Brought To Light
[23:35] At some point not too long ago, he had felt some degree of shame and regret. Not too long ago, the emotions had kept pace with the pain. Not too long ago, there had been a knot in his chest that stubbornly sought to be just as vile as the pain lodged in his lungs.
But his feelings about his failure to spot the trap's teeth had faltered somewhere along the way and either gotten lost or become extinguished. Now, each time Gehki thought the pain could not possibly get any worse, another tide rolled in, constricting his breath, spattering ghostly images into his blindness, granting his feverish mind fleeting impressions with no worldly interpretation. It did not feel like he was drawing in any air – instead, he was suspended in flames and it was those same flames that every breath he took invited into his lungs.
He knew he had to be quiet. He knew he couldn't give into the luxury of screaming, or even of whimpering like a fledgling. He couldn't permit himself to thrash, to claw at his chest, or give in to any of the other urges the toxin sought to squeeze out of him. But with his world made of pain, he had no grasp if he'd done any of these things already.
[23:59] At least some of the others had found him. At least he'd managed to communicate the danger to them — or he thought he had. He still wasn't sure that hadn't been a hallucination, that it wasn't the toxin playing tricks on his mind. But they'd left him alone, the way they were supposed to. At least they hadn't brought him back.
Another wave of pain crashed into his chest, and his thoughts went up in flames. He gasped for air — no, no, no, too much noise, he had to be quiet, had to stay hidden. He had to stay still. He had to stay silent. Ghostly shapes, half-kavkem and half-not, wandered through his unfocused vision, searching for him. Prowling, hunting. They'd find him and they'd call out to their masters. He was halfway tempted to beg one for a swift death, to free him from the crushing pain, but doing so was useless at best and actively harmful at worst.
[00:17] His breath nearly drew in a fern's leaf that lay across his muzzle. The world around him was no doubt bathed in light by now, the sounds of the day – all but his own – oddly crisp to his perception, surreal in their clarity, as though some deity had decided that it was right for all that was even subtly audible to measure up to Gehki's pain. Somewhere in the distance, some creature was giving a hollow series of bellows that seemed to emulate a growl, perhaps solving some territorial dispute amongst prey. Smaller critters chittered in the trees at the very edge of even his lucid perception. And something moved nearby – heavy-footed, in clear disregard for drawing attention to itself, albeit without actively seeking that attention. It was a slow stride, casual and in a sense cautious, angled toward him without any haste.
[00:51] So long as he stayed hidden, he would be safe. So long as he stayed silent, no one would find him. The few times he could string together a coherent thought, it sounded something like that. He'd lost all track of time — but from what he could tell it was morning again. How much of his hallucinations came from the drug, and how much from lack of sleep, was hard to say.
It was tempting to think things could not get worse, but every time he had thought that so far, the pain had gotten worse. Just as he was thinking about how he shouldn't think things couldn't get worse, though, the sound of footsteps found its way to him. Heavy footsteps, heavier than most of the creatures who lived up in the mountains. And heading towards him.
Panic joined with the pain in his chest, crushing all the air out. His eyes squeezed shut. No. Please. Anything but this. He must have made some noise without realizing it, must have drawn attention to himself. Maybe he could still avoid notice, maybe he hadn't really been spotted.... It was a foolish, naive hope. He couldn't flee, not in his state, and he'd probably just run blindly into another trap. Then another wave of pain came, jumbled up with all the panic and fear, and before he could stop it, a groan twisted itself out of his throat, fading into a soft, papery whimper.
[01:11] The footfall stopped behind him, accompanied by a breath that was not his own, its owner firmly veiled in the darkness of his blindness. No element of Gehki's affliction manifested as paralysis – he could try to fight or scramble out of reach, assuming he found the presence of mind to do so. The invisible enemy hovered over him, possibly leaning across him cautiously. A deep bellow rang from the creature, taking a moment for Gehki to parse as Naya: "<It's over here.>" At a greater distance, a second pair of feet whispered an acknowledgement through the underbrush, subtle sounds. And then something brushed against his shoulder in a sweeping motion, pushing much of his cover aside.
[22:00@bnc] They'd found him. Until he'd heard it speak, there was still some hope it was something else, a large prey animal perhaps (though he knew of no such creature that would roam the mountains). But no — even in his blind state, he knew it was a Nayabaru. ...Or was it a cruel hallucination, brought on by the poison? He didn't think Serrata poisoned the hearing, but he only knew of its nature from stories.
