The steady fall of water from the stalactites down to the cool cave floor was the only thing she could hear as the world around her remained hidden. Her stomach growled rather loudly as she leaned against the damp wall; her small hands were tightly tied with rope and her eyes were covered by a blindfold. From what she could hear, she wasn't the only prisoner; there were sounds of sniffling and crying- maybe from children even younger than her.
Maybe it was her own fault for roaming out of the village after dark, for not heeding the words of the village elder about the rising numbers of children being abducted by a cult. This was one of the times she wished she had stopped and think about listening to her parents about wandering out of their sights- but it was too late. The moment she entered the forest during the blue harvest moon, her fate was sealed when she was grabbed from behind and her nose and mouth were covered by a large gloved hand. She tried to get away by kicking and biting but she was quickly silenced by a painful thump on the back of her head.
Has it been hours? Or has it been days since she was taken?
She didn't know.
All she knew was that she was in a dark place, most likely one of the network of caves that was inside the mountain that was close to her village and that she wasn't the only victim. When she was brought here, she tried to take off her blindfold only to be rewarded with a slap on the face which resulted to a welt. She was deprived of her sight and all she could rely on was her other senses, primarily her sense of hearing and smell.
A high-pitched scream jolted her back into reality.
The kidnappers had a new prisoner, another girl by the sound of it.
She heard the metal gate creak open; with a subtle whoosh of air and a strangled 'Oof!'. She now had a new companion sharing her space. She turned her head to the sound of muffled crying; they must've placed something over the new kid's mouth and even if she wanted to comfort the newest addition, she didn't know where to start. There were whispers a couple of feet from where they were seating, judging from the low tones, it was their kidnappers and it sounded like they were arguing.
Heavy footfalls began to make their way towards their direction and she began to break into a cold sweat.
"What about this one?" a rough voice asked.
A second voice came, although it was hesitant "Do you think she can handle it? She looks weak."
"Aye, but we can at least see if the serum works."
'Serum?' she echoed in her mind.
Her hands started to shake and the urge to run away was great but before she can think of anything else, the gate swung open and she hissed when a meaty hand tugged at her hair with a harsh pull. Her feet ached as she stepped on stray rocks and she held her breath when a particularly sharp one cut on the pad of her right foot. The man didn't seem to notice- or maybe even care so she limped obediently, being led by his hand on her hair until he pushed her forward.
She expected to feel the hard, cold ground but instead, she felt a pair of hands support her by the shoulders and a soft 'tsk' right in front of her. This person's hands were softer than the other man's, and for a moment, she thought she was safe until the person spoke-
"Be gentle with the children Janus, the master won't be happy if we keep giving him damaged goods."
This one had a woman's voice.
She shivered when the soft hand moved from her shoulder to her face. The woman hummed as she lifted her chin with her hand, "Such a fair skin and light hair. She must be a rich man's daughter" she speculated.
The woman was wrong; her father was the village doctor and though the profession might be highly regarded in the cities; her father worked in rural areas in order to help the poor and declined any form of monetary payments, something her mother wasn't too happy about and they live off by her older brother's labor in the fields. Maybe her brother, Blake, was looking for her right this very moment.
"Give it here" the woman said.
She flinched when she felt a tug on the open collar of her dress. Her heartbeat roared against her ears and her blood froze with fear. 'Run!' her mind screamed yet her feet were planted to the ground, sweat began to form on her forehead and the palm of her hands.
Without warning, a sharp pain sliced through her as a needle was driven straight into her chest. A scream tore from her throat as though she was being set on fire. A pair of hands held her down as she thrashed about to the ground, the only thing that registered in her mind was the pain that continued to burn its way to her chest. Her eyes rolled back as the pain began to feel like thousands of blades stabbing into her skin while being doused with boiling hot water.
She could barely hear them talking behind her screams until she fell back and her whole body slumped against the ground with a dull thud. Her breathing was shallow and it felt as if something had punched a hole right through her chest and gripped her heart. Something wet fell on her face, giving little comfort from the agony she was experiencing as the seconds ticked by.
Her captors continued to talk, their words were gibberish in her ears as she came in and out of consciousness. Silence was abundant until she heard something fall as though it was a thousand miles away and before she knew what was happening, the people around her were shouting.
"Royal soldiers!" the man shouted.
She felt her body being lifted to the ground but before the woman could even take a step, the man stopped her-
"Umbra, leave the girl!"
"The brat's not going to make it! Pyrus is leading the raid so we better fall back or we'll get caught!"
The woman, Umbra, hesitated for a moment before she was dropped like a rag doll. She lay on the ground with her shallow breathing the only thing she could hear. Everything around her was just white noise and she will do anything to make the pain stop.
'Make it stop' she pleaded 'Make the pain stop'.
Her world suddenly burst into life when the blindfold was lifted from her eyes. The first thing she could see was the orange and red blur of a torch that was being carried by a shadowed figure. Her eyes adjusted to the darkness and she slowly blinked to see a man with a kind face and a scar that ran through his left eyebrow.
"Are you alright?" he asked.
She unconsciously placed a hand over her heart, feeling the erratic rhythm against her palm.
The man looked over his shoulder and talked to one of the shadowed figures behind him-
"Send in a healer, the children are being kept in this grotto!"
"Yes sir!" one of them replied and ran off.
Several men began to file into the cave, bring torches that brought light within the dark area.
She could finally see the man completely.
He had black hair as dark as a raven's plumage that was tied into a ponytail and the scar shone faintly. He was wearing a large armor with his breastplate bearing the symbol of the king which was two swords and a lion's head in the middle of the insignia. A large sword was resting on it's sheath and his light blue eyes gave her comfort despite the agony her body's experiencing.
"I'm Altair Pyrus, you're safe now."
The man's eyes softened as he gazed down upon her with a worried glance as she continued to remain silent, unaware that it was more of an awe rather than of shock from the trauma she had just experienced.
"What is your name?" he asked.
She slowly opened her lips, her light brown eyes held his as she answered, "Noa. My name is Noa Clandis."
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