Chapter Seven: Unleashed
Haruka woke and tried to move her numb limbs but could not. During the night, the cage in which she was being held had settled upon her as she slept, its cruel design functioning too well. The cage, in reality a small box, made of bound together poles and woven branches, had begun as an uncomfortable rectangle of two feet square by six feet long. Into this she had been placed by the Tull raiders when in the end they had subdued her. She allowed a wry smile at the memory of the six Tull she had killed before the remaining four brutes fell upon her and bore her to the ground.
Their leader, a vicious animal named Shad’e-gain, had warned her not to struggle in the cage for, as he said, “It is designed to grow smaller as you struggle. You must keep pressure on all sides or else it will collapse on you.” Not understanding his language, Haruka looked at the Tull with confusion. So, to demonstrate, Shad’e-gain showed her how the cage worked. “Don’t move,” he said and walked off as she was placed, struggling and biting, into the cage that was to become her temporary prison. This cage was then placed on the back of a large wagon onto which other cages were loaded. Haruka’s cage was on an outer row, which allowed for some fresh air amidst the stench of soiled, sweaty bodies, something other captives were not as fortunate to have. Cages were stacked as high as six and, when the wagon was full, could hold as many as sixty cages. Many captives did not reach Tull before dying due to lack of air or being crushed from the weight of the other cages bearing down on them. As for her cage, the shifting and rocking of the wagon she was riding on had conspired to quicken the torture of the well-designed box she was consigned to. She understood, don’t move, all too well for, as she slept, the sides had closed in on her and the top now pressed down on her head confining her and threatening to awaken her fear of close places. Now, unable to extend her body to its full height, she was limited to trying to resume blood flow to her immobile limbs by wiggling her fingers and toes. As of yet her breathing was not impaired, but should that happen she was certain that panic would consume her and she would go mad.
She pressed against the sides of her cage and tried to push up with her shoulders against the top, but it was no good, she was stuck like this until the Tull decided to release her.
A sharp crack against her cage startled her and she looked up into the feral, green eyes of her captor. Shad’e-gain grinned at her, his mouth an open sore populated with a few rotten teeth, and uttered a harsh rebuke.
“Told you not to struggle, I did. Now look at what you have done,” the Tull said, his fetid breath threatening to make her sick. He saw her revulsion and added, “So, don’t like my breath, eh? No matter, soon you will have no room to breathe.”
Haruka did not understand the man’s guttural language, but could grasp the context of his words: either stay still or die. In response she cried, “Tasukete kudasai.”
“Don’t understand that chatter, little girl,” the Tull said and started away.
Haruka searched her mind for the words; she knew so few of these foreign tongues. Desperate to communicate her need, she finally found what she wanted, “Please…help me.”
Shad’e-gain stopped and turned back to his captive. “Want more room, do you,” he said as he came back, considering and scratching his bald head. After a very long moment, during which Haruka felt sure the brute would ignore her plea, she noticed him nod as if deciding something. “Very well,” he grunted and flicked a mechanism on the cage that Haruka could not see. The result was immediate relief and she was able to stretch out a bit; the blood flowed painfully back to her deprived limbs. But before she could get somewhat comfortable, she was jabbed in the shoulder with the end of her captor’s short quirt, aggravating her already painful joints.
“You get one free from Shad’e-gain, but no more until we get to Tull,” the man said. “No more. You forget, you die. Shad’e-gain no care.” With that, he ambled off, in search of other captives to torment, Haruka was sure.
“You will be the first I kill,” she said and looked up at her beloved weapon hanging by its gold sash just out of her reach above her cage.
She was Hideshi Haruka, daughter of a regional warlord from the east. A slight girl of fifteen years, Haruka stood five-feet tall and weighed eight stone. She had straight, black hair, cut short so as not to hinder her fighting style. Her face was unremarkable with the slanted, upraised brown eyes, straight, narrow nose and thin lips common to her people. Her slim build and delicate features belied the fierce, capable warrior inside. She had been trained by her father and his retainers in the art of war and the sword since she was able to hold a katana, the long sword that was her chosen weapon.
As a child, Haruka had shown great promise, even though she was a girl, so that the great masters agreed to train her. As a result, the girl had grown to become a deadly warrior and the personal protector of her father while he traveled. And Haruka had accomplished her duty as required, slaying any that threatened to harm her father. Until, that is, her father’s retinue was set upon by these creatures, Tull, as she had heard others refer to them.
They had been betrayed by one of their own, a relative newcomer who had slain the guards one night and allowed the Tull to swarm over their encampment. In the ensuing battle, her father had fallen, as did his other protectors. In the end, she had stood over his body, her sword drawn, she and it drenched in Tull blood – including that of the traitor – and fought ten of the marauders, killing six before the remainder subdued her and placed her in this box.
That was two days ago and now, in strange lands and a captive to the Tull, Haruka sat and waited for her chance to escape. That she would escape was never in doubt for, as she knew from her training at the hands of the masters, the determined soul was capable. And she was definitely determined. She need only wait for the opportunity; then she would have her revenge.
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