The Talons of a Dark Heart Ch. 01byTalyisBagley©
The dull sounds of twigs breaking against dry leaves, the occasional jolt into wet mud dulling the roll underneath her as the lull of strange masculine voices brought her pain back to her. Her arms and legs burned like poisonous snakes putting their fire into her blood. Each rock made her body hurdle into the air forcing new pains to her already bruised body. She was bound by her legs and arms tied in front of her as she brought her little fingers to where warmth leaked in through a hole of the burlap sack that was her prison.
The smell of swine stench suffocated her delicate nose from wanting to inhale for life. Her eyes swelled, she grasped what she had hoped and dreamed was now realized a reality. Her heart pounded in her ears in this realization hoping it would stop or that time would fast forward to where the pain would be no longer; only leaving a remnant of this time as a distant memory and happy endings to look forward to. She stifled her tears, she did not want to be noticed, as reality rushed to her- no happy endings were coming her way.
She didn't know where she was other than a cart or a cage, perhaps, moving. She tried to feel around for an opening above her head and she used her toes to find which way was up or down. The movement of whatever that was carrying her jostled her. She felt beads of sweat pour from her brow as she fought now with the constant jerk and jar of her captors' journey.
She saw the blue sky through the small window. She spied two crates that she was sandwiched between, probably spoils from the raid. She had to move her body around the crates that held her near the back of the now understood wagon cart to see if she could roll away. She was determined to not be another item of whimsy taken from the castle to be lotted out as a trinket. She had to free her hands but the ropes were thicker than her small mouth. If she could escape she could find a kind person to release her bonds.
Suddenly the wagon stopped. She could hear the voices more clearly and their heavy boots hitting the ground as the moved around the wagon.
"We will have to cross the river. The rain five days ago has washed out the bridge," a man said in a foreign tongue.
She understood enough where she was going. Her father made her learn the languages of their enemies, so that one day she could lead her kingdom in victorious wars against these people. Her need to get away was stronger than ever. She couldn't have slept any more than the rest of the night of the raid. If she were to escape, she could return home. She concentrated trying to visualize the maps she was made to study. She tried to recall all the rivers and lakes that surrounded her territory.
Courage overflowed her; the rivers were surrounded by allies and friendly kingdoms. If she were to escape, she could go to those kingdoms they would help her, even fight for her! Her allies were strong and would take down these known dangerous foreign raiders. She winced at the idea of these barbarians having already raided all the surrounding kingdoms and that would have been logically to why no warning came to her own.
She felt the floor beneath her give way as she rolled forward and the crates moved to the edge.
"Remove the crates," a voice barked, "It won't float, it will sink."
"Check the girl," another commanded in a gruff voice that made her soul quiver.
She froze her body and tried to be as still as possible, but her heart raced as a rabbit.
"She is still out. You must have hit her with such a force," the men all cackled as one jabbed at the seemingly lifeless sac.
"Get to work, caulk the wagon. We will float across the river," the leader sneered not amused.
The sloshing of boots against the mud and voices trying to overpower another surrounded her. She felt the crates that hugged her sac removed. She was picked up easily and discarded to another part of the wagon like a nerveless piece of cargo. She clenched her teeth to suppress herself from making a noise. It was pertinent for these barbarians to believe that she was still unconscious in order to slip away. Then as quickly as they stopped, they started again and with a sudden jerk her body rolled down as the raiders moved forward.
"The water is not that deep, move faster; we need to get there before sundown,"
What did that mean? Were they going to raid another kingdom? How many prisoners had they already taken and who from her own land joined her? She tried to listen for the cries and tears of her kinfolk but only the rush of water masked her ears and the abhorrent muffle of foreign Aricin tongues.
Frigid cold spilled onto her back as the water soaked the base boards below her. She tried to find her peep hole to see if there was anything that could help her. She located the crates, pieces of the sky and the shore as she rocked back and forth by the water and trudge. She had to do it now. Their own splashing in the water masked their voices even more now. They wouldn't even hear or see her if she rolled off into the water; they all were in front of the wagon. She focused on reaching the other shore. This was her only chance. She began to roll herself to the edge of the wagon, took a deep breath and let herself fall into the river.
