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Printed from https://www.Writing.Com/view/1979288
Rated: E · Draft · Fantasy · #1979288
Noelle, a part goblin girl raised by her human mother, is taken by her goblin father.

Jacqueline Johnston

Can she forgive & find love?... Or will she take her revenge?

         I clutch my little sister, Lark, as screams echo from outside the house. She isn't crying like most children her age would if they knew death was coming. Lark is stronger than me, resilient like our mother. She's similar to our mother in more ways than one. She has Mother's singing voice which can put even the sweetest sounding songbird to shame. She has Mother's black curls that bounce with every movement and her soft brown eyes. I have none of these things. My hair is crimson, the color of blood to be exact, and I have to keep it wrapped in a head scarf when I go out in public to keep from drawing unwanted attention. Though my eyes are big and expressive like Mother's and are able silence anybody with just one sharp look, they do not have the same color. Mine are rich brilliant gold and when I can't see very well my pupils' contract to slits. Most people think this is a trick of the light, but it is far from it. I have Mother's small button nose and her soft creamy skin, even though my skin can withstand the sharpest of blades and the greatest of impacts.
I stopped speaking after my adoptive father died of Blister Lung disease. After I watched him take his last rattling breath I didn't have any words to express the turmoil that raged within me.
Now it is that I simply don't want to be seen or heard. I want to be left alone.
All the things about me that are unusual are the traits of my father, who is the Goblin King. He rules over magical creatures. Monsters, the whole lot of them or at least that's what I call them. Mother tried to warn the village about them. About the Monsters, but the villagers hadn't listened. She'd told everyone that they were coming. She'd known because my father had warned her. He is more than likely the one leading this massacre. I take a shaky breath. Mother glances at me and sees the desperate look in my eyes.
"There is hope." Mother says fiercely.
I look at her blinking away tears. She stands at my side, jaw clenched. There is a look of grim determination in her eyes. I find myself wishing that I had her strength and her courage. She knows she doesn't stand a chance against them, but still she will fight, for Lark and I.
"Noelle, put Lark in the cellar. Now." Mother whispers urgently.
The screams grow closer and I pull the rug away from the floor and open the cellar door. I take Lark by the shoulders and look her in the eye. I put a finger to my lips telling her to be silent.
"Don't go,Noelle." she whimpers.
I hug her quickly before shoving her down the stairs. Then I let the door down silently and put the rug back over it. Mother takes my hand and gives it one last squeeze. As she lets me go, I take another deep breath to steady myself. Then I let my instincts take over. Fear is forced to the back of mind and survival becomes everything. Every sense grows hyper-aware of everything around me. My hands look like normal human hands until I flex my fingers and my claws come out curved, white, and sharp with needle like points on the ends. I quickly take off the black cloth I use to hide my hair. Long scarlet tresses cascade down my back and I hear Mother suck in a sharp breath. I let my pupils' contract to slits making my golden eyes look cat like, and my vision instantly becomes sharper. I grimace as my incisors' sharpen and extend until they poke out over my bottom lip. Mother looks uneasy as I step towards her protectively. She hugs her arms around herself. I know she doesn't like it when I show my true nature, but it must be done.
Out of the corner of my eye I see three dark figures move past the window too fast for human eyes to see. A low inhuman growl rumbles deep in my chest and I crouch down, facing the door, coiled so tightly that my body quivers. The handle turns, and slowly, the door creaks open. One of the Monsters eases warily into the doorway and stops dead in his tracks when he sees Mother.
"Anna." he says in a gravelly voice. He is the biggest and scariest looking of them all. Pale green scales cover his body and his eyes are golden and slitted. His hair is strangely a light brown color cut close to his head. He is clad in a black tunic and black trousers. He must stand over seven feet tall. His fingers have white clawed tips. On one finger is a crest ring. This is my father. I know from the look on Mother's face and from the fact that he knows her given name. Oddly, he doesn't look any older than twenty years, but his eyes show his true age.
"Marek." Mother whispers.
Marek turns and tells the two monsters standing outside the door to stand guard and not let anyone enter the house. I stay where I am, not even daring to breathe should I break the spell that they are under, watching their reunion intently. For a while Mother and Marek just stare at each other. Marek is the one who breaks the silence.
"I told you not to be here when we came." he says harshly. I can't tell if this is just the way he speaks or if he really is upset with Mother.
"I couldn't leave. I've built a life here, Marek. With my daughters..." she says her voice fading away as she realizes her mistake by mentioning Lark and I.
