Cwen heard her father tisk, though she could not turn her head to look at him.
“No need to be cruel, Tyne.” His tone lacked reprimand.
Tyne sneered up at her father, his handsome features twisted with his hate. “She is your daughter. You are not going to save her?”
“It was her mother ‘twas beautiful and precious. She was merely the expected consequence.”
Pain and anger boiled inside her. Her heart ached at the turning of her father and the cruelty of the man she thought loved her. Tyne’s face hovered above her own, his hand dragging her head back by the roots of her hair. The tears ran back to add to the dirt and sweat plastering her hair to her scalp, and she wished they could burn his hand like fire. The memory of her mother hot through her: blue-eyed and fair with hair like spun gold, her mother had been killed during a journey to the Isen River for ingredients needed for her father’s potions. Cwen recalled the journey with her parents in a quick flash: her mother’s resistance from the proposal of the trip, the hard days’ travel that often went far into the night, and the ambush that left her mother dead and a young girl of seven in an aloof father’s care.
They had not returned to their village. After her mother’s death, they pushed on down the Isen to the mouth of the Adorn. They then followed its northern shore to Riverwide where they made their home. The villagers accepted her father’s skill as a healer, thought they long treated them as outsiders. Frieda’s acceptance and Tyne’s attentions made the years bearable, but now she realized she had had nothing but a farce.
The new emotions pushed aside her fear, knotting into a fiery ball over her heart. She narrowed her eyes, her face hardening into a scowl.
Tyne’s laugh at her father’s comment distracted him enough to relax his hold on her hair. Cwen took the chance and grabbed his wrist, twisting her body to duck beneath his arm, twisting his arm as she turned. She felt the strands rips from her scalp, but her desire to live mattered more to her than a few hairs. She drove her elbow into his face, throwing him back and giving her enough room to grab the lute at his feet. Staying low, she barreled into her father’s knees. He fell back in surprise, crashing into the far wall. Before Cwen could reach the door, a large hand grabbed the collar of her shirt, dragging back.
“Break my nose, will you?” Tyne’s arm came around her neck, cutting off her windpipe. Her feet left the floor and he threw her across the room. She collapsed against the wall and fell to her hands and knees.
“Deal with her, Tyne.” Her father’s voice sent a chill down her spine. The boot connected with her rib cage with a loud crack. The pain stunned her and she fell on her face. Her father’s footsteps echoed loudly as he left the hut, the door closing ominously behind him.
** ** **
The passage of time was irrelevant. The shadows faded in and out of her visions: blue and yellow lights dancing and floating as if elhudans of Enedwaith had descended upon her mind. She reached out to grasp for one as it flitted by, but the movement caused daggers to pierce her side, causing her to gasp. The darkness reached for her, scattering the lights until they left her in solitude.
** ** **
Her breath was ragged and shallow, the darkness tangible. She struggled against it, trying to push it off of her eyes with hands that struggled to respond. Her fingers found her face, reached for her eyelids, but only found a warm, swollen mass. It yielded slightly beneath her fingertips and weighed her left lid down, preventing her from opening her eye. Her right eye was crusted, and she gently rubbed away the grime until she could see the ceiling of the hunter’s cabin above her.
Faint light filled the cabin; the sun’s beams illuminating the dust stirred up in the air. Morning was come, the cabin was empty save her, and only the Valar knew why her heart still beat fiercely in her chest.
Her entire body ached. Tyne showed no mercy to her, the love he feigned turned to hatred as he abused her body. Slowly, disrupting her broken ribs as little as possible, she shifted on the tabletop where he had left her to die to ease the pressure on her left shoulder. It felt out of place and she was unable to roll the joint in its socket. She attempted to move her fingers; they wiggled in the air freely with no pain. Only when she attempted to move her shoulder did the shock rack her body.
Gingerly, she prodded the joint with her other hand, getting a feel for the dislocation. Finally, she made a decision and gritting her teeth, she knew she had no choice: she gripped the edge of the table tightly, then threw her weight back and up, kicking her feet of the floor for leverage. Her scream rent the air, silencing the forest sounds around the cabin. She felt the shoulder slide back into place before blacking out again.
When she awoke, sunlight filled the cabin cheerily. She moaned, her body famished and broken. As she turned, she fell from the tabletop, pain shooting through her as she hit the dirt floor. For a long time she lay, her breath jagged. Finally, through pure will, she pushed herself over, wincing at the tender resistance her shoulder gave to any weight placed upon it.
Cwen looked around the room, unable to focus at first. Her eye finally found a small brown object on the floor near the hearth. As she stared, her father’s satchel took shape. Scooting herself across the floor, she reached for the bag, finding instead of rations, a store of vials and small clay pots. Her fingers grasped one glass vial stoppered with beeswax and realized she held a healing draught, strong enough to mend her wounds. Unstoppering the bottle quickly, she drank the contents of the vial without hesitation. Immediately, she felt invigorated and warm, the pain in her joints and muscles easing as it flowed through her veins.
She wondered at the find, realizing that wherever they were now, her father and Tyne had intentions of coming back. She saw the rations piled on the hearth, wrapped in broad leaves. Her lute lay beneath the table, kicked aside during the savage attack. As quickly as she could, she climbed to her feet and began gathering the items. Another bag, larger than hers, sat in the corner by the door. She opened it and sucked in her breath, shocked.
A dress lay on top of nondescript items filling the bag. The rich velvet was dyed a gentle rose, like the sky before the sunrise. She touched the soft fabric in awe, amazed that her father would have saved such a trivial thing.
Cwen’s own clothes were tattered, ripped by Tyne. Beneath her mother’s dress was a set of worn clothes, which she used to replace her own ruined dress. The leggings were tight, and the shirt was torn at the sleeve. They covered her body well enough, and would serve her purpose as she meant to travel hard and fast through the land. Placing the satchel of medicines over her shoulder on her hip, she looked around the room one last time. With her lute on her back and her mother’s dress safely in the pack on her back, she limped out the door into the afternoon sun.