It wasn’t long before her painful truth was realized. Once the Speech Drakkan had finished making a statement out of the Gem’s who didn’t wear the clothing supplied to them, he focused his attention on Arden. Before she could blink he was standing in front of her; the beating of her heart remained steady. The next moments would be crucial to the message she was attempting to send to her sisters. It was important that she not cower in fear and that she remain a beacon of strength. Her eyes focused on the Drakkan as he spat words in her face and then it came, the pain as her hair was grasped in a clenched fist. Her immediate reaction was to reach up and grasp at the wrist of the hand holding onto her, but it wouldn’t matter. Arden’s body was yanked backwards and dragged… she could feel her back scrape against the wooden table as her limbs knocked all the dishes off of it as she passed them. It only took seconds before she was tossed onto the cold hard floor at the front of the room.
Don’t whimper… don’t cry. Don’t be afraid. I asked for this, I knew it was coming. Remember why I’m doing this, it’s not for me. It’s for them.
Arden’s eyes tightened as she felt the throbbing pain begin to wash over her body. The Speech Drakkan barked another order at her but before she could even comply he grabbed hold of her hair again and pulled her to her feet. He wanted to teach a lesson by reprimanding her through physical pain, he would make a spectacle of her in order to send the message of fear. She knew men like him existed, but more importantly she knew that no matter how hard he hit her, no matter how many times he beat her, her will would not falter. His hand released Arden’s hair and as her body began to fall, her stomach was met with a powerful knee. The pain shot through her entire body, her vision became fuzzy, and a feeling of nausea filled her belly. Arden was forced to her knees, she barely could hear the Drakkan speaking anymore; all of her attention concentrated on not screaming out in pain, though her face winced with each blow. She remained silent and next she found her face pressed against the cold stone of the floor, a heavy boot atop her head.
It’s almost over… I’m almost there. Just hang in there, I can do this. This is but the first step in a necessary uphill battle.
Moments later the weight lifted off of her head, she could hear the Drakkan step away from her but she did not dare move yet. Arden knew not to push her luck too soon; if she was going to maximize on potential opportunities in the future she would have to stay alive. She fought back a smirk, this was a test, but not just for the Gems. It was also a test for the Drakkan; a test to see how far they would go when being presented with direct rebellion in the very beginning.
”You’ve got some serious guts to you. What were you thinking?”. The familiar voice came from beside her. It was Bree.
She came for me?
Arden’s mouth barely moved, a very faint whisper that she would carry to Bree through her manipulation of the air around her to ensure that she would be the only person to hear it. ”Now we know… just how much they need us."
She turned her head slightly to look at the Gem beside her. There was a feeling that Arden couldn’t explained having Bree come to her aid and be beside her now. Companionship in a dark time; a necessary life line for survival. Arden accepted Bree’s hand and pulled against it to bring herself to a crouching position. Before she could answer whether she was OK or not, the two of them were approached by the Warden, questioning their relationship. Her instinct was to jump to Bree’s defense, pleading that they did not know each other; she did not want to cause trouble for her new friend. Arden didn’t have to though, Bree came to her defense. The Air Gem looked at the woman blankly, she had always been the one to come to the help of others. Is this what it felt like?
A small breeze has begun the winds of change.
You weren’t wrong, mother, father.
Arden rose to her feet and followed Bree as they left the hall. ”Thank you, Bree. You didn’t have to come to my aid, now you’re associated with me, the defiant one I think they called me. Change comes with sacrifice... Regardless, I appreciate it and know that if you are ever in need, I’ll be there.”
Arden spent the rest of the day alongside her new friend as they were succumbed to the Drakkan teachings. She barely paid attention as the ache in her body distracted her. Arden looked at the Gemmenite around her, their faces painted with hopelessness; their hope was dwindling. She sighed, wanting to do more for them but not being able to.
The day continued, seeming to last an eternity. When night fell and they were ushered back into their bedrooms, she found solace in her bed. Arden rolled over on her side against the hard bed, staring at a barred window. Her voice began to fill the room, though faintly as she sang. She let it follow the breeze, wherever it would take it.
”In the darkness before the dawn… In the swirling of the storm.
When I’m rolling with the punches and hope is gone. Leave a light.
Leave a light on…”