I see Marek stiffen at her words.
"You took a human partner while I was away?" he says in disbelief.
"You were gone for so long. I was lonely without you." Mother says earnestly. Suddenly, she looks worn and beaten down, as if she has the weight of the whole world upon her shoulders. Marek stares at her for a long moment his expression unreadable. Then a spark of anger flares in his eyes.
"So you bred human children like maggots then? Where are the children he fathered?" he demands.
The blood drains from Mother's face. "No, Marek. You can't. She is my child." Mother pleads. I don't understand her reaction at first at first, but then it hits me. He's going to kill Lark. Like when an alpha male lion takes over a pride and he kills the previous alpha's cubs to establish his ownership of the pride.
I rush to Mother's side and clutch her hand. Marek looks at me in astonishment, noticing me for the first time, but then he sobers.
"And you must be one of the maggots." he says grimly. I notice the way his fingers are hooked like talons ready to tear me to pieces. I stare at him with wide eyes. He's much bigger than I had anticipated. Seven or eight feet tall perhaps and extremely menacing. He could crush me easily.
"You think you'd know your own daughter, Marek." Mother says quietly.
He looks at my mother incredulously. "What?" he snarls. Mother stands straighter and looks him in the eye. Pride is the only thing that holds her up now. For a moment, I see her strength and realize why a Monster would find beauty in her, a human.
"This is your daughter, Marek. One of the so called 'maggots'." she says cuttingly. Marek glances back at me and I have to force myself not to cower under his scrutiny.
"You know for sure that she is mine?" I don't like the way he says the word 'mine' as if I'm a possession instead of his daughter.
"Of course. Look at her. Do you think a human could ever make that?" Mother says. I flinch at the sting of her words and glance at Marek, hoping he will have an explanation for what I am. I look at the floor when he just glares at me with a distasteful expression.
"You've raised her as a servant. Not a princess." he says resentfully.
"It's better than being raised in the palace." Mother retorts. I am beyond confused. I'm not royalty. Royal blood does not bear misshapen offspring. But then when has a Monster ever bred with a human? He smiles bitterly but then sobers. "Anna... she must come with me. Recon has threatened war on Dunlarri unless we bridge the two kingdoms... Now we can." he says.
I look at Mother horrified, but as soon as I see her face I know that she agrees with my father. I shake my head and slowly back away from them. Why? My eyes say. Why must I go with him?! They demand. Mother touches my arm gently but I jerk away from her.
"Dearest, you must go with him. If war breaks out with the Monsters then it will spread. Innocent lives will be lost. People will die. It's the only way."
No no no no no! I can't. I won't. I WILL NOT GO WITH THAT MONSTER! These words scream in my head bouncing off my skull. I try to let them out, but I only manage a yowl of desperation. That is when Marek hits me hard across the face. I stumble backwards cradling the side of my face in shock.
"Marek! She is not a Monster! You cannot treat her as one!" Mother snaps and rushes to my side.
I push her away as she flutters nervously about me. No fear, no weakness. That is the lesson; one that I have already learned. I stand there fighting the urge to attack him. I glare at Marek glad that my skin, even though it looks human, is just as resilient as his scales. There is no evidence of the blow and I feel no pain from it. Still, he has wounded my pride. My fists clench and unclench angrily at my sides. He is watching me, gauging my reaction. This is a test. It has to be. He wants to know if I have control. Lucky for him, control is something I haven't had the luxury of losing. I take a deep breath and weigh my options. I can stay and fight and die. Or I can run and escape and live. I flee. I escape out the back door running into the forest. I hear Mother calling after me and Marek shouting orders to his guards. Monsters are giving chase around me, but I'm faster than they are. They are no match for me when it comes to speed. As long as I stay out of their reach then I'll be safe. Out of nowhere, I'm tackled from my right by a black Monster. We hit the ground with a sickening thud and roll a few times. We stop rolling and I'm on my back, pinned beneath him. The breath has been knocked from my lungs and with his weight on top of me I can't draw in any air. The edges of my vision start to blur and my head feels like it's about to explode. That's when desperation pushes me off the edge. I go wild, thrashing and writhing like an animal caught in a trap. My captor grunts trying to keep me restrained, but suddenly his weight is lifted from me. I suck in a gulp of air and roll onto my side, coughing. My mind is buzzing and my head is pounding. I lie there waiting for the world to stop spinning. I hear snarls and force my eyes to open.
