There were two things that Thalia hated more than anything; confined spaces and gags. The second one bothered her even more than the first one because it left her defenseless. Her fingers, now devoid of her talons, were raw and bloodied from all of her attempts to claw the gag from her mouth and to escape her tiny prison.
Gone were the open skies and her sisters. Now the only world that she knew and could rely on was that of darkness and chains. Upset with her situation, she kicked out against the wall of her prison and wished, not for the first time, that she was not so weak.
Harpies were feared creatures, not something to be trifled with even on a good day but a moment of curiosity and inattention and turned her into nothing more than a coveted treasure. If she could only hear the whistling of the wind, she could get some idea of how far from home she was but the box that she had been shoved in had only one hole for air but she could not reach it to see outside because of her chains.
Thalia wasn’t sure how many days she’d been chained in the box, living in constant darkness had thrown off her sense of time. No meals were offered to her since she had been captured, the men who had shoved the painful metal gag into her mouth hadn’t dared to remove it. With good reason though; she’d kill them the minute that she could speak. But without food and water, she was becoming too weak to move, let alone let loose a scream with an intensity enough to kill.
Her night vision was near perfect but there wasn’t anything to look at but the corners of her metal box and her air hole wasn’t at an angle that she could look through. Questions burned themselves into her mind, constantly reminding her that she hadn’t seen anyone since she had been shoved into the box.
Why did they keep her like this? What did they want? What was going to happen to her? They were just a few of the questions that constantly plagued her waking moments while her dreams were filled with blue skies and freedom. Her feathers ached for a chance to stretch out and to feel the currents of the air as she flew but each time she awoke, her being was filled with such disappointment that she despaired at never being able to fly again.
One morning, Thalia was woken by a loud banging noise and voices just outside of her box. For the first time in days, light spilled into her cage from her little air hole and she reached out for it greedily. Though she could not reach it, her fingers got close enough for her to see the damage more clearly; in all of her attempts to get out and claw the gag off, her talons had been ripped off and the scales that coated her hands were covered with blood. Even the tiny feathers that lined her wrist were stained red.
A fresh wave of pain coursed through her at the sight. It was different to see the wounds in the light than with her night vision. Colors made a big different in noticing just how badly she had torn up her hands.
Bringing her hands to her chest, she rocked back and forth and keened low in her throat. She was hurting but the noise was not going to bring any of her sisters to her like it usually did. Mira and Penelope would have been there in an instant if they had heard the pained humming and Gina would have been there to comfort her if she had been able to cry out like she wanted to.
It was only another reason to add to the list of why she hated the gag.
The ground below her shifted and she rolled slightly in surprise. There was no way to gain any balance besides on her hands and knees but just as she managed to do that, she was thrown into a wall as her box was set back down again.
The voices outside were all muffled except for one. That one, obviously male from the gruffness, did not like that she was being handled so roughly. Apparently, there was writing on the outside that said handle with care and the people who had moved her were not obeying that in the least.
Louder banging against the far end of her box sent her into her corner. Her arms held up over her head so that she could hide behind the protective curtain of feathers. Her eyes clenched tight as bright light flooded her box and she tried to press herself as far away from the entrance as she could.
At first, nothing happened except some awed whispering and she dared to peek out from between two of her flight feathers. They were all staring at her as if she was some animal on display which in a way, she was. All they seemed to talk about was how different she looked than what they had assumed. As with many of the legends, the descriptions of harpies had been all wrong. She wasn’t a giant eagle with a woman’s head like the Greeks had portrayed her ancestors.
Her legs from the knee down resembled more of a bird, her feet larger and curved with talons for landing and grabbing. Her hair was a mix of gold feathers and actual hair and it covered most of her back. Other than the feathers attached to her arms that made up her wings, her taloned hands, and the trail of feathers down her spine that came together at the base for her tail; she thought she looked fairly normal.
In fact, her sisters were much fiercer looking than she was. By looks alone, they would have struck fear into the hearts of these humans but not her. She only seemed to attract more of their attention with each movement.
Putting on her best glare, she tried to fight against them as they reached in with keys to unattach her chains from the wall and drag her out. She couldn’t threaten them and she was too weak to lash out with her feet. With the talons gone, her hands were useless for anything more than trying to crawl away.
Her body was roughly inspected and she found a tiny sliver of satisfaction at the anger towards the damage of her hands. The look was almost enough to make her forget her pain.
“You idiots! She’s damaged!” The man turned around to smack the two holding her chains over the head. The winced but otherwise didn’t dodge the hit. “That will knock a few thousand off of her price.”
“She must’ve done it trying to get the gag out; she’s got blood on her face too.”
“Well then you should have chained her so that she couldn’t reach her face. If she losses more than two thousand, I’m docking your pay.” Both of the men began to argue the unfairness of it and used the losses that had occurred when they took her as reasons for getting their pay. The leader didn’t seem too impressed but Thalia didn’t really care what was going.
While they argued, she curled up into the tiniest ball that she could manage. When none of them took any notice, she began to inch away as slowly as she could. With them arguing over the terms of her sale, an idea that made her sick to her stomach, it could be her only chance at escape. As it was, one of the angry captors had thrown her chains down in his anger which meant that she only needed the other one to loosen his grip for a moment.
Unfortunately, he didn’t. The chains remained in his grip as he waved it madly around, jerking her arm and leg around with it. Thalia’s eyes watered after one particularly painful tug and her first reaction was to tug back. Initially, the tug didn’t bring their attention to her. Money was apparently more important than the fact she was inching away.
