For all its horrors, The City of Leeches provided much knowledge during my stay.
I knew, ultimately, I would have to escape. After they chained me down and branded me with the Leech, I thought I would go mad within minutes. And the first time they drained my essence to fuel their magic, I wanted to kill myself. After all, it was the only rebellion, there. They couldn’t draw life force from the dead. To fight back meant you’d be drained to dry bones. To attempt escape meant they’d nail you to their crossboards and drain you from there until your will to run left completely. And the way it felt, being leeched… like air bubbles in your blood, tickling your flesh and organs from inside, then forcing its way out of your skin–but you never bled. That feeling is what I imagine hell to be. And I was one of the lucky ones–I arrived at the City when its population was the largest it had ever been, and the essence they pulled from us was divided evenly. If the population was smaller, that amount would be higher per slave–and that much more painful. Even so, it was the worst pain I’ve ever experienced, even after being branded, scorched, and stabbed.
Yes, I would have to escape. It was impossible to get “used” to being leeched. But I’d only get one chance, and to do so recklessly would be folly. So I stayed. I watched. I learned.
We slaves lived off of sea fish and plains potatoes almost exclusively. We merely had to live to be leeched–our happiness and health was of little concern. We were guarded and rallied by what the others called “Glaives,” guards who carried combination sword and staff weapons, like spears with short hafts and long blades, or swords with short blades and long hilts. With them, the guards swapped between biting blade to motivate disobedient slave and magical implement with which they could freeze or burn fleeing men and women and children–but not before leeching all of us to gather the appropriate energy. For all their horrific acts, their weapons had impressive utility. I made a note to steal one before I’d attempt escape.
Not all Glaives were monsters, at least. I met one young man who used his magic sparingly, knowing the toll it took on the thralls. Rather, he studied it academically, pouring over books and theories purchased from far and wide. He was eager to hear about any and all experience with outside magics, calmly questioning each new slave when away from the ears of other Glaives. His questions would be firm, not unlike interrogation, but he never threatened or raised his weapon. Slaves expected him to, of course, and so they told him everything they knew. But I observed his strategic questioning methods several times, paid close attention to see how often he leeched us, how often he slashed or prodded us, and found no instances of any one. When he was near his companions, he would shout, curse, move into thrusting stance with his weapon, sometimes even slash at our backs, but miraculously he never drew blood–only opened some stitching, or cut the air just behind us as we dodged forward.
Yes. He was a good man. A scholarly man. If not for our roles in this City, we could have been friends. But to do so would get us both killed, he by Glaives and me by any other soul in this place. Yet I needed help from someone other than a slave if I were to escape. We would need to be careful, but a deal could be struck. He wanted magical knowledge, and I wanted freedom. Our correspondance would be a cat-and-mouse game with blurred roles, each of us using the other for our own gain. But cats and mice can sometimes–rarely, but sometimes–be friends.
It would take time. But my escape plan was beginning to form.
Day 219’s three random writing prompt categories were, “The City of Leeches,” “Fish and chips,” and, “Swords and wands.”
I really love this world.