Pain was the first thing I felt as my brain came out of its drug-induced sleep. My ribs were definitely cracked, but thankfully not broken. My chest felt as if it was being cleaved apart, the usual dull ache was way more intense and felt suffocating. My thighs burned with saddle sores thanks to the long horseback ride. Apparently nightgowns aren’t ideal horseriding attire, I smirked to myself as I slowly peeled my eyes open.
“Wonderful, you’re finally awake.” A deep and familiar voice greeted me. I was unable to make out who was speaking to me right away, thanks to my sleep-clouded eyes.
Sleep quickly evaporated when I recognized the sneering face in front of me.
I recognized him by the long scar running from his jaw to his eye. A parting gift that I had left him with when he tried to force himself on me one day. It was the day before my last fight and Magnus thought he could pull me under his spell, he quickly learned how wrong he was.
Magnus had not changed since the last time I saw him three years ago. His dark auburn hair was in one long braid, that fell over his shoulder and into my face. His amber eyes danced with amusement at my predicament. Apparently, pillaging and plundering every day was good for the male physique as Magnus was still muscled, his broad shoulders and thickly corded arms proving that.
“Hello, Magnus.” I made sure my voice was clear and calm as I purred to the retched Viking.
Looking around his big frame, I noticed that I was in a new camp, tied to a new tree, and surrounded by a new forest. Great. I inwardly groaned.
“You must be hungry.” Magnus grabbed his dagger as he spoke, flicking it to release my restraints.
“Starving,” I grinned at him.
Even though the Berzerkers were skilled murderers, I knew they wouldn’t hurt me. Dear Old Dad would have their heads if I was presented to him in anything but perfect shape.
So although I was being kidnapped and transported back to the North where I would probably die at the hands of my father, I was surprisingly calm. After all, my family was safe. Locke, Harper, Soren, and Rorek are all safe in the south, as long as they stay there that is.
“So what’s our ETA?” I asked Magnus’s back as he turned and walked towards the campfire, where most of his clan sat and ate.
With a bewildered look over his shoulder at my strange calmness, Magnus’s only response was a grunt.
“That’s not an answer,” I pointed out as I slowly stood from where I had been tied to the tree for who knows how long. Blood rushed through my body and a wave of dizziness hit me, causing me to sway on my feet.
Magnus disappeared into the trees where the horses were tied. Before he appeared again, my attention shifted to the angry female stomping towards me.
I braced for the pain, as a fist swung directly towards my jaw and connected. I left out an oof as my jaw exploded with pain at the solid hit.
Merida’s amber eyes danced with barely-contained rage as she stared satisfied at my quickly bruising jaw. I guess I was wrong about them not hurting me. I mused while wiping the blood from my split lip.
“That’s for scarring my brother.” Merida huffed before she stormed off.
I still hollered at her fastly retreating form. “Oh come on, that was so three years ago,” I chirped, earning a few snickers from around the fireplace.
Magnus returned with an old piece of bread and an aging apple. I managed to contain my disgust and instead plastered my face with a fake smile. “My compliments to the chief,” I said to the grumpy Viking.
“If you don’t quite flapping that jaw, I will not hesitate to drug you again,” Magnus threatened, his amber eyes burning with evil intent.
I simply took the food he offered and turned away from him. I’ve yet to meet a Viking that can take a joke, Rorek being an exception because he technically isn’t one.
Sitting against my tree, yes my tree, I ate the food. It was a miracle that I didn’t throw up the food. Apparently, I was royally spoiled whilst I was in the Castle.
“We saddle up at first light,” Magnus announced to his clan as he disappeared inside his tent. Right when I saw a chance of escape, Magnus peaked back out and spoke to the men sitting around the campfire. “I want four men watching her at all times. If she’s not there in the morning, there will be severe consequences.” His emphasis on severe did not go unnoticed as several men around the campfire muttered, “yes sir.”
Four Vikings? I pondered. In normal circumstances, four Vikings would be easy to overtake, but four Vikings from the Berzerker Clan, well that would be more difficult.
Reluctantly, four Vikings got up from the spots around the campfire and came to my tree.
Three took guard nearby, while one came up to me. A spike of fear shot through my spine as the intimidating man leaned over me. I calmed though when I saw the rusty old syringe in his hand. Just stabbing me with tetanus and giving me drugs, I reasoned as I relaxed.
The needle pricked my neck and I waited for sleep to take over. Though it never did, instead numbness coated all of my limbs. Like water draining, all feeling in my body disappeared, that was except for the sharp pain in my chest thanks to whatever connection Rorek and I had.
“Better safe than sorry,” The Viking mumbled before taking up his position some feet away.
Instead of sleeping, I laid slumped against the tree, my body completely paralyzed and drool fell from my mouth.
As I laid there, hating that I could see my environment but couldn’t move, I decided that I would rather have the sleeping drug than whatever caused this paralysis.
The forest to my left was fairly silent, the animals aware of the dangerous predators filling this camp. The plains to my right were bare and seemed to stretch for miles.
I didn’t recognize my surroundings, so I figured we must’ve been traveling through the East territory. I also figured that it had been two days since I was dragged from my bed in the middle of the night.
At one point, some feeling started to slowly come back. But at the twitch of my fingers, a new rotation of guards didn’t hesitate to stab me again with the same rusty needle.
I sat numb and paralyzed for hours, hating every single moment of it, until the sun finally decided to show up.
Everyone snapped into action at first light. Packing their supplies, loading the horses with bags, and covering their tracks. I watched, still slumped against my tree and drooling on myself. How attractive. I think I rolled my eyes, but it was honestly hard to tell.
“Somebody strap her to the paint," Merida snapped. I somehow knew she was talking about a horse and could do nothing as I was lifted and slung on to a grumpy paint horse. Thankfully some movement had come back to me, and I was able to wrap my fingers around the horn of the saddle and balance myself.
The horse stomped its hoof at my weight on its back and the Viking that had thrown me on top of it responded with a harsh slap to the face. The horse flinching and stiffening at the hit.
With a rude name and sneer at the horse, the Viking left me and the horse. I hated people who abused animals, especially now that they’re so rare and prized. Anger at the Viking for hitting the horse filled me, but I could do nothing in my current state.
I studied the Viking as best as I could, hoping to memorize his face for no particular reason, until the parade of horses, Vikings, and supplies started moving. Merida leading and Magnus bringing up the back.
And thus began our long trek to the North for the third day.