Vivian sat beneath the tree with the others. Her wrists were bound, a gag in her mouth. The skin on her lips was dry and cracked, her hands and wrists raw and chafed from the ropes that rubbed against her skin. Their kidnappers hadn’t bothered to tie her feet – why would they? Where was she going to run to, here in a different world where she knew no one and the forest around seemed to be watching their every move? The others were in a similar position, and none of them had tried to flee. They couldn’t talk to each other, couldn’t do anything but sit together and try to give each other a little warmth and comfort.
It had been a week. Nobody had come for them. She was beginning to lose hope.
She remembered being at home. It had seemed like a perfectly normal day. She’d been to work, she’d come home and was just about to start preparing dinner for when Cal came around, when suddenly there had been arms around her waist and a hand covering her mouth. It hadn’t been the arms she was expecting, and she’d struggled in panic and fear, swinging around to try and push whoever had broken into her home away. Then everything had gone black, and she had awoken here.
The creature that had taken them seemed to have little interest in its captives, save the little white Crinos child that would occasionally be taken away for an hour or so and then returned to them. It seemed to be expecting something to happen, and evidently the child was unable or unwilling. There had been another woman with them for a while too, but after a few days she had been taken away and not come back. Now it was just her, one of the newer kinfolk, the little Crinos child and an older woman that she didn’t know.
She wasn’t sure if they had been taken for a purpose, if they were meant as a lure or perhaps as a means of keeping their loved ones away so that the creature could do whatever it was doing in peace. Perhaps it was going to kill them, to do something to the great gates that stood in the middle of the clearing. They had been told nothing. They were guarded, fed occasionally and allowed into the woods to go to the bathroom. But beyond that, they were mostly just left to sit and shiver in the clearing, their clothes getting progressively filthier and the ropes chafing at their wrists. She had lost track of time quickly – the days seemed to pass oddly here, and her watch was running at a fraction of the speed that it should. What was going to happen?
Vivian was afraid. She had always known that there was a possibility something like this would happen to her. But somehow it never had, somehow she had been lucky. Even with everything that seemed to happen to Cal’s pack, she had never been targeted – or he had done such a good job of protecting her that nothing had ever come close. But this time something had happened, and she was so very, very afraid.
She still believed he would come for her. Even as the days went by, and there was no sign of anything other than smoke on the distant horizon, she kept on desperately hoping. She had to believe that he was alive, that they all were. She had to believe that even if the creature that filled her dreams with horror as it pawed into her mind – so much more interested in them all asleep – even if it had told him not to come for her… he would do it anyway. They all would. They’d find a way to stop this thing, to take her home where it was safe and he could hold her and she’d never have to worry again.
Still, the hope was wearing thin. Another night arrived, and she didn’t know what to do. The little Crinos gave a soft whimper as the creature came and dragged it away from them again, eyes huge and afraid. The remaining three of them huddled together for warmth, watching the guards.
And then she heard his voice, and her heart sang.