Thump, thump, thump, thump. Giselle's feet hit the pavement hard, repeated and quick. She was running for her life, literally. Tonight was her coming of age, her sixteenth human year of life. It was to be a good time out with friends and even a few relatives close to her age. It became one of the worst. The night started harsh. Insisting the night start early, her older cousins rushed Giselle out the door before she could do anything with her long, dirty-blonde hair. In their hurry, Giselle forgot not only her cloak but also her gold; no warmth and no drinking money.
But she was optimistic. Giselle was happily thinking on meeting with her lover when they arrived at the first tavern. She met him a year ago and was sure they were meant to be. So sure, in fact, that she held intentions of letting him share her virginity tonight. Her mood was chipper even when she met up with a peer she much considered an enemy. Anger flew and Giselle ended their brawl by breaking the womyn's nose. It was just too bad the girl's father owned the tavern. When she was thrown out only half of her cousins joined her outside.
There was no sign of her lover at the second tavern, although Giselle did meet up with a few acquaintances and managed to get two birthday drinks from them. The night wore on and it wasn't until the patrons thinned out that Giselle realized her friends and relations were nowhere to be seen. Trying to think kindly on it, she figured they lost her and maybe thought she went to the third tavern. She immediately missed her cloak upon leaving. The Wayward Plains were accustomed to rain, clouds getting trapped against the mountains. And it was pouring now. The air was cold and she ran through the mud and puddles to her next destination.
She found her lover at the third tavern. It was just unfortunate his tongue was in one of her cousin's mouth, his hand down her shirt. Giselle really didn't know what happened next. She felt her heart begin a hard and hopeless fall down an endless abyss somewhere in her chest. She saw black for what seemed like a long while before her mouth uttered a lost gasp. They looked up at her, drenched and wounded as she was, with no remorse on their faces. Giselle found herself unable to move. The energy that always fueled her to fight one on one was gone. She planned her whole life around this man and, without a word, he resumed kissing her cousin.
Tears formed in her eyes as she ran from the tavern. Giselle was never one to cry and the sobs sounded more like choking. Her legs shook unstably after two buildings and she turned into an alley, hoping no one saw her. The tears obscuring her vision were a new problem and it took a moment for Giselle to blink them away before she could look up at five men she knew without ever meeting.
There were small collections of bad people in this town. And this group was one. Giselle warned herself not to let her eyes wander. But the human male with the ropes on his wrists and ankles drew her attention as if he were a bright flame and she a simple insect. He was a slave and, from the exchange of money, he was being sold.
"What do you know," the largest of the men began. "We get rid of one, we gain another." Giselle didn't hear what the others said, sprinting hard from the alley.
And this was where she was now, with five men chasing her through the streets of her hometown. Her mind, somehow, rotated thought once more. Though, in her panic, she first wanted to go home, Giselle realized that this was not the smartest idea. Her family died long ago in a botched robbery, leaving Giselle to live with her grandparents. And they were old. They could do nothing to help her. She would only get them killed.
This is a great way to end my night, she thought as her body burnt with the exercise. I am going to be brutalized and sold into the forbidden market. It couldn't get any worse.
An abandoned building, once used for storage, came quickly into view. Giselle didn't know this part of town well, to be honest. But she didn't have much choice. She knew the five men gained ground on her tired legs and this was enough to keep her going. There was hope, so long as they didn't yet have her. She ran right for a window, the darkness like an open mouth. A grunt escaped her as she leapt, jumping onto the sill and through the window.
Dark. Good. Maybe this will confuse them. Giselle took in the immediate layout of the place. Wooden crates, probably standing empty and still for a long while, were piled all over this large, rectangular room. She ran behind a collection, stacked many lengths from the floor, just as the first man jumped through the window.
"Hide all you want, little wench," he began in a sneering, gravelly voice. "We will find you."
"And when we do," another began, "we are going to have good times."
"Fresh," a third hissed. "She looked fresh. Like she's never felt a man."
"Tonight she'll feel five," the second again chimed. They were right in front of her and Giselle pushed on the crates, tipping the stack.
She heard one cry out in surprise, another as if readying himself for impact, and Giselle was off again, running through the maze of crates. Unfortunately, fighting back meant being seen and she needed to sprint through the open space to get to other walls of crates. She was easily seen.
Three were not buried and they came at her. She felt a tight tug on the back of her shirt but, for the wetness of her clothing Giselle slipped through his grasp. The maze of boxes turned out to be just that. Even she experienced trouble finding herself. This game lasted for far longer than she hoped before her eyes picked up on a movement past a wall of boxes. She stopped, confused and perhaps more frightened by what she thought she saw than the men chasing her down. A form, a lithe, flexible body, crawled through a hole in the floor, a drain grate pushed open.
No. Not… I didn't see violet eyes, her thoughts stuttered. A noise from behind brought into a sprint only to be stopped by the fall of crates.
"I got her," someone yelled from behind the mess and Giselle realized they used her own trick against her. She was trapped. And she could only turn when hearing all five men round the corner.
