The shrill voices of a small platoon of villagers rose up like a raucous chorus, and the crowds of civilians menacingly brandished pitchforks and torches. Their screeching was the perfect background melody for my stamping feet as I bolted down the cobblestone street.
I gasped for breath as my boots clicked against the ground. My breath misted up through the cold air and past the snow as I ran on. I bit my lip, determined to keep going; if I were to be caught now, there would be no escape for me. I looked down to the delicate package in my arms and smiled down to it.
"Don't worry, girl, we're almost there," I murmured, pressing the sleeping infant to my chest and sprinting faster, despite the exhaustion gripping at my ankles.
I swept around a corner, my crimson cloak trailing behind me. A weak gasp escaped my lips and I froze on the spot, inches away from a brick wall. I gritted my teeth in frustration; with my luck, I had figured that I would arrive at such a blockade at some point.
"I'm afraid Fortune smiles on neither of us tonight, my lady," I muttered to the child, holding her to my chest with one arm and extending the other out. The troop of peasants rounded the corner, huddling around me, threateningly flourishing their mock weaponry. A low, unintelligible chant echoed from their lips.
"Stay back!" I exclaimed, whipping out my free arm. Suddenly, a flame sparked through the cold air, blazing to life between me and the horde. Shrieks of "sorceress," "witch," and "demon" rang through the air.
Taking a few steps back, I pushed my back up against the wall. I brought the infant up to examine her, admiring her snow-white hair and her icy blue eyes for what I was certain would be the last time.
The flames died down, and my weak knees finally gave out. The cold had made me weak and fragile. Taking advantage, my pursuers marched on towards me, their eyes glinting with malice.
Alas, I thought, it was truly a shame that they would be the last eyes I would see.
The clanking sounds of chains echoed through the hall as I was led to my "trial." What felt like a burlap sack had been placed over my head, though I could peek through a small hole that had been ripped through it. I was violently yanked to the side, through a doorway to my right. The second my boots clicked against the wooden floor, I knew that I had arrived.
The makeshift shroud was torn from my head. My escort clearly had no qualms about damaging his charge, as a portion of my chestnut hair was ripped from my scalp. A grimace creased my face, but I refused to allow him his victory and stayed silent.
I had been led into a small chair, and my wrists were swiftly strapped to its arms. Metal gauntlets were locked over my hands as quickly as was possible for the clumsy soldiers.
I frowned and muttered, "Daemonsbane." As soon as the metal touched my skin, I felt a wave of exhaustion overcome me. Sorcery was no longer an escape route.
The familiar form of the king strode into the room, a look as cross as could be plastered over his face. His long, grayed hair was peaked by an illustrious crown, and his flowing, purple robes were draped untidily over him.
"Esther Scarlet," he spat with a scowl, glowering at me as he seated himself across from my own chair, "you dare to rebel against this kingdom? To kidnap the only child I have? And after I've done so much for you?"
I tried my hardest to sound snide, to play the villain, but when faced by the man I'd served for a whole ten years, I struggled to choke back emotion. "Your Majesty," I laughed with faux confidence, averting his gaze, "I intended only that from the beginning. A witch is a witch, no matter how you raise her."
"Magics," he said, scornful, "to think that the girl I raised as my own daughter would dabble in the dark arts. You have defiled not only the royal family, but also the Church of Neriah." He got up from his seat, leaning closer to me until his face was only inches from mine. "You are vile. I should have you burned at the stake."
"You mean you aren't?" I asked in a singsong voice, attempting to frown. "Oh, what a shame. I've heard Hell is just darling this time of year."
"No, Esther, I know of your secret," he went on, idly pacing back and forth, "a witch of Krynn does not die so easily. You will not burn, Scarlet. You are to be locked into the dungeons below until either this world or this kingdom falls, whichever comes first."
As the silent spectators behind the king dispersed into the halls, two soldiers grabbed me by the shoulders, preparing to take me to my punishment.
I was more than fine with this. I'd spent four-hundred years in my last "eternal imprisonment," and I could very easily do it again.
"Praise be to Krynn," I murmured under my breath.