The freezing water overcame her, wanting to freeze her heart and muscles. The sac tightened around her body. She was unable to break free. The water's invisible hands tightened the ropes around her hands and feet. She had made a grave mistake, she should have waited till dry land and now she would be overcome by the river.
Her body was jerked up roughly and a knife sliced daylight to her eyes. Her eyes squinted in the blinding light that pained her pupils. She coughed and gasped for air as the man held her up by her wrist bounds. She didn't glance at him but as soon as he had freed her he had thrown onto the cart and cut her legs free. She dashed out of the cart as fast as she could pushing him into the water as she ran towards the shore. She panted for freedom but her step slipped and she was underwater again kicking upward to find the sky.
Again an arm reached for her, grasping her throat and pulling her up; then forcefully pushed her head underwater. She screamed and thrashed in the water, her body in full panic. Her fingers clawed at his strong wrists trying to free herself, her legs kicking to lever her head to the surface. Finally, he let her live. She heaved and choked for air.
"Vile" he snorted.
Two men quickly grabbed her and fastened her bound hands to a rope tied to the back of a horse. She remembered this voice as the leader.
"You are able to walk," He sneered and mounted his horse, "You better keep up or you will be dragged. I don't care if you are dragged to skin and organ. I will not lose time because of you, Vile."
And with that he kicked his horse to a gallop causing her to trip and fall to her stomach in a drag. The men howled with laughter. The horse stopped and the leader smirked as he looked down at her. His eyes glimmered the most entrancing blue-greens that put awe into her heart and yet cause her temper to boil red as hell.
It was a long sad journey; she was farther away than her ally territories. Her soul sank when she realized that the river that almost took her was more than a night sleep beyond the raid away. Her bare feet scraped against the rocks and stung when the shards of fine gravel cut into her soles and burned with the mud. She detested their foul Aricin language that quipped about nothing important. She burned inside with fury as these pigs ignored her very presence. She was to be queen of the most powerful kingdom in the realm. She'd only have to hope for an ally interception of her now. Her animosity kept her off focus from her attempts to keep up with the horse she was tied to and it would then drag her and scrape the skin off her knees and thighs before she could pull herself up.
"Vile" the leader spat at her as he rode his horse back to the front of her catching her attention.
She did not notice that he was behind her or how long he was behind her. She wanted to keep an eye on him. Learning how to become victor over him was her only chance to survive. If she could find his weakness and kill him, she would be free. But no weaknesses were noted. He was more decorated than the rest of his band. He wore his armor despite that the rest had taken most of theirs off and attached it to their horses. His long sword was always in his hand to the ready. She only knew his voice- and the grip of his hands that saved and wanted drown her. He was still damp from their assaults on each other in the water. His dark hair contrasted against his fair Aricin skin and when he talked his smile curled into a wicked toothy grin that probably was famous with the maidens in his land. She caught his eyes staring at her. Green eyes as if to pierce her heart to find the secrets to her weakness.
The decorated horse whined as he dismounted. He tenderly petted his horse's brown and white face and then with a booming voice he instructed his men to set up camp.
The men exhausted and satisfied dismounted speaking to one another as they removed items from the wagon. A big man, with a grizzly black beard grabbed her wrists startling her. He had hunger in his eyes, the way she saw in the militia men when they came back from battle and supped with her father late at night with ladies dressed in silk gowns to serve their meals. She shirked back in terror as the hungry man smiled a black-rotted toothy grin at her and sniffed her hair.
"Leave her be," the leader boomed, "You'll get your share tonight." The leader didn't even look at her, he was still attending his horse and then chuckled lightly in the most musical sound she had ever heard. Everything about him was a contrast; he showed such tenderness to his beloved horse feeding it from the palm of his gloved hand.
"Do you think she is pure?" another man heckled.
"I am certain her piety and self delusions of importance verifies that she is," the leader croaked with bitter laughter.
"How dare you!" Talyis finally spoke, "You impotent pigs! When my father's men catch up to you, I'll have you castrated in the square left for the buzzards"
"Oh, is that so, Princess," the heckling man approached her to address her challenge. He was so close she could smell his musk of sweat from battle and his unkempt horse.
