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Rated: E · Book · Other · #1811445
A boy finds a tunnel under his bed filled with all sorts of strange creatures
#833620 added January 27, 2015 at 1:40am
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Book 2 Chapter 1
I awoke some time later, my hands hurt and there was no sound no light. My eyes stung from crying so much, I slowly dragged myself to my feet. How long had I been here. Kyle. Fresh tears tried to fall but there wasn’t much let for me to cry. As though in a stupor I stumbled out, tripping alternatively on the ground and my own feet. I was in a fog. Nothing made sence, at some point I found my way out of the tunnel, I walked along the craig. I didn’t bother to try to find a way out until it was joined by a stream. I climbed out and continued along. Ignoring the rain, I continued my wandering. What was I going to do what could I do. I didn’t have hope. I kept walking till I was soaked though the other boys and the flock never once entering into my mind. In time it became dark. I laid down. Prehaps I would die, here cold and wet on the ground and I would never have to face myself nad the thoughts of what I had let Kyle be taken for.

“Well now this is indeed a sight for sore eyes.”

“I found him out by the stream.”

“How on earth did you get him back here child? Why heavens me he must be twice your size if he’s a foot taller than you.”

A slight, “I did have Bertha with me.”

“Well, I say that you did. Well you just go out back and pick me some of them herbs will you child? Looks about half drowned and in desperate need of some stimulation.”

I finally opened my eyes, I was in what I assumed was a kitchen…of some sort. There were more herbs hanging from the ceiling then I generally saw adorning the side of the mountain, before the goats got to it. There was a small hearth over which was a pot steaming away releasing a smell that, while not unapatizing, certainly didn’t bring much promise of enjoyment for the coming meal. Bent over this pot was a lady…I think. Yes it was a lady, a rather large and buxom lady not that I looked at her. But it didn’t matter, I was just turning my head to look back at the ceiling to return to my aspirations of wasting away to nothing when I heard her exclaim in a curious accent.

“Well bless me, he’s stirring,” then she yelled with a volume I doubt can or should ever be challenged, “Gemy! Get you self in here, the man cake you found is waking up!”

Man cake…?

There was a cerfuffle of sound outside and out of the crack I left between my lashes I was three girls…no perhaps young women, race into the house clamering over each other and showing in the face of all handles to push on.

“Let off I found him.”

“I’m the oldest.”

“And the plainest, one look at you and he’ll be out of here faster than a goat can shake its tail.”
What on god’s green earth…

I more firmly closed my eyes as they were headed straight for me.

“Oh he’s so pretty.”

I heard another sound of someone being hit, “you idiot, it’s supposed to be handsome for a man.”
“His hair is so long…and think.” They were touching me now, mostly my face but one of them had taken hold of my hand.

“His hands are a bit rough, that must mean he’s a worker right ma?”

“That’s right Gemy, you made a very good choice.”

On of the other girls muttered that it was the only availbale choice and something in the lines of what about me. But I didn’t pay that much attention since the older lady had her hand on my chin.

“Looks like he’s jist starting to grow a beard, he’s young mind you but old enough to be a man. We can train him if need be.”

“He has such long lashes,” more sounds of pushing.

Now I had their hands on my chest, was there no personal boundaries with these people?

“I like him ma.”

“So do I.”

“Well I’m still the one that found him so I’m the one that gets him.”

“Not if I get him first.”

Someone jumped on my chest. That would have been the last straw even if I wasn’t injured as it was I practically threw her off and rolled onto my side, moaning the whole time.

“well bless me he’s injured.”

“what do we do?”

“I won’t know till we examine him, Thea.”

I tried to get into a seated position to better bat away their hands as they attempted to undress me. Had I somehow awakened in a nightmare, first Kyle and now this. At last two of them managed to catch my arms and did their best to hold me still while the third attacked first my coat then the buttons on my shirt.

“What are you doing?” I demanded as though I hadn’t heard them talking.

“Just trying to assess your injuries, my boy. Now hold still please or we’ll have to tie you up.”

I continued to fight, even if they did succed there wouldn’t ba anything to find the bruiseing had been the only visible sign and that had healed a month or so ago already.

“Gemy, get a rope.” What appeared to be the youngest of the group broke off and ran to the other side of the room. “You’ll learn quickly that I don’t bluff young man, and you will submit to my authority when you are in my house.”

“I’d much rather leave it.”

“Ah your voice has changed as well, that confirms that you’re old enough.”

Gemy returned with the rope, the lady proceeded to fasten it rather tighter than it needed to be to my writst and then wove it into the wooden wall behind me which was raif with cracks that I couldn’t help but wonder if they had been purposefully fitted together this way.

“He’s strong,” she was addressing her girls again, “he’ll be able to work hard but he’s got a lot of spritit, he’ll be a bit hard to manage but I’m sure your up to the task.”

“Yes ma, I am I’ll promise I’ll do it good.”

I pulled at the bonds.

“You just sit tight there till I can get some food in you, you should be greatful, if we hadn’t dragged you in you likely would have died out there.”

“I’ve been though worse,” I said through gritted teeth, this was not looking to be a partiulariy pleasant experience but if nothing else it had broken me out of the fog.

“Have you now? That’s for the better then. You should be greatful,” she stood so she could look down her nose at me, “there are countless men that would beg to be in your shoes.”

Which ironically they had also removed and taken away, I noticed they weren’t wearing any. “Any yet I don’t hear anyone pounding on your door.”