Experimenting with varying degrees of tugging, she was delighted to find that none of it was causing any alarm. She had more room now but the chain was still in his grasp. Treating the men as she would another animal, she slowly shifted into a crouch. In this case, they already knew that she was a threat or they wouldn’t have put the gag in her mouth so there was no point in all the shenanigans to make herself look bigger. Instead, she kept her arms wrapped around herself to keep the chain from going totally slack.
With her eyes on the windows near the ceiling, she inhaled deeply through her nose and took off as fast as she could. The jerk from the chains as they were ripped from the man’s hands hurt but she was free for the most part.
There were angry yells and multiple threats that she didn’t really want to consider. She had to focus on running and getting into the air. Her wrists and ankles ached and she wasn’t able to get enough air with the gag but she threw out her arms anyway. One leap and she was airborne. Gaining altitude was difficult without any air flow in the place but she had to reach the windows.
A sharp pain in her thigh didn’t stop her flight but the sight of the dart in her skin did alarm her. Darts never meant anything good. Thalia had to try though; the afternoon sky was beckoning her towards freedom, towards home and her sisters.
Hope blossomed in her chest as she neared the windows. The sight of open skies and sunshine drove her to push her weakened body harder and harder but her eyesight was beginning to blur and her limbs felt heavier and heavier. Even her weakened body should have been more than enough to reach the windows but the hope that had blossomed wilted as her fingers brushed over the glass before her wings failed her.
As she crumpled and fell, darkness clouded her vision. There were shouts and orders to catch her before she hit the ground but they were distant. The part of her consciousness that registered those shouts hoped that they didn’t catch her. Dying had to be better than being sold off and cages.
It was more than a week later that Thalia was forced to stand in front of a crowd, blind-folded and gagged, while people practically screamed out numbers. For every movement she made, there was a chain to remind her that another escape attempt wasn’t going to be tolerated. She had made four in the first three days alone and they all ended with tranquilizer darts and more chains.
One of her captors had unfortunately died when they were trying to figure out ways to feed her. Their leader, who she had learned went by the name of Samson, demanded that she be fed and watered. Her price would fall for bad condition and even they noticed how weak she was becoming without it. The unfortunate fellow to take out her gag the first time had gotten a first taste of her scream.
Though it wasn’t in her nature to be cruel or sadistic, she had enjoyed the way he convulsed on the floor while he died. She or her sisters would end it quickly with their talons during a hunt but she wanted to watch him die, wanted him to suffer in return for all the suffering she did. Thalia couldn’t tear her eyes away even as the gag was forced back into her mouth.
That didn’t go over well with any of her other captors and she went without food and water for another day before they modified her gag. They added a collar during feedings that would shock her if she tried to make any noise. The only reason that it was taken off afterwards is because it also shocked her when she coughed or sighed.
They had even provided her with some manner of new clothing. Unlike the leather top and battle skirt that she was accustomed too, they had forced her into some impractical jeweled monstrosity. It had looked pretty but was definitely not something that was worn for flying or hunting.
But none of that mattered now. Soon she wouldn’t see her captors anymore. As the price for her drove well into the millions, she nearly found herself curious about who was going to be her final buyer. She had been listening to the entire auction and hadn’t thought that there was going to be anyone left with anything to buy her. So many other creatures of ‘myth’ had been auctioned off.
The idiot who had bought a baby chimera was asking for trouble but not as much as the idiot who had bought a clutch of hydra eggs. For the sake of karma, she hoped the fool lived near an ocean. The mother hydra would be paying him a visit.
Her body went numb when a loud shout announcing her sale echoed around the small stage and she was dragged off stage so that they could sell the last few items. Now that she no longer belonged to them, her keepers were far gentler than she had previously experienced in their care.
They took her to a different room than the one she had been in before. It wasn’t her cage surrounded by many others but it also wasn’t outside or in a place that they felt they could free her.
Hands came up to push her down onto something soft while her chains were attached to something with a click. With her hands behind her this time, she couldn’t even feel around to figure out what kind of space she was in.
It also kept her from being able to tug loose.
“Be a good girl for your new owner,” Samson’s voice grated her ears as a finger pressed under her chin so that she would have been looking up at someone if she wasn’t blind-folded. Thalia could see his dark smirk in her mind just as clearly as if she was really looking at him. It was a look of greed and malice that she had become accustomed to.
He let her head drop as the door opened abruptly. She turned her head stubbornly away from the noise and from the person that was undoubtly her buyer. The young voice that commander her blind fold removed was a far cry from the voice she had imagined.
“You may go collect your payment,” Even she could hear the dismissal in the young voice and though she couldn’t stick her tongue out at him, she allowed Samson to see her absolute amusement at the fact he was stuck obeying a male far younger than he was. He bristled and looked ready to strike her but she wasn’t his to hit anymore and it thrilled her only for a moment before her new owner settled in her mind.
Keeping her head turned, the room fell into silence after the young man pulled a chair over to sit in front of her. It was the only act of defiance that she could still perform and by the gods, she was going to do it.
No amount of coaxing or necessities from the male got her to look at him. Eventually her face was forcibly turned and she narrowed her eyes into her fiercest glare. This man would not tame her and it was what she was hoping he realized from the look alone.
The fact that the male was so young and his eyes sparked in response to the challenge she posed allowed hope to wither into her heart again. Young males always had something to prove, a challenge they believed that would elevate them further in life. She had challenged his pride and he was ready to rise to that challenge.
His cocky behavior would lead him to make mistakes, to go too far and she would have the upper hand. Maybe not today, or tomorrow, or even a week from now but eventually she would.
In his eyes, she saw her way to freedom.
Maura isn’t the only one who got sick I’ve been feeling like poop the last couple of days.
Next Creature: Siren