The Steel Bells Of Freedoms Broken
Herr Harmon helped me to my feet as the villagers began to gather from their hiding places, surrounding us and congratulating him with cheers and attempting to get closer to him. Herr Harmon started to move us away from the bodies of the demons and trying to make some more room for the people gathering and cheering him on. I was kept close to him being the one that was saved in person, people expecting him to ask me as his reward.
The crowd was nearly jostling me into him, he smiled kindly and shifted his blade downwards into the ground, stabbing and holding onto it as he accepted the people’s praises with modesty worth of a hero from fables and tales. I felt Mama’s hand on my back giving me a slight push into Herr Harmon. My body leaning into his as she whispered roughly.
“Don’t forget your manners…”
I blushed, realizing that they were all expecting me to say my thanks and praises to him as well. Looking up to his eyes, standing so close with my hands on his chest I swallowed and managed to speak clearly for the village to hear.
“Herr Harmon, you were so brave and strong killing those demons so easily.”
He smiled at me warmly, I couldn’t fully tell what he was thinking but I saw almost no signs of desire in his eyes as he looked at me. “It’s what a man who has the power to do should be doing.”
He let go of his blade and I marveled as it vanished into thin air like floating specks of red light scattering and fading away. He was a magic user too? It was very strange and fortunate that two traveling wizards had arrived in this village today.
My friend moved in and pulled herself close to Herr Harmon, guiding his freed hand to clutch close to her bosom, I blushed trying not to look at how bold she was being right now when I saw Mama signaling me to follow suit. I shifted and similarly wrapped his arm around me. Desperately trying not to blush deep red while the village elder motioned for us to head into the center of town.
This calling for a small festival after the rest of the village cleaned up. I only managed to catch sight of Herr Blue a couple of times during the rest of the afternoon and the evening. He seemed to be keeping his distance from Herr Harmon, which unfortunately included me. I was coerced into attending him the entire night for the fact he had saved my life and could claim anything he wished from me if he desired.
Though he was more handsome and seemingly as well off as Herr Blue, I didn’t feel the same attraction to him. I served dutifully as a Maiden indebted to his heroism, my pride as a daughter of this village would demand nothing less. Though I only did the least necessary to keep the village happy. For his part, Herr Harmon seemed to be just as uninterested, though he guessed what was going on as my friend competed with me for his favor.
As we kept him company I caught sight of Herr Blue’s familiar returning to town, I hadn’t even realized until now that it had been missing most of the afternoon. As I fetched Herr Harmon another beer I tried to listen in but again they chattered in some strange language. He looked so alone amongst the partying people.
I wished I could go over and keep him company but until Herr Harmon relinquished his hold of my attention, which he wouldn’t until the village elder seemed satisfied with my treatment to him, there wasn’t much way. I moved back toward the Hero’s table, catching sight of the bird leaving Herr Blue and heading toward Harmon. What is this?
Moving back to the table with Herr Harmon’s beer, I stood in amazement as the two carried on a conversation in the same language. Was this some special language among wizards? To be talking this language so casually, yet I felt as if they were trying to hide something from the rest of us. Herr Harmon narrowed his eyes occasionally as they spoke, his voice sounding angry at points while I could only stand there and listen in fascination. What’s more, it almost felt as though Herr Blue’s bird was acting like a superior than just a wizard familiar.
Eventually, it appeared both were satisfied with their private conversation and the bird flew off someplace unknown. Herr Harmon looking tired afterward and turning to me with a soft smile as he slowly stood up from the bench and table we had been using to entertain him.
“It’s been a long day, is there a place I could sleep for the night I would be quite happy to rest.”
My friend immediately thrust in the offer of her own bed, and her company. I turned in mild shock and embarrassment to look at her. So bold! Are you really looking to become a hero’s bride or mistress? I knew I should perhaps offer the same, but her bold move made me forget and hold back, half hoping he would take it.
He chuckled and shook his head slightly. “I have to decline. As interesting as the offer may be I have someone else promised to me.” My friend and I exchanged glances before looking back to Herr Harmon. This comment was many things, a relief to me, a surprise to us both and a great disappointment to my friend. She stumbled over herself trying to make a comment that she was fine with being a second wife, or concubine or even a mistress, her voice getting smaller with each word I do not know if he heard her completely.
Still it wouldn’t do for the hero to sleep in a barn or someplace outside, I offered my own bed and said I would sleep on the floor, which he declined until I offered to instead stay at my friends’ cottage, He finally acquiesced to this offer when I pleaded with him to save the honor of my village and myself.
I later found out that Her Blue had also been similarly treated to a bed without additional company to my own quiet relief. But after that first day since they had arrived I saw very little of the two. Every morning the pair and Herr Blue’s familiar went to the south toward the demon forest and returned in the evening only to eat and retire to beds that they had requested outside despite the Elder’s attempts to hope for mixing their blood into our village.
No one truly knew what they were doing out there, though I suspected from how ragged Her Blue looked upon returning most days they were subjugating the demons together. On the other hand, Herr Harmon never seemed to be as exhausted or beat up and often retreated to the edges of town to practice with his sword before going to sleep. Was he some Hero called to deal with the Demon Lords of the other kingdoms? I’ve not heard of anyone with such abilities outside of those legends.
It had been nearly a fortnight since that day of the demon attacks when riders from the west attacked the village Throwing exploding bottles of fire onto the roofs of the cottages, sending the people fleeing in panic. I watched in horror as they began cutting down every adult they came across, laughing as my village was brought down into chaos and flames.
