BionicMuffin (bionicmuffin) wrote in noivilbo,
BionicMuffin
bionicmuffin
noivilbo

Eilenne sat in the darkness of the ship's hold, consumed by hopelessness and grieving for herself and her situation. The small, dim space was stuffy and reeked of waste and unwashed bodies. Eilenne thought of it as the smell of despair.

She shifted her leg slightly, trying to relieve the chafing caused by the heavy iron shackle around her ankle that chained her to a heavy iron ring driven into a massive wooden beam. Not that there was anywhere to run to, not on a ship in the middle of the Odellan Sea.

My stupid, foolish pride, she inwardly railed at herself, if I had listened, if I hadn't been so damned naïve I would be safe at home, instead of suffering this waking nightmare that has become my existence.

She'd been taken prisoner just beyond the walls of Mauresse, no more than half a mile outside the city limits, and yet far enough away that no one heard her screams. She had insisted on being allowed to wander by herself, and had paid for her haughtiness. A three-day journey bound and gagged in the back of a wagon had brought her to the port city of Salere in the dead of night, whereupon she was sold to the captain of the ship like so much chattel. She wasn't sure how much time passed before the vessel set sail, it was difficult to gauge time when you couldn't see the sun, but she knew she hadn't been the first or the last captive brought aboard. A dozen or so people sat in the bottom of the ship with her, men and women both.

Her exact fate was unknown to her, but she had a good idea of what awaited her at the end of the voyage. She imagined that the hostages had been abducted from nations all along the coast, but their destination was the same - Galorian, the strange and frightening country across the water. Eilenne couldn’t remember the last time that anyone from her homeland of Rylla had had any contact with Galorian. Once there, she would be sold yet again to a slave merchant who would probably take her to a public auction where human lives were bartered over like livestock. She would be branded with her new owner's mark who, if she were lucky, would be a rich nobleman or businessman looking to add to his household staff. If she were unlucky, she might end up working at hard labor somewhere, or working for someone who abused their slaves.

Or worse, came a terrible whisper in her mind that she hushed immediately.

A dim shaft of light was thrown into the hold as the hatch was opened and a small, swarthy man clambered down the ladder. He carried with him a bucket filled with quickly congealing gruel that slopped over the sides. Their daily meal had arrived. The sailor went down the line, dumping the swill into crudely made dishes crusted with residue from past meals.

"You lot are stinkin' up the whole ship. I been in pig pens that smelled better," their captor informed them with a growl.

"Fond memories of your childhood home, eh?" Shot back one of the prisoners. Eilenne looked for the source and saw that it was a young man, lean and broad-shouldered, with blonde hair and keen eyes. The jailer rounded on him immediately.

"Watch your mouth," he said dangerously, "one lost slave don’t cost so much as to be missed."

"Maybe not by you," continued the young man mockingly, "but I bet your sister is missing me already."

Eilenne thought it was a gamble to assume that the sailor had a sister, or that he would even care, but the blonde man had hit his mark. The man dropped the food bucket and rushed toward him, taking a long metal-tipped whip off of a peg. It was the whip that kept them all in line. The slavers could punish them from a distance, knowing that the chains would prevent them from retaliating. The sailor raised his arm in preparation to strike and Eilenne was on the verge of closing her eyes, not wishing to watch, when a figure suddenly darted out of the shadows and tackled him. A confused, muffled brawl ensued as Eilenne looked on in bewilderment. When it was over the sailor was lying motionless on the floor with the mysterious figure standing over him.

"Quick!" Hissed the blonde man, "Get his keys!"

It took Eilenne several moments to realize that two or more of the captives had staged an ambush and were now freeing themselves and the others. As the manacle was removed from around her leg, new hope surged through her, but was checked instantly when she remembered that they were on board a ship who knew how far out to sea. How could a handful of unarmed prisoners hope to combat an entire ship of kidnappers and pirates?

Apparently some others had the same thought, and one person actually suggested that they re-chain themselves and pretend the whole thing never happened.

