How could this happen? Bri wondered to herself, knowing there was no answer to her heart's dilemma. Sometimes things just happened, and this must be one of them. Nate was there and now is gone -- at least he wasn't suffering like she felt anymore.
Bri wanted to scream at the more logical side of herself for the empty platitudes. Nate was *gone.* She'd just gotten him back and they had a whole life that was supposed to be waiting for them. They even had a little time together that she hadn't taken advantage of -- something that weighs on her chest like a physical weight. She'd whined and complained. She'd wasted those moments with him, and he had been as optimistic and loving as ever.
And now he's gone. Bri isn't sure it's worth trying to wake up her body with the turmoil in her mind. What does she have left to live for? She's in a strange place with no way to get home and now she didn't even have a happy family reunion to look forward to.
Family. Her father, often pictured in her mind with that wry grin of his. It'd crush him if she never returned. And Bethany -- with no mother and now no father... to have no "Bi" too... I have to pull myself together... But how?
After another few moments of self pity and questioning everything, her stubborn streak shines through. She forces herself awake and gasps as she spasms from pain. Okay you $@%# %#@!... next time wake up a little slower... pleasssse... She curses at herself a little more, deciding that while she's in such pain she might as well roll over to her side -- it should be easier to get up from there on one leg. She curls up in a little ball, squeezing her eyes shut. FocusFocusFocusFocus... focus... foooccuuussss...
Bri manages to dull that pain just a little, too weak to really do much. Now. How to take that next step and get to help?
After some amount of time, whether minutes or hours is anyone's guess -- Bri doesn't have a clue through that pain-induced hazy she's working with -- she manages to push herself up to a seated position. Her pain suddenly reduces, whether from position or sheer will-power, she has not a clue, but she'll take it.
A small rescue team approaches the rock site, having received word that a lady was walking around here right before the collapse. They aren't the best looking bunch, but since the edge of this area isn't *too* bad and gives them the privacy they need for their "trading," they are willing to take a look. The money offered for her safe escort to town ain't half-bad, either, though the stories they've come up with for why the guy doesn't want her to see him... heh. Quite entertaining.
A voice echoes down around Bri from the opening above. "Hey! Anyone down there???"
Bri glances up there, hopefully. She usually doesn't take help well but she knows she could really use some right now.
"Y-" She licks her lips and tries again. "Yeah! I'm over here!" She doesn't hear a response and is momentarily fearful that the guy left, but after a minute or two he calls back to her.
"Alright. We're gonna find a way down that won't throw more rock on ya. Hang tight." A rope dangles down across the way, near where -- Where Nate disappeared. She can't say he's dead just yet, even if that's what her heart believes. She almost wants them to look for him, but she knows better than to go on a wild hunt. She felt the pain, and felt it end completely. Nate's gone.
She swallows the lump in her throat before the first person slides down the rope and jumps down. He doesn't pay her any attention, instead waiting for something. Bri wonders what he could be waiting for and how he could just *ignore* her, but her questions are answered with the lowering of a second rope -- one with a leather harness and metal holding the leather together.
Bri watches another person slide down the rope, this one a dark-colored woman in unusual clothing -- a purple top that's almost a part of her skin and shiny black pants. The pair walk over toward her, and Bri does her best to simply remain sitting up straight, trying not to get defensive OR throw up on their shoes. The woman addresses her next.
"Hey girl. What'd you do, take half the rock with you? You look like total shit." Bri gets the gist of that, anyway, and just offers a half-smile that's completely fake.
"Guess you could say that..." Her voice is quiet, even to her own ears. Then again, so is the lady's as she snaps at the man.
"Catch 'er before she hits her head. We got a real street rat here -- no telling when she last ate." Those two work on laying Bri down before the woman calls up to the men asking for a 'stretcher.' Bri is too fuzzy to question the unknown word, quickly falling unconscious now that it's not a matter of survival.
Bri awakens slowly, first aware of a mild stinging in her leg. Huh... tha's funny... otherwise, though, she's floating. A very small part of her wonders why she'd be floating, but the rest of her doesn't care -- much prefered to that terrible stuff she knows is out there somewhere.
She opens her eyes, aware first of the bland white ceiling. If she didn't feel her leg, she would wonder if this is what heaven is like. Endless white and endless floating, a lightly dazed drifting of the mind and not a care in the world. An indistinct face hovers between her and the whiteness for a moment, but removes its intrusion as quickly as it appeared.
