Erýfele

Prologue


The man's fist sounded like it was going to break through the wood of the front door.

"Open th'door love." The voice outside was rough, and thick with accent "C'mon.. Jus' open up and we c'n talk 'bout this."

The girl was absolutely silent, covering her hand with her mouth. Curled into the kitchen corner, she shook. Where was her mother? The man had been outside for a long time. Too long.

"Oi!" The knocking turned into pounding. "Open up this fucking door b'fore I force m'way in!"

And she knew he would, too. He'd been here before. A big, burly sort of man who'd fixed something once, and had taken a disturbing liking to her mother. The girl had noticed it immediately, the way he looked at her, his body language. She was young, but she wasn't stupid. He wasn't a nice man, either. He was bad. She knew that right from the start, and her mother had realized it eventually. And for a while he'd stopped coming around.

But now he was back, and he was angry. Very angry.

Her mother had gone into town an hour ago. She'd gone to get cocoa powder, because they were out and she'd promised that they could make brownies. But it had been too long. The town was only a ten minute drive, even in their ancient Beetle.

"Little girl, I don' wanna hurt you." The voice had taken on a fake gentleness. "I jus' wanna talk, see? Don't be afraid."

She was afraid. Deathly afraid, and she didn't believe a single word this man was saying. She'd never dealt with strangers by herself before, even though the girl was used to being home alone. They lived in a cottage, and her mother had to go into town every day to sell vegetables at the market. But no one ever visited. She doubted anyone even knew they were living there, in the middle of the forest, only a gravel road that was almost impossible to spot leading to their house.

The man was ramming himself against the door. She could hear the wood begin to crack, but she couldn't find it in herself to move. She didn't know how. The feeling of impending death came upon her. She whispered nonsense to everyone she'd ever known.

"Lillian!"

The tapping on the window behind her startled her, and her head moved on it's own. A sight that she would remember for the rest of her life. The man in the window looked scared, but just seeing him relieved her. She knew him. He was familiar. Her mother's friend. Lillian nearly passed out in sheer happiness.

"Felix." Her small voice shook, and she pushed herself off the floor. With a nimbleness that only children have, she clambered onto the wooden counter and opened the window as fast as she could. She tried hard to get word out, her body feeling weak. ".. Help me."

"Lillian," He tried to smile, "You need to come with me, okay?"

The girl nodded, so confused.

"What's happening?"

"I'll explain later." A loud bang. The door was cracking. "Come on now."

"Where's my mom?"

"Lillian, quickly." Felix's hands reached in the open window, his patience beginning to break. "It's important. Come with me."

Another crack broke through the air, and deep, maniacal laughter was filtering through the house. So she did as she was told, and tumbled into the arms of the man outside the window. She'd known him since she could remember. He was one of the few people that came to the house, and he always got her a birthday present. Every single year, and they were always oddly wonderful knickknacks. She kept them in a chest in her room. And she'd probably never see them again.

Felix pulled her out into the night, her small body clinging to him for safety. The man told her to hold on, and he began to run until he reached her mother's old Beetle. The one she'd taken into town. It sputtered and roared, and she was tossed into the back seat, colliding with a boy she'd never seen before. He looked her age, maybe older by a year or two, and he was just as terrified as she was.

"Where are we going?" She asked him, clinging to his shirt as the car lurched forward and sped down a path she'd never seen in her entire life. "Tell me where we're going! Where's my mom?"

Tears gushed from her eyes, though she didn't know it. The boy, with white blonde hair and big blue eyes shook his head, and buckled her seat-belt for her.

"You're safe with us." He slid his frightened hand into hers and she sobbed wildly. She was sure Felix was driving faster than the speed limit allowed, and they were going in the opposite direction of the town.

"It's not okay!" Lillian shook her head, "Tell me where my mom is!"

Felix, who had been silent until then, looked at the two children in the rear-view mirror. His eyes had always been an odd colour, a turquoise that was brighter than she'd ever seen. They flashed between sadness and fear. He hadn't wanted to tell her like this. But she needed to understand.

"Your mother is dead." He tried to say it gently, but it was very loud in the car with the clunking and the wind. Felix had to yell for anything to be heard. "She's been murdered, Lillian. And now they're after us."

And because it seemed like the only natural thing to do, what with being nearly killed, and then taken away into the night, the girl squeaked slightly before dizziness took over her and she passed out against the boy beside her, hoping that she would wake up from a strange dream.


Erýfele: a den passage underground