The streets were slick and made walking an effort. Jol moved through them with an emptied stomach, unable to banish from his mind the faces that he had seen all throughout the day. He had to get away from it - no more could he take. Corporal Housman had taken to the task; a good King's man. Hausman found no glee in it, but he took to it, "For the sake of all Lordaeron."
House after house, crowd after crowd. The sick laughter of those that took to the bloody fury echoed down desolate streets that had once held a much different laughter. Jol's sword - damn the blade! - was unsheathed and covered from hilt to point in blood and gore. He could not stand to look at it, but feared leaving it behind unless another ravenous mob descended upon him; not all of them had been so helpless as that first mass of people. Not all of them had been living.
Neighbors. Friends. Souls he'd seen at the tavern sharing a mug of mead and trading stories. He had not yet seen the faces he feared to see. He had checked bodies when he could; oh Light, did he check. Still, somewhere in this city, they had to be found. They would not have known well enough to leave days or weeks before. How could they? They were helpless, innocent. Those words made his stomach churn again, and he had to lean his hand against a wall to steady himself. When he regained his constitution, he was forced to shudder at the sight of half of a boy's questioning face looking up at him.
His trudge turned to a run.
He wanted to call out as the scenery became more and more a tragic painting of what fond memories had once appeared. He burst into one of the back alleys, his booted feet pounding down the pavement. Down a set of steps to the cellar he nearly lept, fumbing with the latch. The bar hadn't been dropped into place. Laight, let 'em be gone. Let 'em be gone, an' let 'em be...
He burst through the opened door and past sacks of grain and turnips, casks of brandy and cider, his woodworking tools. Up the cellar stairs he pounded, uncaring of whether or not he startled whoever might be in the hall. Please, Laight, let 'em be... Into the front room he slid to a halt, throwing his helmet off and peering about frantically. Laight...
Red hair peekd over the back of the chair nearest the broad window. The chair was facing away from him, and nothing moved, save for dust motes trapped in the light that flitered few. His sword wavered in his hands, and his feet felt rooted to the floor. Fear paralyzed him; he didn't dare move forward to find out what had become of her, but he shuffled forward numbly because he had to know.
"They're gone now."
Her voice was hollow, her words sounding as if she were talking of weather that would ruin the crops.
"Laight, 'Dranna..." His sword arm dropped, dragging he blade as he rushed to her side. Light, she was alive. Maybe he could put this human hell behind him. He just had to get her out of here. Had to get little Tristessa out of here...
"Did 'ey 'urt yeh love?" he asked, fear still keeping a leash on him. He reached up and touched her face, but she didn't look at him. She just sat there, staring out into the street at the bodies, and the licking of flames at the tailor's shop down the way. Her face was slack, but there was no deathly pallor. No filming of the eyes, or any of the other dozen horrid signs. She simply sat there, staring. She didn't even care that there was blood on his gauntlets.
"'Dranna, me bonnie lass, dunnae worrah nae. Ah'm gonna git us outta heah. 'Ey won' come back, nae now. We 'aftae 'urrah, me lassie. C'mon nae." He tugged at her hands to get her to stand, but she felt so...lifeless. Her hand merely flopped back in her lap, and her eyes fluttered slightly as she peered across the way. The tailor's shop was fully engulfed now, and had touched off the baker's shop.
"'Dranna, love, talk tae mah," he pleaded.
"Go where? Tae tha gibbet wit' yeh?"
He recoiled as if struck; the flat manner in which she said it struck him cold. Her eyes. They turned on him then. Such fiery green that had captivated him years before, when he had come home from the south and was greeted in a little pub outside the city by a warm smile and waiting mug. He had spent days and half his pay just sitting and staring after her in the tavern most nights, watching her sway to and fro serving the patrons with a gracious smile and a kind heart. She wanted to save the world, for everyone, and did it in her own way - lending a listening ear, a comforting smile, a hug or a pat on the back. He loved her so much for that one thing alone, and then for so much more.
Her hair swayed as she looked at him, hair he had loved to run his hands through. Her eyes...they were dry, red with tears she had cried out. Haunted eyes. Though the rest of her remained gaunt and drawn, those eyes betrayed her.