But the brush of foreign fingers against his shoulder removed all doubt. He had to do something, he couldn't let them take him; he was too weak to flee but maybe, with luck...
In a flash of desperate motion, Gehki twisted under the touch of the Nayabaru, jaws snapping at the giant's fingers. He tried to roll onto his back, hoping to get lucky with a kick, maybe even sink his toe-claw into its hide. If he was going to go like this, he'd at least try to make his captors' life difficult.
[23:19] A bellow half of alarm, half of resentment filled the air. Gehki's teeth grazed the knuckles of the retreating hand – then that same hand swept down and struck against his muzzle in a backhand, knocking it against the ground with more force than strictly necessary, the impact ringing through his skull. Fingers pressed against the side of his face, pinning his head down. One of his feet kicked at air, one toe catching against something so briefly that it may have been imaginary; the other foot clawed only at the stray foliage it had dislodged in his initial motion, launching debris into the air. Something crashed through the underbrush, stopping not far away, and the other hand of the Nayabaru looming over him smacked against his thigh, thumbspike dragging painfully through his feathers, tearing the one or other from its hold and leaving a shallow cut in its wake. The creature's fingers tried and failed to lock around his knee or shin.
[23:53] Gehki writhed under the Nayabaru's grip, painfully gasping for breath — his exertion would be short-lived given the fire already burning in his muscles, but he'd at least try to make it count for something. The pain of the thumbspike dragging through his feathers registered, but against the backdrop of panicked adrenaline and in comparison to the pain in his lungs, it seemed relatively insignificant. Forearms shot up to scratch at the arm pinning his face down. One leg flailed to escape the Nayabaru's fingers as the other sought to dig its claw into the offending arm.
Of course, the second Nayabaru would be here soon, and there would be little he could do then. One desperate kavkem against a lone Nayabaru might stand a chance, but against two it was hopeless. If he had the mental wherewithal to process it, he'd probably muse about how harming this one probably wouldn't do him any favors. But the alternative — rolling over and accepting a life of yria without a fight — was too horrifying to contemplate, even if he were in a position to do so right now.
[00:29] The creature above him barely seems frightened, perhaps too lucid of his blindness, too lucid of the mind-numbing agony distoring his thoughts. It does let go, enough for him to potentially try snapping at its fingers again, but it shifts and the arm that had tried to deal with his leg knocks first against his left arm coming in from the shoulder, then against his right, sweeping his limbs down – but only for an instant.
An instant is all that's needed. A sudden sensation like the punch with a single knuckle strikes at his neck, coalescing into an oddly sharp sensation for a drawn out instant. Then the feeling frays, lost amongst the fistful of nails rattling in his lungs, stabbing up against his ribs from the inside. His limbs continue to reach for the invisible enemy, but he's suddenly alone, granted contact only with a ground that his perception was unsure was 'down'.
[00:30] Regardless where gravity ultimately came from, its beckon surged, brimming with a new intensity that dragged at his limbs. The nails in his lungs caught against each other, forming an iron knot, claiming his breath. As though his limbs were driven by gears directly dependent on the flawless functioning of that central organ, his muscles locked up as the whitehot claws of the pain in his chest lapped up his windpipe as an errant flame. The quality of the darkness that enveloped his perception was changing, more rapidly than mere asphyxiation might predict.
[17:06@bnc] The next few moments are hard to process in his brain-addled state. There was a sting in his neck, then everything started getting tilty. The Nayabaru had vanished somehow, though the sounds of the world suggested it was still there, somewhere. Gehki tried to find it, to attack it again, but his limbs were too heavy. No. The pain in his chest somehow intensified, crushing the breath out of his lungs, winding up his throat, locking up all his muscles. No, not like this, please. Let me go down with a fight.
He couldn't breathe. A hollow darkness, devoid of the comfort of the night sky, closed in on him. Maybe the poison would kill him. That was the best he could hope for now — an awful, terrible, painful death. At least then it would be over soon.
[22:28] And then everything drowned in resin, smothering what was left of the world.
[22:29] Disembodied, a dim kernel of awareness remained. There was an abstract understanding of his blindness and the pain in his chest, but it all seemed very far away, as though he were caught in a dream. A thorn wiggled free – if he thought about it very hard, he might have correctly reasoned that it had previously been lodged in his neck. Distant shifting pressure offered random, disconnected sensory data, too bizarre to analyse while his tools to do so were all absent.
