Slumber Page 58

The Mountain Man roared back at me and clambered over me, the knifeless fist swooping down and connecting with my face. I felt blood gush out of my nose, my eyes watering, and I fought down more vomit. He used my disorientation to unbutton my trousers.

“No, no,” I mumbled, tasting the bitter copper of my blood. I shook my head. No. I began to hyperventilate as his body drew flush with mine, his face hovering above me with lascivious eyes and a lusty grin. I threw up again.

It didn’t discourage him.

I heard the clatter of the knife as he threw it away and one hand pressed my head, left cheek down, into the pallet. I imagined it was to keep the vomit off him. He tried to tug my trousers off. I felt my eyes roll back in my head.

The Mountain Man flinched, a startled cry falling from his mouth. I looked up out of the corner of my eye and saw him staring straight ahead at the wall, his eyes wide. He snarled and rolled off of me and my own eyes widened at the sight of an arrow sticking out of his back. I threw my tied hands out and dragged my body away from him, gasping at the vision of a man, cast in the shadow of the doorway, a huge machete clutched in his hands. Beside him stood a girl. Young. Perhaps Haydyn’s age. She held a crossbow pointed at the Mountain Man. I watched in a stupor of horror and hope as the Mountain Man lunged to his feet to attack the intruders. The girl let another arrow fly with expertise and calm. Mountain Man staggered back as the girl immediately armed the crossbow with another arrow. The man beside her laid a gentle hand on her shoulder, holding her off.

I wanted to complain. To tell her to shoot. Mountain man was still standing. But as I watched Mountain Man, I noticed his face go slack. Pale. And then his eyes rolled back in his head. He collapsed with an almighty thud.

“This her?” the man at the doorway asked softly, nodding at me.

“Stupid question, papa. Course it’s her,” the girl answered lazily, as if she were encountering an everyday situation.

I slid away from them. I couldn’t trust anyone here.

The man nodded grimly and moved tentatively towards me, making me shimmy back further. I hit the wall again and glowered at him. He stopped, and as my eyes adjusted to the light, I saw his face. He appeared upset. Concerned. “I’m not goin’ to hurt ye, little one. I’m goin’ to untie those ropes for ye, so ye can be gettin’ yerself together.”

My heart beat unsteadily as I glanced between the two strangers. I so needed to believe them. “Who are you? What did you do to him? Don’t come near me!” I screeched as he edged closer.

He sighed heavily and the girl huffed, “Well that be a grateful response. We isn’t goin’ to hurt ye!” She shook her head. “Papa, she’s as soft as goat’s cheese. No wonder she be landin’ in this mess and causin’ a rumpus!”

I blinked in confusion, still dazed from my beating. Who was this girl? This man?

“L, be nice,” the man admonished softly. “Help the poor girl, will ye. She’s been through what ye like to call an ordeeul.”

An ordeal?! I wanted to scream. An ordeal?! Being kidnapped by the Iaviia, running from rookery thugs, that was an ordeal! This… I shook my head. I looked back over at the Mountain Man and then back at the two people who had attacked him. Had they really saved me? Why?

The girl - L, her father had called her - sighed. “Look here, Rogan, we isn’t goin’ to hurt ye. We’re rescuing ye from Crazy here. My arrow was tipped in a poison he won’t be comin’ back from. Bugger won’t be hurtin’ no one again.” She curled her lip in disgust at the Mountain Man.

I was barely listening. I had stiffened in surprise. “How do you my name?”

The man sighed now. “My girl is one o’ the blessed. A mage. She’s got the Sight.”

“A Glava?” I raised my eyebrows incredulously at her.

“That be me,” L huffed. “I felt yer terror. So papa and I set out to rescue ye. Now… ye goin’ to repay our kindness by no’ takin’ a fit o’ the vapours as we untie ye?”

There was something genuine about the girl’s gruffness and her father’s gentleness. Relief crashed over me and I began to shake uncontrollably. Tears glittered in my eyes but I fought them back, noticing L watched me carefully. “Of course,” I managed, relaxing somewhat.

The man reached for me slowly and gently cut the ropes around my wrist.

He hissed at the mess. They were red and bleeding, skin shredded off entirely in places. I imagined, overall, I wasn’t a pretty sight, covered in blood, bruises and vomit. Not to mention my trousers still stank of fear. “Ma will have to be puttin’ some o’ her special medicine on to be sortin’ that mess out.”

I didn’t argue. I couldn’t continue on in my journey without getting cleaned up and hopefully fed. When he had cut the rope from my ankles, which were in much the same condition as my wrists, I numbly refastened my trousers and tried to pull the shirt together. L stilled my hands, briskly pulling off her jacket and tugging me into it. She buttoned it for me. Up close now I could see her eyes. A multitude of emotion lived in them. She wasn’t as unaffected by the state she’d found me in as she’d like me to believe. I stumbled forward on my blistered feet and L exhaled again, throwing her father a look. “Ma will need to be sortin’ her feet out too if this one is to be gettin’ to the Pool.”

It took me a moment, as L and her father reached to help me out of the shack, their arms around me as I hobbled along with them, that L’s comment meant she knew who I was and why I was here.

“Where are you taking me?” I asked wearily, as we wandered into the woods. I numbed myself to the pain, only focusing on my relief.

L’s father answered, “Back to our home so ye can get cleaned up. I’m Jonas, by the way.”

“Hello, Jonas. Thank you for rescuing me.”

L coughed.

“You too, L.”

After a moment of silence the numbness and overwhelming relief gave way to a need for answers, for more reassurance. “Where is your home? What else do you know, L? Is it-”

“Questions later, Lady Rogan,” L sniffed. “Let’s just be gettin’ the blazes out o’ here.”

I obliged her, not once looking back.

Chapter Twenty Five

L and Jonas took me back onto the trail path and my magic hummed contentedly as we headed in the right direction. I hobbled between them a while, little whimpers and grunts escaping out of me at the pain.

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