I had my head knocked against the carriage floor when I was tossed in, so I was a bit out of it when my kidnapper entered in after me and the carriage started moving. Thankfully, I wasn’t knocked out, but my head wasn’t exactly clear at first. Which was why I didn’t notice that there was another man in the car, even with my kidnapper talking to him.
“I thought you were going to grab the boy?”
“Does it matter? She was outside and far easier to grab.” My kidnapper replied as he sat down, “either way they will have to do what we want or get her back in pieces.”
“Who are you people?” I managed to croak out as I scrambled to sit up. There were two men in dark cloaks, and I honestly couldn’t tell you more than that. They were hard to look at, and even though I was at an angle that allowed me to look under their hoods, the area under them was unnaturally dark.
“Just a couple of [Rogues] little miss,” my kidnapper answered me. “If you swear to be a good girl and not scream or cry or try to run, I might not even have to have you beaten and gagged, understand?”
“The girl is three years old, of course she doesn’t understand.” The other [Rogue] laughed.
“No sir, I understand,” I quickly spoke up, obviously not wanting to be gagged and beaten. “If you can promise not to harm me, or my family, I won’t cause you any trouble.”
“Been a long time since someone called me sir,” the [Rogue] sounded amused. “She is very polite, isn't she?”
“Her parents are probably teaching her to serve House Felius when she gets her Class. Bit of a waste now, isn’t it?” My kidnapper answered. I think he was looking at me, but because I couldn’t see his eyes I wasn’t sure.
The rest of the ride was in silence, and I didn’t dare risk their anger by getting up onto a seat, so I just sat on the floor of the carriage the whole time. Riding in a carriage was rougher and shakier than I would have imagined, but maybe that was just my perception considering the situation. I wasn’t sure how long the ride was - maybe thirty minutes, but it might have been longer - but it eventually stopped and I was brought out of the carriage and into a warehouse of some kind.
It looked like a part of it had been repurposed into a living space though. There were two straw pallets, a small table with a pair of chairs and a candle, and, most worryingly for me, a chain attached to the ground.
“Sirs,” I decided to risk trying to convince them to let me go, and tried to put together a good case. “My family is poor. We live well, but we have no savings; ransoming me won’t earn you much.”
They walked me over to the chains regardless, chuckling darkly as they attached the shackles to my wrists. I was able to walk a few feet before it grew taut, but I noticed that I wouldn’t be able to reach either of the straw pallets. If I stayed, I would be sleeping on the dirty floor. At least I was able to reach the table, for all that is worth.
My kidnapper pulled out a small vial with a wax seal and showed it to me.
“If we were ransoming you for money, that would be true,” his voice incredibly smug. “But all we need is for your parents to add this special seasoning to the food of their employers, House Felius.”
“Poison?” I was surprised, and worried, “if they are caught, they will be hanged! My entire family might be hung together!”
“You had best pray that they don’t get caught then,” my kidnapper’s statement was cold as ice, completely merciless. “In fact, you had better pray that they agree to do it fast so we don’t have to send parts of you to them to convince them.”
He held out the vial again, saying, “All they need to do is get a single drop of this into their food, and everyone who tastes it will be dead. This poison is worth more than your life.”
With that, he and the other [Rogue] left. For now, I was alone. The shackles were heavy on my three year old body; I could barely lift my arms. There was nothing for me to do but sit down, pull my knees up to my chest, and wonder if I was going to die again. I didn’t want to die, not so soon. I loved my family. Even if they weren’t my first family, they didn’t know that and they certainly would love me anyway. They were good people, and a wonderful family, and I had finally recovered from my initial malaise enough to enjoy being with them.
Was there anything I could do to escape? I’d need the key to my shackles, or a way to break them. The second part was simply impossible for me. An adult man with a physical Class might be able to do it. Hell, Emil might be able to do it as a mere [Militiaman]! But a Classless three year old girl? No, I would need the key.
Could I steal the key from my captors? I knew absolutely nothing about pickpocketing or theft, and I could hardly lift my arms. Even if I could lift my arms enough, I would barely be able to reach their pockets with how short I was, and the shackles would make a lot of noise if I tried.