She hears quiet murmurs, which bring her closer to full awareness. There's more than one face here, even if she doesn't see them. Hmmm... odd... but she doesn't care enough to figure out why or who these faces would be.
The stinging in Bri's leg only grows stronger as she awakens. She opens her eyes fully, brain trying to clear itself of the heavy fog it is finally perceiving. She turns her head slightly, eyeing a strange clear cord that runs from a bag to... where? She can see it run down... into her arm??? Is this some kind of creature? But she doesn't sense life, and it doesn't move unless she does...
She turns the other way quickly, hoping to catch sight of the strange people she heard earlier, but she's hearing nothing but a weird chirp every second or so. She's alone... no one has her back, and its likely no one ever would again. Nate's gone... I'm really alone... She tries to scoot up on the bed a little, but discovers her legs are too heavy -- or is that... leg? She can't see anything down there due to the white covering her.
Her resolution sets in along with her fear. Who knows what they've done to her -- or what they're going to do. She's pinned to a bed in a weird place, her clothes -- she's hardly wearing anything, some kind of weird open cloth with sleeves! She's got to escape before 'they' come back. On her own.
Bri scoots herself up the bed using her arms and her good leg to drag the extra-heavy leg closer to her as she sits up. The bed has weird little rails on it... huh... she'll have to get that leg over one of them, too.
Her free hand explores the strange clear cord from the pouch down to -- huh... it's stuck to her. It takes her a moment to decide what to do with that binding around her left hand. She tugs on it, but it doesn't budge. She can't find what it's fastened with... huh...
A voice interupts Bri's tape confusion. "Ahh, she's awake! You're gonna have to leave the IV in a little longer, honey -- you were pretty dehydrated when you were brought in." Bri blinks up at the lady -- how'd she get in without Bri noticing her??? Bri isn't sure whether to trust her or not since her empathy seems a little... weird... right now. "Uhh... " The lady in white scribbles down some notes on a clip-board, glancing to some bulky machinery beside Bri, then to the IV bag. She smiles to Bri in that overly-nice fashion that seems to only irritate the younger girl. "Well now, it seems you're recovering nicely." Too bad we have to kick you out today or tomorrow -- you could use a couple days.
Bri arcs a brow at the lady. "Soo... where'm'I?" The lady picks up Bri's hand by the wrist, causing Bri to twitch at the unexpected contact. She smiles again. "No need to be nervous, honey. You're at Village Hospital. Your friends dropped you off." Glad to see we don't *really* need to keep you for a few weeks for detox like we would some of them.
"My... uhh... friends?" Nate? She's momentarily hopeful before she remembers just as the nurse explains.
"Yeah, they said you'd fallen. Your leg should heal up just fine, though, now that the fragments are in place. You might even get the cast off in six to eight weeks." Bri avoids asking "Cast?" because she's starting to feel like an echo-bird.
Bri lets the nurse write for a moment longer before venturing this to see what reaction she gets -- "I need to get outta here." Yeah, it's a place to be, but she's gotta find that dragon and force him to portal her back -- or kill him, whichever.
The nurse doesn't even glance up, not surprised. "Honey, I know you're impatient, but you still have to let the anesthesia wear off and get some food into you before you can get out. And it's not gonna be easy on one leg until we get you some crutches." Even though the nurse would much rather keep people longer, hospital policy has become keeping treatment as short as possible. They don't even *do* deliveries anymore to keep the precious space free.
Bri sighs deeply. "I can eat just fine, and if I hafta hop, I will." Okay, so she's a little nauseous, but she can wait to throw up until after she hops outta here, right? She can't stand laying still, with nothing to think about but how that dragon could be just about anywhere by now -- and how she'd failed Nate and would fail him further if she just let the dragon get away.
The nurse shakes her head. "At least a couple more hours. If you don't push yourself, you'll be able to leave by the end of the day." Bri rolls her eyes, but she doesn't want to fight her way outta here if she doesn't have to.
"All right, fine." The nurse breezes out of the room and Bri's left alone once more to stare at the ceiling. Yeah, yeah, she's hurt -- she hurt her leg and she's been weak. She knows that. But that's no excuse. If she had acted more quickly, or maybe used some kind of mental ability -- even just distracted the dragon for a precious second -- maybe Nate would still be here.
Maybe she would be alone. Empty.
