The hot, dry wind carried dust with it and for what seemed like the hundredth time that day, Adeline wiped the dirt from her eyes. The orphans were harvesting the potatoes that had been planted at the beginning of the season and she was stuck with hauling duty. As soon as a bag was full, she had to drag it to the barn because she was the eldest orphan and the only one strong enough to manage the strain.

It was hard work and at the end of every day, she would collapse into her bed and sleep like the dead. Not to mention her sore back.

Spying another full sack, she walked over to it and began pulling it towards the barn, which was the closest orphanage owned structure to the forest. It was foolish to have the food storage so close to the dark forest, but it was there before the orphanage itself. But as if any distance would protect them from the Fae and their monsters if they decided to return again.

Once the sack was carefully stored in the corner, Adeline took a moment to savour the shade and absence of sandy wind before heading back out to find another sack to haul back to the barn.

'Addy!' A voice called, and she turned to see Gwen speeding towards her.

Gwen was her closest orphanage sister, who wore a long black bob, had a light dusting of freckles over her cheeks and won everyone over with her pretty brown eyes. Adeline, on the other hand, had jet black eyes and hair and was taller than all of the village women by a good foot. She was a freak of sorts, but Gwen still loved her anyway.


'Edna wants me to go and buy more meat, but I don't want to go alone and Ed's busy. Can you come with me?'

Dread spread in her stomach like acid, but she nodded. 'Of course. I don't want you going there alone either.'

The kilometre walk into town was relatively silent, as both girls mentally prepared themselves for entering the Greyson butchers. Crime lord and business man Mr Greyson owned most of the businesses in Flodon and was feared like a god among the village folk. He was not a man to be messed with.

Hopefully he or his sons weren't checking up on the butchers that day.

Town was relatively quiet for a Tuesday afternoon, but a few people still waved to them as they hung out their washing or swept their doorsteps. The orphans were treated kindly by the villagers because of their role in feeding the homeless and poor.

The signature grey painted building stood tall before them as they silently battled between each other as to who had to go first and open the door. Adeline gave in and pushed the door open and immediately, the familiar smell of raw meat greeted her senses. The grey tiled floor was polished and tidy beneath her well-worn boots as Gwen began placing her order to an elderly man in an apron.

As soon as their order was packaged, they wasted no time in getting out of there. It wasn't that the old man was threatening, it was that he was under the employ of a murderer and cold brute, who had burned down houses before, just to prove a point about his power.

The door banged shut behind them as they headed back down the street and were glad they hadn't run into Mr Greyson's youngest son, Dale. He had tried to seduce Adeline many times and was very persistent even after her constant refusals, which made him someone very high up on her 'to avoid' list.

'Fancy seeing you around these parts Adeline.' A familiar voice crooned from behind her, accompanied by fast approaching footsteps.

Adeline's stomach dropped as she half turned to see Dale walking beside her.

'Needed to buy meat.' She said tightly.

'You know the place to go.' He grinned and threw his arm around her shoulders.

She stiffened beneath the weight of his arm before batting it away with her forearm. 'Leave me alone.'

'Hey, I'm just being nice here. Let me take you to dinner later, huh? How does that sound?'

'I'm not interested, thank you.' Adeline replied firmly.

'Aww come on. Just an hour.'


'What? You chicken? Come on, it'll be fun. It's just a meal.'

'I said no, Dale. Let's leave it at that.' She said more forcefully.

'You're embarrassing me. Come on, meet me at the Dame's Nape at six thirty. I'll see you there.' He said and slapped her rear in parting, leaving Adeline seething and completely humiliated.

Gwen shot her a sympathetic look.

'Ass-rat bastard.' Adeline growled, glaring at the cobble stones.

'I can't believe he just did that! He's such a sleaze bag!' Gwen spat as they continued walking.

Adeline remained silent the rest of the way, her anger simmering beneath her pale skin. She knew they were both thinking the same sorts of insults in their minds and were both equally outraged. However, it wasn't the first time this sort of encounter had occurred, in fact, it was one of many. Dale was her living nightmare and it seemed like it was his duty in life to make her miserable.

