She could remember leaving the house though it was a little fuzzy. The pain throbbing through her head didn’t help, it seemed to be splitting her skull in two.
That was it! She had returned to the house only to see her brooch was missing, her shawl almost falling off. She loved that brooch; it had been a present from her grandmother, a woman who had defied God’s laws and lived to almost sixty years. It was gold, extremely rare amongst the churls, and had intricate swirls etched over it’s circular disk shaped surface. In the centre was a large star and when the light was right, and it was moved from side to side, it would sparkle just like the celestial bodies.
The walk had taken her into the night, back towards the dung heap where she had emptied the pot. The smell was awful down there, urine and faeces not the most pleasant of aromas, but her mother had given her the task. She would be married off soon, she was already turning fourteen, and would have to look after her own household. She had laughed to herself, at least then her mother would have to empty her own pots.
There was more pain than just her head. Her whole body ached and she knew she had been assaulted; her body would be a mask of purple. But, even though her eyes were open, she could see nothing. And that terrified her most of all.
Walking down the path she had scanned the floor, finding it difficult to search in the dim light. The leaves and grass would conceal her trinket, their grasp hiding it from her desperate gaze, and her heart had leapt when she had spotted a sparkle, something reflecting the moonlight.
Looking around she realised that it was completely dark, wherever she was. Trying to sit up, she only managed to crack her head against something, pain shooting through her so she automatically clasped her forehead. She was in an enclosed space, the ceiling so low she couldn’t even sit up fully. Instead, she managed to shuffle around, like a mole turning in its tunnel, and raised herself up onto all fours. Then there was a spark of memory that made her shiver.
A tight grasp around her mouth.
Tugging on her hair pulling it back.
A blow to her head that swept the blackness over her,
Eyes bulging in terror, realised she had been kidnapped or worse. She froze still, unable to move. Everything flew from her mind, every thought was washed away. Slowly her hand instinctively moved to steady herself as she felt her body shake, her arms almost giving way.
And she felt it. And she knew what it was straight away. A skull.
The adrenaline shot through her veins; filling her with the automatic reactions that only instincts could provide, and in a split second she jerked sideways away from nauseating discovery.
Eventually the panic subsided though the thought that the remains of a human head was lying next to her appalled her to her very core. She had seen dead warriors burn on funeral pyres, even seen some being taken into burial mounds, but never lain next to one like some morbid after death sleeping partner. She wondered if the rest of the skeleton was there but every fibre of her being refused to investigate further.
But where was she?
She could feel the ceiling above now, her fingers moving over beams that ran upwards at an angle. Where she sat she was wedged in as the ceiling met the rough, stony floor. Wherever it was highest she refused to go; that meant going near the skull once more. The air had a musky sent to it, a stale smell like a air in a room that had not been opened in a long, long time. And if it hadn’t been opened in a long time, then no-one was likely to come to her aid.
Crawling along, being careful not to hit her head again or touch whatever waited with her chilling companion, she quickly reached a rough surface in front that blocked her way. A solid stone face. Something was telling her where she was; she could sense she was missing something, a realisation that she had already thought of and yet was overlooking.
It came to her.
The low ceiling; the stone blocking her way; the skeletal remains.
She was in a burial mound.