Her feet hit the ground as quick as a shower of hail as she sprinted through the open, dusty prairie. Each step sent a shooting pain through her muscles. An arrow sailed past her head, embedding itself in the dirt as she leaped away from her pursuers. The wind whipped through her short, black hair as she ran. She could sense their dogs, no, wolves coming closer, their lolling tongues dripping with saliva, their eyes filled with a hunger for her flesh. It had been days since she had escaped the castle, and her fate at the silver ax.
"You'd better run witch!" A man on horseback bellowed out after her. She didn't look back, not once. The sound of another man nocking an arrow accompanied by the whoops of the hunters made her skin crawl. They weren't going to stop, they would drag her back to the castle by the locks of hair on her head if they had to. Her breaths became quicker as the pounding in her chest and head grew nearly overwhelming. The burning sensation in her lungs felt as if they would make her explode.
She'd run this far, maybe she could make it to the border. The wilds were so close she could see the start of the forest, so close she could almost touch them. The wilds were the only places the kingdom's men hadn't conquered, the only place not reduced to dust at the touch of the king and his cold-hearted queen. They were also the only place she had any hope of finding more of her kind.
That hope was cut short when an arrow whizzed past her ear, leaving a small cut. They were close now. The barks became louder and she could almost feel the hot breath of the hunting hounds. Blood trickled from her ear and down her neck. Still, she did not look back.
"Turn around and face your fate coward!" Another man spat. He was close, too close for comfort. She had to fight back, but the only way to do so was to unleash the very beast they were hunting. The forest could hide her, but by how near they had come to her she wouldn't make it if she didn't stand her ground.
"End of the line, Venefica!" That word almost made her stop in her tracks. It sent a shiver up her spine as her hands clasped into fists. The word that branded her as a magic-wielder for all of eternity. It was unquestionable, she would fight with her gift. Her gift wasn't something she wanted to be proud of; it ate away at her heart and struck horror into others when they discovered what she was, who she was. The surge of power radiating from her body as she turned made the horses rear up in surprise. Even the men were dumbfounded when they saw her up close as if none of them had been warned of what danger she posed to their lives.
"Her eyes, they're gold!"
"What kind of witchcraft is in her?"
"Stop blubbering about and kill her, she is a Venefica. You've killed countless others, why is she any different?!" The captain brandished a thin, slender finger at her, a twisted scowl on his face, a look full of a deep-seated hatred that she couldn't even hope to understand.
In their brief confusion, she lifted her trembling hands. The men drew back their arrows, but not in time to stop the claws that had grown from her fingers from meeting their throats. Her race had a reputation for being savage and uncontrollable. She let herself become submissive to the power as she let it control her. The wolf-dogs shied away from the clawed attacker as she approached the captain of the hunters, her lips parted slightly. Blood speckled her brown tunic, giving her an even more daunting appearance. The way he gripped the reins of his horse, how his expression did not show the fear that reflected in his eyes, this man had honor that the others couldn't understand. Honor that he was going to die for.
She glanced at his hand, which rested on the hilt of his sword. There was a slight pause in which their gaze met, the pupils of the captain became smaller and smaller with every step she took.
"You're going to burn in Gehenna with the rest of your kin!" He spat, referring to the burning afterworld all evil-doers supposedly took residence in after death. The only reply he got was a small smile that parted the Venefica's lips before she ripped him from the saddle of his horse. He grunted as his shoulder hit the ground and he rolled to the side. Without hesitation, the captain drew his sword and slashed it across her arm in a fluid gesture, leaving a gash that stretched from her shoulder down past her elbow. A screech escaped her lungs as the pain from the wound shot through her body. He jabbed the thin blade forward, threatening to gut her like a pig. So close, she'd come so close, there wasn't the slimmest of chances she was going to be taken down now. Her arm throbbed as she gripped the blade of the sword, twisting it in her hand before she cast it aside into the dust. Blood trickled from a long wound on her hand as it seperated from her skin. The captain scrambled for his discarded weapon, but she placed her foot on his shoulder and pushed him into a kneeling position before her.
"I've been there before, I even have a special spot. They call it a throne." She lifted his head and ran her curved claw across his cheek. He winced in pain and snapped out at her hand like a chained dog, the muscles under his skin tensed as he attempted to spring up. The reaction was all the needed. With one swift motion, she cut her nails across his chest.
The burly captain fell at her feet, blood from his wounds stained the ground as she kicked him aside like a toy. If they weren't dead, they certainly would become nightfall, when the predators came out. Her vision became splotchy from the loss of blood as she staggered forward, her uninjured arm outstretched towards the wilds. The cat-like claws that had sliced so effortlessly through the skin of her pursuers drew back into her skin as she let go of her powers.
Her feet propelled her forward with the determination that burned inside her. It was the only thing that kept her from collapsing onto the ground. The setting sun left an array of colors across the sky like an artist's canvas, a pretty sight to distract from the bloody display on the ground. It was then that she knew she could make it, that the king's men would not find her once she crossed into the forests. She knew simply because she was a Venefica that they would never stop trying. They would never know her name, and that it was not just any Venefica, but Calysse, the only capable Heir of the Golden Eyed, who had escaped their grasp. And when she reached them, all of Keshos would feel her claws.
With that thought in mind, Calysse made her first step into the wilds, her first step out of Indignor, her first step into freedom.