Before the Fall

Fanfiction of When the World Falls to Darkness by DragonSoulJess.

The fall has begun. alliances are being formed, and guardians are being rounded up. In a small outpost called Ryoko, a small number of guardians still fight for their freedom.

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15. Surrender

 

   “Kylora, wake up!”

    Someone was shaking her shoulder. She tried to push them away, but her hands wouldn’t respond to her will.

    “The master is calling us, Kylora,” the voice kept going. They sounded far too insistent. “Come on, we’ll get beaten if we’re late.”

    She still couldn’t move. There was a groan from above her, and suddenly freezing cold water was splashed on her face. She yelped and lashed out. Her fist connected with someone’s face, and she opened her eyes to find Ash sprawled on the ground next to her. He sat up, rubbing his cheek.

    “You hit hard,” he said in disbelief.

    Kylora stared at him in shock. She had just hit someone. Another guardian. Someone like her. “I’m so sorry,” she whispered.

    “Don’t be. I’ll consider it a warmup for this morning,” Ash replied. But she could see from his eyes that he was in pain. Pain that she had just caused. She felt a surge of guilt, and wondered if she could help him. But she wasn’t a healer, and he was already smiling, trying to shake it off. She felt a surge of envy, until she noticed something about him. There were dark bags under his eyes. His face was bruised- but not just from her slap. The other cheek was bruised as well, and his arms were covered with bruises that were already healing. She was sure those hadn’t been there before. His smile was there still, but it was tight and forced, like even that small expression was paining him. His eyes were tight with pain, and now she was sure it hadn’t been just her.

    “He beat you last night,” she realized. “After I fell asleep. He called you back and beat you for being kind to me, didn’t he?”

    Ash winced. “That obvious?”

    “You’re bruised in places I didn’t hit you. Your smile is forced, and your eyes are full of pain. You have rings under your eyes like you didn’t sleep. So yes, I can tell that you’ve been suffering.” she winced. “I’m sorry.”

    Ash blinked at her. “That’s the most you’ve spoken since I met you.”

    “I’m feeling stronger,” Kylora replied. And that was true, to some extent. Guardians were fast healers. But she didn’t just mean physically. This guardian’s kindness gave her a small ray of hope in her sea of dark misery and hatred. Maybe, just maybe she would have a friend here.

    “Good.” The false smile vanished from Ash’s face like a leaf blown away by a storm. “You’re going to need it. The master is in a foul mood.”

    And just like that, her small ray of hope was snuffed out by reality. Did it matter if she had a friend here? She would still be beaten. She would still be crushed, just for being who she was. She would still be beaten without pity or mercy. So what if she healed faster? She would just be beaten sooner. Her life would be a blur of pain and servitude. Her master, the man’s son, would never stop questioning her, trying to figure out what she could do. How long before he decided to test her, in the cruel ways of a human? How long before she suffered at the hands of one who pretended kindness? Even Ash would not be able to dispel the darkness. When she had been beaten, he could not move to defend her. The best he could do was carry her away after she had suffered. What did it matter, who her friends were? Everyone here was a slave, too beaten down to resist. Even now, she looked at Ash’s urgent eyes, so full of fear of his master. It was horrible. How could this be her life?

    “Kylora,” Ash said insistently. “If we are late, then he’ll have us beaten. If we don’t come, he’ll send guards to drag us to him. I tried to hide from him once, and he made me pay for it. Please, don’t do that to yourself. You’re not strong enough yet. Just come. I’ll try to shield you, but there’s not much I can do-”

    Abruptly Kylora felt a surge of anger towards him. “I don’t need you to protect me,” she growled. Just to prove it, she pulled herself to her feet. Almost instantly, pain flared in her side where the human had kicked her. She gasped sharply, and her face began to ache. Lying down had distracted her from her wounds, but now that she was standing they made themselves known in full force. Ash reached out to help her, but she waved him away, and limped out of the small shack with Ash following behind, head down like a dog that had been kicked.

