"Ya know," he said, "you could just stay in here tonight and we could get a refund on that other room..."
"Save it, Durante," Ben sighed from inside. Durante ignored him.
Galina was struck by Durante's forwardness and very obvious advances. She was no stranger to the danger and awkwardness that could follow pursuit of a coworker and fellow Inquisitor. Those concerns didn't seem to bother Durante, if he'd even thought them through. Nonetheless, Galina played along. She lingered in the doorway to her room and leaned against the door frame, running a finger up the woodwork.
"Oh, but then you'd be all tuckered out come morning, and we have a lot of work ahead of us. Wouldn't want you dragging, now would we?" She turned to enter her room but stopped. "Besides, the two of you haven't washed since our journey. Spending a night in a room shared by your sweaty, smelly bodies is less than appealing. I'll see you in the morning." With that, she closed her door and locked it.
She strode up to the bed and swept the blanket up, peering at the sagging mattress for ticks or lice. She saw none upon quick inspection. Galina undressed, dropping her clothes on the floor carelessly. She hung her quiver on a bedpost and threw her dagger belt at the foot of the bed before climbing beneath the sheets. She pinched out the candle on the bedside table before rolling over and soon falling into a deep sleep.
Galina felt her spine tingle as the stranger spoke.
“You people, you pathetic and fearful little people! You see someone different than you, someone not quite right and you assume it’s a curse from the gods! You say, ‘Burn it! Send it back to the gods!” And you burn it! You tie that innocent being to a pole and set them on fire!”
The speaker was a gaunt man who paced before Galina and the handful of other peasants who gathered before him. He was completely bald on his head and his face was cleanly shaven to match. Under his right eye was the hooked tattoo of the Hidden. He wore only black robes and he spoke in a terrifying tone which was one part sneer, one part disdain, and two parts furry.
“You set me on fire! But when the flames had died down, did you find my body? Did you find my burned corpse deprived so untimely of its soul? Think back to that day… Think!”
Galina thought back to when she was younger. A small village girl racing to join the crowds that had surrounded a large wooden stake which was prepared for the execution. They’d thrown torches to the bundles of firewood and soon the whole thing was ablaze. Galina’s father hadn’t let her watch though.
“No, Gali, don’t watch this,” she remembered him saying. He’d covered her eyes and one of her ears with his big hands and pulled her small head against his broad chest. The screams were muffled for the most part, but she’d still been frightened. She couldn’t understand why they’d put someone to death because they decided he was too ‘dangerous’.
“Well, you didn’t find it, did you?” the robed man continued, a snarl of contempt in his voice. “Because I had escaped. And now your entire village will pay for its mistake. I’m one in a million. I’m a special egg. And as far as I’m concerned, I’m worth more than this entire grubby village. So it’ll burn, it’ll burn as a mere down payment of my worth.”
And before Galina or any of the other could blink, the bald man threw open his hands and plumes of flame leapt from his fingertips catching anything and anyone in their path on fire.
The screams were deafening and chilling, the flames hotter than any inferno. And all Galina could do was run. So run she did; as hard and as fast as her legs could take her. She ran as flaming rubble fell around her. She ran as others were engulfed in flames and screamed in agony. She ran until she couldn't breath anymore.
And then Galina woke, breathless, thick and sticky sweat coating her naked, tattooed skin. She would have screamed if she could breath. She scrambled out of bed, falling to her knees on the floor where she gasped for breath until it finally came and she calmed, slowly. She climbed to her feet and pulled on her breaches, blouse, and dagger belt before creeping downstairs to the bar. She found a bottle and a glass and shakily poured herself a glass, which she downed in her usual fashion. To you, father. And to the day this cursed dreams leave me. May it be before the bloody day I join you.
Galina tucked the bottle and glass under her arm. She left compensation beneath the bar before she ventured back upstairs. When she reached the door to her own room, though, she shuddered slightly. Hoping the Blackburns were awake, and knowing in her heart they were probably asleep at this ungodly hour, she knocked on the door to their room. "Ben... Durante? You guys awake?" She leaned against the wall next to their door, listening for a response.