The pain in my arm had only subsided a fraction as I moved past the two women who crowded the door. It felt as if I was in a nightmare, and the sensation of being a little lost was starting to get the better of me. Everything seemed surreal, and I was having trouble sorting facts from fiction.
“Sedona, do you want to talk about it,” I heard her ask quietly behind me.
“No, little moon,” I spoke nearly as quiet as she had as the desire to close my eyes encroached on me. I moved towards the only bed that looked unused in the room, and let myself fall back onto the oversized mattress. If nothing else, these lycans knew a thing or two about creature comforts. Rolling over on the side with my good arm, I yawned loudly into the still brightly lit room. “Do you think you could shut off the lighthouse? I could really use some sleep.”
The room went dark, but I could feel Tala’s presence close. With the dipping of the bed I was laying on, Tala made her whereabouts known. The shuffling of the other woman’s feet across the floor was soft and nearly soothing as her feet rhythmically padded across the floorboards.
Tala gently touched my arm, and it made me flinch. The pain that shot through it was ever the reminder of my resistance to authority, or my resistance to him. For whatever reason, he chose to leave me untouched. At least for tonight, anyway.
“Don’t you want to know?” Her question floated to my ears, and I mentally batted them away. After more than a few seconds, I heard soft sobs and my heart sunk.
My eyes opened gently, and I sighed. “Why do you want to talk about something like that?” I turned my head towards where the sobs were coming from and found her silhouette. “I don’t want you reliving wounds that should be healing.”
Her head shook in the dark, barely enough for it to register with me. “It’s not what you think.”
That confession had me sitting up. “What do you mean? Are we talking about the same thing here?”
Tala’s head bounced up and down slightly in acknowledgment. She paused for longer than I would have liked before she finally added, “No one took advantage of me, Sedona.”
The words pierced my heart, and I had to take a slow inhale of breath to prevent my chest from exploding. Thoughts of her trying to protect me from the truth filled my head. “You don’t have to try to make me feel better, little moon. Which man did this to you? I should have been more vigilant, but I must have let my guard down.”
My thoughts wandered over the last group that we had been traveling with. They all seemed nice enough, and they all seemed to look out for one another. It was the whole reason we stayed with them as long as we did. That and the fact that I had help looking after Tala when I was required to do my part to help the group.
We all played our part according to what we felt we could best contribute to the group. It was the best-case scenario, really. No one resented pitching in and lending a hand, and everyone seemed happy enough to fulfill their obligations to the group since they chose what they could contribute and did so according to the skills they had acquired over time. For me, I would sometimes need to negotiate trades with those that holed up in the cities, or I would venture into abandoned city buildings to try to recover whatever materials or goods I could scavenge. It was my quick wit and negotiating skills that seemed to win me favor in that arena, though I showed poor signs of my abilities this evening. I suppose everyone has an Achilles heel, and Tala was mine.
Whenever I needed to leave Tala behind, Chaz watched over her. He and his son, Ramuel, were genuine, honest people. They took us in without hesitation and protected us as if we were part of their family instead of just two strangers who joined their traveling clan. At least, that was the way of things until the lycans came to separate us from the group.
Tala sat sullenly for a long time as my mind whirred. When she spoke, my heart broke for her. “No one did this to me.” Silent tears trekked down her face before I heard her sobbing once more. “He asked me to marry him,” she whispered into the dark.
My eyebrows shot up. “What! Who?”
“The day we were taken, he was going to ask you for permission. He said it would have been wrong not to,” a sob fell from her as her shoulders shook, “and his dad taught him better than that.”
“Ramuel.” The name dropped from my lips like a dead weight. They were thick as thieves, but they seemed to get along more like brother and sister than lovers. But, then, what did I know of how lovers should act?
Tala nodded in answer to my question. “But, he didn’t even fight for me, did he?”
