26th Zi'da, 717
It was raining when the ship arrived in port; a cold, sleety rain made even colder by the dull grey clouds that gave the world a bleak look. It suited Lei'lira's mood perfectly. Once upon a time, she never would have even considered leaving her small farm back in Warrick. It was familiar...it was home. But home didn't feel safe anymore. Not after being kidnapped out of her own home. After that first horrible night, she had known that she would never feel safe again.
Teia had been the one to suggest going somewhere...anywhere else. They needed somewhere they could feel safe if they were ever going to recover from their time as captives. Lei'lira had half heartedly suggested Rharne because her cousin Vivian lived here. It would be nice if she could see the one adult family member she still trusted again. But how would they ever find her in all of this? Lei'lira knew three languages quite well. All three of them could be heard on the docks. So could other languages that she couldn't even begin to guess at.
Anyone who wanted to study linguistics would be in their element here. Linguistics is the study of languages, and there are many to choose from here.
Her attempt to distract herself failed the trill someone bumped into her. Lei'lira's eyes widened in horror at the large man who muttered a gruff apology at her before going about his business. She stumbled back a few steps fighting back a scream of terror. He could have...if he wanted to...
Lei'luna whined sympathetically as she rubbed up against Lei'lira's leg in an attempt to reassure her The wolf familiar hated crowds too, and the fear she felt coming from her bondmate made her wish she could become solid so she could bite anyone who dared look at them the wrong way.
"Deep breaths, Lei'lira. Try to stay calm."
Teia's soothing voice gave Lei'lira something to focus on, and she struggled to obey. It helped in that she didn't give in to the sudden urge to bolt back to the safety of their tiny cabin aboard the ship. But it was impossible to meditate in a crowd like this; there were far too many distractions. It wasn't safe here.
Lei'lira felt cold. But before her mind could begin to retreat to its safe haven, the cries of the twins caught her attention. Tiran and Taerin hated crowds as much as she did, and at just under an arc old, they weren't above making their displeasure known in the only way that they could; by throwing a fit. The only reason that Kaien wasn't joining them was that he seemed to be picking up on his mother's terror, and was too frightened to make a sound.
Teia was the one who pulled the small group aside so they wouldn't be in anyone's way. Lei'lira was too busy trying to calm her children. And in doing so, she was focusing desperately on the task in an attempt to keep from panicking herself.
When the children were calmer, they set off once more. The docks gave way to a series of run down homes that could have fit right in with the ones in Lowtown, back in Andaris. The name "Dust Quarter" was mentioned in disgust by someone passing by, and Lei'lira guessed that this was the Dust Quarter. If so, it was a fitting name. It was filthy; garbage, and sewage filled the streets. The people who lived here clearly did so because they couldn't afford to live anywhere else. People in those circumstances were often desperate. Crime was almost certainly high in this area due to people being willing to do anything to get what they needed to survive...legal, or not. Lei'lira wished that she could help them, but she was in no position to do so; she couldn't even help herself. She was too afraid to even sleep in her own home.
Maybe I should hope that we don't find Vivian here. If she knew how pathetic I was, she'd be disgusted with me.
The sound of a frightened horse broke Lei'lira free of her dark thoughts, and she flinched before steeling herself, and looking around to see what had happened. Not too far away, someone was trying to rein in a horse that was rearing and bucking out of sheer terror. Its ears were flat against its head, and it whinnied in distress.
She's as scared of this crowd as I am, poor thing. Lei'lira thought as she tried to get through the crowd.
A panicked horse was a dangerous one, especially in a crowd like this. As Lei'lira edged closer, she saw the mare's owner trying to get her to settle, but the mare was having none of it. The way she ignored the commands of her rider spoke of the intensity of her fear. But it also spoke of a poorly trained horse. Even in a panic, a well trained horse that hasn't reached the point of bolting will respond to the calming efforts of a person it trusts.
Lei'lira was so intent on slipping through the crowd in order to get to the panicked mare with the intention to try and help calm her that it didn't register in her mind that the horse had already stopped rearing and plunging until she was almost close enough to touch her. As she cautiously extended a hand for the mare to sniff, an angered shout burst forth from the man that owned her.
"Thief!" he bellowed.
The man vaulted down from the mare's back, and grabbed her arm with enough force to leave a nasty bruise. The mare tossed her head and snorted in alarm at the sudden movements, and raised voice, but her rider ignored this in favor of getting a better grip on Lei'lira's arm.
"You tried to steal my horse!" he bellowed again.
The color fled her face as Lei'lira stared at the man in wide eyed terror.
"I...no! I w-wasn't! I w-wouldn't!" she tried to protest as her voice failed her.
Angry mutters came from the crowd that surrounded her. Teia tried to come to her aid, but she couldn't maneuver through the crowd turned mob when she had three young children with her. The man shook Lei'lira furiously.
"Tell me the truth!" he demanded.
Lei'lira's voice failed her completely then, sheer terror stealing it away as she trembled in the man's grasp. When she didn't give him the answer he was looking for, the man wrenched her arm up behind her back with enough force to dislocate her shoulder. It made a sickening sound that was mostly drowned out by the shrill scream the sudden, intense agony drove from her. The crowd around her blurred in and out of focus as she began to lose track of where she was. Was she really in Rharne? Or had her escape been nothing more than a dream? Was she back in the Burning Mountains with the men who had held her captive for a season? Pain as severe as this was a common thing when she or Teia had angered the bandits. Was this a punishment, then? What had she done wrong?
Her heart pounded painfully in her chest, and it was hard to breathe. It was even harder to think. Panicked thoughts raced through her mind too quickly for her to grasp. Blackness crept around the edges of her vision. Then her knees gave way, sending new waves of agony through her injured arm as her full weight was suddenly supported by it; the only thing holding her upright was the man's brutal grip on her arm. Overwhelmed by terror and pain, the world around her began to fade away.