This forest is surely different from the ones she has been to. She feels uneasy, observed. It is a strange vegetation, even familiar plants seem to grow somewhat different. Flowers larger, leaves broader, bark smoother, stems straighter, weird smells, more intense, with a depth that is new to her.
She hears birds singing, insects humming, the distant whelp of a wolf, water trickling down a small brook beside the path…
Britta Barenson stops to take an apple from her backpack. The sword gets in the way. She has to take the whole pack down in order to untangle the straps.
This blade is her only clue to find the ruthless assassin who had killed her father five weeks ago. She is determined to trace down the killer and bring him to justice.
She has witnessed the brutal murder. She would never forget the killer’s face. Every night in her dreams he comes back to stalk her father, every night she fails to hear what they are talking about and every night she is as helpless as then to prevent him.
Though now, she has a lead – just a vague one, but still, better than nothing. A sword-smith in the capital has identified the patterns on the blade as markings of an elven family that is supposed to reside in this forest. She has no idea what to tell them when she finds them…
She takes the sword out of it’s wrappings, beautifully crafted, long and slender, so unlike her father’s. Perfect balance in her hand, lightness tempting to swing, cold steel arching through the air, she begins the dance Soren taught her so long ago.
She dances until exhaustion sweeps her off her feet. Blade still in hand she sinks to the ground. Remembers the blood, the still warm body of her father. The mountain slain, eyes broken, questioning the sky in silent astonishment. Tremors shake her shoulders, tears flood her eyes. She buries her face in her arms.
A hand grabs her hair, pulls her head back, she feels a blade at her throat.
“Who are you, what do you want here in our wood dancing with one of our blades?” the voice is melodious, strange accent, warm breath in her neck.
Frozen she finds herself incapable of speech.
“Drop the sword!” the voice demands. “Do it now!”
Reluctantly her hand opens, the elven blade falls into the grass. She feels the body of her assailant shift as he reaches down for it. Despite the paralyzing panic she grabs for the hand that holds the knife to her throat, pushing it away.
Pain explodes in her kidneys, something hits the back of her head, throwing her forward, face down into the soft grass.
The attacker lands on top of her, wrenching her right arm back, pulling it up, threatening to dislocate her shoulder.
A scream escapes her throat.
“I did ask you a question, didn’t I? You better find some answers soon lest I loose my patients.”
“Why are you hurting me, I haven’t done any wrong…” painfully words seep through her lips.
The hand grabs her hair again, pulling her head up brutally
“Answer my questions… now”
She can see the legs of someone standing in front of her, soft leather boots, buckskins. Her head is being pulled back further and further – strain on her spine arching whilst her assailant knees on her buttocks. She can see the man in front of her now.
He’s quite beautiful in a strange sort of way. Tall and slender, almost delicate his frame, fine-chiseled features, high cheekbones, large eyes of violet, glaring at her hatefully, long, light-blonde hair with streaks of silver and gold tied up to reveal pointy, lobeless ears.
“Who are you?” he demands.
“I’m Britta, I don’t mean any harm. I’m just looking for someone.”
“Britta what” his lips curl in disgust, “don’t you have a family?”
She is not going to give in, she fights her fear, gathers courage, “Just Britta.”
The plain staff he is holding moves too fast for her to see… pain erupts in her ear, she cries out. Her courage wavers, panic floods her – they are going to beat her to death.
“I’m just looking for someone, he left the sword, he wasn’t of your kind, please…”
Her eyes widen in fear as the staff swings back again, comes forward impacting with her left shoulder, collarbone snaps, pain floods her, blackness engulfs her. The man on top of her releases her hair, she falls forward into the grass, her shoulder screaming.
“Answer…” the voice whispers in her ear. “What is your family, which is your clan.”
Her courage broke with the bone, she’s trying to hold on to the pieces, but despair washes over her, drowning her in fear of death. She weeps in agony, blood in her mouth, she is going to die here…
“It’s enough, get off her,” the weight lifts, she curls up, whimpering, tears in her eyes.
“Your name…” the man with the staff kneels down beside her, takes hold of her chin, forces it up so she faces him.
Through the blackness of her vision she can see those cold violet eyes – no mercy to be found there.
“Britta Barenson,” there is only surrender.
“Barenson… why does that name ring in my ears???
What did you say about the sword?”
Every breath is agony, blood thundering through her ear, stabbing pain in her shoulder, head spinning, she sinks into unconsciousness – to be ripped out again by a kick against her back. They are not through with her jet…
“He left it behind, I want to find him,” words pour out of her. “Please don’t hurt me, I have done nothing to you…”
“Why would he leave his sword behind?”
“I just want to find him …” he hits her hard on her wounded ear.
“You said that before. My question was: why would he leave his sword behind?”
“He killed my father, the sword was stuck, he couldn’t get it out…”
“Who is your father?”
“My father was Soren Barenson.”
His eyes widen in recognition
“Soren Barenson… so we have another spawn of the rapists loins. And Eliah killed him – one thing he was good for. I wouldn’t have thought he’d have the courage.”
‘Rapist’… confusion engulfed Britta’s mind.
“What are you talking about, my father didn’t rape anyone!”
“Oh yes, he did. He raped my brother’s daughter, he begot her with a bastard, with a half-bred creature of violence. Eliah Darkwood is his name. He was the one who wielded this sword. What do you intend to do if you find him?”
He takes hold of her face again, forces her to look at him.
“You are going to kill him? I like that – maybe I let you live to end his life. I don’t know where you can find him now, but I guess he went south.”
Outrage swept over her.
“My father wouldn’t have raped anyone, he was a kind man.”
“Wouldn’t he – your people are all the same. I saw twelve of you raping my brother’s wife, I know your kind. You said you had done us no harm.
Listen to me, Britta Barenson, the deeds of the fathers fall onto their children – it is your guilt. I should rape you.”
He turns her onto her back, rips her shirt open, revealing her still small breasts. She tries to move away but the other man puts his foot down on her chest, pain floods her, panic, she struggles, grabs for his calf with her right hand but the violet eyed Elf hits her hard.
“Hold her hands!”
She nearly passes out as her hands are pulled up, stretched out, the broken bone stabbing, piercing the skin. He works on her breeches, cutting them open, exposing her. She kicks her legs, thrashes violently, turns her body over, trying to gain cover, ignoring the pain of her shoulder.
He jumps up to get out of reach of her legs.
The other man ties a cord around her hands, fixes them in the raised position. She is still kicking, but getting weaker, pain overwhelming her, rage subsiding.
Looking up she sees the Elf glaring down at her, disgust in his eyes, the sword in his hands.
She freezes. Stares at him looking up and down her body.
“No”, he says. “Look at this appalling creature, my son.”
“I couldn’t get myself to engage with her if my life depended on it… I’ll give her this instead.”
He brings the sword down in an impaling strike. It hits the earth between her legs, slightly cutting the tender skin of her loins.
Bending down to her face he whispers in her ear: “Go and find Eliah, if you can; kill him if you can; that will be enough retribution for me.”
Without a noise, both elves disappear into the wood.
She is alone.
revised on the 3rd of June, 1999
copyright by scerijne