The only thing I had was a small sewing kit in an inner pocket - that I had sewn on myself - of my dress. That, and the dress itself, which I couldn’t even take off because it would just end up on the shackles. Not that I had a reason to take it off, but if one came up, I wouldn’t be able to anyway.
My captors came back with a bottle and some cups. It seems their part of the scheme was mostly done. They just needed my parents agreement and they would give them the poison and everything would depend on what happened next. It seemed a bit early to drink, but I wasn’t about to draw attention to myself by saying that.
The entire day passed as I watched them talk and gamble. I learned nothing important from listening, except that they were consummate professionals despite being criminals. They never used their names, they never spoke about people they knew, and they never talked about their plans. I had hoped to learn something that would help me, but all I figured out was that another man would be joining us tomorrow; the one who had driven the carriage that brought me here.
It was a summer night, but it was still cold. I curled up on the ground and tried not to cry or make noise. I didn’t sleep; I couldn’t sleep. I just couldn’t, even though I knew I should. If a possibility to escape came, it would be all that much harder if I was sleep deprived.
Still, I was awake when the sun peeked through the gaps in the shutters on the windows. In a few hours, it would be a full day since I had been kidnapped. By now, my parents would know I was gone and the [Rogues] have made their demands. All that was left was to return and see if they agreed.
If they didn’t, I’d lose a finger to “convince” them. If they did, chances were they would end up swinging from the gallows. I was feeling hopeless, and I was thinking that I should just resign myself to returning to the white room, when another man entered, this one without a concealing cloak.
He was short, pudgy, and dressed like a commoner with a trade, which is to say, he dressed well. Beady eyes, a pallid face with days old stubble, and messy brown hair finished his image. Honestly, I thought he could have used one of those cloaks.
"Only two cups?” He snorted, “Lucky I brought my own.”
“Fuck man, I almost put a dagger in you,” one of the cloaked man groaned and sat up, stowing a blade that he had pulled from under his pillow when the fat man had come in. “You should know better than to wake us up like that, just like you should know better than to drink. You know you can’t hold your goddamn liquor!”
“And that matters why?” The man shrugged, “what’s that little girl gonna do even if I get black out drunk? Tickle me to death?”
“It is the principle of the thing,” the [Rogue] grumbled. And now all of my captors were in one room’ the Kidnapper, the [Rogue], and the Fat [Driver]. I still didn’t know names, so all I could do was label them.
The three ate breakfast, not bothering to feed me. Not that I asked, I just tried to stay as inconspicuous as possible. I hadn’t eaten since yesterday morning, but I was more afraid of them than I was hungry. And, of course, despite the immaturity that came with a young body, I did have an adult mind, and I knew that asking for food was just an invitation for abuse.
“And you are already drinking the good bottle,” [Rogue] groused as he finished eating. “Bring your own next time, I hate sharing with you!”
The Kidnapper just sighed, and got up from the table.
“I am going to meet the boss,” he said as he moved towards the door. Despite everything, it was still hard for me to look at him. It was like my eyes just slid away from him. “You two think you can keep watch?”
“I will probably end up doing most of it myself,” [Rogue] spoke under his breath, and then more loudly said, “Yeah, I’ll keep watch here, but I don’t think the girl will give us any trouble.”
You mean that the girl can’t give you any trouble, I thought to myself.
“I’ll leave the Nighthowler Extract with you two,” Kidnapper gave the vial to Fat [Driver]. “I’ll be back.”
With that, the Kidnapper left.
Not long after, [Rogue] turned to Fat [Driver] and said, “Look, we both know I hate you, and you don’t like me. I’m going to keep watch outside, do you think you can manage not to get black out drunk.”
Fat [Driver] just poured himself a drink and made a rude gesture to [Rogue], who shook his head in disgust and walked out the door.
Over the next few hours, Fat [Driver] did nothing but drink, and drink a lot. He went through one bottle and started another, with his face turning more red as noon approached. I watched him drink in silence until…
“Yah watchin’ meh gurl?” Fat [Driver]’s voice was slurred as he glared at me, “Yah find somethin’ inter-, intah-, uh, funneh?”
“No sir,” I quickly shook my head and moved my eyes to the ground. “I was just thinking, it meant nothing.”