Marek is holding the black Monster off the ground by his neck, choking him. I slowly get to my feet and stagger towards them. I grab his arm and yank on it violently trying to get his attention. He ignores me and keeps choking the Monster. He was just doing what you told him to do! I want to scream, but it just comes out a raspy incoherent garble. The black Monster's eyes roll back in his head. He's going to die because of me if I don't do something. I know I won't be able to force Marek to stop. He is too strong for me, but still, I have to try. I seize Marek's wrist. He looks at me narrowly, daring me to do something. I stare at him jadedly. We gaze at each other for another moment. His expression is impassive, but I refuse to hide anything. I won't hide behind a mask as he is doing. I let him see everything. From my fear to my anger to my confusion to my hatred. He takes a deep breath and sighs, dropping the black Monster on the ground. I look at the Monster as he lies crumpled on the ground gasping as I was doing only a moment ago. I glance back at Marek, but he is already walking away. I know there are Monsters in the shadows; I can feel their eyes on me. They are making sure I don't run again. Hesitantly, I approach the black Monster. He is still wheezing on the ground, and I nudge his bare clawed foot with my boot. He looks at me weakly. Angry tears fill my eyes and I glare at him. He should've let me go. He says nothing, and it's too dark to make out his black face in the night.
I look up at the sky through the trees, and take a deep shaky breath holding back tears. I wish Mother had taken us away from here. If she had done as Marek had told her to none of this ever would've happened. I feel Mother and Lark behind me before I hear them. They've always been able to sneak up on me like that. I slowly turn to face them. Lark's face is streaked with tears and she stares at me with wide eyes. This is the first time she's seen me in my true form. Quickly, I let the changes undo themselves until I look normal again. At first I think she is afraid of me, but then she's running towards me. I crouch down to her height and catch her in my arms.
"Don't go, Noelle. Please, don't go." Lark whimpers. She buries her face into my neck hugging me tightly. I just stroke her hair and rock her back and forth. I look at Mother who is watching me with a pained expression. I ache for her to hold and comfort me, to tell me it's going to be alright, but I stay where I am, knowing she can promise me nothing. I hold Lark for another second before gently pushing her away and stand, looking back at Mother.
"Noelle..." Mother says softly taking a step towards me.
"Here." she says holding out my black kerchief. I take it and pull my hair up, wrapping the cloth around my head. I turn around and she ties it securely at the nape of my neck. When I'm facing her again she has tears in her eyes. One leaks out, and I wipe it from her cheek and shake my head. She nods and blinks her tears away. I grab her in a quick hug burying my face in the crook of her shoulder.
"I'm sorry." she says, her voice breaking. We both pull back and look at each other.
"You're stronger than they realize. You're going to be okay. You're going to come back home." she says firmly. I just squeeze her hands and smile wistfully.
Then a Monster takes her by the elbow and leads her away. I hear Lark screaming my name as she's carried away by another Monster. I want to tell her that it will be okay, but I just watch helplessly as my family is ripped away from me. As Mother passes Marek she gives him a look that sends a shiver down my back. I glance from Mother to Marek warily as they stare each other down.
"Promise me you'll keep her safe." Mother whispers.
"I will." he says tersely.
"Promise me." Mother says looking him in the eye.
"I promise no harm will come to our daughter. I will protect her with my life." Marek says solemnly.
Mother nods, wrapping her arms around herself and looks at me one last time before they nudge her forward again. I watch until they disappear into the darkness and then I look to Marek. He is staring at me with a strange expression.
"Come." he says heading deeper into the forest.
I follow him keeping my head bowed as tears stream down my face. My mind wonders and I think of where I will be living for the rest of my life. I'll be living with Monsters. I'll be dead by the end of this week if not sooner. I shiver at this thought of my body being torn limb from limb.
"Are you cold?" Marek asks uncertainly. I shake my head even though is so cold that snow has started to fall and my hands have gone numb. He grunts and keeps moving. As we walk through the night, I can sense Monsters in the woods, but they never bother us. When we finally stop a tall, slender white scaled Monster steps out from behind a tree.
"Nexus, my friend." Marek greets him. Nexus smiles broadly at Marek, but when he sees me the smile fades.
"Is this her?" Nexus asks.
