My previous stories have been set in the now defunct online game of 'Fallen Earth' (FE). When that game finished, Hyle and I moved to a game called Black Desert Online (BDO, where we still are).
When we moved, we took some of our FE characters with us. I took Joe Spivey and Finny. The thing is, BDO is a fantasy setting rather than a post-apocalyptic one.
So, adjustments had to be made and new back-stories written. This is the back-story for the 'new' Finny.
The back-story of the 'new' Joe is basically the same but seen from his point of view and I will publish it later. Please enjoy these two stories while I work on new episodes of the SIRT1 story.
Finny woke with a lung-starved gasp. Well used to such rude awakenings, the seven-year-old let go of the dream and stared without seeing at the stained ceiling.
Already, the ghosts of the dream, tiny fragments of fantasy mixed with memory, skittered back to where she had consigned them three years ago. Now they only ever came in sleep.
If Finny actually tried to remember the past; even like now, just after waking, she would get emptiness. Now her memories began only with that night.
Finny rolled onto her side and stared at the square patch of moonlight on the opposite wall.
She watched the tiny black shadows that seemed to move and twist over the stained and cracked plaster. When she had been four, such optical trickery would have had her hiding under the covers.
Now, three years after the events that had led to that night, Finny was no longer scared of shadows; she had learned that there were far scarier real things to be afraid of.
She closed her eyes.
Three years earlier.
Rain fell from the black sky not in droplets,
but in tightly packed rods that churned the muddy puddles into miniature maelstroms and bounced off the roof of the ominously silent wagon parked a few yards away.
The falling rain was the only sound, blanketing everything else in it's hard, drumming hiss.
The woman beside her held Finny's thin wrist tightly; so tight that it was hurting.
But over the two weeks that she had now been held in one remote location or another, Finny had learned that to protest, to cry, or even speak only earned her a hard-backhand slap.
Consequently, the little four-year-old stood in soaked-to the-skin silence.
They were at the back of the building, in the courtyard. Finny thought it was either a farmhouse or an inn this time.
Whatever it was, this was only the latest of the places she had been brought to since she had been grabbed and bundled away while playing birthday hide and seek.
Now she stood barefoot in the cold mud.
Her party dress, once pretty ribbons and sparkly sequins, was little more than shredded rags and her long ginger hair, lovingly braided by her momma that long-ago morning,
hung like old frayed ropes against her shoulders.
Finny waited to see what was to happen. Not that she could see much.
The sickly yellow light of the reed and beef-fat candle in the window only illuminated a tiny patch of the outside; its weak flame no match for the downpour it was being asked to penetrate.
The only proper illumination came from the infrequent flashes of lightning,
and it was from these retinae shattering explosions that the little girl knew they were waiting for someone to emerge from the long wagon and its four nervous horses.
The man stood in front of both her and the woman, further obscuring her view.
He was too close for Finny to see much past him and to attempt to lean sideways to get a better look would undoubtedly earn her another crack over the head.
More cold, wet seconds past and then something was thrown onto the broken patch of cobbles in front of the man, several somethings in fact.
Words were being spoken, but Finny couldn't make them out. Whoever it was that the man was talking to spoke quietly.
But she sensed that there was a tension in the air, the man and the woman were worried.
So, she waited. She needed a wee. This had never bothered her captors before and soon after he capture, Finny stopped even mentioning it.
So, this wouldn't be the first time she had soiled herself; fortunately, the sound of the rain masked whatever noise her urinating made.
In fact, the force of the downpour went some way to cleaning the tattered party dress, even if some of the precious few remaining sequins were washed away in the process.
Then, even as she finished relieving herself, the grown-ups stopped talking and the man finally stepped to the side.
Finny looked up just in time to see the black outline of something huge tower over her and then she was engulfed in wet sacking.
She immediately found herself up-ended and swung over the shoulder of whoever it was taking her away this time. Finny grunted as her hip made painful contact something hard.
Moments later, the earthy-smelling sack with her inside it was tossed into what she assumed was the big wagon. No words were spoken, and she wasn't released from the sack.
After half a minute, the wagon lurched forward.
Sometime later, the monotonous yet soothing rocking of the wagon stopped, and Finny woke up. She held her breath and waited.
The rain had stopped and, from the brightness around her, so had the night. She could still hear water though, but this was the friendlier gurgling of water washing over stones. A river.
They must have stopped to rest the horses. Finny's heart pounded. What would happen now?
What happened now turned out to be nothing much. From the sound of it, the new man was unhitching the horses. Most likely leading them to water. Then she smelled burning wood.
A campfire? This was pretty much confirmed when the wagon swayed, and then somebody clambered into the back with her. Finny froze and pretended to still be asleep.
The clattering of pans seemed to confirm her thoughts of a campfire, and the suddenly growled expletive also indicated that the man had just banged his head.
Then whoever her new captor was took his pans and left the wagon. Finny saw in her mind's eye the man getting water, setting it to boil, checking the horses, tending the fire...
Then her imaginings were interrupted when the wagon lurched again.
She sensed the other's closeness before she felt her sack move. The knot was untied, and she was tumbled out in a tangle of stick-thin arms and legs.
When she sat up, she caught her first sight of the new man who had taken her away last night. Except he wasn't a man... Well, not exactly.
Finny was familiar with giants. Some of them worked for her father, as well as goblins, dwarves and the occasional imp. She had also heard of berserkers but had never seen one, until now.
Berserkers, she knew, were the children of human fathers and giant mothers... According to everyone, they were also very dangerous because... well, they were called berserkers after all.
Finny stayed very still.
The berserker was looking at her and Finny figured that his long-faced, black-maned head was easily half as big as her whole body.
He could probably get her head in his mouth; she hoped that wasn't his plan, but he had built a fire after all. Cooked Finny didn't sound totally out of the question to the four-year-old.
She waited. It wasn't like she could do anything to stop him even if eating her was his plan.
"What's your name?"
The voice rumbled like rocks in a landslide. Finny swallowed.
The berserker snorted softly.
"Do you mean 'Ophelia'?"
"Thought it might be."
The berserker held out a hand the fingers of which were thicker than Finny's arms.
After a pause, Finny decided that it was rude not to do the same and slowly reached out with her own.
Hand shook thumb.
"Are you gonna eat me?" Finny whispered. Might as well get it over with, she thought. Just because he was polite, it didn't mean he wasn't going to.
Joe sat back on his haunches.
"Do you think I should?" Finny shook her head furiously, which made the berserker grin at her. "No, nor do I," he said. Then Joe leaned forward so that his face was very close to hers.
"Are you scared of me?"
Finny clenched her fists and tried not to start crying.
"A... little bit."
Berserker Joe sat back again.
"Don't be. I'm not going to hurt you." He wrinkled his nose. "You stink though. Have you shit yourself?"
Finny blushed bright red and clasped her hands together in her lap. Her braids fell forward as she looked down.
"They wun't let me go to the lavvy."