When his body began shaking off the more transient toxin and the bite of Serrata returned to the forefront of his mind, he could smell that he was somewhere else. It was a striking change of scent, laced with far less wood and much more grass.
Past the agony, he was blessed with two clear impressions. One was a new external, crushing pain against his ribcage that made it difficult to breathe — he was, it seemed, still breathing, despite the fire, despite the resin, despite the good sense to die — trapping him between whatever it was and the ground.
[22:30] The other was the Naya.
The thick local accent did nothing to shield him from that, his mind eagerly devouring the phrases, churning out their meaning as if his life depended on them. "<—enough wit to stay away, but if they need additional incentives,>" one of the Nayabaru was rumbling in a voice too deep to sound quite natural to kavkem ears. "<How securely do you think we can string this one up?>"
The pressure relented and something tugged at both of his ankles simultaneously and dragged him a few inches across the grass, making some of his surroundings apparent. "<You can't just leave it unsupervised,>" someone else argued. "<They can climb, you know. If all you do is sling it over a tree, its pack will just pull it back down and then not at all learn its lesson.>"
[23:01] For a while, he thought that perhaps his fervent hopes had been answered, that the world drowning away as he suffocated had meant he was dead. That would have been nice — far too nice for the Nayabaru, so far gone that they were. It wasn't until later that he realized how stupid that thought was — he was still dimly conscious, barely aware of the pain in his lungs, so not dead. Just drugged.
After a while — who knows how long? — the world began to come back, despite his hopes that it wouldn't. There was the smell of grass, different from the earthy smell in the pile of ferns where he'd hid. An intense pressure on his chest, making breathing even harder than it already was. Why was he still breathing? That was a bad idea, his body should know better than to keep clinging to life. There was a deep, unnatural voice, his mind parsing the Naya with difficulty. Stay away? That's all the kavkema ever wanted when it came to Nayabaru. The Nayabaru were the ones who insisted on not staying away from the kavkema, on going out after them just to torment them. If they wanted the kavkema away, they need not bother doing anything but announce their presence.
Gehki tried to make a soft noise of distress as the dragging began, the motion chafing uncomfortably against his feathers, but it only resulted in one raspy exhale being marginally louder than the others.
[23:31] Something cool nuzzled up between his arms and slid along the inside of them until it came to an abrupt end at his wrists, arrested by something. Presumably his captors had tied them together; perhaps they were testing how firm those bindings really were.
Meanwhile, the initial Nayabaru argued, rather too casually: "<You're assuming every action is easy to reverse, Tanan. That's just not true. It's trivial to ensure they'd realistically have to break its bones to get it free.>"
[23:32] "<Exactly how do you reckon you'd manage that?>" the one that had been called 'Tanan' asked, sceptical.
"<Do you want an explanation or will a demonstration do?>" the other asked – if it was a question born of exasperation, it wasn't audible in his tone. "<Give me a nice visible place to anchor our catch to and I'll make sure we've got something that'll serve as a deterrent.>"
Tanan – listlessly, evidently still unconvinced – offered, no doubt combined with a gesture invisible to Gehki: "<The corner of the roof?>"
"<That won't—>" Silence, distressingly absolute, as though the forest around them had chosen that very moment to hold its breath. "<Actually, I suppose can make that work with a bit of preparation.>"
[18:09@bnc] Words filtered through the pain, slowly assembling into a conversation. The first Nayabaru sounded far too casual about what he was saying. Just talking about stringing him up — in what sounded like a distressingly permanent fashion — like it was nothing, like it was the most natural thing in the world. As a hypothetical, it was terrifying, but mostly for the insight it gave into the Nayabaru's corrupted heart.
As he recognized the word 'demonstration', the terror became much more visceral. A papery, high-pitched keen of distress managed its way out of his burning lungs, and he tried to move his limbs, maybe gain some sense of the state he was in, if there was any chance of escape. There wouldn't be, though — he'd heard Eche tell many stories, but none of them ever involved a kavkem escaping from the Nayabaru, certainly not without help.
[21:11] The reaction of his limbs seemed delayed, but otherwise perfectly functional, limited only by the restraints around his wrists and ankles. His own motion made apparent that they were tight enough to bite at his skin, pinching at the tufts of feathers – a minor discomfort relative to everything else, but for a moment made obvious.
