Chapter 1

Snap! The arrow connected with the thin limb, easily snapping the small branch off of the great tree. I blew the wispy strands of dark brown hair out of my eyes and lowered my bow, grinning with the satisfaction of hitting exactly on the mark I aimed for. It almost took me back to the first time I ever shot a bow, little more than five years after my birth, which meant I'd been shooting for a grand total of 12 years. Huh, it seemed just like yesterday…funny how time flies.

I blinked a few times, clearing my blurry gaze from where I had been so intently concentrating on those thin branches of the huge tree. Draping the bow's strap over my left shoulder I went to retrieve the arrow, easily picking out its metallic tip in contrast to the just beginning to fall leaves of I guess you could say pre-autumn.

I grabbed it, taking little notice of the cleanly sliced off branch laying a few feet away with satisfaction. Rolling the arrow around in my hand I took note of the sharp point being down, sticking it in the leather arrow cylinder that my father hand made for me ten or so years ago… Out of habit I sighed at one of the many memories I had with him, when I still had him that is.

I tried to brush away the thoughts and leaned against the rough bark of the big tree I had just shot with a bow, letting my eyes close nonchalantly. In a way I was blowing off the whole purpose of this trip, to find us some fresh meat, but it was nice just to have some time to myself once in a while. It wasn't easy essentially supporting the whole family.

"That wasn't a bad shot," a voice said.

I recognized the voice instantly and opened my green eyes to see my older brother standing there with a grin on his face.

"Shaw," I said with a laugh, walking forward to wrap my torn gloved hands around his neck in a big hug.

"Vinny," he replied, returning the hug.

I stepped back, noticing instantly that he had gotten skinnier from the way his rough jacket that he had forever seemed to hang on his already lean frame to begin with. He was still the little over twenty, tall but leanly muscled, and kind Shaw that I had seen a year ago. The only difference was that he had a bit of stubble now, and was of course skinnier. I couldn't help but notice the normal almost earthy smell to the jacket of his had faded and was replaced by the smell of smoke, obviously from a pipe…

"Shaw, have you been smoking?" I asked, looking at him sternly.

He knew I didn't approve of that since it was one of our father's bad habits. Though our father argued it was perfectly fine I knew better and was pestering him about quitting even up until the last day that I saw him. Thankfully, Shaw shook his head and ran his hand through his dark hair.

"No, it's just the smell of the others. They smoke constantly. Don't worry V, I know you have a grudge against that," he chuckled.

I straightened up and plastered a smile back on my face, "Good. Anyways not to scare you off or anything, but what are you doing here?"

Shaw's smile seemed to instantly vanish and his eyes dropped to the laces on his tattered boots. I could already tell that this wasn't a friendly visit, he had something to say and from the looks of it…it wasn't too pleasant.

"I'm sorry V…I'm going to be gone longer than usual. We are here for the week but that's it… Otis says we will be gone the whole rest of the year and even part of next if business continues as normal," Shaw explained, sadness in his voice.

My face fell, but not as far as my heart that I assumed was way past my shoes by now. Ever since Shaw had taken the job of an entertainer (as he liked to call it) a few years ago I had hardly seen him. After father was murdered he joined up with a gang of entertainers that traveled around the country in a circus caravan you could say. They had wagons, which carried their stuff and reliable horses to lead them over the hundreds of miles and places each year they visited.

Otis, the leader of the caravan, had reluctantly accepted Shaw into their ranks but had grown to love my hard working brother. I credited this instant disappearance of my brother to his way of grieving for the loss of our father, whom we were both very close to. He had run away the day after the funeral, barely telling my widowed mother and I where exactly he was going. She called him irresponsible and careless for leaving us in a situation to fend for ourselves, but eventually she came to accept it…though in the long run it didn't do us much good…

"But…" I started to pace, as I always have done when nervous, "Shaw…we can't go on much longer like this. You said after you saved up enough then you would get us out of here."

