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Miasma

Chapter Text

               You were captured on the morning of the previous day. It is autumn, the leaves of the trees would fall of its branches to the slightest breeze, tainted with fiery colors, and ended up under your swift feet as you ran through the woods escaping from the guards. Your mistake was to assume that the Sheriff’s men were too busy being made fools of by Robin Hood and his gang or away, accompanying the Vasey to wherever he had set off, to be patrolling the city of Nottingham, guarding it from outlaws like you. So there you were. It happened that the word on the streets was that the Sheriff has just returned, but you decided to take your chances instead of going home empty-handed.

               Early in the morning of the previous day, you already felt that that was not going to be your lucky day. You had woken up with a strong headache, had fallen down a deep hole in the middle of some bushes in the woods – it took a long time for you to crawls your way out of there – and, as you were entering the city and thought to be safe and sound from the horrors that lingered outside the big stone walls, you stepped on horse shit. As if that wasn’t enough to send you back to the safety of your house, you had decided to stay and try to pick some pockets even after learning that the city was heavily guarded once again as the Sheriff has returned.

               Being a petty thief since you were just a child, you knew Nottingham like the palm of your hand. You knew every little dark corner where ill-intended shadows gathered to speak unholy words, every tavern where rich and somewhat important people would get in trouble because they couldn’t find the coin to pay for the fancy wines they had swallowed down as you had emptied their pockets while they were telling big stories to no one in particular, stories as big as the mugs they drank. Talking about stories, you have heard some that you wouldn’t be able to imagine otherwise. Many of those stories were terrifying, mothers that swore their babies had turned into monsters forsaken by God and people who were abducted for a night by red-eyes demons. But what you had actually learnt was that the true terrors resided inside people’s heart and there only. No babies were turned into scary creatures that ran off into the woods, but had disappeared because they had been ‘taken care of’ by mothers who couldn’t feed another mouth. Red-eyes demons were not the ones who had abducted a family man for one night, but demons of another order, creatures of lust that had been enthusiastically embraced by men who needed a night away from home, tangled in the arms of a lover. You had tried to ignore all that, but you knew that information was power and that you couldn’t afford the luxury of making your ears deaf and your eyes blind when everything you had were your ears and eyes to bargain your way through life. And, of course, your hands. Your hands could steal the King’s ring from his finger while you pretended to bow down to kiss it. But not on that morning.

               On the morning of the previous day, the guards were just around the corner when a noble woman cried for help as you were trying to steal her shinny golden necklace in the middle of the city’s market. You had hoped you could disappear between the loud merchants and the dirty beggars, there was not better place to hide than out in the open. As they were still behind you, you ran as fast as you could, storming out the city’s main gate towards the woods that seemed to be on fire from a distance, the landscape painted in yellow and orange by the will of the season and shinning bright from the relentless and yet cold Sun. There were four man behind you, and usually the guards wouldn’t make such an effort to pursue a small thief, but sometimes the illusion of power made people want blood, and, in that, even the soldiers from the lowest ranks could be worse than the Sheriff.

               When the men were a bit far behind, you hopped into a tree, hiding your figure in between the leaves, and you waited. But that was not your lucky day. The branch snapped in two right below you and you ended up hitting the ground just at the guard’s feet. You were in so much pain that you couldn’t even raise your hands in surrender, the men seemed to take pleasure in seeing you groaning on the dirt, so they didn’t rush you up.

“By God Almighty, lads, looks like we have ourselves a gift” one of them said while another one was laughing out loud. Even if you felt that you had been stabbed – and you know, for a fact, how it feels like – and couldn’t breathe from falling on your back, you tried to kick the guard that was closest to you. Even if you had nothing, you had defiance. The man easily dodged from your foot and that’s the last thing you remember since you were then knocked cold.