"Yes." Marek says. Nexus' eyes travel over me hungrily, and I stiffen under his scrutiny. An involuntary hiss escapes my mouth as his eyes linger on my chest. A low warning growl rumbles in Marek throat. I can feel tension rolling off him in waves. Nexus smiles at me thinly and takes a step back. I relax slightly, but Marek remains on edge. He turns to me, looking apprehensive. "I must go into camp. You will stay here with the Royal Guard until I give the order for you to enter camp. They will protect you." he says. I have the feeling that what he really means is 'they will keep you from running off again'. He motions for the Guard to make themselves seen. They step into the moonlight, all of them looking warily at Nexus. I look back at Marek anxiously, but he is already heading though the trees towards camp. I take a step in his direction, and instantly two guards block my path. I stumble backwards away from them and trip over a tree root. I land ungracefully and sit there sprawled on the ground. There are a few snickers from the shadows and new tears build up in my eyes. Nexus looks down at me scornfully. I draw my legs up and wrap my arms around them, resting my head on my knees. My shoulders shake as I cry silently. Murmurs spread through the guards and I strain my ears to hear. "This is the child of our Lord King?" "Pathetic little thing." "It won't last a day at the palace." "It's a fast runner though." "It's not a true Militis though. Not if it ran." "It's just another Cauda." My body is starting to feel the repercussions of tonight's events and exhaustion washes over me. Suddenly, they are all quiet. I look up to see Marek making his way back through the trees. His expression is one of irritation. I shrink away from him when he approaches me, but he grabs my arm and jerks me roughly from my place on the ground. "Never give your back to anyone." he hisses. He starts dragging me towards the camp and I stumble over my own feet, trying desperately to keep up with Marek's brisk pace. The Guard surrounds us, poised to fight. He tows me through the camp, which is seemingly empty, towards a large tent. I yelp when he tosses me headlong through the flaps, but I still manage to land on my feet. He stands outside for a moment, talking to his guards, and then enters. I watch him with wide eyes as he walks over to a cot set up on the opposite side of the tent. "You will stay inside this tent. You will not leave, nor will you draw attention in any way. This is where you'll sleep. The Guard will sleep around the tent so that there will be no intruders." he says staring at me intently. This slowly sinks in, and again, I know that the Guard is there not only to protect me but to keep me from running again. I look at him blankly. He sighs and points at the bed. "Go to sleep." he orders. When I don't move to the bed he steps towards me and I scramble backwards. He stops and gazes at me with a measured look. "I won't hurt you." he says slowly. I shake my head and take another step away from him. The message is clear. I don't trust him. I look away not wanting to meet his overwhelming eyes. I see his jaw clench, but he doesn't say anything. We stand there, both of us refusing to look at each other. The flap that hangs as a makeshift door for the tent is pushed open, and Marek draws his sword faster that my eyes can follow. A brown scaled Monster enters, and Marek lowers is his blade. "Lord King, the raiding party is returning. What are your orders?" he asks not even glancing in my direction. I stare at him openly though, anything to avoid making eye contact with Marek. He is short but burly. "Stay your positions, Orek. No one is allowed to enter my tent without permission. The penalty for disobedience is death." he says. The Monster nods and leaves the tent. "We leave two days from now. I advise you to sleep." he says and follows Orek out of the tent. I stand there for a while, until I'm sure no one will enter. Then I go and lay on the bed, sighing as I lay my head on the pillow. I think that it will be impossible to get any sleep, but my eyes start to droop the instant I lay my head on the pillow. It's made of silk I think. It takes only moments before I'm swallowed by darkness. Piercing light awakens me the next morning, and I groan and roll over. I wrap my pillow around face to block out all sights and sounds. "Celine, it is time to get up." a familiarly terrifying voice rumbles. I bolt up right, looking around me wildly. Marek looms over me, and I bite back a scream as I cringe away from him. He steps away and crosses his arms over his chest. I pull my blanket up around me, trying to block out the morning chill, and look up at Marek warily. I realize then that I have to use the bathroom. I press my lips together and try to push the urge away. "When we leave you will be riding in a supplies wagon. You're not to make yourself known in any way. You're to stay quiet and hidden." he says firmly. The need to go refuses to be put down. "If you are discovered even I would not be able to stop my men from killing you or worse." he says in a hard voice. I nod and stand, crossing my legs at an awkward angle. He looks at me oddly. "What is it?" he asks. I grimace and point at the tent flap. He shakes his head. "No, you can't go out." he says. I whimper and gesture urgently at door. "What