A week and a half after they’d met Thistle and Reyna still hated each other. Being trapped in close proximity with another person tends to breed anger. He couldn’t stand her constant teeth grinding, and she hated it when he whistled. Which he made a point of doing every time she ground her teeth. Creating a cycle of annoyance that the two seemed all but reluctant to give up.
Three weeks after they’d met And Reyna couldn’t sleep unless Thistle was whistling, it didn’t matter what tune, just as long as she could hear him, as long as she knew that he was still there on the bunk below her. Thistle knew the silence hurt Reyna more than anything else, unlike him she’d been trained to resist this, had been prepared all her life.
But the silence meant she was alone, that she was alone in the dark, that the dark might never end, that she might wake to an empty room and find him gone.
Reyna knew Thistle was terrified, he wasn’t like her. She’d been through this before, hurt, beaten, imprisoned. He didn’t know how to block out the pain, or dislocate his arms to get out of a pair of cuffs. He was terrified and that terrified her. So, she asked him to keep whistling, to keep him focused on something, anything to distract both of them of where they were and what was happening.
Five weeks after they’d met Thistle and Reyna could talk without words. They’d been forced too when their captors had beaten
Thistle until he couldn’t talk. Their cell and most of wherever they were was being kept in almost complete darkness. The rare glimpses of light they received only came when guards did, usually to drag one or both of them out of their kicking and screaming. Or, they had the first few times, they had learned it was better to just go with them quietly.
But they couldn’t see each other, only hear each other’s voice. It made it easier in some aspects, they didn’t have to see the aftermath of one another’s torturing.
So, they’d tapped, clapped and snapped, with Reyna whispering through her own sore throat. Until both were happy with the system of communication they’d created.
It was hard at first, both of them kept forgetting or mixing up letters. Their sentences making no sense. But after a while they could snap conversations faster than they could speak them, even on the days when they could talk.
But they never whistled. Reyna always left that to Thistle.
The first week after they’d met Thistle and Reyna hated each other.
Her squad had been on mission near his village when bandits attacked. She should have gotten away but a little girl had fallen off a fleeing family’s wagon.
She should have turned a blind eye like the rest of her men. Maybe it was because the little girl was the same age Reyna had been, or maybe it was because the family on the wagon was crying, like they were already mourning her, like she was already dead.
Reyna had stopped dead, whirled, and took off running. At nearly the same time a boy, probably Reyna’s age had lep’t off the wagon and begun running in the same direction as the kid.
Reyna had wanted to curse at him, why couldn’t he have done that sooner?!
But she soon realized that he wasn’t fast enough to catch back up with the wagon. Exasperated she scooped the child out of his grasp and sprinted the rest of the way. Practically throwing the her into the arms of her family. The father hadn’t even waited, cracking his whip and forcing his horses to run at full force.
She been satisfied for about 2 seconds, then the bandits had knocked her over the head and started chaining her limbs together. The last thing her brain managed to process before clocking out were the sounds of the boy cussing out their captives with words that his mother definitely didn’t teach him.
Eight weeks after they’d met Thistle and Reyna found a cottage in the woods. It was old and dusty, and the roof leaked in the corners every time it rained. But it was warm and comfortable, and in the mornings, they could hear the song of a Pied Butcher bird that had made its nest in the nearby trees.
Six weeks after they’d met Thistle and Reyna had finally gotten hold of a knife off their captors’ belts. It was the last piece they needed for collection they’d been growing since first arriving. Stray pieces of metal here, a lost key there, a flint stone, and enough gathered Flaunite stone to melt a diamond.
Two weeks after they’d met They’d been sold to a mining guild and put to work hammering out Flaunite. The shackles scraping harshly against their wrists, ankles and necks until they were bleeding red and raw. Their feet blistered and sore from lack of shoes.
