So it’s been a while. A long while. I apologize for disappearing for over a month, but school started back up and I’ve been busy crying over my APUSH homework. Don’t judge me. I didn’t actually want to write a blog post, so I decided I’d post the second chapter of my WIP, Turncoats. If you’d like to read more of it, you can check it out here- Turncoats on Quotev or here Turncoats on Wattpad
Hadiya let the quilt drop as soon as Benjamin had disappeared into the forest. He was limping but he made good time, and if Hadiya managed to distract the men long enough, then there was a chance he could escape.
Four loud knocks echoed through the cabin. Hadiya slowly turned around. Another four knocks thudded against the sturdy oak door that her father had made. Part of her regretted dragging Benjamin into her cabin last night, but how was she to know that the handsome, gravely injured stranger at her door would turn out to be a prominent member of the rebel army?
“Open up!” one of the men yelled through a thick accent. Hadiya recognized it to be an Ephrean accent, one much harsher than her own.
The men knocked again. Hadiya took a step towards the door. There wasn’t much that frightened her anymore, but the thought of having to deal with Ephrean men, known for their uncouth manners and cruelty, made her squirm. She knew that these men had no respect for women and even less respect for ones of Jephran descent.
“Open the door!”
Hadiya grabbed the rifle from its place against the wall, took a deep breath, and opened the door. Five men covered in grime stood in front of her, each one with their pistols aimed. Hadiya opened her mouth to say something, but before she could, her rifle was wrenched out of her hands and thrown to another man. The mercenaries pushed past her into the cabin.
Hadiya glanced over her shoulder and froze. Benjamin had left his bloody coat on the bed. She moved her gaze to the men who were examining the quilt on the wall. They hadn’t yet noticed the coat. Hadiya thought for a moment. She needed a way to distract the men. She couldn’t send them into the forest with Benjamin still limping. She would need to keep the men in her cabin.
Hadiya approached the nearest man and swallowed before opening her mouth to speak, not in the language of Olsany, which the men were clearly familiar with, but in Jephran. Hadiya hadn’t realized what she was doing until after she starting speaking. The men turned around to look at her.
She knew that she couldn’t stop speaking. Slowly, Hadiya began to string phrases together. The man she was talking to stared at her. It was working. Soon enough, the man in front of her motioned for the other men. Within a second, all five men surrounded Hadiya, who was doing her best to keep speaking without looking afraid.
As she talked, Hadiya realized how much she had forgotten of her native language. She slurred her words together, trying her best to recall how to say the simplest of sentences. Ten years away from Jephra had taken its toll. For a moment, she was not longer afraid of the men in front of her, but she was afraid that she didn’t know how to speak her own language. Stammering, she began to repeat herself and prayed that the men didn’t notice.
Looking at the confused faces of the men surrounding her, Hadiya could tell that they didn’t understand her. One of the men whispered to another. Hadiya stopped for a second. What were the men saying? She knew it was a risk to speak in Jephran, especially with the Queen’s men being notorious for mistreating those from the southern regions of Iltany, but she also knew that it might be her only chance to distract them.
The mercenaries stopped whispering to each other. Hadiya slowly trailed off as she noticed the five men staring at her. One of the men unleashed a coil of rope from his belt. Hadiya’s heart began to pound. What were they going to do? She backed away slowly from the men, but in a few long strides, they men had already caught up to her. One of the men reached for her wrist. Hadiya quickly yanked it away, but it was caught by the man on the other side of her. She struggled against the man’s firm grasp, but could not free herself. Another man grabbed her other wrist and forced them together.
Hadiya jerked wildly, trying to make the man lose his grip. A string of Jephran curse words, mixed with a prayer to the gods of the desert, tumbled out of her mouth. The man holding the rope had already advanced towards her and began to wind the rope around her wrists. It dug into Hadiya skin as the man pulled the knot tight, and then cut the remaining rope with his knife. He circled Hadiya until he could look her straight in the eyes. She stopped tugging, waiting for the man in front of her to do something. She could feel her hands trembling in the grasp of the man behind her. The man with the rope took a step forward, raised his hand, and brought it down hard on Hadiya’s cheek, sending her flying to the ground, and slammed her against the bed frame. She stifled a cry as the pain stung her face, but quickly blinked back tears. She couldn’t give these men the satisfaction of knowing they had hurt her. She rolled over into a sitting position, ignoring her aching back, and stared at the man who had hit her. He stared back without any remorse in his glare.