Shaw opened his mouth to answer but ended up shutting it again, running his hand through his hair again.

"Vinny…that's the thing…I don't have enough yet. Between sending what little I can spare to you and mother I'm just a couple hundred short…I promise it won't be long."

I exhaled a sigh and stopped pacing, looking out into the woods. How could mother and I take this very much longer? Ever since father was murdered, mother, being widowed, was sort of forced into remarrying his ostentatious brother. Half the time he was drunk and was very abusive to us, both physically and verbally. It was obvious he wasn't doing much but spending time at the bar or laying in an alley somewhere, so I was the one trying to scrape together what little money I could make for our survival.

There was only one way that I could do this, hunting and selling the meat. It's not like they would give a woman a job in this sexist society that we lived in during the 'Middle Ages' as they called this era.

"Alright…I'll make do somehow. Anyways, have you seen mother yet?" I asked, trying to get away from the subject somewhat.

Shaw seemed relived at the moving of the subject and shook his head, "I came to find you first. I didn't have much time anyway since we aren't camping here for the night. We're going a bit outside of town."

I took notice of the falling sun to our west and realized how much time in fact I had really wasted. Mother was waiting on something for us to eat and I had been out here enjoying the weather and shooting tree branches. Honestly I didn't know where my head was some of the time.

"It was good to see you…but mother is expecting something to eat. I told her I would be back soon, but that was two hours ago," I sighed.

Shaw dug into the pocket of his coat, his eyes sort of shining as he tossed me something. With my quick reflexes of a bowman (or bow woman in my case) I easily caught the small object, which opened up in the palm of my hand to be a coin. It wasn't much but I could think of a few things fairly decent we could get out of it for a meal.

"Use that, go into town and get something besides your own fresh kill V," Shaw smiled.

I grinned back at him, despite how frustrated I got at him sometimes I knew deep down he really was a good brother and that our best interest was always on his mind.

"You're going to come with me aren't you?" I asked, rolling the coin over in my palm. "I can't right away, but I'm sure Otis will let me come back to the house to visit. As I said we are going to be here the rest of the week, though doing a show keep in mind. Don't worry, you haven't seen the last of me V," Shaw said stuffing his hands in his pockets and still smiling at me.

I adjusted the bow on my shoulder and pulled him into another bear hug, trying to ignore the smoky smell, and released him.

"See you later!" I called, stepping over some logs and heading back to town with the coin safely in the palm of my hand.

It really wasn't that hard to find something for dinner. Our village was pretty consistent in having vendors, traveling salesmen, or just everyday farmers selling their bounty. Many of the people there were acquaintances of my family and I. Most were often willing to give food or a little bit of whatever they had out of pity of course.

My father had been a highly respected man in the village and when his life was taken they didn't hesitate to help us. The culprits? Well, the same man who always had blood on our hands (usually) when it came to the villages of his kingdom, his great majesty King Vladimir Silton.

His name sounded like something off of a Dracula story that our ancestors might have told. But unlike the fictional story of Dracula, this monster was real. Somehow he always found a way to punish the people in his small kingdom, whether it is something as mild as a few days in the royal stocks or something as vicious as guillotine blood fest. My father wasn't one of the lucky ones that got the couple days in the stocks…

The whole story of how he actually died flooded thorough my mind as I walked down the cobble streets with a chicken dangling between my fingers, heading home. As often mentioned before, not just my feelings, he was a great man. He was one of those people who would do anything for anybody, help out any way he could. The act that he was performing, for a family friend of course, was the one that would bring about his death.

I shrugged away the thoughts, reaching the front door of our worn down shack on the very edge of town. It was a scrubby little shack with broken shutters on the small windows, one big and small room, and a bit drafty in places. Other than the flaws the old hut got along pretty well for about ten years of use to accommodate our family of three, not including Shaw of course. I pushed open the rickety door and was instantly hit in the face by the repulsive smell of liquor…he had been drinking again. Mother looked up when she saw me, almost relief when she saw the chicken that hung in between my fingers.