"The forecastle, where the crew is quartered, is right above where I slept," said the person who had fought the sailor. "I can hear them talking to each other at night. We were within sight of the coast last evening before we anchored. If it's approximately midday by now, we should be close enough that if we can get topside we can jump overboard and swim to shore."

There were a few whispered protests at this, and Eilenne herself felt a thrill of trepidation, but anything was better than the fate that awaited them in Galorian.

"It's our only chance," she said quietly to the small crowd. "And we better do it soon because in a few minutes the others are going to come looking for their comrade."

"She's right," said the blonde man. "Those of you who'd rather take your chances with the slavers are free to stay behind." One by one everybody shook their heads.

"All right then, let's go." With the whip in his hand, he led them up the ladder and to their only chance at freedom.


_____________________________________________



I sat down and wrote this out of thin air about an hour ago. Please, please join in as anyone you want, whether it be another prisoner, a sailor, someone on the mainland, someone who goes in search of one of the captives, whatever. The only person I'm writing from the POV of is Eilenne, so feel free to write as the unnamed blonde man or his friend.
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Eilenne gave a strangled cry as she desperately struggled to maintain her balance, but the ship chose that exact moment to roll far to port, and she tumbled over the side. For a few seconds she flew backward through the air, then she landed with a splash in the ocean. The water closed over her head, enveloping her in the cool darkness that muffled the sounds of the struggle still going on above her. She was able to break the surface and keep herself afloat for a little bit by using her arms, but soon the chain around her feet began weighing her down. She took one last breath as she was dragged inexorably downward into the deep.

The group of prisoners had taken the sailors completely by surprise. They had rushed up onto the deck, momentarily blinded by the sun that they hadn't seen for the better part of two weeks. The crew, unable to believe what they were seeing, had done nothing for several seconds.

"Hurry!" The blonde man had suddenly shouted. "Over the side! Quickly now!"

Most of the captives had done immediately as they were told, and a couple of the fastest had made it overboard before the sailors could stop them. The blonde and another man had begun fending off the kidnappers to give the others a chance to get away. Orders were barked out from the quarterdeck and sailors had come scrambling down from the rigging. At that point the ship was in total chaos.

Eilenne had paused in her own flight to help a woman who'd fallen to the deck. She had grabbed the other woman's arm and hauled her to her feet, then had more or less shoved her over the side, just hoping she could swim.

She'd seen two prisoners cowering near the foremast, and had shouted at them to run, but they had simply stared at her in wide-eyed panic, like a couple of frightened rabbits. She had been the last captive still on the ship, apart from the two men still fighting the sailors and the pair who had been too scared to move.

Just then, the blonde man had spied her standing at the rail in indecision. "Jump!" He'd cried to her. "If you value your life, jump!"

"But," she had replied, pointing at the two by the mast, "what about them?"

"Leave them!" He'd ordered her. "It's too late for them!"

Eilenne had continued to hesitate, however, loathe to leave the two prisoners in the hands of the slavers. The second man who had been fighting the crew had then gone overboard with a nasty wound to the arm, and as she had watched him she had been grabbed from behind. The man who had grabbed her had forcefully thrown her to the deck and she had hit her head hard enough to make sparks dance in her vision. While she had lain there dazed the sailor had bound her legs with rope and a spare length of heavy anchor chain.

He'd lifted her like she weighed no more than a child and had prepared to take her back down into the hold. She had thought herself doomed and had cursed her folly in waiting so long, when the blonde man had come to her rescue yet again. Looking down Eilenne had seen the long, black whip coil itself around her captor's legs like a snake. With one mighty jerk the sailor had been pulled off his legs. Eilenne had landed awkwardly on her feet, but with her feet tied she had been unable to steady herself. Then she had fallen overboard.

Now, as her lungs were burning from lack of air and the water grew darker as she sank ever downward, she thought of her family and what sort of repercussions her disappearance and death would have on them.