Men and women alike had been rounded up not long after we left the last village. It was the last safe haven we had been at, at least we thought it was safe at the time. Little did we know we were being tracked by those lycan scum.
The women from the village looked unharmed and appeared to be pleading with our group not to resist. When one man’s daughter was taken from his side, he flung himself at the lycan that took her. His response was pure reaction. Had he been thinking rationally, he would have realized that the number of lycan present far exceeded our capabilities to fight back. Hell, even one of them was nearly too much for us to take on as a whole.
In one fluid motion, the lycan reached out a clawed hand and held the man suspended by the throat. The beast towered over the distraught father and bared his sharp teeth as he let out a threatening growl. Turning his terrifying appearance on the rest of the group, we all knew it for what it was...a warning.
Flinging the man within his grasp at the remaining men and women that the lycan saw as unfit to be taken, he continued scanning the remaining few of us to determine who should go and who wouldn’t. Using his nose to sniff each one of us, the overly large beast strode on his two legs, the frightening features of his beast making most tremble as he neared.
Tala had clung to me, and I held her head to my chest so that she would not bear witness to anything violent or frightening. Unfortunately, it would be the least I would be able to do for her as the days wore on. But for now, I would shelter her as much as I could.
When he neared us, his lip curled as if he found what he had been looking for. Motioning for a couple of the other lycans that had joined him, they took Tala and me and loaded us into the truck that they had provided to get their chosen few back to camp in short order. It was not quite a military transport vehicle, and not quite a cattle transport vehicle, but maybe something in between. Maybe I am over exaggerating, but I sure felt like we were cattle being transported to their slaughter.
Though my instinct was to fight against them, I knew I would do nothing more than either irritate them at having to deal with such a feisty human or provide them a little humor at such a feeble attempt at escape. I would not give them the satisfaction of either, so I simply glared at them while keeping a protective arm around my charge. At that moment, she needed me more than these beasts needed a lesson on manners.
The truck had taken off, it left in its wake sobbing parents and unhappy group members. None of them were any less shocked than the other, and none of them were any less disturbed for how easy it was to march into our group and take exactly what they wanted. Chaz had a supportive arm around his son, Ramuel. Looking back, I realize that maybe it was not as supportive as protective. He was trying to lock Ramuel down…trying to prevent him from going after the one he loved.
My heart broke once more. It broke for the young love that had blossomed between them. It broke for the loss of hope and faith in my little moon. It broke for the innocence lost at the hands of these beasts.
I pulled her to me in a comforting embrace as I kissed her crown. “Of course he did, little moon. If his dad had let him, he would have shown you just how much you meant to him, and he would have been the example to the group for his insubordination.” Her sobs reached my ears as I pulled her closer with my good arm. “Be glad his father held him back.”
“You really believe that.” She wanted to believe me. It was in the tone of her voice and the soft expectation that coated her tear-streaked face.
“I know it,” I smiled softly at her. “And now that you know it, no more looking at these naked beasts like you did.” I flicked my hand towards the door leading to the hallway so she knew exactly what I was referring to.
She smiled shyly before she responded. “It was just that,” she bit her lip and looked away from me, “well, I have only ever seen Ramuel. And, well...that man just looked so...magnificent.” The blush I imagined that covered her face was starting to tinge at my hairline.
“You know he can probably hear you,” I reprimanded her. When she gasped at the thought, I chuckled. “Alright, my little moon. It’s time for bed. We need our sleep. We have no idea what tomorrow will bring.” Tala stood from my bed and started to move towards her own. When I heard her hesitate, I twisted slightly to see her silhouette. “What is it, Tala?”
She hesitated a moment, and I thought I was going to have to repeat myself before she finally asked, “Do you think I will ever see him again?”
“Ramuel?” When I could see her nod her head, I grimaced. Determination swelled inside me. “I will get you home, my little moon. Ramuel and you will have your love, and your life...I swear it!” How exactly I was going to do that I was unsure of, but I would find a way.