The meat had tasted off.
Barely detectable, of course, just a hint of something bitter where it shouldn’t have been. Not that uncommon aboard a large ship that had been at sea for weeks, but still. It had set alarm bells ringing.
Alarm bells that, for all intents and purposes, had been confirmed when she saw the other members of the company, the ones who’d been eating with everyone else at least, with eyelids beginning to droop and postures beginning to slump. The facts were becoming blindingly, painfully, clear, and Elsie was quickly realising what a fool she’d been for not realising sooner.
And now? The food had been drugged. They had been betrayed. They were likely all about to be dumped at the bottom of the ocean and turned to fish food.
She’d stood, not taking another bit of her food after the first, less than pleasant one. She’d left the table, she’d gone back to her quarters alone. The tips of her fingers tingled as she’d worked, feeling more as if she was watching someone else sort deftly through her supplies for anything that might be useful in staving off the future attack, coat her dagger with poison, and tucki another into her belt just in case.
She couldn’t stop them from coming for her, but she’d damned if she was going to let it be easy for the fuckers.
And then, it had happened. A shadowy figure in the night, the irony of which was not lost on Elsie, sneaking into her quarters. An attempt to fight, a blow that knocked her first dagger clean from her fingers, sent it skittering across the floor. Another that had knocked her clean to the floor.
It was done.
A set of hands that wrapped right the way around her arms as if they were twigs. Another set of hands around her legs when they kicked and sunk deep into someone’s fleshy stomach, lifting her bodily off the ground. A rag wrapped around her mouth when she yelled at them to get their filthy fucking hands off her or they’d regret the day they were born.
Dumped on the deck of the ship, briney splinters digging into knees, the familiar cold bite of a blade at her throat to keep her still and quiet. She couldn’t help but shiver, the spray of the sea and the rain seeping through her dress to her skin, chilling her to the bone. Her eyes moved, looking as far to her sides as she dared, trying to meet those of the other company members lined up beside her. Soon enough it would either be over, or they’d be free to seek retribution.
An impact. A nauseous, dizzying sensation that accompanied the aforementioned impact. Hands. Falling. A shock of cold, cold, cold and the terrifying realisation of water, everywhere.
When Elsie awoke, the first thing she noticed was that her head was killing her. The second, was that her mouth tasted, pretty much, like what she imagined would happen if the ocean did the deed with a chamberpot. The third, was that she inexplicably soaked, right her through her thin cotton dress to her skin, and she was absolutely fucking freezing because of it.
She took a few moments to assess her surroundings, putting the thoughts of physical discomfort to the side for now. She could tell she was by the sea - the soft swish of the waves grating up against her aching head.
Slowly, she peeled her eyelids open, only to be met by… darkness.
Groaning, she pushed herself into a sitting position, wet sand slipping between her fingers. She blinked a couple of times, fighting off the fuzzy blocks that swarmed her vision. Once she felt reasonably alert, she scanned her surroundings, or at least what she could see of them. By way of the sea, there was just that. Sea. Stretching out forever. Craning her neck, she looked behind her - the beach was littered with detritus; bones sticking up out of sand dyed black by the darkness, some more organised than others for reasons she didn’t want to think about. Dark cliffs lined the back of the beach, splitting the night sky in two.
She scratched her brain to try and figure out where exactly she was. As far as she could remember, they’d been approaching the Darklands, but then… a blank spot. How had she gotten from going about her day to washed up on a beach in the darklands? Who had-
“Wankers.” she hissed, her memory still patchy, but fuzzy images coming through, enough to make what had happened evident, “when I get ahold of them they’re not gonna know what-” she grit her teeth, jagged spikes of pain suddenly splintering through her skull.
“Shit!” she yelled, blood pounding. Of course they had to wack them round the fucking head before tossing them overboard. Because head injuries made great travelling companions.
She took a deep breath. There was no use getting angry. She had a problem to deal with, one that, judging from the dry, saltiness of her lips and the nagging ache in her stomach, was liable to become time-sensitive very quickly. She raised her hand to her head, prodding carefully at the area that felt most tender. The skin hadn’t broken, which was good, it just hurt like a bitch. She allowed her eyes to slip closed for a moment, channelling small amounts of magic to dull the pain and reduce the inflammation.
There. That felt… slightly better. Better enough that she could actually think straight, which was something.
Luckily headaches were common following a blow to the head, and generally not a sign that you were about to drop dead. She have to watch though, if more serious symptoms developed it could be a sign that something more serious was at play. With the other members of the company as well, wherever they were….
She looked around, chest suddenly constricting. Where were the others? She hadn’t seen any sign of the others, and there were plenty rocks about for them to get their brains dashed out on, or they might’ve drowned, or succumbed to their injuries. They couldn’t be- no. She couldn’t go there. She had to keep her wits about her, stay clear headed.
Now, if only she could tell that to the blood rushing in her ears.
No, she had to focus. She couldn’t waste time on being afraid. She had to find water, food, and hopefully, a way off this fucking beach. Everything else could come later. Making sure there was a later had to be a priority. First, she had to check what she was working with.
Her hand flitted to her belt, immediately coming into contact with her dagger, thank goodness. She didn’t bother to check the herbs she had in her pouches - undoubtedly they would have lost all medicinal properties to the harshness of the see - but she did check her other, more practical, tools. Her tweezers, scalpel, and other medical implements were still intact, and she still had a few bandages, although they would have to be washed in clean water before they could be used. Oddly enough, there was also a rag tied around her neck. A second later, and she remembered being gagged. She must have pulled it out of her mouth at some point. Outrage and humiliation bit, hot, at the back of her throat and the corners of her eyes. She reached up, attempting to loosen the knot that held it in place, but it was sodden with salt water, and her fingers were stiff from the cold. Angrily, she gave up. She could get it later.
Everything else was gone, even her boots, a size too large due to their… questionable source, must have slipped off her at some point, stolen by the swell of the ocean.
Again, she reminded herself that there was nothing to be done about it now, before pushing herself, somewhat unsteadily to her feet.
Water. Food. Shelter. A way back.
The fact that she was alone sat in the pit off her stomach. Made her pulse race and her heart twist and squeeze if she let it.
She wouldn’t let it.
The betrayal burned, as surely as if she’d shoved her whole hand into the crackling flames of the fire at The Slaughtered Elk.
At least she was a healer.
She began to walk, legs shaking with exertion, breath loud in her ears. Maybe she should have held back on the magic earlier. She stumbled. She pushed herself back to her feet.
Water. Food. Shelter.