Her eyes tear up as she remember the last few days, and then the time she was without Nate during that attack. She could have done even more then to prevent all this from happening. Her cursed impulsiveness -- sure, she might have saved the castle, but at what price? It's unlikely anyone else would have let that guy just have his way either -- what price is this?
Too much of a price. The lack of a kaiser as punishment for Nate's death seems far too little for her to pay to make it up. She was the weak one. It was her mistake.
So why did Nate have to be the one to die?
Bri turns her head to the side and allows the tears to roll down her face and hit the sheet beneath her. How could she ever face anyone back home again? Surely they would blame her too...
So you're just going to mope and run from everything instead? Ah, Bri, what great character you have. The girl shakes her head at herself. No, she can't run or hide from it, as much as she doesn't want to face their blame and grief. Right now, she has enough of her own.
She replays the last events of Nate's life a few times over in her head, feeling what he felt, where he felt it. Then he felt no more.
I hope you've found your place in heaven, Nate... or at least with Bahamut among the stars. Maybe Nate would be a kaiser in his own right, but that would be too odd for her to ever really be the same with him.
No, it was over. At least they'd had one night of happiness... she'd told him that she loved him and would forever.
And he believed it. As much as she hadn't been showing much love toward anyone recently. She wasn't sure if that made things better or worse, really.
Bri exits the hospital on crutches, having finally got the hang of the things after a few times running up and down the weird stone hallways in the 'hospital' back there. She's glad to be out without much fuss, though the fact they cut her pant leg so everyone can *see* the weird orange case on her leg doesn't really please her. She stops, leaning on her crutches and getting her bearings.
Okay, so she's in some kind of town... evidently a part that's starting to fall down. The buildings look like she could push some of them down herself on her one good leg.
Down to business, though... she has to find her dragon. Wherever he might be. She decides to head to her left, scanning mentally as she goes. She *will* find him... even if it takes her weeks.
Bri doesn't find him by nightfall, and takes shelter in one of those deserted buildings -- good thing she can make sure it's deserted too, 'cause a lot of them have some pretty shady-seeming people in 'em. She curls up in a corner and spends most of the night asleep -- only awakened by a stray cat chasing mice and knocking some old pots around in the process.
In the morning, she goes back out into town, deciding that she needs to find a place to stay, at least temporarily, if she's going to be searching here for long. And to stay somewhere means to have to find employment... somewhere, anyway. But what can she do in this strange place?
After a full day of looking for the dragon and finding out there's some kind of security database for the entire country she's in so her hopes of a job are pretty well shot -- not that she can do the physical stuff that she's certain she has the skill to do anyway, with her leg like it is -- she finds an alley for the night. No food, no water, no shelter. She'd be better off in the mountains.
Bri has had enough of it by the next morning, when her stomach is starting to ache without the mention or notion of food. She goes to try to find a job again, anything... and has some luck. The man claims not to have money to pay her with, but she can eat in the diner for free for as long as it takes her to give it the good cleaning his staff doesn't have time for. He shows her strange rubbery gloves to wear and explains what bottle is used for what before turning her loose. Bri's never come across a mess quite this bad before -- gunk over wires that will hardly come off without a ton of scrubbing. It takes her half the day just to finish with the kitchen, at which time she caves and has a quick lunch in the back room. She puts the cap back on the spray bottle she'd been pouring from and then tosses the rag and gloves aside to eat what's on her plate. Best stuff she's ever tasted. Whatever it is.
Bri keeps a mental eye on the dining room for any trouble while she's eating, but doesn't really feel any during that time. She's been given an apron to wear over her clothing and some weird stretchy band to pull her hair back with for going out into the main area to work. Windows and lamps, then she can leave -- whatever mopping the floor was, the man didn't think she'd be able to do it on that leg.
Bri is stuck in the diner until evening, but manages to escape after that when she folds the apron and deposits it and supplies in the back room before taking her crutches and going out the side door. She'd stay a little longer, but she thought she felt something from this sector of town... staying juuuust out of her range... and she's gonna find it.
Bri works the crutches over the uneven streets of what she guesses is crushed stone as she tries to catch that essence. She's getting pretty handy at hauling herself around on the crutches, and is quickly gaining on the casual walker.
That has to be him... Even if the essence was changing, it never deviated far from that of the dragon... like he was trying to hide himself or something. Or taunt her.
Bri presses her lips together into a hard line, putting more effort into speeding up and avoiding people. Well, if he was looking to challenge her, he might get to, but she wasn't going to go down without a fight. And he'd certainly have to do better than this.