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       Slumber, p.21

         Part #1 of The Fade series by Samantha Young
 
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  “Stop it,” I bit out angrily, impatiently brushing the tears from my face with the tips of my fingers. I couldn’t just sit here walowing. I had to get out of here. The longer I stayed the more likely he would return. If that happened we were al doomed. Haydyn was doomed. I had to get to that plant. I had to get back to Haydyn.

  And when she was awake… I’d tel her al that had happened. Al that I had discovered. That there was good and bad people al over our world; that background, upbringing, proximity to the Dyzvati evocation made no matter. I’d lived my life with blinkers on, convinced that my harsh jolt out of innocent childhood somehow made me wiser than the rest. But I wasn’t. I was stil a child who’d only been thrust into womanhood on this journey. This journey to save Phaedra from losing the evocation.

  This journey that had taught me – I sucked in a painful breath – we didn’t need the evocation. What we needed was a stronger government. We needed to take care of our people no matter the province they belonged. The evocation wouldn’t change the issues that made people act out as soon as its strength waned. But perhaps a better governing of them could get us closer to fixing the issues. Getting closer to ridding the world of men like the one who had come upon me and taken me as if I were a body without a soul…

  Al this I’d tel Haydyn… if I ever got out of this.

  With renewed determination I thumped my bound hands down onto the floor, ignoring the bites and splinters from the wood. I began to drag myself along the ground. I didn’t have great upper body strength but I might have managed more easily if it weren’t for the stinging pain of my feet and the throbbing cut on my breast needling my brain, trying to slow me down.

  I made it to the door, but I was already soaking with sweat. It took me another five minutes to wobble up onto my feet so I could pry the door open. As soon as it opened and the fresh air of the forest rushed against me, stealing me from the stink of the shack, I was submerged in dizziness. I leaned against the doorframe to colect myself.

  Finaly, I opened my eyes. My magic reached out to me, beckoning me back onto the path. If I could manage to hobble far enough away, perhaps I could find some way to untie the ropes. Carefuly, concentrating, I balanced my body just right and hopped down onto the first step out of the shack. I wobbled a little, making my heart pitch in fear, but I was stil standing. I took another breath and hopped again. This time I lost my balance and went crashing with a painful oomph onto the forest floor. A little winged bug stared up at me before flying off. I growled in fearful frustration and tried to pul myself into a standing position. Five fals later and I was back up.

  That’s the pattern of how the day went. I couldn’t even remember how far I had falen, hopped and dragged myself to. I kept freezing at every sound in the forest, trying to hear over the blood rushing in my ears. By nightfal, I was covered in sweat and mud and forest. But with no coat and a ripped shirt, I was thankful for the heat of the exertion. The shack felt long gone now, but stil I remained terrified. I had no idea how far I’d come.

  Night had falen a few hours past when I heard a loud snap of a tree branch. I stiled, my heart fluttering like a snared animal. I glanced around sharply, trying to see movement in the dark. A large plant rustled and I whirled around. I could feel eyes on me. Boring into me. Trapping me.

  A rush of warm fluid slid down my leg inside my trousers.

  The rustle sounded again, another crack of tree.

  Beady eyes appeared in the dark, low to the ground. I let go of my breath, my whole body sagging as some kind of possum darted out of the bush and away from me. Realisation dawned and I looked down in the dark at my trousers. Already I could smel the stench of urine.

  Silently, I began to cry.

  ***

  I made another mistake.

  Sometime during the late night, perhaps early morning, my mind blank with agony and exhaustion, I had falen again. I had only intended to take a minute to colect myself. But when my eyes finaly peeled back open it was because a stream of sunlight was begging them to.

  I blinked, confused. Where was I?

  “Finaly, ye be wakin’.”

  The nightmare that had unbelievably been real, came rushing back at the sound of the Mountain Man’s voice. I closed my eyes as I was roughly turned around, the taste of dark soil on my lips.

  “Open yer eyes!” he belowed in my face, the putrid breath bringing back memories of the day before.

  Not wanting to, but somehow needing to, I did as he demanded, opening my eyes to see his ugly face inches above mines, his large hands gripping my upper arms.

  His eyes blazed with rage. “Ye goin’ to be gettin’ it bad, wife, for runnin’ off.”

