Nischa, pt. 3

Nischa waited in her cage. There had been no sign of her sisters. She did not know if they had escaped, if they were held elsewhere, or if they were dead. Her tiny body ached. They had come for her two nights ago. The Large Ones spoke in their slurred speech, always mumbling over the sounds of their words as if speaking through the mud of a swamp. The claw-like metal tongs reached between the bars. Nischa tried to back away, but the cage offered no room. She was cornered. She pushed the tongs away and they snapped at her hands. The Large One let out a grunt that could be either a growl or a chuckle and the tongs darted towards her again. They closed around her waist, pinning her against the cage wall.

“It will be easier for you if you do not struggle.” The Large One slurred at her.

Futilely Nischa beat at the metal claw around her waist. It would not budge. A second set of tongs moved in, this one slightly wider. She pushed and pulled, but she could not break free. The cold metal closed on her arms, pressing them to her side. She felt a painful pinch as it tightened on her wings. She screamed.

“See. I told you.” This time the Large One’s laugh was obvious.

She had seen others taken away before. Sometimes they returned. One had been badly burnt. The flesh on her arms was cracked and charred, her wings still smoldering stumps. Her muted cries could be heard throughout the night, but by morning she was dead. A Large One cleaned out the cage in the morning, mumbling something about a ‘lack of healing’. Others were never seen again.

Nischa feared what was ahead. The tongs pulled her out of the cage and she was lifted over the table. The Large One walked at a lazy pace, crossed the room and pushed through a door, taking Nischa into an area she had never seen before.

At the center of this room was a large tank of water. Another Large One stood over it. He wore what looked to be thick hide gloves and held a long wooden staff. Below him, at the bottom of the tank, several large, black creatures rested.

“Stir them up good.” Said her captor. “Today we learn their limits.”

The Large One stirred with the pole and the black shapes swam to avoid it. Nischa could feel her hairs prickling. Thin blue arcs of lightning began to flash across the surface of the water. The tongs swung over and she looked wide-eyed at the water below.

“We’ll start with a quick brush. If it proves resilient, we will work up to full immersion.”

The tongs lowered, Nischa’s foot touched the water and the world flashed white. Every muscle tightened, the strain threatened to snap the little bones of her body. Suddenly she could see again. Her lungs strained to pull in air. She could not even gather enough breath to scream. The water continued to swirl below her.

“Impressive. This may take longer than I thought.”

The blinding light returned and the next thing Nischa remembered was waking on the floor of her cage. It was not until the next night that her body began to respond to her will to move again.

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