"<It looks like our catch is waking up,>" lightly chuckled the unnamed Nayabaru.
The near-simultaneous metal thwack against Gehki's skull betrayed that the observation had been entirely redundant, sounding a tinnitus through his thoughts like the gong of a high-pitched bell. A weight recognisable as a foot set down against his hips. "<How much preparation do you need?>" Tanan gruffed, suggesting that it was him that was on the other end of the metal pole.
[21:12] "<Longer than I'd want given our leisure time seems to be over,>" the other Nayabaru commented, a shrug apparent even in his tone. "<You going to watch this one while I get some tools?>"
"<Sure thing,>" Tanan assured.
As his companion on the prowl shuffled away, Tanan's weight shifted and he leant down, trapping Gehki's thighs between one large shin and the ground, his knee coming to rest between the kavkem's arms and legs, pinning some of Gehki's longer feathers uncomfortably. The metal pole comes to lay across Gehki's neck, the back of his head and his right arm, in his current state heavy enough to be an obstacle.
Then Tanan's seized a handful of Gehki's plume and it stops mattering. The Nayabaru's breath hovers across him, far too vividly real. The tips of two fingers set down against Gehki's right eye, forcing the eyelids apart. Mumbled: "<Can you see yet, I wonder?>" Then: "<No, seems you can't. Fascinating.>"
The grip relents and the Nayabaru's hands set down against the metal rod, pressing it down a little. "<What about what I'm saying? Do you understand Naya?>" he asked, his voice almost playfully light, as though he weren't at any odds with the creature he was pinning down.
[21:51] Gehki reeled at the thwack from the metal pole, his thoughts momentarily shot into disarray by the ringing in his skull. By the time he'd gotten his bearings again, the other Nayabaru, the worrisome one, was meandering away. Then the one with the pole — Tanan? — shifted its weight, pinning him in part with one of its massive legs, in part with the pole. There's a tone between a grunt and a yelp as Tanan grips at his feathers, the trapped kavkem holding as still as he can manage in his poisoned state, trying to avoid making any movements that might prompt his captor to take out his eye, or something similarly awful.
The question catches him by surprise, its implications terrifyingly alluring. ...Could there be a chance of communication? A chance that he could negotiate his freedom? Or at least convince his captors not to make his life as terrible as it sounded like it would be?
[21:52] After a long, tense silence, Gehki slowly shook his head in acknowledgement — or at least tried to, against the pressure of the metal rod. A moment later, he managed to croak out a soft, frightened "<Why? Why you do this to us?>" Admittedly, his grasp of Naya grammar was lacking — it was easier to understand than to speak — but hopefully he could at least get the point across.
[22:05] "<It speaks,>" Tanan exclaims almost in a bellow, part in delight, part in surprise, full of amusement, as though he'd just been presented with an unexpected gift to start plucking asunder for whatever lay hidden inside. "<So you're not mute,>" he observes, seeming oblivious to the actual question that Gehki had asked, if not outright ignoring it. "<Vorun,>" he shouts, still brimming with delight. "<We caught ourselves one with a voice.>"
Something is called back, registering despite its volume as a mumble.
"<So,>" Tanan asks, audibly grinning down at his unlikely prey. "<Travelling alone?>"
[22:26] It's only shortly after Tanan's excited reply that it begins to dawn on Gehki that this was a mistake. They're not interested in conversation. They're not interested in mercy. At first, it's not clear what it is they are interested in, only that it surely isn't anything good.
Then that question bears down on him, striking into his gut like a physical blow. Information. Information on other kavkema in the area. No, no, that's not going to happen, let them torment him in unimaginable ways, he's not going to tell them anything about Eche's group. He's already failed them once, getting caught like an idiot. He's not going to doom them to the same fate.
The less he tells them, the better. And the less he lets them know about what he knows, the better. And if they're going to ignore his questions, he'll ignore theirs. "<Why are you all so cruel to kavkema? You don't want us near you, we stay away. Why you trap us like this? Why?>"
[22:39] The weight on the metal rod shifts, the sudden motion sufficiently confusing that it destroys any predictive quality; one of Tanan's hands lashes against Gehki's muzzle, closing its punishing, giant grip around his jaw. "<You 'stay away'? You think so? Funny, I don't remember setting up traps at a large distance,>" Tanan growled, his voice deep and threatening. "<Oh, but let me see now... you probably want us to keep them closer to our home, right? So it's easier for you to, ah, what was it? 'Stay away'? Of course.>" He snorted, resentfully. "<I don't know if you're capable of being honest without added incentives, but riddle me this – if you had a chance, would you kill a Nayabaru? A Nayabaru you've never had any prior interaction with?>" The grip on his muzzle eases up just enough to allow him to speak.