"You are swine! Your people are all useless swine! I myself will take you down for this."
All the men enraged pulled their swords and raised them at her. The leader threw his helmet down, and with big broad steps that seemed to shake the earth, grabbed her hair and twisted cloth into her mouth, tying it behind her head. She tried to break free from his hold but he glared at her with his light eyes piercing the most hatred than any of the men that surrounded her together. The hatred embarrassed her as tears leaked from her eyes. He snapped her head away from him.
"Get to work," he ordered and walked away taking his horse with him into the forest.
The men put up their tents and built a fire to cook as the sun set behind them. Talyis sat cold against a tree in silence; the vision of the leader's hatred running constantly in her mind. What kind of hell was she in?
The leader was gone, deep within the forest for a long time while the men ate their meals. Once and awhile they would throw their scraps towards Taylis so they could laugh at her as she tried to scramble to get it before one of the dogs. She sat on the ground, nibbling at the dirty piece of meat trying to ignore their trivial banter about women they've had and look forward to having soon again. She clenched her eyes as her head split with pain not from her assaults, but from the constant translation she absent-mindedly did with their cursed language.
"She is filthy," the leader yelled at the band as he emerged from the woods carrying his armor.
His horse galloped ahead of him to a spot near the other horses. She only saw his shadow until he came closer to the fire. He was young and he looked like he had found a creek to bathe. He was body lean and tall, his dark hair in slight waves framing his strong angled jaw.
"Get her ready!" he barked again, the smoothness of his movements compared drastically to his sharpness with anything concerning her. She shuddered as she saw him glance towards her, "Unless your stomachs completely rule your manhood," he chuckled and the men chuckled and quickly jumped up. One gave the leader a bowl of their meal while others moved towards her.
Cold buckets of water were dowsed over her, barely streaking away the dirt from her body. Her night shift clung to her body as she shivered violently.
"Hmpf, pity she's not even comely under all that dirt," the leader mocked never glancing her way just gnawing on his piece of meat.
She didn't know why she abhorred his comments on her beauty, she really didn't want to imagine him or anyone trying to think of her in any unrespectable way but she was enraged. What did he mean she was not beautiful; she was the princess and no one had ever in her life said the otherwise, especially not in her presence.
She marked her plan to grab his sword and strike the leader dead, rightfully so. She watched smothered in destain as the fire danced light onto his beautiful face. He had strong features foreign to her land. A square jaw that housed his tight lip in a straight line under his nose, his face didn't grow a long unkempt shaggy beard like the others had. He was clean, the wisps of his raven curls played with the breeze that crackled the fire. His brow showed patience neither contempt or anxiety as he conversed with his comrades.
"Where are you taking me?!" Talyis shouted towards the leader shivering wet. They did not answer or glance her way. "What have you? What is your business with me?" the leader continued his quiet conversation ignoring her. "Who are you, so I know the name of the man I will soon gut?! Answer me!" she screamed losing her strong composure sounding more like an ill-tempered child than a royal. She became more frustrated and stamped her small feet in the mud her shower created, "Answer me now!"
A man came from a tent and handed the leader a prod that he sat in fire and used it to move the logs around.
"You, you!" Talyis shouted at the leader, he visibly took in a deep breath and sucked his teeth to calm himself. "What are your demands with me?"
"That you be quiet," he replied simply without emotion.
"You take me from my land without demands. What kind of strategy is that, you fool? You do know you I am. Do you wish to overthrow my kingdom and allies? If so I will make myself stronger with my allies."
"I wish for you to be quiet!" the leader said again keeping his temper at ease while playing with his poker in the fire and not looking at the girl. "I demand nothing of your pitiful land of ruins. I will do whatever I please and will not be ordered, do you understand, Princess."
"I will not be your tool!"
"Be quiet or you will be gagged."
"I will not! You will fear for your life," she protested.
The leader only chuckled and then waved to his band of men. "We will see, Vile, who will fear who and who will not."
~Thank you for reading my story. "The Talons of a Dark Heart" has been in my mind for many years now and it is my first time sharing my writing with others. I hope you enjoy it. I am open to all constructive comments and votes ;). Special thanks CristalBall for her wonderful editing of the series.