A single, white cloth was held between two gnarled fingers. A young girl stood before the man holding this cloth, dried tears on her pale cheeks and body trembling with fear.
"Clean my feet." Savior told the girl, his always piercing blue eyes regarding her. My jaw clenched tightly when I saw her refusal, and I could hear the simultaneous moans of disbelief behind me when the girl shook her head. Savior's already enraged face tightened and he reached a free hand out, enclosed it around the delicate girl's neck.
"I have walked many miles to save you," Savior spat, bringing the girl closer and lowering his face so that it was inches away from her own. Her eyes fluttered shut, her face contorted in disgust and rage as he continued speaking. "I have saved you from the beasts and yet you act so defiantly towards me."
The girl bucked backwards abruptly, her fingers lifting to claw at the hand which gripped her. "I didn't need to be saved!" The young girl screamed, eyes becoming wet with tears once more. "You kidnapped me!"
I stepped forward when I saw the bruises beginning to form around her neck, placed a hand on Savior's arm, felt the muscle tense under my touch. "Leave her be," I whispered over the sound of the girl's sobbing and the swaying of the tree branches around us. "She doesn't understand our ways."
Savior squeezed tightly and a gurgled sound came from her little mouth. "Then you shall teach her our ways, Anya." He released the girl and she crumpled to the ground, drawing in ragged, deep breaths. I waited until my sisters gathered around Savior, murmuring soft words of comfort in attempts to soothe his anger, before I lowered myself to the little girl.
From the corner of my eye, I could see one of my sisters, Ivy, retrieving the bowl of water which the little girl was supposed to use with the cloth. A spiteful glare was sent to the trembling body on the wet earth and I waited until Ivy turned before giving my attention to the girl.
By then, she had stopped crying, but little bumps began to form on the skin of her exposed arms. Her body was still shaking and I knew the fabric of her expensive dress did little to shield her from the harsh night wind. "You must not anger Savior." I told her quietly as she recovered. "He doesn't take well to disobedience."
The girl's blazing light brown eyes met mine as she sat up, one of her hands rubbing at the red bruise around her neck. "He kidnapped me," She hissed, ignoring my words. "Can you show me the way out of this forest?"
My lips flattened and I looked ahead, to where my family were now walking. Their bodies soon disappeared behind the many thick trees, but I could still hear their voices. I looked down at the girl. "I've never traveled out of this forest. And even if I did know the way to leave, I could not show you."
My hand gripped her arm and I hauled her to her feet. "We must go." I told her, dragging her along with me. Her feet skidded against the earth below her as she refused to walk and my annoyance spiked when she began to struggle.
I shrugged the coat I wore further up my shoulders, the thick bush surrounding us parting as I moved. Raindrops began to fall and my pace quickened significantly, darting past many trees and trekking through trampled bushes that led to my home, all the while keeping my hold on the girl's thin arm.
"My dad will find me!" The girl blurted when we neared my home, passing by a small shed which held the many baskets that my sisters and I had weaved when we were little. "He'll find me and take me away!"
I knocked against the wooden door of the house, glancing over my shoulder to the fuming girl, pressing my lips together and waited until Brenda opened the door. She loomed over me and her calculating green eyes narrowed in on the squirming girl.
"If she is going to be like this," Brenda waved towards the girl's wriggling body and the screams of her protests. "Then I will not allow her in here. Sam is trying to rest."
I jerked the girl forward so that she stood before me, ignoring her shriek of surprise. "Sister, she has been with the werewolves for a long time and is new to this sort of environment. This behavior won't last long."
Brenda looked over the girl once more, hesitating. Hunger gnawed in the pit of my stomach and I released an impatient breath. When Brenda finally stepped aside, I placed my hands on the girl's shoulders. I directed her inside, past the small area where one of my sisters slept and the fireplace that Savior had constructed many years ago. Fire crackled loudly and I paused to warm my icy hands, palms outstretched to the flames.
The girl looked around warily as I took off my coat, she shifted on the balls of her feet, her lower lip trembling in fear.
"What is your name?" I asked when I faced her. She pursed her lips, eyes going to the fireplace and I shook my head; her stubborn attitude was almost admirable. But I'm certain that Savior would think otherwise.
I lifted the lid of a pot on a wooden table, took up two bowls and using a wooden spoon, began to take out our dinner. It was vegetable soup and I knew it had to be Brenda that prepared it. My other sisters opted to cook only meals that included meat. My lips curved at the thought of eating the delicious smelling meal.
When I turned back to the girl, she was sitting on the floor, knees pressed to her chest as she stared at me. I dropped a bowl by her feet and sat opposite her, raising my own bowl to my lips and sipping at the warm liquid.
The girl's eyes flickered down to her own meal. "Where I'm from, we usually use spoons to eat this sort of food." She muttered softly, her fingers twisting at the hem of her dress. I licked my lips and turned back to my dinner, deciding to stay quiet and just watch.
As minutes crept by, she eventually lowered her legs and lifted her own bowl. I hid my smile as she too began to eat. A yawn crept up my throat but I swallowed it down, laying down to rest my head against the floor when I was finished eating. I could feel the little girl's eyes on me and knew she was going to speak.