The girls seemed to squirm for a moment, and I saw a flash in the lady’s eyes. “You’ll learn to be greatful soon enough.” She purposely strode into the kitchen where she started plating the bland stew with much more noise then I’m sure was necessary. The three girls continued to stare at me, I was torn between the idea of looking pointedly away or staring at them. I settled for examining the bonds. I was not going to be able to get out of them, the rope, though worn was thick and still sturdy, the knots were simply buy piled up upon each other and the waving into the wall, no I wouldn’t be able to free myself from this. I scowled at it instead nad tunring back found the three faces filled with hope and fascination staring at me. They were faily close in age, if I had too guess there coupldn’t be much more then two years between any of them. All were a similar height and build, sisters I was guessing. All with the same slightly red tinted brown hair, abundant freckles and more than a little dirt. The oldest I was guess in was Thea. She was a little taller then the other girls, with naturaly sour and petulant expression that seemed to me to sugest that she offered frequent complaints. The one in the middle, I had’t caught a name for her yet. She was the shortest by far, her expression was almost one of pity, perhaps if I could get her alone she could be convinced to let me free. The youngest Gemy I think it was, had more then her fair share of reckless nad her hair appeared to be much more in tangles then the rest of the girls. She was also the one that repeatedly tried to claim me. The older lady the one that I had no idea the name for yet placed several bowl on the table where I had lately been laying.
“All right girls eat up and then back to work, we’ll need to stock pile a lot o wood before the snow come and by ythe feeling in my bones that will be sonner then we think.” The girls reluctantly backed away from me and took their places around the table but didn’t start in eating until the lady had begun. They ate in relative silence, though I could guess by her stiff manner nad the way the girls kept looking at her that she was still fuming over his comment.

Finally Gemy stopped her frequent glances from me back to her mother. “Should I feed him ma?”
What was I to them, a dog?

She shook her head, “he won’t appreciate it now, we’ll give him a few days, he’ll be more subdued by then and then we can start the training.”

Gemy nodded with what I hoped was a bit of reluctance. The middle girl however walked over to a pot and drew out some water before heading straight for me. I turned my head from her offering at the same time her mother demanded to know what she was up to.

“I promise you it isn’t poisoned,” and she took a drink to prove her point.

“Alera, you get away from him this instant or did you not hear what I said to Gemy? Moreover,” this part she seemed to stutter, “he is her responsibility.”

“Yes ma and I know you’ll happily starve him to make him more compliant.”

“I have a cousin named Alexa,” I tried to say quietly to her, hoping to win her more to my side, this might work. She took the opportunity to stuff the ladle into my mouth nearly drowning me with the speed at which she administered the water. I could see Gemy’s face in the space between Alera’s elbow and body. I could see her lips tighten and her nose wrinkled slightly as her eyes closed a little. Jelousy or hurt? I couldn’t tell. Alera stepped away from me and returned to the table. Her mother looked at her in such a way as I was sure suggested a stern talking to later.

After they finished their suddenly awkward meal the two older girls went out directly with their mother following hard upon Alera’s heels. Gemy cleared the table and started rinsing out the dishes. Steeling looks at me often enough to I’m sure double the amount of time it should take her to accomplish the task. I went back to examining my bonds. Strangely enough nothing had changed about them at all in the last few minutes since I last checked. The room was small and though sparsly furnished flet crowded. The table had a few stools around it that had been pushed under after the eating was done. The roof I have already described but I could see better now the there was light streaming through and reflecting off of the drying plants. It must be terrible drafty in here in the winter never mind the leaks when it rains. The kitchen was just beyond where I was, a horseshoe shaped construction with cabinets overflowing with all sorts of things. The only break in the woood intended to be a window was located here where there was a wash basin. Just beyond that I could see an area of goat skins and what might have once been pillows before they were mercilessly flattened by over use. There was another larger wash basin propped up on the wall by a hanger. I was around the corner from the fire place. Though how it could ever host a fire big enough to cook on never mind to heat the house in the winter was beyond me. Gemy had finished. She continued to loiter about every not and then looking out the window at long last she picked up an apple and moved to depart the house but not before biting off a chunck and stuffing it into my mouth. It was going to be a trial to keep myself together until I could leave this place.

I heard nothing from them, they had eaten their midday meal, that was understood both from the amount of light and how long they were out of door after finishing it. I tried to stand but to no avail. It was thankfully warm from what little remained of the fire, they had taken my coat and had not bothered to rebutton my shirt after finding that there was no apparent injury on me. I hadn’t come to the conclusion whether I wanted them to return or not, but when the mother entered the house I decided on the latter. I leveled a glare at her.

“You know if you keep doing that your face is likely to stick like that.”

I continued to glare at her as she moved about the kitchen, putting some water into a pot to boil and then started prepareing a fish that she pulled out of a barrel. I think it must have been pickled.

“We’ve been waiting form someone like you, you know. Even since that fool husband of mine fell down that crevas nad broke his neck…we haven’t had any men folk around here for a long time.”

“I wonder what he was running from.” I made sure my words dripped in sarcasm as I added, “what self respecting man would leave this place.”

She returned my glare this time but said nothing, just focused more on her work at length she spoke again though I can’t think what I had done to encourage her. What ever it was I was determined to identify it and never do it again.