“So yah think meh ugly? Huh!?” Fat [Driver]’s voice got louder and his face redder as he got angry. “Nothin’ interestin’ in lookin’ at ol’ Phil, huh!? Figures a brat would jus’ be like tha’ bitch. Always lookin’ down on me!”
“I would never-”
“Shut up!” Phil shouted, standing up, and I cringed back in fear. But my chain didn’t let me run far. “Bitch like yah, need teh teach yah ah lesson! Imma go take a piss, an’ then beat teh piss outta yah!”
I watched him stumble away towards a corner of the warehouse, my heart beating out of my chest in sheer terror. I hoped he wouldn’t kill me, they needed me alive after all, but that didn’t mean they needed me healthy. And honestly, with the little I had seen of this Phil, I wasn’t sure he would remember to leave me alive. The only good thing was that I wasn’t old enough to be worth raping, or I am sure he would.
I looked around desperately. Looking for something, anything, that might help me. There was nothing, I had known that last night, as I had investigated every possibility and nothing had chan-
Phil had left the vial on the table… I could just barely reach the table, could I use something to bring the vial close enough for me to grab? No, there was nothing close enough, my only choice was to tip the table.
The table was heavy, and my shackles were heavy, but the adrenaline pumping through my veins was enough. I tipped the table, spilling food and drink onto the floor with a small crash and clinks. From the floor, I grabbed the wax-topped vial.
“An’ now yah spillin’ meh drink!” Phil roared, his footsteps thumping furiously as he approached. “Yah ar’ gonna regret tha’ gurl!”
I had the vial, and my little sewing kit had a needle. I nearly fumbled and dropped the needle, but I managed to push it through the wax just as Phil reached me. Looming above me and backhanding me across the face to send me sprawling onto the floor.
It took all I had to keep my grip on the vial. I barely managed it, and as he approached again, I whipped the needle out and stabbed it into his leg.
“YAH WHORE!” He roared again, grabbing my throat in both hands, pulling me off the ground as I tried to loosen his grip. I couldn’t breathe! He was going to kill me!
But then… Phil’s eyes defocused, he dropped me and I scrambled away quickly. He look confused for a second, then two seconds, before falling to his knees, and then face down on the floor, dead. I had killed him.
I didn’t have time to think of that now, in my head, a plan was forming. It was rough, but it was all I had. If it didn’t work, I didn’t even want to know what they would do to me for killing Phil. Instead of letting my mind think about the fact I had taken a life, I took the needle back and wiped it off on Phil’s clothes and then put it back into the poison before moving as far away from the body as my chain would let me.
“What the fuck is going on here Phil?” I was just in time for [Rogue] to come in, throwing the door to the warehouse open and seeing the mess.
“He just started shouting at me, I didn’t do anything, I swear!” I start crying, “He hit me and choked me and called me a whore and then just fell over! But I swear I was just sitting and being quiet, please don’t hurt me!”
[Rogue] looked at me, then looked at Phil’s body, and just sighed in disgust. Muttering under his breath that of course Phil had gotten black out drunk and messed up the place. He walked up to Phil’s body, and as soon as he got into range, I launched myself at him and stabbed him with the needle too.
“The fuck!?” [Rogue] yelped, then his eyes widened. “Wait, the poi-, poison?”
A few seconds later, he was on the ground, dead. I desperately searched his body; hoping and praying that he had- and he did! He had the key to my shackles!
My hands trembled and shook so much that it took three tries to put it into the lock, but I finally managed it. The shackles dropped to the ground and I ran for the door, stumbling out into the light and wildly looking around.
I had no idea where I was, except that I was in the city still. This place was rundown and I didn’t see anyone around. But that didn’t matter, there wasn’t a part of Vurden that wasn’t close to some busy area. I could hear the sounds of a crowd and I ran in that direction, running into an open market square and shouting at the top of my lungs.
“Help! Murder!” I screamed, “Someone help!”
One of the things I was surprised to learn about medieval times was that there really wasn’t anything like the police. There were guards, but they were almost exclusively at the city wall or at the entrance to the noble quarter. Instead, things relied on the “hue and cry” system, where when a crime was committed, citizens were expected to drop what they were doing and work together to stop the crime.
It didn’t always work, but there were two things that would always bring crowds running: murder and fire. People came over immediately, demanding I explain.