[23:11] Gehki made another soft note of distress as the giant's hand closed around his muzzle, his blind eyes squeezing tighter shut. The words the Nayabaru was saying didn't make much sense to him — he'd wandered away from their encampment, but it was to make sure they were safe. Clearer signs of a Nayabaru settlement up here would have meant he'd turn back, wake the others, get them to leave. Certainly not try to attack the settlement, everyone knew that was a one-way ticket to a life of misery.
There's a long silence as the grip loosens, fear and pain conspiring to make him dread saying the wrong thing. 'Would you ever kill a Nayabaru?' Yes, if it was the only way to escape and he knew that he could, but he knew that was the wrong answer. "<Would have fled... if I knew you were here,>" he managed. It wasn't quite answering the question he'd demanded to know the answer to, but hopefully it explained the motivations well enough. A moment later, equally fearing that it wouldn't be enough and fearing it would be too much, he added, "<Would run away, not kill. Too dangerous to try.>"
[23:28] "<And if we left you intentionally unmolested,>" Tanan said, his tone patronising. "<You would multiply, and you would soon decide that the odds were in your favour. You're scared now, and you should be – but if we don't find your packs and scatter them, you know what happens? You stop thinking it's dangerous to attack. You kill and you eat and you decide you like the taste of Nayabaru, then you kill some more. That's what happens.>"
"<Are you arguing with the kavkem?>" Vorun had evidently reappeared. A strange sound vaguely like a wandering drop of water followed in the wake of a thin, serpentine whisper, dragging somewhere behind his voice.
"<...only a little,>" Tanan shrugged, listlessly letting go of Gehki's muzzle. Judging by the sound of his voice he glanced back over his shoulder more than a Nayabaru had any need to as he asked: "<Reckon it can tell us anything worth knowing?>"
"<Did it say anything worth knowing so far?>" Vorun asked.
[23:29] "<Nope. Just keeps clamouring for moral high ground,>" Tanan snorted.
"<Well, if you've got some questions you want to ask it, I suggest you ask them while I work and spare yourself the trouble of trying to squeeze anything out of it later,>" Vorun commented, gathering whatever it was that had whispered across the ground, standing close enough now that it seemed like he was directly above Gehki.
[23:54] Tanan's words filled Gehki with a sense of endless despair. So that's it — they torment the kavkema, break apart families, break apart packs; and have rationalized it all as "protecting themselves". Because if they didn't, then they wouldn't be the Nayabaru. There wasn't any point in arguing with them, though at least this one had actually listened — the other one probably would have just laughed at him.
The sound of the other Nayabaru returning — Vorun, apparently — caused Gehki's mane to bristle slightly. What was that he was carrying? Rope of some kind, presumably, given the sound and what he was planning to do with it, but the occasional sound like a drip of water was concerning. Images of a tube of water shoved down his throat filled his mind, the imagined sensation mixing painfully with the fire in his lungs. 'Please just let me die.'
[00:25] The metal rod is consciously slid out of the way, coming to rest somewhere well out of reach. Tanan's hooked some of his fingers into whatever's binding Gehki's ankles, tugging them back and – presumably – out of Vorun's way.
Without much warning, the full weight of a Nayabaru bears down on Gehki's hands, by some miracle not quite breaking the bones but twisting his narrow palms up and turning the bite of the restraints into a line of fire against the outside of his wrists. A few feathers are lost to the careless application of force. A knee half rams itself in under his jaw, half simply settles down as if to relieve some of the pressure on those fragile paws.
As though his wrists needed any further restraining, a fresh grip settles around his right arm near the bindings, strong enough to pinch the bloodflow. Fingertips of Vorun's hand drift across the feathers of his arm, deceptively gently, out of place in the rest of his physical circumstances – before returning to its due matter of course, fingers closing around some of the feathers and tearing them free.