“You’ll be good for my girls. They’re getting to the age where they’re starting to crave a man’s attention. You may be just recently out of boyhood, I can see that plain as day, but you’ll do well, even better perhaps since you don’t know that much yet.”

“I want to go home,” I nearly growled the words.

“This is your home now. You’d do well to give me your name.”

I was silent.

“If you don’t we’ll be giving you one and it will be on your head if you don’t like it.”

Still I kept my peace, though that is a rather funny word now that I think of it, considering the circumstances.

She humphed and returned her focus to her work. Leaving me to fume and wonder what kind of people I had fallen into the hands of. The girls finally came in, after a variety of mountain greens most of which I recognised and a few tubers had been added with the fish into the pot. Another meal with little smell but some little substance I suppose. The girls were even more covered in dirt now then that had been ealier, if that was indeed possible. Their mother gave them no order to wash which would have scandalized my own mother I was sure. Tears pricked the back of my eyes at this. It would take the boys a few days to get back to the village. How long would they wait before assuming the worst? Would they send a search party? Would the snow arrive before they did? Oh good god, was I to be trapped here all winter? And how long after that? None of these were pleasant questions to consider, but I felt even worse when I thought of my dad, we had so recently managed to reconcile, and my mother she had lost me once already how much worse would it be this time if they knew more what had happened. What if the boys had heard the dragon’s roars? That hadn’t occurred to me before, they might well return with the story of my demise and no search party would be sent at all. And if no one came to rescue me…I was conscious of breathing faster but a glance around the room told that no one had noticed, well almost no one. Gemy’s look at me was one of apprehension, or perhaps guilt over sevretly defying her mother and giving me something, no matter how inconsequential to eat. They busied themselves preparing supper, ate in much the same manner, though this time Alera did not offer me anything to drink and once again left Gemy to clean up while they went out to work. She focused a little more on her work this time, and when she finished she peered are far as she was able out the window, then looked out of one of the cracks in the back wall, satisfied with was she saw or didn’t see I couldn’t tell se come over and stood before me.

“We are chopping wood, for the winter,” she indicated one of the walls through which not as much light penetrated the numerous gaps. I simply stared at her, anger in my eyes but perhaps not as much open hostility as I had shown to her mother. She shifted her weight between her feet. “Tomorrow I’ll be patching the roof so I’ll be closer by.”

If this was here way of trying to win me over, she was either very unpracticed or pooly instructed. I turned my head from her. She seemed to brace herself to say more but after a moment of silcne relased the breath she had taken in as a sign and quit the house. It was nearly black outside when they returned. The slight glow of the embers making them look far more threatening and larger than they were in the day. Thea added a few more logs to the fire, nearly ckocking it os she put in a bit more kindling. She tunred to look at me then, as though seeking approval for the action. Alera was standing by what I figured to be their drnking water bucket, she glanced at me but after looking at her mother gave herself a drink and placed the ladle back again. I tried not to lick my lips, I didn’t want their charity, maybe if I was lucky they would end up starving me and I wouldn’t be forced to give in to what they wanted, even if I wasn’t sure yet what that actually entailed. Alera walked past Gemy and gave her a pointed look. Her sister returned her gaze first defensivly and then in confusion. Alera sighed and leaned in to whisper something. A look of comprehension dawned on the youngest nad I saw her mouth “oh”. She then picked up the ladle and spilled half the water she had gathered into it onto the floor on her way to me. Alera had already stopped paying attention, Thea leaned against the hearth shaking her head nad looking very sour at the whole prceedings, their mother chose to ignore the whole scene. Gemy held the ladle out to me, still to far away for me to drink even if I wanted too. I would rather have it from Alera’s hand. Maybe it was the similarity to Alexa’s name but I felt that she was the only person who recongnised that if I was to be here it should be by choice not because I was literaly tied to the wall. She stood there for a moment awkwardly holding the ladle out to me, her older sister shook her head in disapproval. Gemy bit her bottom lip and tried to hold it closer to me. In the mood I was in and had I the free use of my hands I might have knocked it away. At last she got it close enough that I would have to turn my head to avoid it. This I did without hesitation. She continued to stand there, then she tried to realign her offering to my mouth, I moved my head again. A repeat, then she whispered please. I glanced to her face. Tears just beginging to form in her eyes. I started to soften but before I could relent, the heavy footsteps of her mother came out of nowhere nad she snatched the instrumebnnt from her daughter, splashing water on both of us in the process.

“If he won’t take it willingly that he won’t get any at all.” She glared down her nose at me, “and not tomorrow either till he has learned some respect for his position.” She put her finger in front of my face, “if it was winter I would tie you to a stake for a few hours so you’d learn your lesson.”

Thea smiled, Alera looked away. Gemy hung her head and said a broken, “Yes ma.” The woman turned from me and put a hand on the girls shoulder, giving her a soft look that I could tell I hadn’t been meant to catch. She strode off toward the bucket again. Gemy started to sit down beside me, attempting a smile and putting a hand that seemed a bit big for her body on my chest.