do you want?" he barks his voice rising. I throw my hands up in exasperation and unable to hold it in any longer, I go on myself. He wrinkles his nose as the foul scent hits him. "Oh. Why didn't you mention this?' he demands. I touch my hand to my lips and shake my head. "You can't speak." he says flatly. I open my mouth to try and tell him something, anything, but my tongue refuses to form any words. It comes out unintelligible and distorted. I shake my head again, shrugging miserably. His face is expressionless. I've noticed that he only does this when he doesn't want others to see his response. Still, just before he hides it, I see disappointment and strangely fear in his face. The shame I feel makes me lower my eyes. I've been embarrassed of my inability to speak before, but now, standing before Marek, knowing that my own father was disgraced by me, is humiliating. He sighs and looks down at my soiled dress. "You'll have to wear trousers until we can get that washed." he says. I swallow a squeak of disbelief. Dress like a man? It was unthinkable. "I'll go find some that might fit you." he mutters and ducks out of the tent. I sigh and look around me. Last night it was too dark to see inside of the tent, but now I can see that it is filled with luxuries. A small closet, filled with more clothes than I could ever hope to have, sits in one corner of the tent while a tub with a screen obscuring it from view sits on the opposite side. A rug woven with intricate patterns covers the dirt floor. At that moment, Marek enters again. He has a pair of brown pants and a white linen shirt draped over his arm. "A bath is going to be prepared for you. You must wash quickly to keep from getting chilled." he says self-consciously, not meeting my eyes. He leaves after a moment of awkward silent. Three female Monsters enter the tent and I back away from them immediately, eyes wide. I have never glimpsed female Monsters before. They are the most beautiful creatures I've ever seen. They are all tall and slender each with different colored scales. They still look just as lethal as the male Monsters, but their movements are more graceful. Everything about them is elegant. Even their claws are elegant. They are nothing like me. An older female Monster with burgundy scales moves towards me slowly. "Don't worry, little one. We won't harm you." she says and surprisingly her voice is soft and lilting, comforting even. I don't relax my tense stance though and keep backing away until I bump in to Marek's cabinet. A lavender scaled Monster sighs impatiently and says to the older Monster "Oret, this will take all day." but Oret doesn't seem to mind. "Stop it, Vie." she murmurs. She looks at me with tender amber eyes. She speaks to me with her eyes, just as I communicate with my own. She sees my fear and my hurt. It is going to be alright, hers seem to say. I stare at her warily for a few seconds longer and then slowly I unwind. They approach me carefully if not to startle me and at first when one of them touches me I draw back. But then Oret starts unlacing my dress from the back and soon with her quick hands I stand naked before them. Initially, I try to cover myself because I am self-conscious and freezing, but none of them seem bothered by my body. Oret guides me to the tub which is being filled with steaming hot water. She reaches for my headscarf to remove it, but I put a hand up to stop her. She looks at me curiously and I sigh, removing the scarf. My hair falls in long scarlet tresses down my back. Oret's eyes widen. I look down despairingly. Apparently crimson hair isn't common with Monsters either. I turn away from Oret and quickly enter the tub despite the way it burns my skin to escape the cold of morning and Oret's gaze of wonderment. The tub is big enough that I could stretch my legs out and deep enough that I have to sit on my knees to stay above the water. I do as I have been told and scrub myself down hastily with soap and wash my hair as best I can. When I emerge feeling flesh and clean, a towel is immediately wrapped around my body. Hands pat and rub me down vigorously, drying my body. Then, with the towel still wrapped around me, a brush tears into my hair and I bit my lip to keep from crying out. When they finish, they braid my hair tightly around my head, wrapping it around so it won't hang loose. I hurriedly tie my head scarf around my head and put on the breeches and shirt. I feel like I'm able to maneuver more easily, but I also feel exposed because the clothes hug my figure more than I'm used too. The women stand back and study me. "I don't believe it." a cobalt scaled Monster, who's named I learned was Faye, says. "She actually looks good." Vie says wistfully. Oret just smiles broadly. "See, we aren't that bad." Faye says grinning, showing her sharp fangs. I give her a nervous smile. Vie and Faye each take an end of the 100 gallon tub with the water inside and lift it with ease. I watch with wide eyes as they walk slowly, careful not to splash water out of tub and leave the tent. From outside I hear Marek shouting orders and I stiffen at once. Just the sound of his growling voice sets me on edge. He pokes his head into the tent and seeing that I'm dressed, he enters. He looks me up and down approvingly. "That'll do." he says looking at Oret. When he steps closer