"I am going to beat you for wasting our time," the largest threatened as he stepped toward her. "We are going to make you hurt so badly." Giselle tried to dodge his hand only for him to catch the front of her clothing. He pinned her against a wall, not one made of crates but an actual wall, and pressed hard on her sternum, hurting her. "First, we are going to have a bit of fun with you." He gripped a tight hold on her jaw, mashing her face with his fingers and making her call out in pain. "I can't wait to tear open your little body. Then, we will take you back to our place and see if anyone else wants a bit of the goods." He paused, looking her face over before glancing down her body. "You'll bring a good price on the market. Some warlord will be very happy to get his hands on your precious little face and young skin."
Giselle held her breath, shaken by his words and afraid of his hands. He licked at his lips and, in order to quit looking at him, she glanced over his shoulder. His four friends were gone. Confusion took the place of the fear on her face and the man turned his head. Giselle's mind didn't stop screaming even after she did as it asked, kicking the man hard in the groin, pushing him away at the same time. He fell to the floor, clutching his testicles, and Giselle realized she was running only after taking several steps.
Something warm and pliable caught her foot and Giselle made the mistake of looking back as she stumbled. It was an arm leading to a body, one of the men chasing her. He lie in a puddle of blood, a deep slit nearly severing his head from his shoulders. Another noise sounded from where she knew her assailant stood and Giselle hardly knew where she was going except out.
There was a side door just ahead of her. Her shoulder slammed hard against it, popping it open despite the nails meant to hold it shut. She spilled into the complete darkness of the clouded night, the heavy rainfall now nothing more than a fine mist in the air. Giselle knew this door opened into an alley by the look of the building next to it. She turned, trying not to think of the snuffed men behind her, and came face to face with those she knew, deep at heart, were his murderers.
Fear halted her feet, the collection of violet eyes startling her heart. The alley was closed with a tall stone wall. A large puddle spread from her toes nearly to the wall, probably trapped from a blocked drain. A small ledge, formed by a collection of dirt and debris trapped against the wall and pushing back the puddle, sported a crouched collection of drow, easily fifteen or twenty of them. Their stances were quite casual, some idly playing with their weapons. Their violet eyes watched her with slight malice and much amusement.
"Oh, damn." This was all that came from her mouth as she wondered if she could run without receiving a dagger to her back. She did turn, taking one large step before slamming into a hard, warm chest. The blow shocked her and Giselle nearly curled into his warmth before her senses returned. Black skin was all her eyes saw before she turned them upward, looking into the face of another drow. She was so close she could feel the heat of his breath. It took a moment for her heart to again beat and she took a step back. "Oh- damn."
"You must like that word," he spoke in human common before his hand made a lunge for her neck. His fingers wrapped securely around it, warm and steady against her cold, shaking body, and he smiled. "Llieh!"
Giselle let off a soft call of surprise as he picked her from the ground. For a drow, he was impossibly tall and Giselle figured she was well over a length above the ground. His toss was not as hard as she expected and the cold water was a shock to her system when she splash-landed in the middle of the puddle. She panicked when her head submerged and stood quickly, finding that the water was as deep as the middle of her thighs.
"Ah, dos ph' muth," he continued in his own language, his violet eyes watching her carefully before turning back to his students, those who crouched behind her. "Ussta training tool muth uns'aa maristo." Giselle shivered involuntarily. His voice was colder than the water. And, did he just say 'training tool'?
Giselle backed away at his approach. Her body shook with fear and she only jumped harder upon hearing a drow speak right behind her. With the twist of her torso, she made out the dagger he held. The blade didn't gleam or glisten in any way and she knew it was poisoned. The tallest drow snapped at the dagger baring drow and Giselle thought she might faint even as he put the weapon back. But, fearful or not, she knew to move. Staying frozen would definitely spell her death with this race.
The water impeded her movement even if all she tried to do was walk. Giselle turned, putting her back toward the open alley, facing the wall of drow and, most importantly, the one who continued to speak. He did about the same dance as she, letting her move around him, away from him. He did this without the slightest bit of concern in his mannerisms.
Confidence, that is what it is, her mind ran. He is not worried I'll escape. He is confident he will get to me one way or another. And, mostly, I know he will. Giselle was already close to the incline entering the puddle. Her heel took up the almost steady rise of the dirt and, as she lifted the second, the gravel underneath slid, taking her down again. Here the water was not so deep, only covering her waist even as she sat in it. She scrambled to stand and the drow looked to her, that smile over his face once more.
"Are you finding those little rocks hard to walk across," he began again in human common. "Your large human feet are not so sure on the surface. You are going to be the town's only survivor." It was only now, as he held it up, that Giselle made out what he held in his free hand. It was a head, one once belonging to her attacker. He held it by the short hair and blood dribbled into the puddle even yet. The smile stayed where it was and his arm moved, throwing the body part towards the right side of her torso. Giselle turned to avoid it and felt his hand grab onto her long hair too late. He yanked hard, pulling her against him, her back to his front, and crossed his arm over her neck. "You are coming with me." Then he tightened his arm, the muscles becoming as hard as stone under his thin, dark, warm skin. Though she struggled, Giselle felt her head go light, her body falling limp in his grasp.