“They grabbed me and took me and now they are dead!” I wailed, obviously not mentioning that I had killed them. I led a crowd of people to the warehouse and to the bodies, taking advantage of my apparent age to avoid explaining exactly what had happened other than that they had taken me from my family and that they had died.
The guards were called and the questioning became a bit more professional, and more importantly, these were actual [Guardsmen] with skills. One of them had a skill that allowed them to tell truth from lies, and he immediately realised I wasn’t telling the truth.
“Little girl,” He glared down at me, most of his face hiding behind an incredibly impressive mustache. “This is very serious. You may be young and a girl, but I will take the rod to you if I have to.”
“They said they would kill me or hurt my family if I caused trouble,” I said quietly, still playing the kid card for all it was worth. In theory, I could just be honest about this whole thing, but the reality was that my parents probably had not reported the blackmail, which meant that they had technically been plotting to kill members of the nobility.
It was best to try and get as much sympathy from as many people as possible.
“They were going to cut off my fingers and send them to my parents,” I whispered, the shaking in my voice not entirely feigned. I didn’t need to lie about my fear and terror after all. “They were going to send them pieces of me until they agreed to put that stuff into the food of House Felius.”
I tried to frame it in such a way that it sounded like my parents hadn’t been told yet, or may have even refused. That statement resulted in me eventually being brought into House Felius itself, and there I saw…
“Mom, Dad!” I shouted, tears in my eyes. No acting in this, just pure relief and joy.
“Annora! Oh, gods, my baby!” Mother and I rushed towards each other meeting in the middle of the hall we had been brought to and clutching each other, breaking down and sobbing as we hugged. My brother joined our group hug a second later, absolutely bawling and telling me that he was sorry again and again. I tried my best to reassure him, muffled as I was against Mother’s chest.
Father took a few steps forward, hesitated for a moment, and then turned and bowed deeply to a sharply dressed man that I hadn’t noticed.
“My Lord Felius, please forgive my family for their outburst. They are overcome from emotion and mean no disrespect.” Father said, and it was a true enough statement.
Lord Felius just waved his hand and said, “I did not find any insult in it. To expect a mother to do anything but put their children first is to expect the sun to rise from the North. I will give them some time to gather themselves before asking my questions.”
“Thank you for your forgiveness and wisdom My Lord,” Father bowed again, even deeper this time. “We will not trespass on it.”
With that, Father joined the group hug, whispering words to calm us down. Despite our roiling emotions, we were not just before a noble, but the head of House Felius. A titled and landed Baron! He didn’t need a reason to do whatever he wanted with us. We weren’t serfs, we were freepeople, but that difference rarely mattered when the nobles were the ones who enforced justice in the first place.
I managed to calm myself and extricate myself from the group enough to curtsy to Lord Felius. “Forgive me My Lord, and thank you for your mercy.”
“Your parents are hard workers and good servants girl,” Lord Felius replied with a slight smile. “And I understand that you are training to work with them when you Awaken. I am more than happy to help them, and you might make a good personal maid for my daughter.”
“I would be honored, My Lord,” I curtsied again, surprised by such a generous offer.
Kalvin and Mother managed to get themselves together by this time and greeted the Lord. Afterwards, Lord Felius had me tell the story of what happened to me, and I did, leaving nothing out.
“You managed to kill these despicable kidnappers and assassins yourself?” He was quite impressed by my accomplishment, “And you are only three years old?”
“Yes My Lord, I didn’t want to kill anybody, but I don’t think I had a choice…”
Lord Felius didn’t care that they were dead. Well, he would have prefered them to be alive to question, but that was obviously impossible and he was happy that those two men had died.
“You know, this entire thing is somewhat amusing,” Lord Felius chuckled and sat back in an ornate chair that had been brought for him. “It isn’t exactly a secret that I have the skill [Poison Immunity], so Nighthowler Extract does nothing to me at all. And my family are visiting their cousins in the capitol for the season, so their plan was doomed from the start.”
In the end, we received a reward from the Lord and returned home. A bounty had been placed on my Kidnapper, who had escaped, and life moved on. Officially, the guards had broken in and freed me, my role in my own escape was downplayed. So hopefully the Kidnapper wouldn’t come back for revenge.
Life moved on, a little more warily, but it still moved on.
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