  I was dragged up into his arms. It took me a minute to wake up, but as soon as I did I started struggling. I was in so much pain already, his pinches and slaps didn’t stop me from giving him hel as he strode in long lurches back to his shack.

  The magic screamed at me again, as he puled me from its path.

  When the shack appeared, I stopped struggling, slumping in his arms. We had walked perhaps thirty minutes using his long strides.

  It had taken me hours to get thirty minutes away from this beast.

  I gave a roar of rage and clobbered my bound hands against his head in impotent wrath. He snarled back at me, giving me a wounded look as if he were the victim, and not I. The fact that this man was clearly deranged made it worse. There would be no reasoning with someone like him.

  I was thrown down on the palet, as he slammed the shack door shut. The stench of dead meat filed the shack, and I gagged at the carcass of an animal in the other corner of the smal room. But the carcass was the least of my worries.

  My heart froze as the Mountain Man began undressing. I struggled away from him, my back pressed against the wal of the shack, my eyes franticaly searching for a weapon as the Mountain Man loomed over me naked.

  Fuck the chafing! I puled my wrists back and forth franticaly, desperate to be free. I could hear him laughing as he lowered himself to the ground, but stil I kept rubbing my wrists back and forth, growling and crying at the agony as I ripped my wrists raw, the wetness of blood joining the savage sawing. Saliva and tears dripped off my chin as I refused to look at the man before me; refusing to give in.

  I slammed back against the wal, wide-eyed as he crawled over me, straddling me. I looked into his face with so much hatred I hoped it incinerated him. His stench overwhelmed me as it had the last time, and my stomach lurched in response. His stale sweat and bad breath would have been enough to make me sick, but the odour of blood and old meat swam out of him as wel. He smeled like death.

  I closed my eyes and pushed away from him as his hands pawed at me, the muscles in my body twanging and twitching like the taut strings of a lute.

  “Ye better start playin’, wife, or I’m goin’ to get mad.”

  Despite his threat, I couldn’t stop flinching from his touch; I couldn’t have even if my mind had told me it was the safest thing to do. Instead I incurred his anger over and over again, pushing and struggling and jerking to get him off of me. One of his huge hands slid down over my face, and he pushed me, slamming my head off the wal. The minutes after that were distant and unclear. My head loled on my shoulders, and I could only see and hear images. I swore I heard Wolfe’s voice, saw Haydyn’s face.

  But they weren’t here.

  As the present came back to me, my situation had worsened. I was flat on my back on the palet, the Mountain Man stil straddling me. My shirt had been ripped completely open by the knife in his hands. I was covered in little shalow cuts.

  I gave a garbled cry and swung at his head with my hands, a weak hit, but enough to give me a moment to summon my energy. I bucked under him, trying to throw him off. I swung at him again, causing him to jerk away, giving me the momentum I needed to shake him off. I screamed like a banshee the entire time, using it to draw my adrenaline into usefulness.

  The Mountain Man roared back at me and clambered over me, the k
nifeless fist swooping down and connecting with my face. I felt blood gush out of my nose, my eyes watering, and I fought down more vomit. He used my disorientation to unbutton my trousers.

  “No, no,” I mumbled, tasting the bitter copper of my blood. I shook my head. No. I began to hyperventilate as his body drew flush with mine, his face hovering above me with lascivious eyes and a lusty grin. I threw up again.

  It didn’t discourage him.

  I heard the clatter of the knife as he threw it away and one hand pressed my head, left cheek down, into the palet. I imagined it was to keep the vomit off him. He tried to tug my trousers off. I felt my eyes rol back in my head.

  The Mountain Man flinched, a startled cry faling from his mouth. I looked up out of the corner of my eye and saw him staring straight ahead at the wal, his eyes wide. He snarled and roled off of me and my own eyes widened at the sight of an arrow sticking out of his back. I threw my tied hands out and dragged my body away from him, gasping at the vision of a man, cast in the shadow of the doorway, a huge machete clutched in his hands. Beside him stood a girl. Young. Perhaps Haydyn’s age. She held a crossbow pointed at the Mountain Man. I watched in a stupor of horror and hope as the Mountain Man lunged to his feet to attack the intruders. The girl let another arrow fly with expertise and calm. Mountain Man staggered back as the girl immediately armed the crossbow with another arrow. The man beside her laid a gentle hand on her shoulder, holding her off.