I'm sorry. I'm so very, very sorry, she thought with sorrow and regret. Unable to hold her breath any longer, she expelled it in a rush of bubbles. Just as her mouth began to fill with seawater she felt a strong arm grab her around the waist, and then she lost consciousness.




















Camron watched helplessly as the young woman fell overboard, her feet bound and weighted. The large sailor he'd yanked off his feet got up and unsheathed a nasty looking dagger with a curved blade. Having no other prisoners to worry about other than the two that he'd already given up on, Camron decided that now was a good time to make his exit. Dropping the whip he dashed a few steps backward and began climbing the main mast, shimmying up it the same way he used to scale trees when he was a child. He reached the first trestletree at the top of the mainsail and began to edge outward along it, holding onto the stays for support. The rolling of the ship was much more pronounced even at this relatively small increase in height and once or twice he almost lost his footing. He managed to keep his equilibrium, though, and soon reached the end of the trestletree. Looking down he saw the gently rolling ocean below him and the ugly faces of the slavers turned upward watching him. He imagined he could still se the girl, struggling just below the surface. Waiting for the ship to list in his favor, he let go of the stays and executed a graceful dive forty feet to the water below.

As soon as he hit the water he spread his arms and legs to stop his progress, the surfaced briefly for a breath of air before diving under once more. He could see the girl's outline below him, her thrashing growing weaker. Using quick, powerful strokes he reached her just as she went limp. Grabbing her around the waist he dragged her back up to the surface. She was unconscious, but breathing.

Camron had no doubt that the slavers would immediately launch boats to try and retrieve as many of their 'cargo' that they could. Looking around he thought he saw a few heads bobbing above the waves and prayed that they were fast swimmers. With one arm looped around the woman he began swimming to shore, which was about half a mile away.

Later, he didn't see how he'd done it, swimming against the tide while dragging a lifeless body, after having been imprisoned and mistreated for weeks. But he did do it, with the yells of the slavers behind him to urge him all the way.

He reached the shore, a small, sandy spit of land surrounded by trees, and managed to haul the young woman most of the way up it before collapsing. He lay on his back breathing heavily, feeling his limbs trembling from the tremendous exertion.

Move! Move! His instincts screamed at him, yet the weeks of undernourishment had taken their toll. Besides which, he didn't want to leave the girl for the slavers to find, but he knew that he didn't have the strength to carry her. He would have to try and revive her.


_____________________________________________



I know I said I was only going to write from Eilenne's point of view, but since I'm the only one writing at all, and since she was unconscious, I changed my mind. However, if someone wants to write as Camron, be my guest




Eilenne was so relieved at discovering that her harrowing journey of the last month had been nothing but a dream, that at first she didn't notice that she was lying on the ground with a small crowd of very wet people standing over her.

"Look, she'd coming round," she heard someone say in a low voice.

"Finally," said another, gruffer voice.

She was so distraught at realizing the truth, that for a second she closed her eyes and willed herself back into unconsciousness.

"Oh, no you don't," came a male voice very near her, and she found herself being propped up into a sitting position. She opened her eyes again and found herself looking directly at the blonde man. On closer inspection he appeared to be about twenty-five years of age. His hair needed trimming, he had several weeks' growth of scraggly beard, and his face was too gaunt from malnutrition, but he was pleasant-looking. Eilenne could already tell, though, that he would become more handsome with the austerity and maturity provided by age.

"I realize that you've just narrowly escaped death by drowning," he said solicitously, "but it would be a big help if you could try and get moving as soon as possible. We've got to get as far away from here as we can, before the slavers are able to find a place to land.

Eilenne looked around. They were in a stand of trees, still close enough to the shore that she could catch glimpses of the water between the trunks. There were five people standing in a rough semi-circle around her. With the blonde man and herself, that made seven people altogether.

"Where are the others?" She asked, rising unsteadily to her feet. Her head pounded and her stomach heaved, but she forced her gorge back down and the pounding eventually receded to a dull ache.

"Well, two didn't even make it off the ship," counted the blonde man.

