the mist started to lift as she ran through the forest, her breath heavy, her steps light. she kept glancing back, certain she was being followed. she didn’t think she would ever escape them but once she saw her chance, she knew she had to take it. there was no way they weren’t following her. she knew she’d be sold to the highest bidder and was sure to go for a high price, a prize for being a newly acquired slave, fresh and unbroken.

her bare feet crunched against twigs and gravel, digging into the bottom of her delicate feet, but she had no time for the pain. she needed to escape. she knew what they did to newly acquired slaves. she heard whispers before she was captured warning her to stay away, to not become one of the chosen. 

she had been careless that day, lost in thought, when one of them snuck up on her, wrapping a thick leather strap around her, pinning her, before she had a chance to struggle. they threw a hood over her head, blocking everything out, muffling her cries, before tossing her over their shoulder like a sack of potatoes, effortless and efficient. she tried struggling, wiggling her away free, but the grasp was tight and there was no way for her to escape.

they had tossed her into a dim room, leaving the hood on at first but then lifting it off her. the man in front of her was broad and mean-looking despite the elaborate mask he wore to cover any distinguishing features. the trick to this clan was that they kept their identity secret, making it even more challenging not to be caught by them.

he said nothing to her. he nodded to a bowl of something brown in the corner alongside a pitcher of water. there was nothing else in the small room, not even a chair or a table. nothing of comfort. no windows. only a single bulb hanging from the center of the ceiling, giving off an eerie glow.

she had no idea how long she had stayed in that room, her nerves exploding within her, making her incapable of doing anything. she knew banging on the thick wood door would do no good. she had no doubt there would be a guard on the other side. she was trapped. she had nothing to do but overthink and worry, wondering what they would do to her.

she quickly lost track of time. with no window, she didn’t know day from night. she slept when she could in fits on the hard cement floor. it didn’t take long before she started to go a little out of her head, almost no longer caring what happened to her. she felt delirious from lack of sleep. 

they kept her fed by pushing bowls of gruel through a small door at the bottom of the wooden door along with enough water to keep her alive. she knew they didn’t want her to perish. they wanted to make money off her, to sell her, to profit from her demise.