“Gemy!” her mother interrupted before she could settle which caused Gemy to stand bold upright, “do not reward him if he has done nothing to deserve it, leave him be, we’ll ignore him for tonight. He won’t be able to stand being without our attention for long and then we’ll be able to work on him more.”
I glared at her again, but I could feel my expression soften as I turned my head ever so slightly to take in Gemy, her fists her clentched and she was fighting to keep a complacent look on her face, “yes ma,” she said as she moved away from me only then relaxing a little. Her oldest sister sneered at her and leaned in to say something that made the younger girl hit her. Their mother made a warning noise and the separated. They all then sat down and took up hand carders. A basket of wool was produced from somewhere and they we to work. The evenging stretched on in silence, due to the way Gemy nad Alera looked at each other I assumed this was not the ususal process. That any company of women, especially those that were related could sit for so long in silence was truely a curiosity to me and to them as well I dare say. At last they got though their basket, it had long since been very dark and the fire was rapidly dieing. Thea got up to add another log. Her mother stayed her by reaching out a hand and then she placed her own things aside and moved toward the back of the room where I had correctly guessed that they slept. The two older girls followed her immediately. Gemy looked at me for a long moment before darting her gaze between my position nad the back of the house. She just started to take a few steps toward me when her mother called her back. She complied as they got together and let the fire die.

It was cold then, I was far from properly dressed and the house was more than reasonably drafty. I would not be sleeping tonight, it was too cold, and yet I had little energy for anything else. The hours stretched on, occarionaly I heard sounds from the far side of the house. Then…

“Can you not sleep?” it was Alera whispering but too whom…

“no, I feel bad, I didn’t last night but…”


“I thought he’d be happy, the way mother always talks about dad I thought this was what men wanted, I thought he’d be happy,” she reapeated somehow even quieter then before.

“It isn’t your fault, he just has to get used to the idea.”

And it sounded like she meant it, so much for Alera being my best hope.

“When do you think I’ll be able to have him as mine properly, the way mom says?”

“Already planning for your own house are you?”

Silence for a while.

“Maybe, but we’ve heard so much about how good it is to live with a man.”

“Keep your voice down or you’ll wake someone else.”

“you’re right I’m sorry.”

“Mom knows what to do, she wouldn’t lead us astray.”

“But what if he isn’t attracted to me?” there seemed to be more than a little fear in the question.

Alera paused for a while before replying, “we’ll see, but I’m sure he can learn.”

“If he doesn’t Thea will claim him.”

“If he isn’t attracted to you, then he doesn’t deserve you.”

I was getting even less impressed with my options. After this I head some tossing and turning but no one spoke anymore. The next day they all tried to do their best to pay me even less attentinon then they had the day before. They didn’t have much success hiding their frequent glances, and it seemed the girls took any excuse they could find to return to the house. Gemy did indeed repair most of the roof, with sod. I guess that explained why their house was always so drafty. I shivered at the though, I was surprised I was still alive and not froze after the frigid temperature of the night. The meals passed and once again they sad down to carding, they would have to start spinning it soon, which I guessed they would have to do by hand since I had not seen anything that remotely resembled a spinning wheel in the house. Gemy stole frequent glances my way then would look at her mother before resuming her work. I assumed that since they were not talking about me in here they must be doing so while they were out gathering supplies. At least they were thinking to do that, but that didn’t mean that they were accounting for the addition of a young man, and I knew how much my body required to be content. The night was just as cold as the last, perhaps colder even, despite the repairs made to the roof, but the walls behind nad to the side of me were still full of gaps to let a steadily increasing wind have little qualms about entering in. My teeth were starting to chatter now. I tried to sleep, but it wouldn’t come. Maybe I should have taken advantage of my exhaustion and the slightly warmer temperatures last night. I heard ruslting from the far side of the house. At least they were warm and cozy all bundled up together I thought bitterly. Then I heard footsteps. I had managed to guess that their necessary was out the back and it was hardly unusual for someone to get up in the middle of the night in need of its use. The floor was hard packed dirt so there as not that much to echo, I didn’t pay that much attention until the moonlight was disturbed by a figure in front of me.

“You are cold,” Gemy whispered though I could not tell if it was meant as a statement or a question. I looked away but could not control the shivering that had begun some time ago. She got down beside me same as she had the other day. Her hand felt like a fire against my bare chest. It flinched away, no doubt startled at the temperature. She had a blanket around her shoulders I could just make that out, so I anticipated that she would drap it over me and the return to her warm bed. I resented her slightly for this. I was not prepared for what she actually did. She moved closer to me and laid her head on my chest the blanket she made and effort to adjust to cover us both. It did not take her long to begin to shiver as my body took what heat it could from her. In a moment it felt as though I had Letti, cold and shivering but this was not my little sister. This was a girl with a tyrannical mother who was holding my hostage, I would not let her comfort me but I was without a way to push her away either. As my body warmed she was able to get back some heat and in time I could feel her even breathing and heard a slight snore. The sound and the more comfortable temperature soon did me in as well.

I awoke at the same time as Gemy did, with Alera shaking us awake. “you’d best get back into bed or ma might be upset.”

Gemy nodded nad got up, leaning back down again in an attempt to close my shirt a bit to keep in the heat. They both smiled at me and then quietly creeped back to the bed. It was not even full twilight yet but I couldn’t go back to sleep nt when I had tired not to fall asleep in the first place. The mother didn’t seem to be aware of Gemy’s adventure last night but if she was she didn’t say anything. They ate something and most quikly departed, Gemy looked out the door after them and then quickly came to me and nearly stuffed the uneaten portion of her porridge down my throat.

“Gemy!” I heard her mother call from outside.

She forced the last bit into my mouth though I hadn’t had a chance to swallow and called back, “coming.”