Adeline knew she was attractive, beautiful even but had never done anything to lead him on. Her brown dress was completely modest, and her eyes never met his. He was just an entitled son of a dangerous man who knew what he could get away with.

When they got back to the house, Edna noticed Adeline's stony eyes and quiet struggle with her emotions, ranging from rage to humiliation. And then exhaustion.

Edna knew what it was that was plaguing her and didn't ask, except pulling her into a light hug, knowing physical contact was difficult for her after being touched unwantedly. When she went into town, it was always accompanied because the first time she made the mistake of going alone, he found her and cornered her. He groped her, but not again after given a bloody nose by her nasty right hook.

She was a woman but was a sliver taller than him and could dish some fairly savage punches. She would feel cat like satisfaction every time she thought back to when her knuckles collided with his face. She itched to do it again.

He couldn't seem to leave her alone after that.

'I think you should get back to work. It'll take your mind off of things.' Edna encouraged, releasing her.

She mumbled a response and trudged out the door and to the fields, where a bunch of potato sacks had appeared for her to transport. She had presented the idea of buying a wheelbarrow to Edna many times, but sourcing one from the village was difficult, seeing as though they were only occasionally sold by visiting merchants.

So, she was stuck with the good old-fashioned way of getting things done. The manual labour didn't help with her anger, but with each bag she pulled, she became stronger, her muscles strengthening. She would be ready for anything.

She just hoped she would never need to.


The cool breeze turned to freezing, and even as Adeline curled into a ball for warmth, it wasn't enough. She would need to go and close the window.

The moonlight shone into the bedroom, illuminating the many bunk beds and silhouettes of her sleeping sisters. She knew which floorboards creaked and which didn't, so it helped that she could see them.

Her thin nightgown did nothing to retain any of the heat from her bed, so she quickly went over to the window and was about to reach out and pull in the panels when she noticed something near the barn.

Petrification struck her like a bolt of lightning as she processed what she was seeing. It was a rippling cluster of solid darkness, ebbing and flowing in the wind. Even though the figure had no eyes, she just knew it was directly looking at her.

She screamed at the top of her lungs, effectively undoing her careful work to not disturb her sister's sleep with the creak of floor boards.

Her sisters were up in instant, their tired, red-rimmed eyes now wide awake.

'What? What is it?!' Someone squealed, snapping her out of it.

Adeline quickly slammed the shutters shut and ran downstairs to tell Edna, who was already awake and out of bed.

Edna looked at her seriously. 'What happened?'

She swallowed. 'I went to close the window and I saw something in the fields.'

'What was it?'

'Uhhh. It was like a solid shadow. A black mass of … black. And it was floating.'

The shining whites around her irises told Edna that she wasn't mistaken about what she had seen.

'Ok.' She said firmly. 'So—'

'—and it saw me! I know it in my bones!'

Edna was disguising her own fear fairly well, but Adeline knew better. She was terrified by how terrified she was.

'Go back upstairs. All the doors are locked, so nothing is getting in without a commotion, alright. Now, what you saw, pretend it was just a trick of the light. You will wake up tomorrow, I promise you that, so you can either see tomorrow by sleeping or by not sleeping. I'd like you to try and get some sleep. Hop in with Gwen if you need to.'

Her gut sank in disappointment of Edna's lack of comfort, before trudging back upstairs. Her sisters were all still up as she crossed the threshold to their room and climbed back into bed.

'What was all that about Addy? It's like three in the morning.' Gwen grumbled from the bed beside hers.

'It was nothing. I just got a little scared of the dark outside.' She lied, not wanting to scare her ten-year-old and under sisters who were hanging onto every word she said.

Gwen was two years younger than her and could tell that she was lying and why.

'You'll tell me more in the morning, yes?' She whispered, and Adeline nodded.

