Friday 3 June 2016

Of Ash And Dew - Eleven

   It happened too quickly for Mítrei to react. Staring into the blackness of the night-drowned forest, she'd fallen for their trick, turning towards the sound of a thrown stone while her attackers came up from behind. They moved more quietly than she ever guessed they could have - no wonder they'd managed to take and enslave so many of the tribes.
   She recognised the face in the brief struggle, before something heavy struck her on the back of the head. She'd chased down those who had attacked her last, and only one had gotten away. It seemed that that one wasn't prepared to let her go, and had returned with reinforcements. She couldn't fight off six, especially while still half in the dead embrace of sleep.
   The next she knew, she'd been dumped on the ground, tied to a tree with her hands additionally bound behind her while the others slept a few feet away. She noticed one standing against a tree nearby, his arms folded across his chest and head bowed. She couldn't tell if he was awake, so she didn't dare make too much movement, but he was too still and his head too low to be alert.
   Her knife was gone. She hadn't expected them to let her keep it, but the first confirmation she had of that was when she spotted it lying on the ground a few feet away. They must only have removed it as they set her down.
   The amulet, however, remained. She could feel its weight about her neck, concealed beneath the blouse Edwin had donated her. Clearly these people-snatchers hadn't bothered to search her for valuables, but then, how often did her kin carry such things? They were needless. Weapons, however, were crucial for any situation, tools for a myriad of circumstances, and so they were likely all that was sought to be removed.
   Relieved for that fact, at least, she turned her attention to the rope. It was unfortunate for them that they'd captured a hunter's daughter. She knew a tight knot from a strong one, and strong this was not.
   She wriggled carefully, pulling the rope that restrained her to the tree this way and that in very particular movements. She kept her eyes fixed throughout on the snoozing sentry, but he didn't stir, and soon the rope had loosened enough that, with a deep inhalation and contraction of her stomach, she was able to push herself to her feet and slip out of its grip.
   Her hands were still bound, but that small matter would have to wait. Escape was priority.
   She tiptoed easily towards the knife and turned around, crouching backwards to lift it despite her restraints. Once she had the hilt, she pushed off and ran without a backward glance. She wouldn't give them the time to wake and see her staring at them in caution. She heard no sign of them rousing, but even if she had, her only option now she'd freed herself was to escape. Otherwise, should they catch her, she would be beaten, tied tighter and watched closely, and the opportunity wouldn't come again.
   She padded through the forest, her footfalls quiet from practice and the lessons her father had given her, and she didn't dare to stop. All was silent around her but for the hoot of owls and rustle of nighttime creatures. They surely weren't following her; they couldn't be that quiet.
   But they had sneaked up on her twice already. It wasn't worth the risk. She would run until felt safe or she collapsed, whichever came first.

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