Then she kissed my cheek and ran out the door. I don’t think I was getting any closer to understanding these women. When they came to eat their next meal, Gemy ekpt looking at me and tried to discretly move itmes of her food in reservation to the side of her plate. She wasn’t fooling anyone.

“Gemy you may feed him once a day for now, otherwise all he gets is water.” Gemy nodded, and attempted to get more food from the pot, her mother stood in the way. “You’ll give his whatever it is you don’t eat, that will teach him to depend on you.”

I couldn’t see Thea’s face but I could see Alera and Gemy both stare in disbelief at their mother, but she was firm and continued eating to signify that that would be the end of the discussion. Well if I didn’t think I was going to die here before I wished it now more than ever. It would be cuel enough to starve, me but to give me just enough to keep me alive…

Gemy finished her food. I didn’t realise why until that evening where I could tell she purposefully ate less. Her mother looked on disapprovingly but as her daughter was following the letter of the law she could do nothing to stop her with any shred of reasoning. I ate what I was given, not so much out of a wish for self preservation but out of concern for Gemy. She hadn’t done anything to deserve this. Well perhaps she did, after all she was the reason I was here, but she didn’t deserve this treatment from her mother.

Tonight they spun, and this time Gemy snuck one more log onto the fire. It was still frightfully cold when she snuck from their bed to keep me company.

“You shouldn’t be here.” I whispered a bit more harshly then I indended.

“But I want to be,” she whispered back after a pause. We were silent, her mother had begun snoring loudly, how the other two girls slept was beyond me. “How old are you?”

“Maybe I should ask you that.”

“I’m sixteen,” she replied without reservation.

Well she had answered it first. “Fourteen by now.”

She seemed surprised as her eyes got a bit wider in the moonlight. “I didn’t think you were so young.”
“Do I look that old?”

“Yes…no. I don’t know, you’re the first man I’ve ever seen.”

We were silent again, her resting her head on my chest if my arms weren’t in the habit of falling asleep to be awoken with pain when my heart fianally decided to pump blood back into them it might have almost been comfortable.

“You’re name is Kyle isn’t it?”

I shook my head, “no.”

I could feel her brow furrow, “but you were whispering that name when I found you.”

I hesitated to explain, but decided to give her the short version, “Kyle was my friend, he…she was taken and I don’t know what happened but now I’m alone.”

“There was another of you?”

Again I shook my head, “not a person.”

“So a pet?”

“Something like that.”

Again silence. “I’m here.”


“I’m here,” she said more boldly, though still in a whisper, “you aren’t alone.”

I sighed, “I can’t stay here I have a family they will be worrid about me.”

Her breath caught, “you already have a wife?”

“No,I mean my father and mother, my little sister. Why would I get married at fourteen?” I conveneitnly ignored the fact that I knew many who did, “what is she teaching you about men and women?”

She didn’t answer only held to me tighter. I didn’t mind that too much since it did mean I could be warmer but still the intimacy of the contact, though I had been too tired to notice before, was something to be contended with if I planned to sleep peacefully. It took some time for her to fall asleep after that and even longer for me. Alera woke us up again while their mother was still sleeping.
“If want to make a habit of this you should ask, and then you won’t risk getting yourself in trouble.”

Gemy’s fugitive glance spoke more than her whispered plea, “but what if she says no?”

The day seemed to repeat itself, twice. I still had not managed to convince Gemy to let me free but I think I was getting more report with her, and then some breakthrough. After a yelling match, which I could hear clearly though the still unobstructed gaps in the walls, Gemy came in and loosened the bonds on my hands, she tied one to my wrist and tied the other end to another gap in the wall. I could get out of this. But what if I did? They probably had more energy than me, and I would have to figure oiut a way to get back before I would be able to get away. They could just wait till I collapsed and then drag me back. No better to bide my time, maybe wait till they were asleep.

Then there would only be Gemy to deal with. She spent the day fixing more of the holes, she used sod other boards anything she could get her hands on, I’m guessing she had discovered that the draft had been what was makgin me the most cold. When they went about their evening, I was still not allowed to sit at the table so I’m not sure what difference it made to have me tied only at the wrist, the mother spent nearly the whole time watching me. Finally she got up and looping a rope to the roof, tied on end to a bucket and the other to my ankle.

“If you try to escape that will fall and you’ll wake us all. Don’t forget it.”

I fixed her with a scowl but I already knew how to get out of this, all it would take me was a little bit of time and some coordination but it would not be a difficult feat.

She tunred to survey her daughters, sighed and pulled the large tub off the wall. “I’ve never seen so much dirt not on the ground strat bringing water.”

I’m sure my eyebrows went up and I could feel the panic that was no doubt showing on my face but no one even bothered to look at me. And no one did until Gemy was about to remove her apron and seemed to suddenly recollect that I was there. Both her hands went to her neckline and she blushed so deeply that her freckles all but disappeared from her face.

“Gemy, your first.”


“He’ll get used to it, it might be better this way.”

Gemy was still unsure.

“Well, I don’t care.” And with that Thea started to unceremoniously disrobe. I scrabled to my feet as easily as I could with a rope and bucket tied to the ceiling from the one and tried desperately to focus on the wall. I heard a hrumph behind me, whether from Thea or her mother I’m not sure and I wasn’t about to turn to find out. I heard a splash and then the mother made another demand that Gemy get undressed. My face burned as I forced myself to find something interesting to stare at at the wall. Oh how long could this torture last.