"That woman is not related to you." She said. I tilted my head to the side. She was cradling the bowl to her chest, eyeing me suspiciously. "You called that woman at the door your sister but she's clearly not."
Amused, I looked away briefly to where Brenda sat by the door, head lowered as she sorted out the different herbs that I had helped her gather at dawn. I looked to the girl again,
"No, we're not related by blood. But she is still my sister." I explained softly. The girl grunted, glaring down at her half-empty bowl. Time passed and the strength of the wind picked up, hitting hard against the window pane. I could see that the girl was trying, and failing to stay awake. Fear brimmed in her eyes as she once again looked around the room, her breaths coming out shakily.
I sat up, knowing she was becoming overwhelmed with the emotions running through her mind. I also knew that any of my attempts to relieve her probably wouldn't work, because in her eyes, I was part of the reason why she was here in this house, this place that she evidently didn't want to be in.
So instead I chose to watch as she battled an inner-turmoil. Her eyes went to the door as if contemplating whether or not to leave. I watched her do this, confused. Why would she want to leave and return to the vicious beasts who cared little to nothing about humans?
Footsteps came from outside and I knew Naverna were nearby, keeping watch for tonight. Savior had always made sure that one of my sisters kept guard whilst the others slept.
"Those werewolves could invade this forest and bring us to the cities they rule to have us work as their slaves," He had reminded us many times. "You must always be prepared in case that happens."
The girl's eyelashes fluttered as she fought to stay awake. Her back was pressed against the wooden panels of the wall, her breathing slowing. I waited until she looked to be asleep and then stood, walked to the door, making sure not to disturb the ones sleeping. Brenda barely made eye contact with me as I left the house, taking fast strides and navigating through the darkness to where Savior's own house was.
I entered his house, my eyes falling immediately on his graying long hair. Water swished in a bowl and Ivy knelt by Savior's feet, dipping the white cloth into the water and lifting it to clean and massage his feet. It was a routine which was done after Savior made the long journey to the city and back, doing so to get supplies that we couldn't get here in the forest. Having his feet massaged wasn't the only routine that took place after he came back from his travel. He also would gather my sisters and I around and speak of what he saw in the city and how the treatment of humans had worsened.
"Things have gotten so horrible," He had told us recently. "So much of them are hungry and starved. The houses they have to live in are deplorable and the werewolves chain them like dogs. This is why you all can't go there, the beasts will force you to be in the same situation as the other humans."
When I was around nine years of age, I had questioned why he could go to the city, but I couldn't. He had responded that he used certain paths to take to get in and around the city that few werewolves passed through, and that having me there with him would be a distraction that he didn't want.
"How is she settling in, Anya?" Savior asked, interrupting my thoughts. My arms folded behind my back politely when I saw him looking over his shoulder at me.
"She is asleep, as of now. However, it's very evident that she is frightened." I paused, watching as Ivy finished up, squeezing the cloth dry. My stomach churned at the dirt floating in the bowl and I watched as she stood, holding it carefully.
"Thank you." Savior told the girl. She nodded, bowed.
"I'm happy to be of service, savior." Her voice was airy and soft as she walked away, dumping the contents of the bowl outside his house. Savior stood slowly and I took up the staff resting on a wall, holding it to him. He took it, bracing his heavy body on it and faced me slowly.
"She said you kidnapped her." I said quietly. Savior's forehead creased and his eyes darkened with fury.
"She was being held captive by werewolves. I did not kidnap her, I saved her." He spat, anger making his fingers form into fists. I raised my head.
"Where did you find her?"
Savior's eyes sharpened. "In an alleyway in the city. She was walking with the werewolves, clearly upset and I waited until they were distracted before I took her away."
My plaited hair tickled my upper back as my head moved to follow his movements. He limped to a table, rested on it and stroked at his beard. "She's just as mouthy as you were when I first saved you." He chuckled humorlessly.
I had been around four years old when he had pulled me out of my father's house, which according to Savior, had been engulfed in flames purposely set by the werewolves. I can only recall bits and pieces of my past before Savior took me to this forest. I do indeed remember the heavy, thick scent of fire burning wood when I was very little, but I also recall the feeling of soft, gentle hands stroking my face and the sound of water splashing.
Savior told me that my mother had been captured by the werewolves who had set the house on fire, and my father, who had been a good friend of his, had been beaten to death when he tried to protect me. As always, a hard lump formed in my throat as I thought of this, and I gritted my teeth hard, keeping my emotions at bay.
"Tomorrow you shall take the girl out hunting with you when the sun begins to rise, so it's best that you return home and sleep." Savior told me dismissively.
My head lowered in a bow. Wishing him goodnight, I departed, crossing the short distance back to my house. The young girl was still asleep when I entered and I tucked myself into a corner, folded my arms loosely against my stomach, looking above to the ceiling.
The girl claimed that she had no need to be saved and Savior had taken her here against her will. Someone was not telling the truth, and I had little reason to believe that Savior would lie to me.
Please Comment! I'm interested to see your thoughts on the chapter.