Collar of Slaves: 1 Raiders by Shandria Katz

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SUMMARY: The content may be dark to start of with so read with due care. I would appreciate any feedback as this is a work in progress

Fire dwindled upon the skeletal structures of the remaining farmyard. Ashen chickens plucked through the debris hungrily searching for food. Smoke slithered to the darkening sky fat from its feast.

From the wreckage of burnt timber, a hand pushed through the charred frame. Gingerly, she crawled out in ragged ruin. Bruises purpled her pale skin like the mottled skin of a serpent. Tears flowed from her eyes as she struggled across the ash and dirt of the yard toward the small burnt hovel that still stood. "Rex..." she croaked.

She stumbled and pitched over the ground, crying out as her hand gave a resounding crunch. A moment passed before she began moving once more, crawling to the remains of her hovel. Pushing what timber and debris away from the floor with her good hand, she uncovered a door to the stores below.

"Rex," she cried out once more. She slumped in pain bleating the name over and over again. The horrors replayed themselves within her mind as she lost her sight to darkness. Hands pawing her pale flesh, probing and hurting. She was bound down as she fought them. They smashed her hand in the skirmish. She felt the pain flare within her as they forced themselves unto her. Their laughter and cruelty echoing in her ears as her voice wearied from the screams could nothing more than grunt. Tears flowed down her cheeks as they one by one satisfied themselves within her. The last one threw her aside smacking her head against the frame of the barn rendering her to darkness. But this darkness haunted her more. Each hurt flared within her at the memory.

"Hector! Leave the girl!"

"No!" the rugged voice replied fighting pain. "She is coming with us."

"For the oath, Hector! We can not have slaves and we have no time for this!" snarled another.

"Then make time for this, Justin." Hector was in agony, his voice spoke much yet he fought past it. "This girl fended off the raiders with her own body...HER protect me. I heard them and her."

She heard Hector struggle to her, collapsing nearby. The heat of the sun was no longer over her as Hector fended her from the light. "She would not scream...she refused to speak. They then tortured her for a kingsman...And she would not tell them." His voice bore a quiet note of grief and more.

She felt gentle hands cradle her and a damp cloth touching her forehead. She could hear them but she lacked the strength to move.

Whoever cradled her sighed while Hector covered her with a blanket or cloak, she knew not which. "Then who warns the king? The message must fly. are injured and the girl, she is barely alive. We would not reach the king in time."

"Then we must part our ways. If we each take different ways, our message will get to the king," the velvet voice spoke in thought.

"The northmen come from the north, the Mari run from the east to hide in the vast forests and mountains of the west. The strangers, the walking demons that chase the Mari and the nightblades that hunts us still..." The voice was agitated and young. Fear gripped him as much as it gripped her.

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