  I wanted to complain. To tel her to shoot. Mountain man was stil standing. But as I watched Mountain Man, I noticed his face go slack. Pale. And then his eyes roled back in his head. He colapsed with an almighty thud.

  “This her?” the man at the doorway asked softly, nodding at me.

  “Stupid question, papa. Course it’s her,” the girl answered lazily, as if she were encountering an everyday situation.

  I slid away from them. I couldn’t trust anyone here.

  The man nodded grimly and moved tentatively towards me, making me shimmy back further. I hit the wal again and glowered at him. He stopped, and as my eyes adjusted to the light, I saw his face. He appeared upset. Concerned. “I’m not goin’ to hurt ye, little one. I’m goin’ to untie those ropes for ye, so ye can be gettin’ yerself together.”

  My heart beat unsteadily as I glanced between the two strangers. I so needed to believe them. “Who are you? What did you do to him? Don’t come near me!” I screeched as he edged closer.

  He sighed heavily and the girl huffed, “Wel that be a grateful response. We isn’t goin’ to hurt ye!” She shook her head. “Papa, she’s as soft as goat’s cheese. No wonder she be landin’ in this mess and causin’ a rumpus!”

  I blinked in confusion, stil dazed from my beating. Who was this girl? This man?

  “L, be nice,” the man admonished softly. “Help the poor girl, wil ye. She’s been through what ye like to cal an ordeeul.” An ordeal?! I wanted to scream. An ordeal?! Being kidnapped by the Iavia, running from rookery thugs, that was an ordeal! This… I shook my head. I looked back over at the Mountain Man and then back at the two people who had attacked him. Had they realy saved me? Why?

  The girl - L, her father had caled her - sighed. “Look here, Rogan, we isn’t goin’ to hurt ye. We’re rescuing ye from Crazy here. My arrow was tipped in a poison he won’t be comin’ back from. Bugger won’t be hurtin’ no one again.” She curled her lip in disgust at the Mountain Man.

  I was barely listening. I had stiffened in surprise. “How do you my name?”

  The man sighed now. “My girl is one o’ the blessed. A mage. She’s got the Sight.”

  “A Glava?” I raised my eyebrows incredulously at her.

  “That be me,” L huffed. “I felt yer terror. So papa and I set out to rescue ye. Now… ye goin’ to repay our kindness by no’ takin’ a fit o’ the vapours as we untie ye?”

  There was something genuine about the girl’s gruffness and her father’s gentleness. Relief crashed over me and I began to shake uncontrolably. Tears glittered in my eyes but I fought them back, noticing L watched me carefuly. “Of course,” I managed, relaxing somewhat.

  The man reached for me slowly and gently cut the ropes around my wrist.

  He hissed at the mess. They were red and bleeding, skin shredded off entirely in places. I imagined, overal, I wasn’t a pretty sight, covered in blood, bruises and vomit. Not to mention my trousers stil stank of fear. “Ma wil have to be puttin’ some o’ her special medicine on to be sortin’ that mess out.” I didn’t argue. I couldn’t continue on in my journey without getting cleaned up and hopefuly fed. When he had cut the rope from my ankles, which were in much the same condition as my wrists, I numbly refastened my trousers and tried to pul the shirt together. L stiled my hands, briskly puling off her jacket and tugging me into it.

  She buttoned it for me. Up close now I could see her eyes. A multitude of emotion lived in them. She wasn’t as unaffected by the state she’d found me in as she’d like me to believe. I stumbled forward on my blistered feet and L exhaled again, throwing her father a look. “Ma wil need to be sortin’ her feet out too if this one is to be gettin’ to the Pool.”

  It took me a moment, as L and her father reached to help me out of the shack, their arms around me as I hobbled along with them, that L’s comment meant she knew who I was and why I was here.

  “Where are you taking me?” I asked wearily, as we wandered into the woods. I numbed myself to the pain, only focusing on my relief.

  L’s father answered, “Back to our home so ye can get cleaned up. I’m Jonas, by the way.”

