With a scrap of parchment clutched in her dirty hands, Niamh flattened herself against a wall. Reichsgrafinstrasse wasn’t exactly where she wanted to be at the moment. They didn’t seem to like seeing her sort here. A few guards walked past lazily, and she stuffed what little tartan she had on her in a pouch she’d found on the street the night before.
Seeing the guards round a corner, laughing raucously, Niamh bit the inside of her cheek and walked in the opposite direction, glancing nervously around her as she went. The kindness she had been shown in this alleged godforsaken hell hole in the ridiculously short amount of time she’d been in Stragosa was unnerving to say the least. She hadn’t experienced warmth and generosity since back home on the rare occasions that the abolitionist groups were able to meet and share stories and food.
It had been hard to keep down the food she had been given at the tavern (the Farmer’s Daughter seemed to be one of the more reputable establishments nearby), as she was still weak from her time aboard the ship. Niamh thought back on the conditions of her temporary prison and felt her stomach clench with anxiety.
Hearing waves on the side of the ship.
Laughter, swearing, singing.
A sharp creak. The bars opening.
Something wet in a bowl placed next to her.
The dull thud and blood pounding after a particularly nasty punch to the face.
Niamh ran a finger around one of her wrists, the skin there scarred from the constant rubbing of the manacles. She figured it would take some time to fade, but if the scars didn’t remind her of why she was here, the shackles on her belt did.
But why worry about evading capture when so many of her people roamed free and happy throughout the city? It wasn’t like she would get dragged out into the streets here, kicking and screaming and biting and clawing. Not like last time.
“Make an example out of her.”
But she wasn’t stupid. If she was stupid, she’d be dead. The weeks onboard the ship had taken their toll on her body, making her sickly, and she knew she couldn’t fight off anyone who tried to apprehend her, no matter how hard she struggled. It didn’t matter how many Dunns were out in the open here. She couldn’t let her guard down. She wasn’t stupid.
She climbed atop a low building, parchment gripped between her teeth, and found a spot relatively free of moss, sitting. Her lungs heaved with the strain of the slight exertion and she heard a quiet wheezing, which was concerning to say the least. After pounding her chest with a fist, hoping to dislodge…whatever had decided to take up residence there, she spread the parchment over the roof tiles. Tiny lines of words ran along the page, rows and rows of them. It was written in a similar script to that poet’s handwriting. The Cappacian lad had given her a few of his poems to read, and seemed very excited to share his work.
The paper she had was crumpled and had indents where her teeth had bitten into it. Niamh seemed to recall having seen a few of the flyers spread about town, some posted outside of shops, others on tavern tables. She ran her eyes over the text a few times. It didn’t matter. She knew it didn’t matter. But she still wanted to try. She cursed and hung her head, defeated.
I still can’t read.