I woke up in darkness. My hands were tied behind my back, my mouth bound, and the earth beneath me moist and damp. Dirt and wet leaves stuck to my neck and limbs. Insects crawled over my body, and I panicked, struggling to break free. Curled in a fetal position, I felt tree roots confining me. Pushing my feet out in an attempt to straighten my legs, I hit a large expanse of rock. Was a boulder blocking the hole where I was trapped? Slippery blackness overpowered my senses, and fear cloaked my screaming thoughts like an angel of darkness closing its wings around me.
Where had he hidden me? Where was my child?
I reined in my thoughts, taking a few deep breaths. My body began to relax, and I lay quiet, assessing the situation. I remembered sudden pain as a blow to the head dropped me to my knees in the forest, outside the village where I was hunting. I had left Rory, my infant son, with Freya. She took us in after I left Rurik, Rory’s father. Rurik had sworn he would take our child by brute force if I ever left him. I couldn’t be sure this was the case, but fear swelled within me. Breathing slowly and methodically, I sought to calm myself. Please, dear God of the faithful, hear me now. Protect my child. I drifted back into sleep.
I awoke to see a crack of light shining in from the edge of the boulder. The huge stone was rocking and scraping my feet. I pulled my legs in close to my body, alarmed at the thought of who was behind the rock. Someone was trying to get me out of here. The boulder was wrenched free, the light of day painfully pierced my eyes.
“There she is!” cried the familiar voice of my brother, Tilliam.
Gentle hands firmly grasped my body and pulled me out of the foul hole, laying me tenderly on the grass surrounding the tree I had been imprisoned in. I looked up to see two of my brothers standing above me. Tilliam bent down to check for broken bones, flashing a winning smile as he saw I was awake, staring at him through a mask of mud caked on my face. He untied the gag around my mouth.
“Elektra, we have been searching for you for days. Are you hurt? What are your injuries?”
My oldest brother, Uzziah, looked down on me, silently, from his standing position. His fiercely furrowed brow had many questions. Tilliam cut the restraints from my wrists, and wiped the mud from my face, kissing my cheek and holding me close.
“Say something, Elektra, we need to move quickly,” said Tilliam. “Rurik has taken your child. Freya is dead. With her last dying breath, she told us Rory had been taken, and you were hunting in the forest.”
“Freya, no! No, she can’t be dead.” I began to weep, my head pounded in pain, and I couldn’t think straight. My worst fears were true. Rurik had taken Rory. “I remember being hit in the head and thrown to the ground. Then, I woke up in this hole. I’m sore and bruised, but other than that, I think I’m fine.”
“She’s dehydrated and needs water, Tilly.” Uzziah pulled a water bag from his shoulder, handing it to Tilliam. “Let’s camp here for the night. She can eat and rest up for the journey tomorrow. I hope she will be able to ride her horse.”
“Yes, we can get more answers once she is rested,” said Tilliam. “Elektra, we brought your filly, Lilka, in hopes you would be found and able to travel.”
“I will be ready tomorrow. ” I sipped the water Tilliam offered me, and closed my eyes. What would I tell them? It had been years since I had talked to any of my family, except for random contact with Tilliam. Uzziah’s eyes told me he didn’t trust me yet. There was so much they didn’t know. My eyes were heavy, and Tilliam’s face began to blur.
“Wake me up for supper.” I said.
© 2016, Rebecca Braun. All rights reserved.
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