The man lowered himself to the ground, and without another word, he grabbed Hadiya’s ankles, forced them together, and wrapped the rope around them tightly. He tied a knot before pushing himself off the ground, and back into a standing position. Hadiya glanced at the five were who were now looking down at her. The only other time she felt so helpless and scared was the last time the queen’s men had arrived at her door.
The men had already turned away from her and went back to snooping around the cabin when Hadiya took a deep breath and uttered a single word. “Why?”
The man who had tied her up turned around and glared at her. “Jephrans don’t belong up north, even in Ashland. You should have stayed where you belonged.” The man turned back around and motioned for his men to follow him through the quilt and empty doorframe. Without a backward glance, they filed into the backyard, and into the surrounding forest.
After waiting a few seconds to ensure they had left, Hadiya stopped fighting the tears that had welled up in her eyes. Tears streamed down her face, as she tried to cry as silently as she could, but found that it was almost impossible to stop the sobs that were crawling up her throat. Her cheek still stung from where the man had hit her, but above all, she was terrified. Would the men come back? Then what would they do? How was she going to escape?
Glancing towards the window, Hadiya saw the thing that had gotten her tied up. Benjamin’s coat still hung on the bed frame, half covered with the quilt he had used. She rocked side to side as best she could and scooted across the wooden floor to get closer to it. Once within reach, she twisted around, and clumsily stretched for the coat, missing on her first attempt to grab it. The second time, she pulled it to the floor along with the quilt. She quickly shoved both behind her under the bed, hoping that the men wouldn’t notice the difference if they came back.
Hadiya looked towards the quilt covering the doorframe. She could not hear the men outside, which made her think that they had traveled farther into the surrounding forest. What if Benjamin hadn’t run fast enough? What if they had caught him? Would they kill him? Hadiya took a deep breath in a shallow attempt to calm her nerves. Benjamin was smart no doubt, and he knew how to hide. There was still a nagging voice in her head though that was saying that Benjamin had already been shot once. What was stopping him from getting shot twice?
Hadiya shook her head, trying to push the thought of Benjamin out of her mind. She needed to focus on freeing herself, and, even though it made her worry, Benjamin would have to fend for himself, gunshot wound and all. Hadiya did her best to feel around for something she could cut her bonds with, but the rope around her wrists prohibited from reaching very far.
She stopped for a moment. The only weapons that she kept in the house were the rifle that the Ephrean men had taken, and her father’s old knife, which she kept hidden in the trunk next to the fireplace, which was on the opposite side of the room. Neither were in reach currently, and neither would provide Hadiya with very much help, seeing as her father’s knife was made in the Jephran style, which featured a thick, elongated blade. It was used to cut roots from the ground, but it would be too cumbersome to use in close quarters. She would need to find something else that was smaller, and easier to hide if the Ephreans came back.
Hadiya looked around. The only near thing near her was the bed. She could try to find a rough edge of the bed frame to saw her bonds with. Hadiya quickly flipped around and began to run her bonds over the edge of the bed frame. She stopped a few seconds later and raised the ropes to her face, where she closely inspected them. They were no different than before.
There had to be something else she could use, but the only other thing she could reach was the bundle of blankets and Benjamin’s coat, which she had hidden under the bed. Benjamin’s coat! Hadiya laughed out loud at her own stupidity. When she had pulled Benjamin inside the night before, she had unhooked everything from his belt and had placed it in the pockets of his coat, save his compass and his the pistol. Hadiya fished around under the bed under her hands grazed the rough, woolly texture of his jacket. She pulled it out and shoved her hand into its deep pockets until her fingers wrapped around a cool surface. Hadiya carefully pulled it out, not wanting to cut herself, revealing a small pocket knife, engraved with Benjamin’s initials. In her head, she thanked the gods of her homeland, before she got to work, sawing through the bonds.
