I’m exhausted, hungry, and thirsty. I hurt everywhere. My body feels like it’s about to shatter with every step the animal takes. I wonder if it’s a horse.
My captors have given me nothing. Told me nothing. The sack over my head remains. I’ve lost myself in it. Nothing is real as long as it’s there. I’m terrified of losing it.
I can hear them talking, I try not to hear. None of this is real. None of it.
I feel large hands on my waist and I’m lifted off the animal. Everything hurts from being left up there so long. I try to yell out a protest, but I am still silent. I can tell it’s the one who carried me before. His arms are too large for most men.
I’m dropped on the ground, my bones rattling, and can barely feel him tying me to something. So many ropes. It reminds me of when my father had taken me to the river when I was young.
I had seen the other children swinging on a rope out over the river and letting go. It looked like so much fun and I was a good swimmer. So I decided to try. I loved it. Flying through the air, the weightlessness of falling into the welcoming cool water. It wasn’t until the seaweed entangled me that I changed my mind.
The more I trashed, the more entangled I became. The water was burning my lungs when I felt my fathers’ strong, safe arms, taking me back up for air and.
Light. The only thing protecting me from the truth is ripped from me and I’m overwhelmed by it. The fact that it’s still there, that the earth isn’t blanketed in the darkness that I feel, infuriates me.
“Do you think we’re far enough ahead?” His voice reminds me of a toad and I watch him walking back to his partner. He is the bigger of the two, by quite a lot and he turns back to glare at me, his flat face emanating irritation.
They are both dressed simply, expensive golds and silvers have been carefully placed to showcase their wealth, but their cloaks are made from a heavy material, much too warm for the season. I’m not sure how they can stand to wear them. I’m warm in my light nightgown, but they are not even sweating.
Then I take note of his partner, the smaller man. He casts me a mocking smile and I see a silver tooth, it’s the man from the shop. I stare for a moment as he turns back to his partner, nodding his head yes.
I look away, feeling the pit in my stomach grow. If I had only said something. If I hadn’t worried about making him upset with me. I am lost in my grief. Confused, regretful.
If these are the collectors then why would they take me? Are they so silly as to think my white colored skin will grant them a reward from the king! But if the king sees me, finds me interesting. I tremble at the thought. He might take me as a bride. A terrible fate. To become one of the king’s many brides.
He is an immortal man. A warrior king, a murderer. After killing his father for the crown, he has slowly taken over everything. The great kingdoms of Stera, Motner and Hestien had been destroyed long before my time. Their memories are whispers, left in books I should have never been able to find.
Now we are left with only two kingdoms and where you are born is where you remain. It’s impossible to sneak across the border. But fate was kind enough to allow me life here.
The kingdom of the dragon is much worse. They are plagued by famine, drought and disease. Most have determined our king hasn’t overtaken them because he doesn’t want the hassle that would come with it. What profit would come from such a place?
But to be the king’s bride. Never. From what little I know, they are locked in the castle and are there only for the king’s pleasure and to birth new items for his collection. When one can no longer meet his taste or needs; they are tossed back into the collection. I will not live as someone’s pet. My children will not be raised by someone else as a slave.
“Water.” The silver tooth man, it seems, is suddenly staring down at me with dark eyes, placing a container to my lips. I turn away from it. Angry at the fate these man have awaiting me. I turn away. I will accept nothing from them.
Suddenly, he grabs my hair and pulls my head back. Forcing it down my throat. When I try to breathe I am drowned by water. I realize, quickly, that fighting is pointless. I force myself to swallow.
“I can’t deliver you dead.” He tells me matter of factly as he finally releases my head and I silently gasp for breath. He is unconcerned and walks back to his friend. They huddle over a map together, plotting a course I assume.
There will be no delivery. I look around as best I can. We are in the woods and I do not see a trail. I also do not see the sun and can only tell that it is almost night by the darkening of the shadows around us.
So we must be making camp for the night. Perhaps I’ll have a chance to run. I wonder, if I were able to escape, how I would find my way to a town. I’m not sure where we are or what direction we have gone. It’s illegal for a girl to be out after dark, without a permit, or to be without a male escort.
If I found a town I could plea my case to someone, but chances are I would be caught by someone who would take me to the guards for a profit or keep me for themselves as their bride, as the law would allow.
Perhaps my father will come. Yes, he will. The smaller one had said something about wanting to take him to the king as well. That he was a Danesa. That is what they think I am?
I feel a weight lift from me that I didn’t know was there. He said they didn’t have time. They wouldn’t take him dead. My father is alive. He has to be. He will come for me! But they wanted to take him as well. Am I more important because I can be a bride?
I look over at the men. The flat faced one is stabbing his figure at the map as the smaller one nods no. Calmly pointing at another rout. They argue under their breaths and I see them look up at me from time to time.
I won’t be safe if I run, but I’ll have a chance to get home. However, I’m sure my father is looking for me and, if I run, I could be making things more difficult. He was the best trapper around before he moved into the city to care for me. From time to time he would even go out to collect rare orders. Leaving me in the care of Gillith.
I remember those days fondly. Gillith caring for the house as Markus and I ventured through the markets. Dazzled by the magicians and jugglers that performed on the dusty dirt roads or standing on barrels to peek in the windows of the tavern to watch the men play cards. Sometimes we would end the day playing checkers. From time to time I would read to him. Both of us sprawled on the wooden floor. I wish now that I had taught him to read. But I was much too impatient for his slow progress.
However, it was during one of these trips with Markus that I had witnessed the danger of a woman being without her escort. She was young and very pretty and, I later learned, she had been separated from her father.
Markus and I had been at the nearby sweets shop, buying treats to sneak into the house that night, when I had heard her scream.
I turned to look. She was small, with the most beautiful blond hair and she was fighting with all her might. A small, enchanting, wild bird that had been caged by strong arms. My heart sank when I saw those arms were Jamith Drack; the owner of the local brothel.
He quickly took her over to the town guard, his disgusting, perfect smile beaming through the crowd of distraught and jealous faces, to claim her as his own. Her father had come pushing through the crowed, but it was too late. She was stolen and he could never offer what she would earn.
I remember Markus taking my hand and leading me home. I felt safe by his hand that engulfed mine and was holding onto me so tight. I knew he would never let that happen to me. When we were finally safe at home, only then did he let go of my hand, and I was surprised to find that the candy in my hand had melted.
I feel a tear land on my hand and I shake the memories away. Now is not the time to lose myself it them. I will make new ones as soon as I am home.
Taking in the ropes that entwine me. I try to think, but it’s easy to see that I can’t escape them quickly. I could try, but I could never do so fast enough to not be caught. I can’t run back to town alone.
Taking a deep breath I try to steady myself. All I can do is wait for my father to come or for something to change. I’m sure he can find me in these wood if I run. I know a little to survive. Not forever, but long enough. So I will wait and run at the first chance I get.
I will not be a forced bride of any kind and I will do everything I can to avoid becoming part of the king’s collection.
Enjoy my writing and pictures? Show your support with likes, comments or donations at gofundme.com/2curmzg Thank you!