to me I inch back a step, keeping the distance between us. He grounds his teeth together and lets out a frustrated snarl making me jump. I shrink away from him to Oret, the only Monster in the room that I feel truly comfortable with. She pats my arm reassuringly and glares at Marek. "What did you do to her, Marek?" she demands in a thunderous voice that is nothing like the tone she used with me. He glares at the old female and then at me. "I've done nothing to her." he hisses baring his teeth at me. "Why is she terrified of you then?" Oret asks crossing her arms over her chest. Marek stands there seething. I stay where I am, cowering behind Oret. "Why don't you ask her that?" he says through his teeth. Oret looks at me her features softening some. Then she turns back to Marek and drops her arms, sighing. "A word with you, please." she says and looks at him expectantly. He nods almost imperceptibly and moves outside the tent. Just before Oret disappears outside with him she turns and gives me a reassuring smile. When she leaves the tent I dart towards the door and strain to hear the words being said. "You must calm down. She fears us. Can't you see that? The poor girl is utterly terrified." Oret says pityingly. "She has no reason to be." Marek says. "We were the enemy not so long ago. You must be patient. She'll adjust. It will take time though." Oret says. "We don't have time. She must cooperate now. She doesn't have a choice." Marek spits. "You need to stop being so intimidating when you're around her. She's not one of your soldiers. She's a girl. Raised by humans for that matter and you and I both know that they raise their young in an entirely different way. There isn't nearly as much aggression." Oret says her voice getting snippy. I smile, silently cheering for Oret. "How?" Marek asks and for the first time I hear a hint of desperation. "You're her father. You need to be gentler, kinder. You need to be a father. You need to love her as only a human father can." Oret says. I hear Marek growl in frustration. "She's just like Anna." he grumbles. "Well, what did you expect, Marek? That she'd be just like you? She doesn't know you and right now she don't want to because you've hurt her." Oret murmurs quietly. "But I've done nothing to her!" he yells making me jump. "You took her away from everything she ever knew and loved, Marek. That may be just enough to kill her if she isn't slaughtered by your men first." Oret hisses. Her words are met by silence. I strain to hear Marek as he speaks is his next words so softly I can barely hear them. "I will die before any harm comes to her." he says so fiercely it makes a chill run up my spine. "I know you will, son. Oh, and Marek, just because she's mute doesn't mean she's weak." she says. "But how will she address the people? How can she communicate...?" Marek starts but Oret cuts him off. "I don't know, but she will make it, Marek. She's strong. She'll do what it takes to survive. Did you see her claws? Prettiest things. Bet they could tear through any kind of armor though." Oret says sounding pleased. I hear Marek grunt. I hold my breath waiting for him to say more, but then I hear someone walking towards the tent. I hastily busy myself with straightening up the tent. Oret enters with a sly smile on her face. "Do you think he'll give my advice a try?" she asks suddenly. I glance up at her innocently, but I can feel a blush creeping into my cheeks. I certainly hope he takes her advice. Oret had been right about everything. I needed a father. I needed Marek to fill that void. If Marek didn't change his behavior towards me, if he didn't start acting like a father, I was sure heartache would kill me before any Monster did. I look over at Oret, despair slithering into my heart and she touches my hand comfortingly. "He'll come around. It'll just take time." she says and starts cleaning up around the tent. I go to help her, but she stops me. "A princess shouldn't..." she starts but I just roll my eyes and help her anyway. "... Thank you." she says after a brief pause. I shrug and nod, giving her a small smile. I hear Vie and Faye's voices and look at them as they come in the tent. "It's the males that are the monsters." Vie says wrinkling her nose. Faye grimaces at her words, and Oret's brow creases. I look around at them waiting for the punch line, but they've all sobered. "Celine, you must know. We are your Vigiles." Oret says suddenly. I look at her confused. "We're your body guards!" Faye squeals excitedly. I stare at her, my mind unable to comprehend the fact that these kind gentle Monsters are my guards. My prison keepers. I look down at the floor and study the rugs design to avoid meeting Oret's shrewd gaze. I don't want her to see my displeasure. Still, she senses it somehow. She puts a clawed hand on my shoulder understandingly. "We aren't here to keep you in. We are here to keep them out." she says nodding towards the outside. "Please, understand. We only want to protect you from the men. We want to protect our princess." Faye says, almost pleadingly. I look around at them. They may be my only hope at surviving. I decide then that I need to make friends. On impulse, I take Faye's hands, squeezing them reassuringly and smile at her. She smiles back at me, relieved.

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