She was still awake and staring up at the ceiling, afraid to close her eyes. In an attempt to distract herself from her own paralysing, mind clouding fear, she counted each of the open, snoring mouths by sound, as her senses were on high alert.

Edna must've allowed her to sleep in, as by the time she woke up, all the beds in the room were made and none of her sisters were to be seen. She quickly dressed and headed downstairs to find some breakfast, but there wasn't anyone in the dining room, or the kitchen for that matter. A quick glance at the clock on the wall told her it was half past eight.

She heard voices coming from the parlour and as she recognised a few lower registers, she realised that Edna was speaking with some men.

Shrugging it off, she proceeded to pull out a pan and make scrambled eggs with some left over ham, onion and mushroom. She decided to eat in the dining room, which took her closer to the parlour, where she would be able to hear the conversation. Eavesdropping was rude, she knew that, but she was also there to eat her food, which was her excuse.

She took a bite of her food before sprinkling it with a good helping of salt.

'Are we agreed?' The deep voice asked.

'Yes.' Edna responded.

'Then we're done here and must be going.'

Adeline glanced up from her food and saw Mr Greyson and Dale walk past the doorway to the dining room, the latter winking smugly at her before he passed out of view. Edna trailed after them to show them out properly and her brows furrowed. Why was Dale with him?

Mr Greyson was the man who sold them the seed for planting, so him being around every once in a while wasn't unusual. But Dale had never accompanied him.

She heard the door click shut and the hurried footsteps of Edna coming towards the dining room. Her red face was clearly a little shocked.

'Mr Greyson has just spoken to me about a marriage between you and Dale.' She blurted.

She dropped her fork, which bounced off her plate and onto the floor, but she barely noticed.

'A-and?' She stammered.

She bit her lip. 'They're heading to the jewellers right now to have a ring made.'

'You agreed to this?!'

'Mr Greyson had some very good points and practically said yes for me. You know how he is.'

'And what were those points?' She hissed.

'Many other orphanages would have kicked you out by now, considering how you're nearly eighteen and that it'll elevate your status and ensure you'll have a good life in luxury.'

'I can't. Be married to that.'

'You don't have a choice I'm afraid, Addy.'

'I always have a choice. I'm leaving.'

Edna's eyes widened in consideration. 'Where will you go?'

'Holmfirth is the more sensible option, and I'll be there before dark if I leave soon.'

'But the road, honey! There are bad men out there if you walk.'

'And a bad man permanently if I stay.'

Edna sighed and muttered something about preparing some food and giving her some money as Adeline headed back upstairs. She went through her small cupboard like a whirlwind, throwing everything worth taking into a sack.

She then ran back downstairs and quickly hawked down the remnants of her breakfast as Edna stuffed a food parcel and money pouch into her sack. It was all happening so quickly, but she was then saying goodbye to the only mother she ever had, and her throat ached as tears burst from her eyes.

'Be safe Adeline and remember how much you are worth.'

She nodded and sniffled into Edna's shoulder as she rubbed her back comfortingly.

A sense of sureness washed over her as she walked out the front door, she was doing this for herself. As soon as her sisters out in the fields saw the sack over her shoulder and the bonnet on her head, they all came running towards her.

'Where are you going?' Gwen asked her.

'Away for a while. Mr Greyson arranged a marriage with Dale for me with Edna, so this is my only choice. I'll come back someday soon, I promise.' Adeline said, sadness bursting from her chest like a dam.

'WHAT?' She shrieked. 'That nasty little shit did what now?'

'Yeah, like twenty minutes ago before they left.'

'I want to come with you, but I already know Edna won't let me. If you don't come back in a few years, I'm coming to find you alright?'

'Thanks Gwen.' She said and pulled her into a tight hug. 'I'm going to miss you so much.'

'I'm sure I'll miss you more.' She said, her eyes welling with tears.

After she had hugged all fifteen of her sisters and said personal goodbyes to each one, she set off for the road to Holmfirth, praying she would make some ground before the Greyson's came looking for her.