned round, picking up a copy of the last vial. Before I could object; its hand was around my mouth, three fingers digging into my left cheek and its thumb, into my right cheek, pressing the two together. Forcing my mouth open, the contents of the bottle emptied between my dry lips, lathering my tongue in the golden solution. Tears dripped from my eyes onto its gloved fingers as the mixture dampened my mouth. Glass shattered against a wall as the person panicked to cover my mouth and nose, not allowing the contents to spill out. They seethed at me, a masculine voice growling in my ear, sending shivers down my spine. Swallow. I did as commanded, allowing the gloopy mixture to slither down my throat. The taste … wasn’t actually the worst I had come across. It was rather floral, nature filling up my senses, sending me back to my childhood years. Warmth bubbled up from my stomach, sending energy throughout my body, an overwhelming sense of power radiating from me. The room grew lighter, as if the sun was rising in the limited space. I smiled as the warmth lingered in my cells, revitalising my entire being. Looked around, trying to find the source of the new found light, but my gaze ended up landing upon my own skin, which gave off such radiance it stunned me. The warmth did not stay long, as soon withered away, leaving me feeling empty and alone, the darkness blanketing me in a shroud of isolation.
The person left me alone for a while after forcing the liquid down my throat, coming in only to feed miniscule amounts of food to me. Being alone isn’t fun, so much time to think. So much time to wish for something better … something different. Time passed slowly, the candle eventually flickering out of existence and with it, the last shred of hope died. Over time I figured out I was a test subject, the person only wanting to find out what effects each concoction caused. The experiments became brutal, my body barely coping with the stress of each day that came forward. One sticks to mind all too well.
Unable to distinguish between day and night I began basing the time, on when food was delivered, today was …. The 16th serving of food … He came in like he usually did, slamming the door behind him. The noise pulsated through the air, hurting my ears and bringing back the faintest sliver of the headache that I had become accustomed to. His footsteps were loud, was he angry? In one hand, he held the fabled candle, the only source of light in my life and in the other hand he held a small object. It shined with a metallic sheen, the metal being thin and small. It was a key. To freedom? Was I being let out? My hope raised dramatically, legs shaking slightly through impatience. My body was already wearing thin, a mirror image of my mother before … I shook my head, a smile slowly growing on my face. He got closer, the key slotting into the small hole in the cuffs that encased my wrists. I dropped to the floor when the last cuff was unlocked, the key sliding into one of his hidden pockets, my knees grazing the ground. Shivering slightly, his hand locked into my hair, dragging me towards the door. Stumbling unsteadily, I cried out for help, the pain in my scalp getting bigger as he yanked harder. My hands flew to his, trying to pull at his fingers but his grip remained, tightening harshly, throwing me out of the door.
Moving my arms to cover my face, I landed on the floor, scraping against what seemed to be sharp rock. I felt the sudden warmth of blood running thinly down my skin and I groaned quietly at the pain. Again his fingers twined round my brown hair, pulling, twisting, curling into my scalp, yanking, dragging me to my feet, laughing at how I wavered with little energy. Tears raced down my cheeks as my knees caved inwards, gently touching each other. He whispered in my ear once more, his voice dragging out small whimpers from my body. Look. I did. The room itself was nothing spectacular, though it was a lot brighter than my previous confinement. In front of me lay a trough, filled to the brim with murky water, my reflection contorted into a mess of flesh. Down. Down on my knees I got, head hovering over the expanse of water that lay before me. Wrenching my hair down with one hand, he emptied the contents of another vial into my mouth. The clear gunk-like liquid forced its way down my throat, before making its home in my unwilling stomach. I gagged, choked, willing myself not to throw up before my head was shoved into the water.
The shock … was unreal. My hands flew to the edges of the trough, pushing, trying to get my head above the water. Body thrashed violently as panic coursed through my system, adrenaline sprinting through my veins. Brown eyes bulged as the murky liquid streamed down my throat, joining the harsh liquid in my stomach and filling up my burning lungs. My legs kicked out, trying to find purchase on anything, to kick my attacker to no avail. His hand remained persistent on my head, pushing me further and further. Bubbles clouded my vision as my lungs burned hotter and hotter. I couldn’t fight it, I was going to die. Limbs going limp, my arms and legs gave out, collapsing completely. My mind grew foggy, my body heavy, darkness circling, pulling me under. Further. Further I fell. Unable to scream. Unable to move. I was dying.