"Laight, 'Dranna, nae. Ne'er! Ah'd ne'er dae such ah thang--"
"Where else should ah go but tae ah gibbet?" she whispered frightfully, and broke down again. She came up out of the chair as fast as the summer rain that swept down from the coast, pushing him back up to his feet and clutching his armor. She pressed on him a furious kiss, full of fright and desperation.
Jol returned the kiss halfly, then took her gently by the shoulder and pushed her back, staring into her eye. "Why, love? Why would yeh?" Fear yanked on the leash, climbing into his belly and up into his throat.
The gaunt look cracked, and sobs drew her lips together harshly. "Ah couldnae let 'em git tae 'er. Ah wouldnae. Tha Prince cannae take me girlie, Jol. Ne'er. Ne'er in a thousan' lives would ah let 'im. Mah han's, nae 'is. Ne'er!" Anger and anguish were taking their turns with her, wringing her dry.
Jol took it in slowly, a gnawing pit yawning deep within. "Wot're yeh talkin' 'bout, love?" he asked slowly. It wasn't right, what she was saying. It didn't make sense. Laight, it cannae make sense. 'Et's tha shock, tha carnage, tha...
Aedranna Taborwynn looked over his shoulder, down the hallway and to the back rooms of their modest home. It struck him then, like a hammer to the gut. The gnawing pit began to rumble.
Pushing himself away from her with a slack look, he shuffled down the hallway. Peering into the small room off of their own bedroom, he looked on the sleeping form of his only daughter, as she lay beneath the covers. Behind him, Aedranna rambled on. "Sil'erleaf. She loved tha tas'e. She wasnae feelin' good - takin' oan ah fevah. Said she'd 'ad muffins up 'et Gorley's 'ouse yeste'day." The gnawing pit began to roar in his ears. "Dreamfoil. She was squirmin' sae bad, an' she was 'urtin'. Sae ah made 'er ah tea. Please, love. Please. Ah dinnae 'ave annahthin' else but 'et. She was 'urtin' sae bad. Our daughtah. Our onlah daughtah Jol..." Aedranna broke down then, her head in her hands, sobbing hysterically.
Dreamfoil. She was so young. So full of life. Dreamfoil.
His hand tightened...
"...by my hand..."
"...help us! Please..."
"Please, Jol, my heart. Please..."
...shaking, he couldn't stop shaking...
Bettah tae die...
The gaping maw howled, a terrible roar that leaped up out of the soul and gripped him with unimaginable strength. He roared, a fiery sound of pain and retribution, of horror and frustration and guilt. The world shuddered. Guilt. His roar was not alone, he whirled and lashed out. Metal banged and clanged. His world blurred.
Something heavy. On his arm. His hand, clutching...
Damn tha blade.
Blood drained from his face. Her eyes, fiery green and so full of life, looking up at him with pleading pain.
"Ohhh Laight..." he whispered in a shuddering breath. Her weight leaned heavily upon him, doubled over awkwardly. Over his hand. Over the sword that had found refuge in her belly. Her mouth worked soundlessly as her body slumped to the floor. He couldn't hold her up, withdrawing the blade with another shuddering breath. The sword clanged on the wooden floor when he saw the blood, fresh blood, staining his hands. Her mouth worked soundlessly, no breath with which to speak. He knelt over her close, shoving his hands over the wound, trying to stop it, oh Light, trying to keep it all from getting away.
"'Dranna love please no lass don't--" the words spilled out as he panicked, working over her furiously, as helpless as a child trying to save the world. Her eyes pleaded at him in a question, and never left his face. "No, 'Dranna, dunnae leave mah lass! 'Dranna!"
"J-Jol!? Ah l-lov--" she gasped.
His yells were wild, clinging to her as life itself faded from his world.
All that was left were the tears, and the pain, and the flames that bathed the skies of Stratholme.
"I left my home where the dead never rose
But the streets of gold i've yet to find
And at the end of the day all you can do is pray
Without hope well you might as well be blind, yeah be blind
Tomorrow comes a day too soon"