Mama screamed at me to flee, her voice cut short as a rider slashed her down with his blade. I tried to run in vain as one of the riders caught up and knocked me to the ground. Falling I tried to scramble away from getting trampled, the rider dismounting and pinning me down. I screamed and struggled as he lashed my arms behind my back before tying my legs together.
Trapped I could only watch the horror continue as they slaughtered everyone but the children and those of us girls who had just reached adulthood and unwed. Whom like me they tied up and began to gather us all in a pile atop me, taking only enough care to make sure they didn’t break bones. Leaving us all a sobbing and crying mess of bodies. Where was Herr Blue and Harmon? Why was this happening to us?
I had gone into shock, unable to do anything else but try to plea with our captors. Begging for them to just take anything else but leave us, screaming to be let go, screaming for help though there was no one left alive or free to do anything. Hoping this was a nightmare or that the heroes would come in and save us all before we were all lost to whatever designs they had for us.
Then that awful noise came, amongst the fire and screams of the other children, the rattling of a wagon. A wagon designed as a cage filled with chains and bindings to contain one thing. Slaves! At the bottom of the pile, I could only watch helplessly as the raiders worked quickly, taking each of us in turn and stripping off all clothes before locking a collar and chain around each child’s neck. I begged and pleaded though they said nothing to us, only talking amongst themselves, occasionally they said a price or estimate of how many coins they could get for each of us.
I could offer nothing but pleading sobs when my turn came, whimpering as the steel locked around my neck and similarly placed into the wagon with the others. Everyone trying to huddle together in fear I joined them and looked fearfully at our captors while they locked the cage door and started to depart as quickly as possible, stealing us away from our hopes and freedoms. In a short manner of twenty minutes, our village had been destroyed and ruined forever.
I prayed that Herr Blue and Harmon would come for us. Hoping they would notice the smoke from the village and give chase. I clung desperately to that idea, to that one piece of hope any of us had to be saved from slavery and whatever fates these men would put us through. Hours passed and still no sign of pursuit, still, I clung onto hope. Perhaps they were trying to deal with the bodies of our families. They were good men, and if the villagers weren’t buried soon they could become possessed by demons or spirits. That was the delay, surely!
As night fell the riders made camp and began to examine those of us who were near to age or just reached the age of adulthood. I flinched and struggled as their gross hands fondled and touched my body, growing fearful that this would be how I would lose as I wept and pleaded them not to touch me. I felt relief that I was spared any more after they had found I was still a maiden, put back into the cage since my purity would make me far more valuable to them over pleasing any of their night desires later on.
A few of the other girls were not so lucky, I held the other children and tried to comfort them as I ignored the sounds and cries of my friends pleading for mercy. I was running out of tears and feeling guilty over being grateful that it was not me in that situation, I’m a horrible person. ease Heroes! Come save us from this hell!
The next day came and went, and then another and another. No sign of anyone coming for us, and only signs that we were moving toward our final destination as the men became more eager to push down the road. I overheard one say it was only a few days before we reached the royal capital. We would be taken to the slave market and sold at auction.
What was taking the heroes so long? Surely those two hadn’t died in the forest the same day we lost everything? But then why had they not come for us? Did they start pursuit in the wrong direction? I couldn’t fathom any other reasons they did not come to our aid. My hope was withering piece by piece in my heart. Everyone else had stopped crying and the air filled with gloom of despair that grew heavier with every passing hour. When we reached the walls of the capitol even I had given into it finally. Unable to continue with believing in salvation from this nightmare that was becoming my new life.
Once we were brought to the market, it became the last I saw of anyone else from my village. I was sold to a slaver with “specialized clientele” as I had managed to overhear. What that meant I feared too greatly to guess. I had lost any will to fight or disobey, despair too heavy in my mind, following obediently as he led me by the chain on my collar.
I do not remember where he led me, only that I followed not paying attention to anything but eh weight of the collar and chain. It was only as we arrived at the servant entrance of a large manor that I realized I had been taken to the noble part of the city. I could feel my body trembling, even in far off villages there were stories of why nobles bought pretty slave girls when they could afford many wives. mistresses and servants to care for their needs.
We were brought inside and led down into the basement, my body trembling even more as I began to imagine my fate. If I survived I would be broken beyond repair and discarded to die in the streets or forced to use what as left of my body to continue living, if I died it would be the greater mercy after being a toy for this person’s games if that was my fate.
The room we were led into was warm and quiet despite being underground it felt appealing in some small way. I felt confused as I tried to cover my modesty for the first time in days. ONly a few moments of waiting before a man walked in, his clothes defined him as the Master of this house, he looked at me with an appraising eye, as though I was nothing more than furniture or a piece of clothing.
“The Count trusted me with the task of finding a girl like this. She is fresh and untouched, pretty and I think easily molded to the Count’s tastes.”
I tried to avoid looking at the man as he walked around me. This Count was not touching me but I could feel his eyes all over my body, though he didn’t appear to desire me, I trembled feeling something in his gaze that was frightening.
“Yes… She is worth buying to start training. If she fails we have plenty of time to train another still before that damned fallen lord makes his way here. She’ll be useful in stopping the Hero I believe.”
I looked up reflexively and caught my eyes with his, staring into black abysses that held things that made me shiver involuntarily and clutch my hands tighter to myself. Why were his eyes blacker than true black? He smiled at me and reached to tug on the chain attached to my collar.
“I think you will do very nicely. Don’t you agree, my new hero killer?”