That’s where my fear of water came from. They had been testing out a potion, hoping it would allow their troops to breathe underwater but it turned out to be wrong. When the alchemist noticed I was no longer breathing he had hauled me out and brought me back with a shot of adrenaline and repeated compresses to my heart. I could quite happily say it was the closest I had ever been to losing my life forever. For a few days, the alchemist kept me in a warmer bunker as I battled through shock and fear. My body trembled heavily as the slightest noise made me panic and run to the furthest corner. It wasn’t long before he chained me back in the room, experimenting, testing burning my body. My throat grew weary from the screaming, my body numb to the pain. I grew accustomed to watching my skin melt off the bone, gathering in small piles on the floor, burning, and the sound of meat sizzling and cracking becoming a common sound. I grew used to throwing up down my body, watching as the acid slowly ate at my clothes and grazed my skin. The thick substance gliding down my legs, chunks floating upon my skin. Some potions even made blisters grow on my arms and legs, pulsating with thick cream-like pus, getting ready to explode, and when they did, they showered everything and anything in the putrid and pungent liquid. This was the life I was to live. An animal, a subject, nothing more … nothing less.
I did manage to escape … of course you know this … or how else would I be able to tell you my tale? It was a normal day, like any other. A new potion came through the door, glowing a violent red colour. The stench it gave off knocked me sick. The scent of rotting flesh and old blood invaded my nostrils, circling round my stomach and squeezing tight. Up came bile. The alchemist laughed, watched as I coughed and spluttered on the acid that exited my mouth. Called me pathetic as I spat at him. At arm’s length he held the container, as if he was afraid it was going to damage him in some way. Gritting my teeth, I braced myself for the pain that was going to come, and surely enough, it did. He poured the acidic substance from my wrist to my shoulder, watching as it bubbled and boiled, pustules exploding, like a volcano erupting. The boils threw out more acid, spreading the pain like a disease, eating away at my body. Another ulcer exploded, throwing acid over one of the shackles that bound me. The person laughed, turning around to hide the sadistic smile that developed through my torment. The acid slowly began to burn through the metal as more acid from my body was tossed into the air, a few droplets, if lucky, landing on the metal. The fire that burned across my skin was finally put out when he threw a bucket of water over me, my flesh hardening on impact. An almost inaudible sigh passed through my dry lips as he poured the regeneration potion over my skin. The feeling of your cells knitting back together … is a very strange one. At first … it’s painful, highly so, but I was thankful for the potion … it helped speed up my recovery. The acid continued to corrode the metal slowly even as the being left me.
I don’t know how long I was there; moving my ankles and wrists, trying to break free, grating the metal together … but I finally did it. Collapsing to the floor once more, I searched around, crawling on my hands and knees towards the candle light. My fingers gently gripped round the golden candle holder, carefully holding the candle as if it was my life line. A smile slowly crept up on my face. I was going to be free, away, able to run back home. I laughed, chuckled almost jeered until I heard the footsteps. Closer he got to the door, my heart beat faster, racing in my chest. I panicked, shuffling back, trying to press my back against the wall, the candle close to my body. The heat. The heat that came from the candle only offered the smallest amount of comfort as chills ran up and down my spine. I was in trouble, I was going to get killed for this but I had to get free, I got this far I had to get out. The handle pushed down and took a deep breath, blowing out the candle that offered me the only sense of hope.
Things happened rapidly after this. I was able to hear where he was because of the heavy boots he liked to parade round in, and found it quite easy to trip him up as he made his way to where the candle used to be. A small glass vial rolled across the floor, making a small TINK noise as it collided with the wall. Once on his stomach, I perched myself on his back, one kneecap pressing harshly into the back of his neck. He struggled much like I did when being drowned. He shouted at me to get off, to stop such nuisance but I stayed there, one hand clasping the golden candle holder tightly. His right arm waved out, reaching to grab me, so I grabbed his arm, pulling it back. I watched in awe as his shoulder rotated before stopping suddenly. Grunting with displeasure I tugged harder, listening to the melody of his screams and the chorus of the bones grinding in his arm before SNAP! His arm flopped uselessly as he cried and sobbed; his shoulder blade no longer in prime condition any longer. The euphoria of the situation sent me on a high. I felt no pain, no sadness or anger. I was on top. He twisted and writhed, growling between choked tears, his left hand catching my calf. In a flurry of panic I raised the candle holder, bringing the thick metal down on his skull. Crack. Crack. Crack. Each hit made his grip weaker before finally he let go, consciousness slipping away from him. Crack. Crack. Crack. A thick wet liquid flowed from the back of his skull over to my knee, his body limp, unmoving, unfeeling. Continuously I brought down the gold until, SMASH. I broke through, the candle holder meeting a wet soft tissue. Curious to my findings in the dark, I felt around, my fingers gently probing the wet bloody tissue that spilled out of the bone prison. Smiling softly I dug my fingers in, ragged nails digging into the organ before yanking outwards, sending the mush flying through the pitch black room. Now you may call me sadistic after that … but would you do any different?
