Cursed by the old ways.
Damned by foolish whims of dead or eternally wishing to die…
Imra tried to ignore the distortion which crept within her mind.
Tried, and failed.
Her tribe had struck a most foolish pact, and now she paid for it.
Distantly she could feel the sights and smells. First heat and then, then of dust, then cloth… but it was the voice which truly distressed her.
The demon, which haunted her mind, speaking in a language that was not her own.
“Bound… by… blood.” Imra let the unfamiliar sounds reach the air in front of her.
She could comprehend, if only just.
It was not her people’s tongue, she had just spoken. Neither was it that of those who lived beneath the Great Forest, or even of the Cursed Blood’s language. At least, not those she knew of. What was more, is that they were just a few of many.
The first she felt which held some true significance, hidden the storm of thousands. Words that crashed down in her mind with gales fierce enough to send Imra’s own thoughts into disarray. Leaving her to understand nothing.
But… that was changing.
“Bound.” Imra felt along the sound of it, cautiously.
It was not familiar, and yet it was.
Somehow, she knew what it meant, but only while she spoke the word aloud. For just that instant, she could hold onto the meaning.
Nothing more, nothing less.
Imra stopped, as words were turned to images.
In her nose, on her tongue, she could taste the scent of fire and ash.
Smoke, so thick it blinded her.
Yet, looking around, there was nothing.
Motionless, Imra had let the day slowly pass her by, as she prayed for the Great One’s return. She had started no fire, nor was there anything to burn- less she go and end the tree which sheltered her.
But, in her nose: she could smell flames.
On her skin, she could feel burning, and pain.
… but not her pain.
It could not be.
She felt a rush: of power, enough to wipe all that pain away.
She felt that power smash back down and bring a different kind of suffering.
One that lingered.
That fed and grew…
It was gone.
As suddenly as she had found it, the sensation was lost.
She was simply waiting, as she had been. Patiently, beneath the lonely tree, where there was no fire. No pain. Not flames on her skin.
All that, had been replaced once more by an uneasy peace.
Frowning, Imra considered this.
Why was that?
Rising, slowly, she pulled herself towards the entrance of the hollow. Peering out into the hot sun of afternoon.
The sun was blinding.
Staring towards the distance, the air shimmered and glowed… but, was there something more?
Billow of ashen gray, cutting into the uninterrupted expanse of dry blue sky…
Real, or illusion?
From where she was, Imra wasn’t sure.
Conserving her strength, she moved back beneath the tree, settling in against the roots. Imra settled the beating in her chest, and let her mind run itself empty once more.
Empty, but for that strange word.
“Bound.” Imra repeated. “Bound.”
By the time the Great One returned, slithering back among the roots and join her in the shade, Imra could almost remember what it meant.