A hand brushed against my cheek, pulling me out of my fitful slumber. My body was tied against one of the skeleton trees, aching after being dragged from the back of a horse. Other places ached too, but I tried to forget about them because those pains were so much worse.
"Wake up, sweetheart," a light voice said. It sounded like poison to me.
I blinked groggily and rose my head, staring into the green eyed goblin that had claimed me as his. It was sick; he was beautiful. I knew goblins had two forms, a natural one and a predator one, but I didn't think they'd be beautiful in their natural one. I thought no matter what; they'd look like predators. But this man with his strong jaw and aquiline nose, his crystal eyes and golden hair; he was beautiful. Beautiful and terrible.
"There's a good girl," he said.
I cringed away from his hand. There was still blood under his nails, long dried now. It wasn't mine. But it had to be one of the people I grew up with. This man—no this goblin, this thing—had killed them all.
I coughed, my throat burning from the water during the swim underneath the waterfall that had let me escape and the smoke from my walk through the ruined village that led to my capture.
He pressed something to my lips. It tasted like copper and iron. When I spit it on the ground, the red staining the earth could have only been blood.
"You don't like the taste, sweetling?" he taunted. "You'll get used to it."
"Go eat your young!" I coughed the insult with as much strength as I could.
A slap had my head reeling. These things were so powerful. Why hadn't they killed me yet? When would this one finish toying with me?
"That wasn't very nice," he said. "I'm your master now. You should be nice to me. How about we tell each other our names, would that be a good start?" Still, he had that sickly sweet, taunting edge to his voice. I wanted to rip my ears off. Anything to not hear it. "My name's Lydian," he said, "but you'll call me master, you understand?"
I didn't respond, so he slapped me again. Then with blood bubbling from my lips, I nodded.
"What's your name?"
My name. I didn't want him to know my name. I didn't want him to know the name my siblings and parents called in joy and anger and laughter and love, the names the fellow men muttered in disgust underneath their voices and with grudging respect to my face. It was mine. The only thing left besides the nail stuck inside my boot. But a nail couldn't help me against this creature that slaughtered an entire village, could it.
He slapped me again and this time I saw stars. "Your name, girl."
"Janneke," I spit it out like it meant nothing to me, but it felt like I was losing the world.
"Janneke," he said, smiling. "Janneka, perhaps?"
"No!" I shouted. Not that. He could have my name, the real one meant to be used by all, but not Janneka. Not the special name meant for a single special person. Not that.
He smiled. "Janneka, then." He crouched down so our eyes met. "You and I are going to have a very nice, long time together, Janneka."
Then he let me go and the blessed blackness overcame me.
The darkness never stayed for long. Even lying in the dungeon with cold fetters around my wrists every time I drifted off the screaming of another prisoner or the sweet, poisonous voice of my captor pulled me from my sleep. In the darkness the passage of time was impossible to tell. I could've been down here for a week, a few months, even a year and I wouldn't know the difference. The smell of blood wafted all around, from other prisoners, from me, from whatever thing the guard was eating. Every so often a squeal would pierce the cold air and then stop with a sickening crunch.
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White Stag (PERMAFROST #1)Fantasy
Don't show fear. Don't attract attention. Don't forget who the monsters are. Those are seventeen-year-old Janneke's three rules to surviving in the Permafrost. Her family is dead, her village burned to the ground, and now she's a slave in a court of...