"They got the old man with the milky eye while he was still in the water," said another man. He was tall with brown hair and eyes. His left arm was supported in a makeshift sling and a bandage spotted with blood was wrapped around his bicep. He was the one who had been wounded in the fight.

"Yeah, they got the woman who cried every night, too. Just scooped her right out of the sea." This was the man with the gruff voice who'd spoken earlier. He was middle-aged with grizzled, graying hair and a squat, muscular, barrel-chested body. The twisted line of an old scar was visible through the stubble on his cheek.

"I think the boy with the freckles drowned," said a woman with fiery red curls and oddly tilted green eyes. "He was swimming not far from me, but I don't think he could swim very well. He kept disappearing under the waves, and the last time I didn't see him come up."

Another young woman, petite with a long, thick plait of dark hair hanging down her back and large, solemn eyes, uttered what might have been a short prayer, but it was too quiet for Eilenne to catch.

"There's nothing we can do for them now," said the blonde man. "It's best that we try and cover as much ground as possible before dark. The harbor where the slave ship was going to dock is a couple of miles down the coast, but I suggest that we steer clear."

"Then where do you suggest we go?" Asked the fifth and final person sharply. It was a young man with a pinched face and a whiny voice. "We have no money, and I hate to say it, but we resemble exactly what we are - a bunch of escaped slaves."

"If we cut around the city we should intersect a road that will lead to another town. We can worry about food and lodging when we get there."

The others in the group seemed perfectly willing to follow the blonde man's lead.

"We'll have to travel fast," he said, and turned to Eilenne, "Do you think you can handle it?"

She nodded and the group set off.

The seven of them walked in single file with the injured man leading and the blonde man heading up the rear. Eilenne was second to last and knew it was so the blonde man could help her if she faltered, something she swore that she wouldn’t do. They moved steadily but slowly, exhausted after the swim in their poor physical condition.It was dusk when the group halted. The injured man and the blonde man conferred for a minute, then addressed the rest of them.

“We’re going to stop here for the night,” said the blonde man. “We should be about twenty miles from the city by now. Hopefully tomorrow we’ll intersect the main road leading to the harbor. We’ll have to keep to the woods in case of trackers, but we can follow it to another town. Unfortunately we can‘t risk building a fire for the same reason.”

“Not to criticize your plan,” said the whiny-voiced man in a way that made it clear he was doing exactly that, “but who, exactly, placed you in charge? From my count there are seven of us here. Shouldn’t we all get a voice in what we’re going to do?”

“If you don’t like it, feel free to set out on your own,” said the injured man coldly. “In fact, maybe it’s best that you do.”

The other man tried to sneer bravely, but Eilenne could see the fear flickering in his eyes. He knew as well as they that their best chance was to stay together.

“If you, or anyone else, has any other ideas, I’d gladly hear them,” said the blonde man mildly, “but for now this decision is the only logical one. When it comes time for choices to be made, advice will be taken gratefully.”

With that the discussion was over, and the whiny-voiced man prudently kept his mouth shut the rest of that evening.

Eilenne was disappointed about not having a fire, her clothes were still slightly damp and would be uncomfortable to sleep in, but the prospect of her first night spent free of the ship, able to breathe clean air and see the stars, was worth it.

She sat down on the ground with her back against a massive log. She saw the others settle themselves in the same fashion, and it appeared as if the man with the scar on his face had already fallen asleep, lying flat on the ground and snoring up at the sky.

The blonde man came and hunkered down beside her. “How are you feeling?” He asked. “Any lingering effects?”

Eilenne shook her head. “I feel fine. I do have a question, though. The last thing I remember before waking up is falling into the water and sinking. How did I end up on the shore?”

“I happened to see you fall and was able to get to you before you before you drowned. I pulled you to land and the others helped me untie your legs and get you into the woods.”

“Then I owe you my life,” she said gravely. “Thank you.”

He just smiled and shrugged. “The only reason you got caught was because you stopped to try and help those other two. Nobody else bothered.” He stuck out his hand. “My name is Camron.”