“Are you alright, you’ve been standing like this for a while.”

I started to turn my head but then snapped it back to the wall, “shouldn’t you have something more than a towel to keep you from freezing?”

“Our clothes are still drying.”

Of course they had to wash their clothes, but why in heaven’s name didn’t they have anything else to put on. Gemy’s hair was still dripping as she tried to look into my face which I could feel had taken on an even deeper shade of crimson. She persisted a few moments then finally shrunk back.

“You disapprove?”

The urge to bang my head on the wall was strong, very strong indeed. I glanced slightly sideways at her and immediately regretted the action. She was standing beside me, her head only coming up to the bottom of my chin, her hair being wet appeared darker then I knew it was and was sticking to her face and neck. Her shoulders were exposed along with more than I currently wanted to see of her chest, the towel went round her middle and I could see nearly the full length of her legs underneath. I very nearly did hit my head against the wall then. What happened to young girls being modest? Then she tried to hug me. I fell over this time in my effort to avoid her. She looked hurt at that, almost as hurt as I felt embarrassed. She moved back a bit and went toward their sleeping area. I resumed starting at the wall. After a while I heard clothes rustleing and I took the first full breath in what felt like eterninty, until Thea spoke.

“What about him?”

I could have passed out, thankfully their overbearing mother was ready to make comment. “We don’t need to waste carried and heated water on him, we’ll take him out to the stream tomorrow and let him clean himself off.”

Yes I defninitly needed to get out of here tonight.

She smelled clean. All curled up beside me with her hair in my face. I had fallen asleep, being on edge had taken all the energy out of me and when I had been pretending to fall asleep I slipped into it accidently. And now Gemy was curled up with me on the floor with her tiny blanket struggling to cover us both. She looked so helpless, and so content. I moved some of her hair from her face, it was lighten now that it didn’t have dirt in it. That would probably make it more red in color. I tried to move a little to see if I would be able to get away. But it was not to be, in her efforts to get close she had managed to lay down on the rope that went from my foot to the bucket. She woke up on her own before Alera arrived and crept back to bed after planting a quick kiss on my cheek. I laid there and waited for more light to come in. If it was just her and Alera it wouldn’t be so bad, it was Thea and their mother that I couldn’t stand. And on that note, mother hadn’t forgotten about her threat from yesterday.

“Let’s get him cleaned up, I’m not having him stinking up the house after all we just did for cleaning.”
“Can’t I take him ma?”

“He’ll get away from you.”

“No he won’t.” their mother crossed her arms and didn’t look convinced. “I’ll scream if he tries and you can all come running.”

They stared at each other for a long moment. I didn’t think anything would come of it but the older woman relented. Well one was better than four at least.

Especially since I was able to convince that one to turn around.

“Fine, but talk to me ok?”


I ignored her for the most part she didn’t say anything until after I had time to figure out that the steam was not fast moving enough to allow me to out run them by riding it down the mountain.

“You never told me your name.”

“Does it matter?”

“It matters to me. Can I turn around yet?”

“Not yet.”

“You must be getting cold in that steam.” She was fidgeting on the rock she had selected to sit on, her back to me though I suspected it had not been consistently kept that way.

“I’ve been in worse and there isn’t a breeze today.”

“Where do you come from?”

“A village down the mountain.”

She was quiet for a while, “what is it like in a village?”

I started wringing out my clothes as best I could, still weighing whether or not I should try to make a break for it when I got out of the water. “Well, there are many houses, and families, there are shops and a village healer. We also have a dance hall and an area where all the goat folds are kept.”

Another pause, “how many people are there?” this time I caught her looking over her shoulder, I was basically attired by this point but we still blushed.

“I hadn’t really thought of it that much, I guess there are about twenty families, but there are also some that live alone or are old and staying with their children.”

“Do they all dance?”

Well that question came out of no where. “I suppose so, in some way shape or form you could call it that.” I watched her frowning and the rock, “Do you?”

She stared up at me suddenly then, her mouth slightly gaped open, “I…well I.”

I waited for her to finish. She didn’t so I assumed, “the answer is no isn’t it.”

She shook her head to confirm my suspicion. “we have to work, just to survive.”
“How did you get up here anyway?”

“well,” she got up nad placed herself on the rock adjacent to mine, “I was born here. My ma says that she and my dad were kicked out of their village because they wanted to start their own village up the mountain that would be a permanent settle and not a roving one. But no one came with them. They thought the people would after a while, after they proved that it could be done. But then my dad died and well, no one ever came.”

“Is that why she’s so bitter.”

“She isn’t bitter,” Gemy said defensivly with a scowl on her face, “those people had no right to abandon us.”

“they probably don’t even know about you and you have no right to keep me hostage either.”

Her face went white, “you’re not going to leave are you?”

“Are you going to stop me?” I was on my feet in front of her now.

I could see tears in her eyes, “I’ll scream and ma will come she won’t let you leave.”

“I’m a lot younger and stronger than your ma, I could get away.” Half of this was a bluff but she didn’t have to know that.

“Winter will come soon, you won’t make it back if you leave.”

“It’s only a couple days down the mountain.”

Her look became even more frightened, she grasped for any argument she could make, “but you don’t know where you are you won’t be able to find your way back.”

“That’s presuming a lot, I’ve been up on this mountain for years and I’ve always been able to find my way back. That I haven’t run into you before I’ll count as a blessing.”