[01:55] A broken cry of pain wrenches out of Gehki's throat as his hands are crushed against the ground, slightly muffled a few moments later as Vorun's knee knocks into his jaw. His legs tug against their restraints, instinct trying to tug them up to defend himself, but Tanan's strength is too much to fight. Instead he just ends up writhing helplessly on the ground, his hands in too much pain to even attempt to get them free. Then there are fingers grasping at the feathers on his arms, and an impossibly strong yank elicits a scream from him, fire lapping at the fresh holes left in his skin. Then the scream slowly fades into a papery whimper, his blind eyes closing against the world.
[02:43] It's not the last yank by a long shot. Vorun seems in no hurry in clearing the feathery tufts from his skin and unbothered by the specks of blood that come with the crude plucking. At each gesture, his skin became convinced that it was being torn free in bloodied chunks, but reality cheated him out of what he felt was certain each time, refused to yield to a deep throb of shredded flesh and instead fading to a vicious sting. Once one arm is given reprieve, the other follows. The longer, decorative feathers on his arms are torn out, adding a dim burn of humiliation to the inventory of embers.
And finally it stops. There are still unblemished patches on his lower arms, he can feel that, but they feel naked and unprotected from the elements – like an eye without a lid. Vorun shifts, handling something else without bothering to loosen the pin on Gehki's form. There was no way this was over yet. What had Vorun said earlier? Something about preparation?
A sharp point comes to rest on the outside of one of Gehki's arms, a quarter down his lower arm from the elbow. Vorun's grasp fumbles around the area as though to feel for the geometry of what he was handling. Without much warning, the pinprick blooms into a whitehot sensation boring itself into his skin, relentlessly pushing inward past reluctant fibres. It's a nail, or thick wire, sensation reminiscent to a Nayabaru thumbspike jabbed into flesh – but much more slowly, twisting along the way, its agonising wiggling motions nudging aside any larger arteries and veins that happen to be in the way.
[01:39] Every yank on Gehki's feathers drags another cry of pain out of him, until his voice is too raw to properly scream, the fire in his lungs claiming his throat, mirroring the pricks of fire dotted along his arms. A growing sense of dread claws into his gut as Vorun proceeds to strip his arms bare — why would they need to do this to tie him up? What could the Nayabaru be plotting? What were these 'preparations' for?
For a brief moment, there's a reprieve — relatively speaking, at least. His fingers are still complaining about the weight being applied to them, his throat still burns; his arms shiver under Vorun's grasp, feeling dangerously overexposed. Then it ends as abruptly as it came, something sharp and thick driving through skin and muscle. A ragged, hoarse scream manages to find its way through his tortured vocal cords; his elbow tries, unsuccessfully, to pull free of the Nayabaru's grip. He can feel the foreign point of pain wiggling around, easing itself through the tissue. His body twists in its restraints, yearning for freedom. Please let this end.
[02:08] When the end of the nail finally breaks free, it's burrowed through to the other side. The geometry is impossible to ignore. Across the agony laced through him, his proprioception howls parasite into his skull, revulsion and terror fully content with the idea of losing the entire limb to an amputation if necessary. Muscles near his wrist lock into a cramp – insignificant, inconsequential, registering only as a sensation of strange, misplaced hardness, set into a warmth amongst the heat. Vorun's fingers weave around his arm in strange motions, his mind's eye trying unsuccessfully to marry their fleeting touch to the context of that perfectly clear parasite – then something yanks the nail-like object through his flesh, removing it entirely, motion embedded in a sensation too intense to register to him on anything but an abstract level, and drawing a cold, thin serpent in its wake, its companion a flash of nausea. Grips shift and the vile point of metal nuzzles against the inside of his other arm, promising a repeat of the entire process – and dutiful to said promise, it begins its burrowing, driven methodically and mercilessly into his arm.
[20:22] As if the piercing, shredding pain weren't enough, the placement of the exit wound, the warm metal burrowed completely through flesh, brings with it a sharp spike of nausea. Through the arm. If he were more lucid, things would be clicking into place in a horrified realization of what Vorun had meant when he'd said they'd "have to break its bones to get it free". Instead, there's only the overwhelming flames coupled with the deep sense of wrongness. Something foreign is inside him, corrupting him — his mind's eye invisions a bolt of pure sunlight wriggling through him, its tendrils of flame lapping up through his arm, threatening to consume him.