Eilenne smiled and took it. “I’m Eilenne.”

“Let me guess,” he said, “You’re from Rylla.”

Her eyes widened in surprise. “Yes, but how did you know?”

He shrugged again. “The way you speak, your clothing, little clues.”

“What about you? Where are you from?”

His eyes seemed to glance away for a second before settling on her again. “See if you can figure it out,” he said evasively.

He wore the remains of a uniform, some type of guard or soldier, but it didn’t look familiar to Eilenne. There was nothing in his speech or mannerisms to reveal his origins. At least, not to someone with such limited experience as herself.

“Well, all I know for sure is that you’re not from Rylla,” she said finally with a smile.

“You’re right about that much,” he agreed, and then stood up, his expression becoming serious. “Best try and get to sleep soon. We’ll be setting off again at daybreak.” He walked back over to the injured man and they began talking again in low tones.

Eilenne watched him go in puzzlement, but she didn’t dwell on the mysterious way their conversation ended for long. The carpeting of leaves and grass on the ground was surprisingly soft, and she was able to see the first star of the evening emerge before drifting off to sleep.
Camron crouched behind a tree, watching the road. Every so often he put his ear to the ground, listening. The others were well back from the edge of the road, concealed in the forest. Judging by the smoke rising above the trees, they were no more than a few miles from a town. It was important that they arouse as little suspicion or curiosity as possible. To do that they’d need to buy food, clothing, and shelter. To do that, they’d need money.

Hearing the sound of hoof beats, Camron tensed expectantly. Several travelers had passed his hiding place already, but always traveling in groups of two or more. He needed a solitary individual for his plan to work.

A lone rider came into view. It was a respectably dressed man astride a fine chestnut gelding. He seemed unconcerned about his isolation or his surroundings. Camron guessed that there had been very little trouble with outlaws and robbers on this particular road. Until now, that was.

Waiting until the man and his mount had passed, Camron sprang forward silently and with a smooth motion leapt upon the back of the horse behind the man. The horse gave a startled half-rear, and the man only had time to utter half an oath before Camron’s arm was around his neck, choking him. Camron pulled the man out of the saddle so his struggles wouldn’t further upset the animal, and maintained his hold until the man went limp. Releasing him, Camron checked that his vital signs were steady, then dragged him off the road and into the woods. Making soothing noises to the horse, he grabbed hold of the reins and led it into the trees as well.

He propped the man up against a tree and tied the horse to a low branch. He searched the man’s pockets and saddlebags, relieving him of his money purse and a heavy woolen cloak.

He left the unconscious man and headed back to the others. He found them standing around in nervous silence awaiting his return.

He raised the money pouch so they could all see it. “I haven’t counted it, but it should be enough to buy us some food and a couple of rooms for the night, and some cloaks at the very least. When we get to the outskirts of the town, I’ll go and rent the rooms, and then come back and fetch you.”

“And how do we know we can trust you, eh?” Asked the whiny-voiced man whose name, Camron had learned, was Jasper. “How do we know you won’t just run off with the money and leave us to fend for ourselves?”

Camron took a deep breath before answering. “I came back here, didn’t I? I could’ve just taken this money and gone directly to town, but I didn’t. However, if it will ease your mind, I’ll take someone else with me.”

Jasper looked as if he were about to volunteer, but before he could Camron turned to the young woman named Eilenne. “Would you mind accompanying me into town?”

Her large blue-grey eyes widened in surprise. She was a little too tall and slender for Camron’s taste, and her features hovered somewhere between delicate and strong, between being beautiful and being merely pretty. She had long, dark brown hair and very fair, unblemished skin, as if she’d spent most of her life indoors. Her clothing was plain, but of good quality. He wondered if perhaps she served as a lady’s maid, or some such.

“Oh, er, yes, all right,” she said quickly as he shot a meaningful glance at Jasper.

“It’s settled then,” said Camron. “Just a little further now, and if you need some motivation, just think about eating hot beef stew and freshly baked bread, and sleeping in real beds.”