The tears started to spill out of her eyes at that. “No please, you’re going to be my husband, ma promised.”

I clentched my fists and tried to keep my voice even though it still shook, “that was not her promise to make, and what would cause you to think that keeping me away from my family would ever make me want to marry you or any of your sisters.”

In a faster motion then I had given her credit for, Gemy tied my hands and started walking toward their house. “You’ll see you’ll learn to love me, you’ll teach me how to dance and we’ll build a house of our own together.”

“You can’t make me do those things.” Her hands were quivering, if I gave a strong enough tug I would be able to get free. Due to the way the vally looked though the trees I had a pretty good idea of which way I would need to go to get back to the village.

Then she did the one thing I was not prepared to combat, she swung around and caught me in an embrace, sending me stumbling back a few paces, I barely caught her whisper, “please stay with me.”

“Gemy put him back in the house!” the slight spell was broken. After I was secured indoors I had time to wonder, I had been about to say yes to a clearly unreasonable request.

It snowed that night, and not a light gentle snow either. It was thick it was heavy and it was nearly three feet deep. This time I was rationed a blanket. A thread bear bottom of the mattress blanket. If it wasn’t for Gemy I was sure to die by freezing. They were only clightly more liberal with their logs. I’m not sure how much they were really able to store up but if this was any indication of the rationing, they either hadn’t done enough or they were expecting an especially long winter. The outside chores still needed doing, and every day they would bundle up, go out for a few hours, return to thaw and then repeat. They retired slightly earlier, still seting to the task of spinning the wool into yarn. Hopefully they would be making some more blankets.

I would go crazy if I had to endure another month of this, yes that is how long it has been a month. I kept trying to reassure myself that I was keeping an accurate count of the cycles of the moon but there was no way around the feeling that I had been here for an eterninty. Not a word out of ten was directed at me unless it was spoken in hushed whispers by Gemy or Alera before and after we went to sleep. I was given one meal at the middle of the day, at least they were letting me have my own bowl, which Gemy tried to load as much as she could into, if she put in too much, her mother would take some of it out and then stand over Gemy the next time she tried to dish for me. Was begingin to wonder what my own voice sounded like outside of a whisper, and hoping that I wasn’t losing the ability to talk outright. Showed in days were the worst and unfortunalty they were more plentiful then the other.

As sorry as I was for myslf I felt even worse for Gemy. Everyday she had to put up with her mother’s scrutiny. And Thea’s merciless teasing and proding. Alera would put a comforting hand on Gemy if she was near enough but any time she tried to make Thea divert her attention to some more worthy cause though admittedly there were few to choose from, it would make matters worse. Poor Gemy. There were times when she thought I was sleeping that I could feel her crying. At some point I started putting my arm around her.

The pattern continued day after day, after week…how long was winter again? And this was winter closer to the summit, that meant it would be even longer with much more, and proven, snow storms.
“So how are you getting along Gemy, you don’t seem to have made much progress.”

Thea was at it again. I tried not to scowl too much or even look in their direction if I could help it, since we had been snowed in the last few days, the mother had set me to patching my boots so I could help with the clearing, I was also no longer literally bound to the house. I was no less traped however.

I had regained my will to live, if only to find some way to escape and make it back to my family. But I was feeling worse and worse at the prospect of leaving Gemy behind.

“Nothing to say? Hmph, you’re not very good at this, if it was me I would have made him mine a long time ago, I still might. After ma has had enough of your sniveling along. We should have never let you go this long, he should have been bonded to me before the snow came I could have done it in a snap.”
I had a stong desire to growl at her. And I glanced at them now. This was more intense then before, Alera was too far from them but I could see the fire in her eyes. Mother was sitting by the hearth doing some mending but I could tell that she was watching them as well, perhaps evaluating how Gemy was taking it. It was a good thing she was so practiced or she might have put a run in the sock she was darning.

“Maybe I will, you certainly aren’t doing much to assert yourself.”

And then she came straight for me, a huge confident smirk on her face. I had never had so much urge to punch a girl in my life, even when Letti was in her most annoying faze she was still my precious little sister and that offered her some protection. I watched Thea coldly, that did sway her from her purpose at all, she attempted to sit in my lap, her cracked nails catching in my hair. Then she tired to kiss me.
Enough was enough.

I stood, the motion was sudden enough that she had no defence and fell on her butt to the floor. I stepped over her, ignoring her explanations and went straight to Gemy. She stared up at me with big eyes. Her lip quivering slightly as she tried to hold her tears in. In one fluid motion which impressed even me I wrapped her under my arm and pulled her to me where I could properly hug her. I didn’t look at Thea though I could feel her fuming silently at being shown up so harshly. Her mother stared at us for a moment then went back to her sock. Alera nodded slightly and tried to turn to hide her smile, I caught a glimps of it anyway. Gemy put her hands on my chest and tried to breath out her sobs so she wouldn’t cry. I held still till she attained some measure of composer and only then relaxed my hold.

“Are you alright?”

She nodded, I cupped her face in my hand and smiled before returning to my corner, being sure to give Thea a disapproving look when I passed her.

Things changed only slightly after that. I was allowed to sit and the table and have two meals most notably though was that Gemy approached me boldly that night when the others were on their way to bed. Her mother looked apprehensive, Thea looked livid, Alera cocked her head to the side and gave us a quick smile before banishing it when turning to the others.