Something cool and metallic slides through the wound, whispering its promise of infection and misery through his synapses — and then a moment later there's another pinprick, the same pinprick, against his other arm. No. Please. Too late — the fire's returned, mingling with his nausea. A moment later, the world spins, consumed by the flames, and he's dragged screaming into the ambiguous mercy of unconsciousness.
[03:13] It doesn't last long. It's hesitant as it peels away, letting perception trickle back in, but the direction is obvious. More scent, more taste, more aching bones, more light.
Even the dim smears of it bleeding out his tattered vision at the edges are enough to make him viscerally aware that he's immersed in sunlight. It's no surprise, rationally speaking – even while he was blind, it was fairly obvious the sun was probably striking him as the Nayabaru moved him around. Now, though, probability became certainty.
It was almost enough to make him forget to parse everything else.
Almost. Gravity's beckon was clear at this point, and his lack of contact with any particular surface vivid in relation to it. His arms were the only candidate for an anchor, soaked in a dull agony above him. The fire in his lungs had ebbed to a sensation as though a handful of needles were lodged in his diaphragm – vicious prickles at each breath taken, but his breaths were clearly of air, not of flame.
[22:47] As consciousness slowly flowers into his mind again, the first thing to catch his attention — before the pricks of pain in his lungs, before the agony laced through his arms, is the light and warmth all around him. Panic grips his thoughts, jolting him awake — how long has he been in the light? There's a high-pitched yelp of distress, and he immediately begins writhing, trying to find the metaphysical safety of shade.
That only lasts for a brief moment before the pain in his arms spikes dangerously, morphing his yelp into a cry of agony. He tenses up, holding himself as still as he can manage, waiting for the burning to lessen. Blindly panicking won't get him out of this, but maybe he can still find some shade if he's careful? His head twists around carefully, trying to gauge his surroundings as best he can with his still-damaged vision.
[23:43] If he tries hard, he can focus on nearby objects through the glare of the world and the reluctance of his eyes to function. What his sight tells him, though, is bad news. Even a cursory glance reveals that the prospect of shade looks bleak – he's dangling a few metres suspended off the ground, the wires in his arms grinding against his wrists, the loop tightly tied to a closed loop of steel protruding from the edge of the roof at the corner of a building. Any motion of his arms is nearly painful enough to jolt him back into unconsciousness. Blood has crusted over what remains of his feathers on his arms and completely stained the exposed skin.
I'll make sure we've got something that'll serve as a deterrent.
This was the reality of Vorun's words, vivid, painful, tarnished. No doubt it wouldn't be long before the effects of the Tarnish set in. If he was lucky they would forget about him long enough that he would die from dehydration or starvation up here. Perhaps he could kill himself with the wires.
And yet there was nothing but the pain. Why couldn't he feel the Tarnish? It should be obvious. It should be distorting his thoughts. But would he know if it was?
[00:59] The panic begins to well up in his chest again, as it becomes clear that there's no shade even remotely nearby to save him. There's no way down — even if he could get himself free somehow, the drop would probably break some bones. A kavkem wouldn't be able to get him loose, and it's unlikely any would find him here anyway. And even if they did... he'd be too far Tarnished by then anyway. The best he could hope for is a swift and merciful death.
Maybe there's still a way to accomplish that. If he could pull himself up to the loop of wire holding his arms to the roof he might be able to use that... but that would require using the same muscles Vorun had pierced through. But what other options did he have? He couldn't possibly have much time now, the Tarnish was surely already inside him, crawling through him... right? Even though he couldn't perceive it, it must still be there. How long before it started warping his thoughts? How long until he became corrupted beyond all hope? Would he even notice it?
The point being, he didn't have time to wait until he died of starvation or dehydration — assuming the Nayabaru granted him that ambiguous mercy through neglect. Taking a deep breath and steeling himself for the pain to come, he squeezes his eyes shut and attempts to pull his muzzle up to the loop of wire.
[01:24] The motion twists hot pain into his arms, as though something were driving a corkscrew through his flesh. His innards clench together and nausea ripples up his esophagus, trying to expel a meal he hasn't had. His shoulders give out as his body refuses him the energy he needs to pull up, the sudden slack driving cold blades into his back, before the dominant, flaring agony from near his wrists washes that detail out of his perception.
For a moment, nothing wants to work – his lungs have forgotten that breathing is a good idea. When they resume, his ribcage aches as though the pain from his arms had reached down during his squirming to massage traces of itself between his bones.