And with renewed energy, the seven of them set off.

_____________________________________________


AN: I discovered something the last time I went to post. There’s a limit of 4300 characters (including spaces) for comments. I had to edit my last section quite a bit. So if you’re wondering why the bits are all so short, there you are.
The two of them walked along the street, heads bowed, trying to go unnoticed. Camron was wearing the cloak, which covered him from head to toe, and had his arm around Eilenne’s waist so that she was partially covered, too. They stopped at what appeared to be the smallest, dingiest, and therefore cheapest, inn in town. It was called the Black Boar.

“I’m not sure about the customs of this place,” whispered Camron as they paused outside the door, “so better let me do all the talking.”

She nodded and they went inside.

The interior was only slightly less grimy and drab than the exterior. In the common room a couple of patrons were already nursing tankards of drink, though it was only mid-afternoon.

A surly-looking innkeeper strolled up to the counter, polishing a glass with a filthy rag that was, if anything, making the glass even dirtier.

“Help you?” He asked, his churlish tone belying the helpful nature of his words.

“We’d like two rooms for the night,” said Camron.

The innkeeper arched a hairy brow. “Two?”

“That’s right,” said Camron firmly, “two.”

The innkeeper looked at Eilenne with a lewd smile, shrugged, and said, “That’ll be eight pieces of gold. Payment up front, if you don‘t mind.”

Eight pieces of gold! That was almost a third of their money. Two rooms in a place like this should only have cost four, at the most. The innkeeper was obviously taking advantage of them. Unfortunately, there was nothing they could do about it. They needed a place to stay, and the Black Boar was still likely to be the cheapest.

Camron took the money pouch and carefully counted out the gold. The innkeeper immediately swept them up and they disappeared into a pocket.

“Oh,” he said, as if just remembering something, “meals not included.”

Eilenne scowled at him, but he seemed not to notice.

“Got any animals need boarding?”

Camron shook his head, and the innkeeper looked disappointed at not being able to swindle them out of any more money.

“Well then, you gotta be outta here by noon tomorrow, or it’s another day’s fee. My name is Master Fagen, should you be needin’ anything.” He handed them two keys. “Up the stairs to your left, rooms’re at the end of the hall, last two on your right.”

“Thank you, Master Fagen,” said Camron politely, and turned to go up the stairs. Eilenne gave the innkeeper one final frown. He winked at her. She hurried after Camron.

They found the rooms, which were small and in need of a thorough airing out, but would probably accommodate all seven of them.

“I do not doubt that if Master Fagen knew how many people were staying in these rooms, he’d want to charge us more money, so we’re going to have to sneak the others in a couple at a time. The best chance we have of going unnoticed is during the dinner rush. I’ll go back to others and lead them to the inn a few hours from now. In the meantime we’ll try to develop some sort of plan for tomorrow. Will you be okay here by yourself?”

Eilenne inwardly cringed at the thought of being left alone anywhere near the odious Master Fagen, but she said, “No, I’ll be fine. I’ll be waiting up here for the others when they arrive.”

Camron smiled, “Good. I’ll try to slip out without being noticed, but it’s probably best if you lock the door.”

Eilenne didn’t need to be told twice.

“I’ll be back around sunset. Listen for my knock - three taps, then a pause, then two more taps.” He demonstrated on the wall.

Eilenne nodded to show that she understood.

“You shouldn’t have to leave the room for any reason,” he continued, “but if you do, keep your head down and don’t look at anybody or talk to anybody. If you feel like you’re in danger, leave immediately and go to the road marker we passed at the edge of the village.”

“I’ll be all right,” she assured him. “You’d better get back to the others before Jasper has them all believing we’ve run off together and turned them in for the reward money.”

He smiled again and gave her hand a quick squeeze before he was up and gone, the hem of the cloak flashing out the door. Eilenne immediately locked it behind him and sat back down on the bed. She looked at the sun through the grimy glass of the window and prayed that it would set quickly.