    She smiled grimly at her thoughts. That was all they were, wasn’t it? Just dogs. Or lower. They weren’t even animals, really. They were objects. Items to be shown off. Items that did what they were supposed to do, and nothing else. Of course the human had gotten mad. Ash hadn’t been supposed to show her kindness. He had been supposed to leave her there, as if she didn’t exist. But they were guardians. Shouldn’t they stand for their own kind? No, of course not. Because they had been beaten so often that they only thought of keeping themselves alive.

    Her heart surged as she realized how kind Ash was really being to her. He was risking himself just to extend a little kindness to her, and then he had been beaten for it. The pain behind his eyes was her fault.

    Guilt consumed her, and she lowered her eyes. She nearly ran straight into the guards waiting outside the main hall, but Ash caught her arm. The guards studied them with matching smirks as they opened the doors. Ash walked past them, eyes down. Kylora looked at them with confusion. Why were they smirking? There had to be a reason. Probably she and Ash were about to get hurt.

    “What are you looking at, guardian?” one of the guards snapped. He brought the pommel of his sword down on her shoulders, and she suppressed a cry of pain. She ran past him, keeping her eyes down. As the door slammed behind her, she could hear the two guards laughing. Her face burned with anger, but it was quickly overwhelmed by a huge surge of misery. They could beat her, and laugh about if they wanted to. And she could do nothing about it. She could just keep her eyes down, and move from place to place quietly. She could be good, and give them less reason to hurt her. And they would still hurt her, simply because they enjoyed hurting her. It almost made her want to start crying, but she knew the show of weakness would just make her a better target. Not too weak, not too strong. She had to find the balance.

    The main hall was mostly empty, except for the human and his guards. They studied Kylora and Ash with matching expressions of disdain. The human had a bit of a smirk playing around the corner of his lips, but he studied the two of them critically, like they were just another issue he had to check off of his daily list.

    Kylora’s heart leapt as she saw Aaron sitting to his father’s side. Of course he’d be here, she thought scornfully. He’s probably going to watch us be hurt. He wouldn’t meet her eyes. Of course he wouldn’t. He thought she would look betrayed, probably. But how could you be betrayed by someone you had never trusted in the first place? She didn’t feel angry, or even miserable. She just felt empty resignation. It had been bound to happen. She just hadn’t expected how soon. She had barely been here two days, and now the human was showing his true colors. Just like every other human of his kind. She tried not to feel betrayed, but he had spoken so softly to her. He had been so curious, and brought her food, and maybe even tried to defend her when his father had beaten her. But now here he was. She doubted he would be saying a word in her defense now.

    “Ash. Here.” The human pointed at his feet. Ash ducked his head and sat at the human’s feet. Kylora stopped halfway there, and waited dumbly for instructions. She could feel her human’s eyes on her, and she forced herself to look away, staring at the ground with determination. She wouldn’t give the human an excuse to beat her. She had to keep herself alive. She had sworn herself to slavery so that she could survive in the first place.

    She tried to keep guilt from overwhelming her, but in her mind a pair of green eyes held hers with a cold, accusatory look.

    You said you would fight them to the death, Hylla’s voice whispered. You said you would never let them take you. And here you are. Surrendering to the humans. I thought you were brave. I thought you were strong. And here you are, bowing down and serving the humans that would gladly destroy you. I trusted your strength. I admired your strength. And now you’re letting me down.

    Kylora squeezed her eyes closed. Stop it, she begged silently. Just stop it. There’s nothing I could do.

    Another voice responded in her head- a voice that sounded more like her own. But it was the voice of a younger Kylora- strong, hot headed, full of passion and life. That Kylora was dead. The humans had killed her in that torture room. All that was left was a broken, hollow shell of a guardian- a creature with no strength or will of her own. An animal, beaten and broken, waiting for death. But she would not die now. She would keep surviving, and so her only hope would be to succumb to apathy.

    “Kneel,” the human ordered. Kylora obeyed silently. She could feel him standing over her, and she curled away in her mind. But on the outside, she could do nothing. So she stayed here, motionless. An object. That was all she was now.

 
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