|The Drums of War... |
Callie could hear a voice, clear and solitary, breaking through the buzzing silence of her mind. Slowly, as the darkness began to loosen its grip on her, colors and shapes blurred into view as she became aware of her surroundings. She bolted upright to look around, and found herself regretting the act rather quickly. She doubled over as pain shot through her stomach, a wretched, screaming pain that felt like her whole abdomen was on fire. The shock of agony triggered something inside her, some deep, hidden memory lost in the depths of her mind. The memories rushed back to her, memories of a battle, of her wound, and of the chilling beast that caused it.
The noise of a door swinging open startled her, and with the resounding footsteps she turned her head to look over her shoulder. A tall feminine figure in a white lab coat approached her, carrying a clip board in one hand and adjusting her glasses with the other. Doctor Ng.
“Ah, I see that you've finally awoken,” Ng looked down at her clipboard, scribbling down a few notes. “You've been out for quite some time, Callie.”
“Where...Where am I?” A confused expression crossed Callie's face as she looked at the unfamiliar walls around her.
“Cassiopeia ran for help when you were knocked unconscious. You were brought here, and just in the nick of time as well. If you had been out there any longer that way, you may not have been with us now.” Ng looked up at Callie, worry written clearly on her face. “You were in a very bad way, Callie. You will be fine now, thankfully, and I think someone is eager to see you.”
The door creaked open further as Cassiopeia walked in, her flames flickering across the white tiles as she moved forwards. Callie uncurled from her doubled over position to look over at her, amber eyes widening at the sight of her beloved partner. When the Cain caught Callie's eye she burst into a run, jumping into the woman's arms. Callie cradled Cassiopeia to her chest, face buried in the warm, crackling fur. Finally, the two were reunited.
The desert sands swirled below the craggy cliff face, where Brandhart stood overlooking all of Harena. His large paws gripped the rocky ledge, claws digging into the stone below. There, in his view, were his citizens. The many Harenians he had kept there out of fear with the demons he had called from the very sands swirling about them all now.
“People of Harena!” His roar echoed through the desert's stillness, capturing the attention of those below. “Enough has become enough! Those infected with that disease, the beasts that are decaying before us and spreading a plague on our land! They are being treated as if they are our very equals! As if they have no deadly illness at all! This is an OUTRAGE!”
The sun sparkled in his eyes, blazing with triumph as a smile spread across his muzzle. “The disease keeps us in fear, and we must worry every single moment for the very sake of our lives! Is this any way to live? No! These beasts, they are a constant source of fear and danger! So I ask you now-Why do we defend such terrors as those beasts?!”
Muscles rippled below the dark fur as he began to pace back and forth, eyes locking on those gazing up at him from below.
“I implore you, my fellow Harenians. Rise up! Join me and FIGHT!” The call for war rumbled down the cliff face, rousing the thirst for blood in those below.
Cheers slowly began to fill the air, the people starting to clap and shout in support for him, and for the call to arms. Brandhart sat back, letting out a war cry that echoed through all of Cruithne, ringing in the ears of those below as a reminder.
They were finally at war.
Pathogen's head swiveled slowly from side to side, looking at the scarred, suffering faces of the diseased. Though she herself wore the face of someone who knew pain, inside she was grinning from ear to ear, filled with a sickening glee that she had created such a beautiful disease.
She had only found the camp of refugees mere days ago, but already she had gained a place of leadership in the eyes of the outcasts. She was the one with the voice, she was their savior! To the diseased, it was as simple as that. Lying and deceit, with empty promises, she filled them with the belief that she would grant them a voice, that she would stand up for 'her fellow outcasts.'
Pathogen cleared her throat with a few fake, rasping coughs and then began to address the creatures toiling about her.
“For months, we have been suffering alone. All of them out there, they all think they can ignore us! That we will suffer alone, out of their view! Out of site, out of mind! Do we not exist? We must take a stand! If we don't defend ourselves, and stand up to this abuse, then who will? The time has come, my friends, my allies, my fellow beasts rejected by the eyes of the 'blessed'. We must decide now! What are we fighting for?!”
The diseased cheered their support, the sounds of coughing and sorrow being drowned out by their frenzied cries of war.
“For FREEDOM!” Pathogen shouted, swinging her head towards the far off sands of Harena.
She began to run, her muscles shifting into a stumbling lope, and the numbers of diseased began to fall in line behind her. The storm that had been brewing in Cruithne had finally begun.
“I don't...I'm afraid I don't understand,” Callie looked to Ng, now treated and bandaged up, a frown passing over her lips. “What do you mean by war, Ng?”
“What do you think I mean, Callie?” Sighing, Ng shook her head and crossed her arms over her chest. “I am talking about fighting, bloodshed, hatred. A war, Callie. Without a cure for this disease, Cruithne has become a battlefield, and we're stuck in the middle.”
Callie couldn't believe her ears. How could that be, a war? In Cruithne? It certainly had not been that bad when she passed out. She was struck with a sudden realization.
“How long was I out?” She asked, her voice shaking as the words resounded in the air between the two women.
“Ah...well...” Ng looked away, reluctant to share the answer Callie was seeking.
“I need to know, and I need to know now. How long has it been since I was last conscious?”
“Three weeks. You were out for almost a month.” Ng refused to meet Callie's gaze, looking across the room at some point in space instead.
She shook her head in disbelief. How was this possible? Callie could barely believe it had been more than two days, let alone three weeks! This was not the time to worry over that, though - there were more pressing matters for her to be concerned with. The very fate of Cruithne lay in Callie and Ng's hands.
“So, then...what is it we are supposed to do?”
“To be honest, I haven't got a clue. This disease is... Well, I've never seen anything like it. No matter how hard I try, I can't seem to find a solution.” Ng ran a hand through her hair with a sigh. “I can't cure it.”
A grin spread over Callie's lips. “That's just it, Ng! Don't you see? Alone, no...but...Perhaps, together, we stand a chance at curing this.”
Ng blinked, slowly smiling back. “We have no time to waste. Let's hurry.”
The two didn't waste a moment, starting in right away in an attempt to cure the plague.