Hadiya had almost freed herself when shouts echoed through the small cabin. Quickly, she stuffed his coat back under the bed, and then slid the knife into one of the sleeves, hoping there it would not be too conspicuous. Seconds later, the men burst back into the cabin. The man who had tied her up strolled towards her with something in his hand. Hadiya squinted to make out what it was, but she could not see it clearly through the man’s fingers wrapped around it. The man must have noticed her confusion because moments later, he dropped it in her lap. Hadiya froze as it floated past her face. It was a bloody bandage, and there was no doubt that it belonged to Benjamin.
The man crouched down in front of her. “Where did this come from?”
Hadiya stared at the man. While speaking in Jephran once might have been a risk, it was now less of a danger than speaking in the language of Olsany, because the men would not be able to get an answer from her. Hadiya started to speak as quickly as possible in her native tongue. The man looked at her for a second before grabbing her face roughly. Hadiya winced as pain shot through her cheek.
“If you could understand what I was saying before, then I’m sure you can speak our language now too.”
Hadiya wrenched her jaw free and began yammering in Jephran again for lack of a better idea. The man couldn’t make her speak his language, and Hadiya was determined not to give in.
Without warning, the man raised his hand again, and slapped Hadiya once more, sending her back to the ground. Her face burned where the man’s hand had struck her, but instead of getting up, this time she stayed on the floor, bringing her feet to her chest, to protect from any other blows.
Hadiya heard the man rise beside her. His heavy footsteps creaked on the floor. She didn’t dare look at him this time. She clenched her eyes shut, afraid of what would happen if she opened them. All of the sudden, pain exploded in Hadiya’s side as the man’s boot collided with her stomach. Hadiya groaned and clenched at where the man at kicked her. Seconds later, the man struck another blow. Tears leaked out of Hadiya’s eyes. Embarrassed, she used the sleeve of her dress to wipe them away.
“Tell me where that came from,” the man barked. Hadiya just turned away from him and wrapped her arms around herself. “Was Benjamin Mathers here or not?”
Instead of answering, Hadiya just shook her head. She opened her eyes to a squint to see what the man was going to do next but was blinded as the man’s boot came crashing down on her face, landing with a sickening crack. Pain burst in her nose as she felt blood running down her chin. This time, Hadiya could not hide her tears.
She laid on the floor and cried, cradling herself. She eventually heard the heavy footsteps of the men leave the house after slamming the door shut behind them. Sobbing, Hadiya opened her eyes and recoiled at the sight of her bloodstained dress. With a grunt, she snapped the remains of the bonds on her hands, and reached for the covers underneath the bed, and gingerly placed them around her nose to stop the bleeding. The sweet taste of blood filled her mouth. Hadiya coughed, spitting it into the bed covers.
Hadiya sat there, holding the covers to her face, for a few minutes. The bleeding still hadn’t stopped. She glanced around the cabin. Would the men come back? What if someone else came looking for Benjamin? What would they do to her then? Although Hadiya didn’t want to, she knew she needed to leave.
With a deep breath, Hadiya balled up the blood-soaked covers and thrust them under the bed. In the scuffle, Benjamin’s knife had slid out from her sleeve and landed on the floor next to her. She grabbed it, noticing for the first time the gash it had given her on her arm, and sawed through the bonds around her feet. She yanked her ankles apart, breaking the ropes.
Ignoring the blood still running down her face, she pulled on Benjamin’s coat over her throbbing body, trying to avoid moving in order not to hurt her ribs, which ached terribly. She grabbed on to the bed frame and hoisted herself to her feet. After wiping the blood off her face with her sleeve, Hadiya, slowly and stiffly, made her way over to the trunk, which held her father’s knife. She lifted the lid and started to rummage through the trunk’s contents. Shifting aside old letters, baby clothes, and the matching boot to the one she had given Benjamin, she finally found what she was looking for. She pulled her father’s knife from the bottom of the trunk. It was a little dull, but Hadiya knew it was better than nothing. She bent over to pick up Benjamin’s bandage, which had been strewn across the room in the wake of the men leaving. She wrapped the blade of the knife in it as a makeshift sheath, before pocketing it in Benjamin’s coat.
Hadiya glanced around the cabin one last time. It had since gotten dark, and inside of her home was cast in dark shadows. The quilt flapped in the cool breeze, causing Hadiya to shiver. She looked out the window. It was dark, but she didn’t see the men. She turned her attention back to the quilt in front of her, and with a deep breath, she lifted the quilt and stepped outside, just as Benjamin had done only hours before.