"Vinny, you're back," she sighed, trying to force a smile.

A few of her brown, but with a slight grey tinge, locks were mischievously escaping her bun, leaving them to fall around her face. Her pale green eyes always held something like pain, though she was able to mask that with all the love that a mother could ever give. It was obvious that this situation we were in was taking a greater toll on her than was blatantly obvious, or that she wanted me to know.

I smiled back, going around our rickety wood table to hand her the bird. The kettle was steaming over the small fire, ready for boiling the meat or whatever she decided to do with it. Mother accepted the bird happily, sitting down in the chair and beginning to pluck the feathers that the farmer had missed, putting the scraps in a small bowl. I set my bow in the corner by my small cot in the corner and glanced around, not seeing him.

"It's about time you got back young lady," a husky voice said from the doorway, which leads back to mother's room.

I glanced over, pursing my lips and taking in the odious man that was supposed to be a replacement for my father. Never. He was at least a head taller than me, dark hair in tangled knots at the back of his head, greasy and stringy too. A raggedy full beard and mustache outlined his face, looking nasty as ever. He had a nasty beer belly that was always pushing the buttons on his shirt to pop. It was as if the man never cleaned himself, oh the stench. In his hand was of course a bottle of liquor, which was most likely, brought home from the bar.

"Where the hell have you been?" He slurred, obviously drunk.

I just fixed my gaze at him, my lip twitching in anger. Mother had put down the chicken and was also starring at the scene with fear in her eyes. He scared her, so much that I was almost afraid myself…though I had to be brave for her sake. "Answer me girl!" He howled, closing the distance between us in a few staggers until he was right in front of me, looking down with fire in his eyes.

I could smell the pungent alcohol smell on his vulgar breath he was so near. "Speak when you're spoken to!" He yelled.

My temper flared, "I was our working for your dinner since you won't do anything yourself you filthy rat."

The surprise on his face quickly turned to anger as he raised his hand, striking me sharply across the face. A throbbing pain in the rough shape of a handprint stung on my left cheek as I stared at the ground.

"Don't you dare speak to me like that again," he spat, flinging some spit into my face. "Marcus, I beg you, leave her be," my mother cried.

Marcus turned his venom gaze on my mother this time.

"Sit down," he commanded, as she was just about to get up.

Covering her mouth and with tears glistening in her eyes my mother sat back down, sending me a pleading look. He turned back to me, dropping the now empty liquor bottle on the floor where it shattered and stared sharply down at me.

"Now you listen girl, and listen good. I'm not going to tolerate any misbehaving in my house. I'm sick of your smart ass attitude," Marcus growled.

I stood there palely, cheek on fire and staring him down with equally as much anger. This man wasn't going to win, in a matter of a month or so we would be out of here. I had the money saved up and we were going to go so far away where he can never find us. For all I cared he could live out the rest of his useless life in an alley, drunk and homeless.

"I expect and answer!" He screamed, showering me with more spit.

"Alright," I said quietly.

"What? I couldn't hear you," he yelled.

"Alright!" I screamed back.

His lip curled in disgust and he stomped back into the other room without another word. I exhaled a huge sigh and collapsed on my cot, hands shaking and cheek still aflame like hell itself. My mother rushed over to sit next to me, taking me in her arms. I sat there, cradled to her chest, as I could fear the warm tears soak the fabric on her dress.

I wasn't usually one to cry but this incident had gotten to me for some reason, causing the pressure to overflow into tears. My mother stroked my hair and I quietly sobbed into her shoulder, missing my father now more than ever. He would never think of doing something like that to us. He would always take care of us. "There there Vinny, we'll get through this baby," mother whispered.

I'll get us through this, even if it's the last thing I do. I will get us out of here no matter the cost…

A/N: New story :D yayyy! What do you think of it so far? Review because I'd love to hear from you