Getting free from the area was easy; I removed the white jacket the alchemist was wearing, filling the pockets with any food I could find around the small building. By chance I stumbled across an open dormitory and within it, I found a silver sword and a small glass of red liquid, both of which I took and then, I ran, not stopping for anyone. Gunshots sounded in the background as I weaved and dodged through a variety of people. Bullets skimming past my head and arms, leaving faint burns as they whizzed through the air, burying themselves in bark and dirt. Numerous times I fell, knees grating across the floor, bleeding for only a second. The sword felt heavy in my hand, often grinding across the floor before being raised off the ground a few centimetres. Sparks flying as the metal gyrated against rocks. Another shot was fired, the bullet slicing cleanly through the air before embedding itself in my shoulder. The force of the shot sent me flying forward, face first into the dirt. Blood slowly tricked down my back, staining the innocent colour in sin. I had to keep moving, I had to escape. Adrenaline surged through my body as I crawled onto my knees, using the sword to prop up my upper body. I could hear them, their voices breaking through the perfection that was Mother Nature. Their screams destroying the natural symphony. Inhaling deeply, I ran.
It wasn’t long before I entered my home city. The tree’s swaying lightly in the soft zephyr as the sun began to set. It had taken me days … day and night I ran, sword carving through men and the un-dead. Slicing apart roaming eyes, watching as they rained down upon me. The food didn’t last long, and the final three days were accomplished through sheer stubbornness to be caught or die. I don’t know how I did it … I was one person. The feat I accomplished was … impossible … I ran away, got captured and killed my captor … Shock finally set in with my deeds and I collapsed, unaware I was under my home.
I was found, curled up on the grass half dead. The amount of blood I had lost was … well … it had scared the nurse. I lay on my side as she prised the metal ball out of my body, her fingers working smoothly as she navigated through the mass of destroyed muscle and chipped bone. Her voice was just as I remembered it, so smooth, so calm as she grabbed her sterilised needle and punctured the burnt skin. In. Out. In. Out. The thread slowly pulled the flesh together to heal before she wrapped a bandage round my chest and back. She told me news on how they had found my mother when I had ran away. My sudden disappearance raising alarm bells in the area. She was buried next to all her children … and they had even said a prayer for me … in case I never made it back. Departing the makeshift hospital, I too went to the gravesite, telling my tale to my mother and my brothers and sisters. I spoke of how much I missed them, each day passing becoming harder to deal with. I knew I couldn’t stay in Sylvalia, the memories were … too painful to say the least so I walked away. The moon acting as my candle I walked east. A silent prayer to my goddess and a smile on my face I headed out; surprised to find myself upon the doorstep of Hjalhelm.
And that’s why I’m here” She spoke softly, unable to stop the soft smile from spreading on her face. “I have nowhere else to go … and maybe if I do not find someone I wish to protect then … I will leave, find somewhere else to call home, but for now, please allow me to stay. I also … want to find my father … just so I can tell him … that my mother is dead …” She sat down, her fair skin blending in with the soft snow upon the hills, her eyes as dark as the night, contrasting against such purity. Dark brown locks framed her young face. “Please?”
Vanya now lives in Hjalhelm alongside Valathorn. She works as his assistant, working in the craftsman shop. Her earliest memories of Valathorn are blurry and almost dream-like. Him picking her off the cold hard ground, her body fighting off fits of sleep and hunger, dirt clinging to her being. Upon saving her life, she dedicated her time and effort into working for him, hoping one day she could too return the favour. Not much is known about Vanya's mental health, only that she is often quiet and secretive. She tries to keep away from her past and battles through fear of what could happen.