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The Sunbeam
#1
The day’s first light shone through the blinds like a lance of white fire, piercing the darkness as it made its mark on the face of the tormented woman. She squinted in its glow and recoiled; apparently, not even sunlight, something she enjoyed so well, could comfort her as she lie in her dungeon of despair.

It had been three weeks since Janice Grier had arrived at the inn…the inn. Was she really still there? It seemed like an eternity since she had checked in; annoying the bartender with a snide comment before heading up the stairs, her heavy footfalls a testament to her weariness. She’d entered her room, a cozy, well-lit little chamber that smelled of pine. She’d kicked off her boots and reclined in a chair, relieved after a long day of traveling. An entirely trivial memory, perhaps. However, as Janice’s health had grown steadily worse over the past weeks, that memory was all she could conjure in her mind to comfort her. Her mind was too far gone to recount alchemical formulas or complex spells. Nor could she occupy her attention with a good book or a hot meal. No…all she could do was remember. And it brought little comfort.

Now, that cozy little chamber, so comforting and bright, had become a den of filth. The blinds had been drawn, the candles doused, all possible sources of light extinguished. The smell of pine was now replaced with the smell of all manner of excrement. Slime and vomit covered the floor and the walls…nearly every surface in the tiny room had been stained with bile or blood. And the flies…oh, those flies. Those roaches. Those insidious little pests that now buzzed through the air and scuttled across the floor. The stench was so foul, so repulsive, that you could almost hear the walls gag. How odd, then, that no concerned patron had caught a whiff of it and attempted to break the door down. Janice had managed to consider this, before the illness had completely consumed her mind. It seemed a reasonable conclusion that those concerned patrons were in a similar state of illness. Or perhaps not. Perhaps they were better off. Perhaps they were already dead.

The rumors of this illness, this plague, had not escaped Janice’s notice. As a prominent alchemist in Lordaeron’s capital city, she’d been asked by some of her colleagues what she thought about it, and if she might contribute to the search for a cure. She’d refused to comment, of course. It was none of her concern, and after all, what were the odds that this plague would affect her? With that line of thinking, this fate almost seemed fitting.

Now, this lovely, brilliant young woman was little more than a skeleton with a coating of sickly, pale skin. She’d not eaten in a week, and it seemed that everything left within her had been vomited up. Her face shared the fate of her body; a pale-skinned skull with sunken eyes and dark rings beneath them. Her hair, once silky a vibrant, was now a tangled and twisted mass coated in vomit and bile. What had once been a paragon of beauty and sophistication was now a twisted, tormented ghoul.

She wretched, something she had almost gotten used to. Bile ejected from her mouth, staining the bed she lay upon even more. She gripped the sheets with her skeletal fingers and screamed, though all she could manage was a high-pitched hissing sound. She spasmed violently in rage and pain her body shaking and writhing in its seemingly endless anguish. This fruitless gesture only managed to sap the last of her strength, however. She crumpled back onto the bed, facing the window, the sunbeam now shining directly into her eyes. She squinted and winced in agony, yet she could not move. Her strength was gone.

For hours she lay there, the sunbeam shining relentlessly onto her face. Yet as the time passed, she came to accept its presence, and soon, embrace it. This little beam of light…this one sign from the outside world. It gave her hope, gave her comfort. Her courage grew, and her resolve became sound. She would continue to fight, continue to live, and no plague would ever take her.

The day soon turned to night, and the sunbeam was no more.
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