  “Helo, Jonas. Thank you for rescuing me.”

  L coughed.

  “You too, L.”

  After a moment of silence the numbness and overwhelming relief gave way to a need for answers, for more reassurance. “Where is your home? What else do you know, L? Is it-”

  “Questions later, Lady Rogan,” L sniffed. “Let’s just be gettin’ the blazes out o’ here.” I obliged her, not once looking back.

  Chapter Twenty Five

  L and Jonas took me back onto the trail path and my magic hummed contentedly as we headed in the right direction. I hobbled between them a while, little whimpers and grunts escaping out of me at the pain.

  “We be headin’ near the outskirts of Shadow Hil,” L whispered abruptly. “Ye need to be keepin’ that pain quiet.” I didn’t reply. I just heeded her warning.

  Sometime later, when I heard voices way off in the distance, I guessed we were at Shadow Hil. Jonas and L had grown tense beside me and were walking almost tentatively. I could tel they were worried I’d somehow give them a way, but after what I’d just gone through, I had no intention of putting myself in a position to be abused again.

  There was a horrible moment when we heard the woods crashing to our right; the whips and rustles of trees and plants, the hard thud of a heavy foot in the soil. My rescuers looked at each other wide-eyed and then quickly pushed me behind a thick tree trunk, warning me with their eyes to stay there. They scurried off to find a tree each to hide behind. I didn’t dare look behind me, or peer around the tree. My heart thud thud thumped in my chest as I heard a man whistling and humming under his breath. I then heard a hissing noise and saw L rol her eyes from her place behind the tree across from me. I think perhaps the man was relieving himself.

  After a while the humming and noise of him crashing through the woods faded into the distance and a grinning L came out from behind her tree, Jonas behind her. I glowered at her. I’d never met a girl as cocky as this one. Without a word, they put their arms back around me, helping me, and we set off again.

  Half an hour later, quiet tears roled down my face. I was in agony. The back of my head throbbed, my cheeks felt stiff and bruised, as did my mouth. The cut on my lip stung. The rise of my breast throbbed, my wrists felt raw, the pain from the broken skin sharp and nipping. My ankles were the same. I tried not to let my legs get too close together so they didn’t rub off one another. And my feet. They f
elt shredded and swolen.

  I expected L to make a comment on my tears but she just looked at me and picked her pace up a little. I tried to keep up, and as dark fel over us, L and Jonas led me off the trail path into the thick of the woods. Wariness clung to me but I tried to shrug it off. L and Jonas were helping me. I realy believed that. But my body, stil in shock from what had happened, stil regarded everyone with fear and suspicion.

  We walked perhaps another hour, this time deviating enough from my magic for it tug at me, like a child puling a friend’s hair in frustration. I didn’t care this time. I needed to rest. Just for a minute. Only a minute.

  Finaly a wel-built shack appeared in a tiny clearing in the woods. There was a vegetable garden outside, and a goat tied to the wooden framing of the porch. It was the homeliest looking place I’d seen since venturing into the mountains; like something from a fairytale. As we hobbled up the rough-hewn path, the door to the house burst open, candlelight from inside streaming out to greet us. I almost wept in relief. A woman’s silhouette framed the doorway, a child’s face appearing from behind her skirts.

  “Thank haven,” the woman whispered into the night. “I was gettin’ worried.”

  “Ma, we need some o’ yer medicine,” L caled out to her as we drew towards the porch. Jonas and L helped me hobble up the steps until I was facing the woman.

  Her expression changed instantly as she took me in, her smile disappearing into angry concern.

  “Dear haven, what did he do to that child?! Get her in here.” She gestured us inside briskly. It was easy to see who L had inherited her gruffness from.

  In I went with them, looking down at the little boy who stared at me in horror. I gazed around in wonder. We were in the sitting room/kitchen of their home. Two rocking chairs sat on either side of a large, glowing fire. I was huddled over to the table that took up most of the room. There were empty plates and cups on it. In the kitchen the smel of stew wafted out to me and my stomach clenched. There were two doors, one at the back and the other on the wal opposite the fire. I gathered it led to their bedrooms. Their home was warm and welcoming and cosy. My body gave way at the relief and I crumpled between Jonas and L, both of them crying out to catch me.

 
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