Prologue: Nowhere to Run
Very deep in the dark forest, a blurry figure was running fast. Behind said figure were another four giving chase in close pursuit, getting dangerously closer by the second, like a pack of hungry predators chasing down their prey. Looking in detail one could draw the picture of a young girl, dressed in long ritual garments. Breathing quickly and panting heavily bordering on exhaustion, and desperately trying to lose her pursuers. Following her footsteps right behind her, four men armed with knives and swords.
The young girl still could not understand what in oblivion was going on. Her mind was still racing, trying to comprehend her current situation. Back in the village, her mentor quickly deduced that those men were looking specifically for her. But it didn’t make sense at all. What could they possibly want?
Just a few minutes ago, they were spending the evening at a nearby village, in the company of some of the townspeople. They were gathered around a bonfire, telling stories and experiences when all of a sudden, a band of armed men attacked from nowhere. The villagers put up a valiant resistance but were eventually all killed.
They then faced off her mentor and traveling companion, an aging priest, in an attempt to draw their attention away from her. The old man bravely held his ground long enough for her to sneak behind the attackers’ backs and escape.
She ran, the only thing she could have done at the moment. She was too young and weak to fight back grown adult men. Not wasting a second to look back, the girl quickly found herself running through the dark forest with no idea where to go.
The young priestess could still hear from not too far behind the sound of screams and clashing steel. Sign of the fight that was still going. Even alone, and against a band of several dozen men, the old man was giving them hell.
Until she heard two powerful explosions, then everything went silent. What could possibly have happened? she thought. The young girl didn’t have a clue, but she somehow knew that her mentor and friend had perished in the battle. Now she now was all by herself.
But there was no time to think about it, as the shouts of the men chasing her filled her with the realization that she was now on her own. She could only keep running for so long, and the men chasing her were getting dangerously close. Without hesitation, the girl jumped down a ravine, landing on the bank of a stream several meters down. Lucky for her, a soft spot on the sand absorbed most of the force from the fall.
The young girl quickly jumped onto her feet again and looked up, watching her pursuers trying to descend after her. She took advantage of their hesitation and followed down the stream as fast as she could until she could no longer hear them.
The young priestess sat down under a giant log used as a bridge, at the part of the stream the ravine was located. The girl was breathing heavily trying to catch her breath and regain some strength. She sat there in silence for some minutes, hearing their voices again. She covered her mouth with her hands, trying to remain as quiet as possible.
The young girl could hear their conversations, even though they were talking in their distinctive language that she was unable to understand. They apparently had lost her trace the girl thought. She closed her eyes and clutched her legs tightly in front of her, trying to be as small as possible and hide between the rocks and roots that were under the shadow of the log bridge.
They kept looking for her for a few minutes. But after hearing her pursuers walk over the log bridge and follow down the path above, she slowly crawled from her hiding position, trying to escape in the opposite direction they went. The stream’s current and the wind howling through the woods helped to suppress some of the noise she was making.
The young girl was trying to climb the ravine again, which was not so steep compared to the spot where she had previously jumped. She heard something disturbing the water behind her and hurried her pace, and after successfully climbing back the ravine, the girl quickly hid behind some bushes.
She tried to look through the bushes she was hiding in to see what was the sound source, but couldn’t see anything. The girl looked at her surroundings and noticed something strange on the ground. Even though her eyes were getting accustomed to the low light, she still could not see very well in the dark night. But after a more careful glance, she gasped in recognition. She was sitting over the footprints of something.
The young girl quickly started to panic. Besides the northmen that were chasing after her, now there was also some kind of wild beast lurking around. The girl tried to go back on her tracks slowly and take the narrow trail in the opposite direction her pursuers went when she began to hear their voices through the woods again.
But then all of a sudden, the young girl tripped on a small hole, most probably the den of some small vermin. The loud crack of the old branches that broke under her feet could have been heard through all over the forest on the silent night.
Shit! Shit! Shit! The girl cursed in panic and mentally chastised herself upon hearing the startling noises her pursuers were making not too far away from where she was. Of course, they would be still around she thought. She tried to remain as still as possible, holding her breath and trying her hardest not to make absolutely any noise. But she could only stare in horror as the blurry silhouettes of those men were slowly walking the trail towards her. There was nowhere to run.
Her heart stopped when they spotted her. The girl quickly found herself in the line of sight of her pursuers and without thinking it twice, she made a run for it. She was now on the verge of tears and running again as fast as she could. With her pursuers following closely behind. So close that she could hear them taunting her with obscene words in her own language and smell their nasty breaths.
The girl followed the narrow path, jumping to avoid roots and branches that were lying on the ground and wishing that the men chasing her would trip on them or slow down somehow. Wishing for a miracle to happen. The night was particularly dark with the thick foliage blocking what little light could make it through the dense clouds. Navigating through the woods with such poor vision was incredibly difficult.
Before she could react, however, someone violently tackled her from the side, pinning her to the ground. One of her pursuers stealthy went for another path and intercepted her while she was looking behind. The poor girl cried in pain, desperately trying to set herself free to no avail. Soon the other men caught up with her and dragged her by the hair to a small clearing at the side of the trail. The young girl was now at their mercy, crying loudly as the men began to kick her on the ground for all the troubles.
The poor girl was expecting to be killed soon, as they showed no mercy to the others earlier in the village. But she began to realize to her utter horror, that these men had other plans in mind. One of them, their leader apparently as he was the oldest one, commanded the others to hold her tight. He started to hurriedly untie her robes and rip her clothes beneath, groping her teenage body without a bit of shame.
The sheer realization of what they had planned to do to her filled her heart with immense disgust and utter despair. The girl tried to resist as hard as she could, biting one of her captors’ hands only to earn a powerful slap in the face in return. She kicked the man holding her in the face while he was trying to force her legs open, but the man was just too strong for her.
She had a small knife hidden on her boots that her mentor had given her back in the village. The girl tried to get hold of it in one last desperate attempt to free herself or end her life before the men had their way with her. Sadly, the two other men were restraining her too strongly by the arms.
One of them, the youngest, tried in vain to stop the others from going all the way only to be threatened with violence, and yelled back into submission. It was clear that the young boy was too scared to stand up to his friends. The girl looked at him and for a brief moment, the young girl and the young boy stared at each other with tears in their eyes. The boy couldn’t stand the horrible scene and looked away, clearly disturbed with what the others were about to do but powerless to do anything to stop it.
Her chastity belt was now the only piece of clothing left on her that prevented them from taking her maidenhood. The girl began to cry in despair, as it was only a matter of time before they could tear the leather piece off. She begged the men to stop, but they only laughed at her in mockery. She then begged at the youngest of them, but all the scared boy could do was to look away. Finally, she begged at the Gods, to all of them. She put all her dread, her sorrow, and despair into one last prayer.
Her fighting spirit had completely left her as only a miracle could save her now. The poor girl surrendered to her fate and braced for the worst. Everything was over and death would be welcome. Memories from her life flashed before her eyes. Her mother, her mentor, and all the people she cared about and loved that had left the mortal world. She could see them clearly, she begged at them for their forgiveness one last time, as she would soon join them.