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Krystalic

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Life will find a way, they say. Life will flourish in the most unwelcome of circumstances, they say. What they mean to say is that life will rear its ugly head in the worst of moments. What they never say is how to rid yourself of this life. Oh, how they claw their way into your existence. Miserable ants making purchase on YOUR picnic. What if you don’t want to be among these insufferable masses? 

 

We hardly have a choice now. 

 

There’s darkness. Darkness everywhere. Save for that little marble in the sky; were it not for its reflection… they’d all get what they deserve. The void. But nay; life flourishes. Look no further than the horizon. The flames of life waft on the wind - sparks fly. People walk and wander, make their homes in the ground. They build ungodly structures to shield themselves from the world and flaunt their supposed superiority for all to see. They live as false sophisticates; they ignore the barbarian lying dormant in their blood. 

 

Sometimes though… 

 

it all slips out.

 

---------------

 

Ragged breathing and warped voices bellow out in the darkness. Nothing can be seen, nothing can be gleaned. Nothing can be felt just yet. It carries onward for what feels like an eternity, but this all feels fake. It’s as if one’s on a scrolling line - watching a series of events play out. Helpless to the coming reality. First, more loud noises. Twangs, slams, and slaps. Cooes, whistles and sinister chortling. But eventually… Eventually, a blurry light mars the middle of the two-dimensional abyss - and the world is revealed. 

 

Lanterns. Fire. That warm light. Tables, drink, food, and barrels with unknown contents. Rags, towels and muddy walls. Chairs, dirt and leather. Fur, clubs.. people? 

 

-

 

Music is in the air; it emanates from a corner. The rippling of lute accompanied by several drums - and perhaps a subtle injection of flute, but no one notices. Cat-folk with elongated muzzles and whiskers scrunch and wag their bodies; they are dancing to their hearts’ content. Chaos amidst the tables, chairs and meals. Rum and mead splattered in quaint puddles around the floor. Bread and meats lain crumbled, smashed and torn in dirt splotches along the ground. Nobody cares. Some of these party-goers are passed out amongst the masses, sprawled over tables. Some other goers are gagged and bound on these tables. 

 

The only order was that of a bar line in the far back of the establishment. With it were two leather-clad bouncers… and the proprietor - a middle-aged catman whose face has seen its fair share of horrors. Or maybe his face itself was a horror - with all those wrinkles and scars. Or maybe *he* was the horror.

 

A ragged gaze, but one brimming with mock-contentedness. It daggered into her very soul. A cat-woman, by the looks of it. She was bloodied, bruised and in tatters, and yet an air of defiance protruded from her like a pungent stench - even as she lain tied over one of the several tables. Maybe it was foolish, but it seemed to amuse the old bartender; a dry chuckle rattled out of his windpipe. His hand rose, inciting the two guards at his side to growl. Several workers poured from behind a pony wall, and obediently took position around their captives. 

 

The cat-woman’s eyes darted to and fro, following the employees until they disappeared outside of her peripheral. The pounding in her chest was unbearable. It wasn’t long before action was taken, and she was lifted - alongside the other captives. She was carried by bound-arms and shunted forth center stage, flipped about and displayed like a prize. They pushed her and seated her atop the center bar, then locked her bindings firmly with a hook from behind. She watched as the same was done to her fellow prisoners.

 

Breathing was a task; every inhale felt forced - and every exhale harder. She focused her mind on her partners-in-distress. There were… eight of them, maybe. They looked dirty. Grimy, lower class. But they also looked malformed - each had some sort of defect. Whether that be a heavy underbite, or inexplicably longer-than-normal eyelashes. Her examination was cut short as the bartender’s voice ripped through the music.

 

“Ladies and gentlemen. My fellow Kishar, we know why you’re really here.”

The gravelly voice split the crowd; it halted their festivities and drew their attention. Cat-folk of regal, but clearly hammered appearances stepped variously forward, crowding the display.

With the staggered grace of a clumsy bull, the kingpin of this tavern waved his arms - and gestured to the first in the row of slaves.

 

“To collect your prizes.”

 

Guards rounded out the crowd on the sides. There was only one way in, and one way out - a straight path from the tavern into the fleeting darkness.

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