Then the warlord that owned the mine had come to check the operation. He recognized Reyna without a second glance. And that was when she started wondering if she would ever escape. He sold her again, to whoever his boss was, some tyrant king or rather.
She was a valuable prisoner, Thistle had been sold with her, his only crime had been his mistake of being captured with her.
A first he was relieved, they were out of the mines and they only wanted information. Except they thought he was from her squad, and Reyna didn’t know what they wanted to know. Suddenly being forced to hack away at rock all day seemed preferable to being strapped to wall and cut open and branded until you couldn’t tell where the pain stopped and you started.
And being locked in the dark with nothing but each other started being the only thing keeping them sane. The whistling and the grinding were no longer annoying now that it was all they had.
Four weeks after they’d met Reyna had thought she’d never see Thistle again. Every time they were separated a mental count started in her head. Calculating how long it had been, against how long he might somehow be able to withstand.
This time was too long. Hours past what he’d ever endured before and stretching far, far to close to the 10-hour mark.
She’d destroyed her already scratchy throat yelling, for someone anyone. Bending what remained of her nails clawing at the metal door to the cell, crying, pleading, that please, she couldn’t lose
Thistle, that they could torture her instead if they would just bring him back.
A yell for silence from a nearby cell had been her only reply.
He wasn’t brought back for anther hour; it was the worse hour of her life. When she was finally able to hug him, to feel that he was back, she decided that either they escaped together or, die trying.
Seven weeks after they’d met Thistle and Reyna laid on the cold floor of their cell, waiting. Limp and silent, crimson blood surrounded their bodies. Spilled from Reyna’s palm to evoke the feeling of death that the scene was supposed to provide.
Minutes or hours later it was hard to tell, but finally the guards came.
Quickly taking the two captive’s places on the floor in the blood. Except they really were lifeless, Reyna had wiped the knife she’d just used to slit their throats flippantly against her threadbare shirt and stepped over there bodies as if they were inconvenient patches of mud.
Thistle followed not a moment behind.
Destroying the hinges of every cell door quickly found them swept away in a flood of prisoners, all anxious for escape and revenge.
Though Reyna made sure that she got the personal pleasure of killing the man that had bought them. She made it quick, two hands around his head and an easy twist that brought a cracking sound with it.
But she made sure Thistle wasn’t watching when she made sure that the inflictors of the actual torture would be buried alive when the whole prison got brought down. He would already have enough nightmares without seeing other people’s desperate pleading eyes.
Nine Weeks after they’d met Thistle still couldn’t believe they were free. He didn’t think Reyna could either, she wasn’t sleeping. She could lie to him all she wanted but he knew she wasn’t. Not that he was getting a whole lot either but she wasn’t even trying. And he kept finding weapons stashed around the cabin.
When he confronted her, he realized why.
She was still there.
In that cell, in the dark.
“Why can’t you just accept that we’re free? Please, Reyna, you can’t live your whole life like you never left”
“I guess if you spend your whole life steeped in darkness it becomes a little hard to recognize what sunshine is.”
Her broken whisper broke something in him. As if his soul was trying match hers, as if everything inside of him was trying to find some way to help her. A little hard to do when your broken yourself.
Because maybe if he could understand, he could do something, anything to help take some of the pain away. But he couldn’t, because he couldn’t. No more than she could.
At the same time, they were the only ones who understood anything about what the other was going through.
They were all each other had in the world.
She looked up “I’ll try, I promise I’ll try from now on, I just-” her voice cracked as tears welled in her eyes. She swiped at them as she did her best to keep going “I can’t lose you too Thistle”
He wrapped his own, scarred and bruised arms around her, holding her like she was the only thing left in the world.
She was. At least in his world.
“You won’t” He promised.
He smiled a bit sadly, and a bit out of practice but a bit hopeful too.
“Whether it takes months or decades we will find peace, we deserve that much, and no matter what”
He took her hand, using the language they had created and made another promise, one for the both of them.
No matter what, we’ll do it together.