‘Princess?’ The sylphs reappeared before her, the leader of the three reached down a spectral hand and grazed her shoulder. Tayna, overcome with grief, shook it away, turned to them and screamed for them to leave her alone. They did as commanded and disappeared.
Her body shaking, she turned to face the ruin of her home, choking on her own sobs. Will stood beside her, he felt tears in his eyes. He'd never wanted to know something so awful as this, and he could never have guessed it was the truth. He couldn't take his eyes off Tayna and how much sorrow he felt for her, he thought that he was the only one who could know what it was like to lose a loved one.
He had been wrong.
It seemed that Tayna was alone, but suddenly, somebody grabbed her from behind, pulling her back by her hair. She screamed in complaint, thinking it was a surviving villager pulling her to safety. Instead, one arm tightened around her waist and pulled her tightly against their male, bony frame, the other arm hooked around her neck, choking her, causing her to breath in the smoked air. She felt numb; her captor knew how to restrain someone well.
‘What are you?’ he rasped demandingly, she could feel his sour breath against her cheek, his saliva trailing down her neck.
‘My na-name is Ta-Tayna,’ she stammered, feeling woozy and as light as air.
‘I said what! Are you magus or human?Answer the question!'
He pulled against her hair and ripped out several strands, she tried to scream but his hold against her throat was too strong. Will could see the man - he was hooded, his face darkened. In the hand of the arm he held against her neck was a dagger, the blade was long, thin and black, the hilt made of dulled ivory. In an angry stroke, he dragged it across her cheek, blood oozed out and into the curve of her mouth.
'Please, I don't - I don't know what I am,' she spluttered, struggling. 'You're special, Tayna.' Her mother had said so...now she was dead...murdered by these men. Tayna's eyes flared in anger, 'you killed my family! You're a MURDERER!'
He moved the dagger to her neck, brushing aside her hair for a clean cut, but as the edge dug into her jugular and she gasped, he stopped. Then he began to chuckle, his breath warm and moist, he burrowed his face into her neck, Tayna felt him kiss it. Then she felt a sudden stinging as his lips pursed and she felt him suck the blood from her neck. When he pulled away, his breath, now with the metallic scent of blood, made her want to gag. He raised his lips to the whorl of her ear,
'Hello, princess,' he whispered happily. Princess? Taking her opportunity, Tayna struggled and freed on of her arms from his grip and punched backwards, successfully hitting him on the nose. He staggered backwards and loosened her grip, she kicked back and struck his knee, knocking him to the ground. His hood fell down, Tayna fell to the ground, hastily turned to face her attacker, and screamed.
The man before her had half a face. A messy scar ran from his greasy hairline to his neck, it passed between his eyebrows, avoiding his nose and mouth. One of his eyes had remained light blue, almost white – but the other was pure black. His nose was bent and broken, and his hair was white and curtained.
Ending her scream, Tayna backed away and wiped the blood from the wound on her neck, touching where the marks of his lips remained wet. She looked at the blood on her fingers and gasped - her blood was blue. She couldn't understand what was happening to her, being called princess, being told these men were after her - who am I? She tried to forget, diverting her energy to escaping, scrambling to stand but collapsing when her knee felt like a bag of water. She was sure she had broken her kneecap, the pain was too intense for her to move quickly, already it left her out of breath. And now the half-faced man had stood, and had dragged her by her collar towards him, up into the air. The fabric chafed and cut into her throat, she spluttered and he smiled, half of his teeth were missing and yellow.
'Do you fear me, Your Highness?' he cackled, 'does this face disgust you?' Tayna couldn't answer, so afraid that tears ran down her face, she was terrified, terrified that she was going to die. 'You should be afraid. I won't have you hurt, however, you are much too valuable. Just come with us willingly, I promise we'll take good care of you.'
'Murderer,' she hissed. His eyes narrowed angrily.
'Those things, they are worthy of us, humans are nothing but talentless trash. What did they do to you? Tricked you into thinking you were a normal magus, did they? Blasphemy!' he spat acerbically. 'They will never understand you. How can you defend their lives?'
Tayna’s lip trembled, she hadn’t been looking at his disfigurement until he asked her. She clenched her fists with rage, and narrowed her eyes at him. 'Because I love them.'