She crawled along the ground on her belly, dragging herself deeper into the cover of the bushes. With every movement she felt pain lancing through her but she kept on going because she had not other choice.
Not true. She did have one other choice but it was unacceptable. She would not turn back, would not give in and would not accept the fate that had befallen on her family. Somehow, someway she would survive. She had no clear idea what would happen after that, had no clear idea of what the next minute or second would bring. She could hear the fire burning in the background, the wood popping with the heat, the cries of those still in the clutches of men so vile as to defy description and above it all, she could hear the jubilant cries of the men that had wrecked havoc on her small farming village as they continued to feed their twisted hungers.
She paused but a moment, heaving for breath and fighting not to vomit as the sounds filled her ears. Her skin bore abraisions not only from her own encounter with the strangers but with the ground as she had moved over it, her clothing ripped and torn, more gone than there. She tried to push the images of the last hours out of her mind, tried not to see the men who her father, the village's chief, had taken in with all hospitality as they killed first her father, than her brother and than held her to watch as her mother and sister were used to slate their wicked needs.
And then it had been her turn and she had fought and screamed to no avail. The caravan that had come into town had contained many men. They had said they were lost, had needed food and shelter. These had been provided happily by her family and neighbors. They had been divided among the houses, fed and made at home. And then, sometime after the moons of Astelbania had risen and all men, women and children were in bed (for farming was early work) they had struck. The village had had no chance.
Men and children slaughtered, the women and young girls abused and then killed. Her stomach twisted in a knot as she forced herself to move once again. Her hands scrabled at the ground, reaching for roots and earth to pull her along. Her legs trembled and pain ripped through her at every movement. When they had been done with her, they had taken her head and made her watch as they opened her mother and sister with a blade from neck to belly, laughing at the screams of the women as they thrashed in their dying throes.
She had blanked out her mind until then, moving it away from what was happening to her, willing herself to be anywhere but there. But the ugly deaths of her family sparked something she did not know she possessed and, as she watched her beloved mother and sister die, she felt the need not to give in without a fight. But what could she do? One man held her down while the others did their dirty work.
Flailing helplessly, her hand had come into contact with something hard and sharp. The palm of her hand had been cut, the pain jolting her into action. She had grabbed it, not realizing it for what it was, her father's sword which had fallen when he had died. She had not known it to be that close but it was and now it was in her hand.
They had turned toward her, coming for her at last and in desperation she had struck out. The man holding her had losened his grip for but a moment. She was a young girl, what could she do? Lashing out, she had brought the sword up and into both hands, stabbing blindly and only by the will of Fasdeus had it made it's mark. Even now she could remember the look of surprise as the man above her looked down at the sword buried deep in his belly.
The other men too were taken aback and she had used that moment, that precious window of time to struggle to her feet and dash out the door and into the Nine Hells of The Abyss itself.
How she had managed to make it to the forest the village had been carved from she may never know but she had pulled herself along by sheer will when her legs had given out from beneath her and now she moved further in, biting back a sob of frustration and helplessness that there was nothing she could do for the others still in the village.
She tried to block out the cries and screams of the people she had grown up with, loved and spent her life with but she could not. Tears streamed down her face to mix with the blood that covered her. Blood from herself, her family and the man she had killed. She could feel her body tremble and grit her teeth as the dark folage before her swam. She would not pass out. She would not allow them that victory however small.
She froze as a movement from the bushes caught her attention. Had they already found her? Were they playing with her? Letting her think she had escaped when they had known all along where she was? Fear clutched at her and she shut her eyes, willing the darkness to blanket her, to hide her, to not let her enemy see where she was.
Then a sob, soft and terrified came to her even underneath the chaos that was surrounding her and she opened her eyes once more, honing in on where she thought it had come from.
Moving to her right, she parted the bushes there cautiously and her eyes widened to see a familiar face, blood matted and dirt coated as her own must be. The young woman was lying curled up in a fetal position, her low, breathless sobs shaking her body as it rocked back and forth.
Instictively she moved, gathering her legs under her even though it caused her more pain and moving to clasp a hand onto the young woman's mouth. Any sound would bring retribution on their heads.
The woman struggled, panicked before her eyes lighted on who held her, the features just visible in the light of the slivers of the triple moons.
"Jezbel?" The young woman pulled her hand away for a moment before she could clap it down again.
"Shhh!" Jezbel warned, curling herself next to her and placing her mouth near her ear. "Do you wish us to be caught, Semoan?" Her voice was a harsh whisper roughened by her own screaming and sobbing, her throat raw from her protests at the outrage done to them all.
Semoan's head whipped back and forth almost dislodging her hand once again and then her eyes peeled wider as she realized what the weight that was on her chest came from. Glancing down to where the woman, her brother's fiancee, was looking she realized that the reason she had not been able to fully cover Seamoan's mouth was because her father's blood coated sword was still held in that hand. She must have brought it with her when she had run from her home but she could not remember doing so.
Whispering to her again, she instructed. "We have to get away from here. Now."
Semoan nodded once again and pointed toward the North East. Jezbel puzzled a moment and then understanding lit her eyes. The cave. It was a place all the children had played in since they were old enough to explore on their own. Older brother and sisters would take the younger there when old enough. Every one of them knew each and every passageway by heart and they would be able to navigate them, even in the dark.
Nodding to indicate she understood, she came to her knees, pushing herself up on the sword and clasped Semoan under her arms to assist her. Together, bent so as to make themselves as small as possible, they made their through the thick tangle of trees and brush to the only place that might be a haven.