With Gemy curled up by my side we were able to listen to the hour or so of arguing that took place between Thea and their mother. No clear side seemed to know what was the proper course of action and they consistently switched what they thought should be done. When Gemy had settled enough that I could get away with the lie. I called to Alera and asked her to tell the others to keep it down as Gemy was sleeping. Thea stood bold upright only to be pulled down in nearly the same movement by her mother.

“Well that settles that.”

I guess we had mother’s permission.

“I wasn’t expecting you to stand up for her.” Alera and mother and I were clearing the snow, Gemy was inside making a meal and Thea was tending to their small group of four goats, they had lost one in the last snow storm. I wonder if the storms were this bad down the mountain this year.
“I couldn’t listen to Thea doing that to her any more.”

Alera paused and leaned on her shovel, “that’s the only reason?”

I refused to anwer this and I wanted even less to consider it.

“It’s better this way I think.” Their mother put an end to all further attempts of Alera’s for conversation and I didn’t know that I wanted to join in one anyway.

That snowfall was the last major one, and as I was getting to spend some small fraction of time outside now I could tell that the days were starting to get marginally warmer. That didn’t mean we wouldn’t get a cold snap, but we did start to see some receding of the snow that was by this time about as tall as the roof.

The women were now spending more time outside. I started to secretly lay up a stash, some little distance from the house but in such a way that it was unlikely to be discovered, I found that doing so on the excuse of going to the steam to get water worked well escpecially since I would have to go that way anyway.

Now I began to hear more of their plans. I was to construct another house, facing theirs where they had determined that I was to live with Gemy. I would have to make my break soon. Of course if I did have a place with just Gemy and me I would be able to sneak out when she was asleep and be in the clear with a night’s head start at least. I was becoming familer with the area so I’m sure I would be able to do it.

Grass was just starting to poke out from the snow, the goat eagerly tried to convince them to remain hidden or suffer the consequences. It was almost passable enough for me to leave.

“Gemy it’s about time you made that man yours, you’re going to have a house of your own soon, so you might as well get on with it. We’ll be your witnesses and then you can consider yourself married.”
Gemy looked very excited about this, I nearly dropped the stick I was holding.

“it’s realy quite simple, you vow to be together and let nothing but death separate you, he vows to protect you to the point of death and you promise to bear his children. It’s as simle as that. Usually there is some exchange of tokens but since we don’t have any you’ll just have to give each other flowers or some such thing.”

Now I did drop the stick, “don’t I have some say in this?”

The mothers response was quick, “no.”

My eyes narrowed at her, “oh yes I do, I’m not unaccustomed to the way this works, people still get married elsewhere on the mountain you know.”

“That has nothing to do with anything here.”

I folded my arms, “If I’m not willing then it isn’t a true and binding marrage.”

Gemy paled, Alera’s eyebrows went up, Thea had a more sour than usual expression on her face. Her mother was like stone.

“You are not leaving here.”

“Yes I am, I am not an animal to be caught and caged for your amusment and utility. If I stay it will be of my own decision.”

“But you aren’t going to stay are you! You’ll just pick up and leave and tell everyone where we are so they will either avoid us or stone us. You would sentence us to death!”

“As you would me to slavery. I will not stay and you cannot make me.”

She was a peculiar shade of purple now, “you don’t think we’re good enough, you’re just like all of them! You want me and my daughters to die alone here on the mountain. None of you care, none of you ever did. I should have just strangled you when I had the chance.”

I had no doubt she meant it, and that meant there was no way I was spending another moment in that house. “You made this decision, I wanted to leave at the first and you wouldn’t let me, maybe if you had I would have come back.”

She somehow looked even more furious. Alera seemed amused, Gemy looked as though her heart was breaking.

“Fine, you ingrate, go leave us to die it will be on your conscience what you have done to us, especially to Gemy, raising her hopes and then turning back like this. You deserve to have the mountain fall on you.”

Now I was becoming more irate. “If you think that I…”

“All you men are the same!”

“She picked me up unconscious in the woods…”

“You would have died if she didn’t.”

“We’ll never know now will we.”

She threw something at me, it stopped well short since she was in no state to put any power into it. “I’ll kill you if you try to leave!” her voice was starting to get hoarse from her yelling.

“I choose Gemy.”

Alera froze, none of the others seemed to register what I had said.

I repeated, “I choose Gemy, I will take her with me and give her a proper home, one where she is respected and loved and not forced to work her bones off just to survive.”

Alera put a hand on Gemy to steady her while realization dawned on her. Thea screamed. Their mother was dumb.

“She doesn’t deserve this, to be up on the mountain without any hope or enjoyment, desperate for human interaction and getting starved for attention.”

Alera squeezed Gemy’s arm and whispered something into her ear. Oh please let her be on my side.
Their mother seemed to growl she started to say at least six things but abandoned them all at the last second.

“I choose Gemy.” I said it slowly, and with less defiance in my voice, I was tender to her, that I couldn’t deny and I wouldn’t leave her here. If only I could convince Alera to come as well. She would do well in the village. There were lots of young men of marrigable age that would be able to appreciate her there. But first I had to get Gemy out.

“You agree to…marry her.” She more breathed the words then said them.

I nodded.

She persisted, “right now, you swear that you will take care of her and treat her properly as a wife.”
“I believe that was the intention I just made clear.”

There were all frozen, the mother’s breathing ragged, “you will protect her? You will love her?”

“With my life.”
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