One afternoon like any other, the twin brothers left their small cabin deep in the great Iark forest. Unlike the other inhabitants of those lands, they were far away, living alone, without belonging to any village. Since their mother had died ten years ago after getting sick from eating poisonous mushrooms, they had lived like this; apart, in the shadows, taking care of each other.
However, they maintained a very good relationship with their neighbors. And that afternoon, they had left to go to the village of Wahan in search of a brief visit to their friends in that place, as were Dalsae, Mungtae and little Doti.
They had months without going. Probably a year. None knew the exact time, since they paid no attention to the passing of days.
They were walking through the trees, with the sky turning orange. Saya was following his brother, Eunseom, who stopped suddenly, causing him to collide with his back.
ーWhy do you stop? ーSaya asked, pushing him gently to continue walkingー. We must hurry if we want to return before nightfall.
Eunseom put his left hand to the side of his head, scratching the area a bit. He turned to his brother in a quick movement, smiling innocently.
ーI think this isn't the way ーhe murmured, feeling guilty about Saya's look of irritation.
ーYou said you remembered the way! ーhe exclaimed, raising both arms in protest.
ーI said I thought I remembered the way. I never said I remembered it one hundred percent ーEunseom clarified, receiving in response a blow to the shoulder from his brother.
Saya cursed him between his teeth and looked around. The place didn't seem familiar.
Great, he thought. We are lost.
He turned around, intending to return from where they had come, but didn't remember exactly what path they had taken.
Eunseom, behind him, inhaled deeply, angry at himself for leading them the wrong way. Now, they were lost in the middle of the forest, and it was beginning to get dark.
Tanya was carried by the person holding the rope tied to her hands. There was no point fighting; everyone was much stronger than her.
Since she had been captured, she had become weak. Before, she could kill a wild boar with just a rope and some stones. But now, after almost two years in Doldambool being a slave in the mines, she could barely stand up.
The young woman narrowed her eyes when it surfaced. It had been months since the last time they pulled her out of that hole, and the sunlight had blinded her for a moment.
When her field of vision finally cleared, she could see dozens of women circling, tied like her. It was strange to see so many being taken from their respective mines.
Maybe it's because of a plague, she thought. Or...
The simple idea was disgusting. If that was what awaited her, she preferred death. She wasn't going to be anyone's prostitute.
The man who held her pulled the rope, forcing her to walk. Tanya's knees shook and she would have fallen if it had not been for the strong grip of the rope.
Tanya noticed that all those women were being taken in the same direction as her, which only confirmed her suspicions.
The man stopped, and so did she. In front of them were several men, dressed as soldiers and carrying various weapons, such as swords and axes. Tanya was disgusted to look at them, but there was one, behind all of them, that caught her attention. He had long black hair. Tanya could see that, unlike the others, he wore chains; an unusual weapon. And he had a black mask covering half of his face.
Tanya forced her eyes, trying to see more, but a blow to the lower part of her back made her knees tremble again and fall to the ground.
ーHere are all ーsaid one of the men behind herー. Choose the ones you want.
Taealha leaned against her bedroom window, facing the buildings in front of her. In the market, there were several children running freely, laughing out loud.
She felt envious of them.
Unlike those children, she never felt free. Her father, Mihol, had handed her over to Tagon twenty years ago to pay off her family's debt, and although she was not a slave, she felt like a prisoner.
She was allowed to go for a walk, but only if she was accompanied by the king's soldiers. She could give orders to the citizens, as if she were their queen, but only if she consulted those orders with Tagon before. They let her dress, eat and do what she wanted, as long as they were aware.
But it wasn't going to be that way for a long time. Taealha was sure of that.
She was about to achieve her goal. She had the king practically eating from the palm of her hand. She just had to wait for the ideal moment to attack.
And that moment would come soon.