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Jelena heard the footfall first and assumed it was Elder Dalton or one of her friends. When she turned, blood ran from her face and her whole body shook. There, standing beneath a massive oak tree was Bard Griffen. He carried a huge machete that he held up like a fork.
"Hello, My Sweet," he said. "It's taken a while but I have found my betrothed at last. It was naughty of you to leave before the ceremony."
She turned to see a red headed and bearded warrior step out of the trees a dozen strides ahead. With panic gripping her body she swung around. The bard now blocked the track behind.
He grinned. "It is useless to run. Why don't you accept your destiny? You are about to become my senior wife and by your twentieth birthday would have bore two children for me, hopefully boys."
He stepped forward.
Her lip dropped and chin shook. She was not Druid's Daughter Jelena or Soothsayer Jelena, the leader and advisor who helped villagers but that timid fourteen-year-old back in Darbarri. That was when the bard had originally attacked and molested her. At the time, only the arrival of a work squad in that remote shed at the far side of the village fields had prevented him from violating her body. She had told nobody, not even Adenydd or Olwina, her best friend even back then, about the episode but avoided ever going back to the shed or anywhere near the man over the next four years.
She snapped! Screaming, she tore downhill through the trees and into swampy rushes near the stream. She almost reached the lower weir where the village women would be still washing their clothes. A hand grabbed her by the wrist, she was swung around, and crying, kicking and punching out with her clench fists she was held. The glimpse of grinning eyes behind a shaggy red beard caught her vision as she struggled. There was a distinct crack and pain above her right ear. Everything around spun around and she collapsed to the ground.
How much later she didn't know but she had the sensation of being carried over a man's shoulder. She could see the ground and grass but little else until she saw stood two massive brown oxen hitched to a four-wheeled wagon, one of those with a box-like back used in harvesting.
"No!" she screamed as she was lifted like a rag doll as the man climbed a small ladder and pushed through a skylight door in the wagon's roof. She dropped, landed on her hands and knees, just as the door was slammed shut.
But she was not alone. Warm arms hugged her and held on tightly. Hands stroked her hair and eyes met hers. The trouble was they were filled with tears and looked as a scared as she felt.
It was Olwina, her dearest friend Olwina!
"Where are we?" Jelena sobbed.