By Hope Mackinnon
The Luck of Strangers
Ilaria was only a young age of ten when her world was flipped upside down. All she ever knew vanished in one sentence spoken by the king of Kirsi. It only took one sentence to ruin her life, tear her from her family and throw her into hiding. It took two days before hunters surfaced in Kirsi. Only a week it took her to appear on the wanted list of kingdoms everywhere.
Laws were claimed to be enforced for hunting avians and mythical beings akin, a boundary they couldn’t quite pass. Ilaria wasn’t dumb, the laws were all littered with lies- the king didn’t care. The laws did nothing to protect her people, they were just words spoken by a king- there was no underline of truth when they were enforced on hunters. With the avians such rare beings, the laws were constantly ignored. Greedy hunters stalked from the murky shadows and took away more than what the law had imposed.
The fiery feeling of the crisp night air nipped at her pasty white cheeks, engulfing her with a sickening queasy feeling. Ilaria was hunched over, wings swept around her malnourished body. The luscious pure white feathers twitched, shimmering under the luminous light cast upon her from the vibrant moon.
She was on her knees, gravel and pebbles poking at her bare shins. She was quivering, sitting in a heap on the floor in her own crimson blood. Her long white locks were framing her face, sticking to her bloodied neck. Injected in her nape was a round pearl-like ball. The ball was there to make her immobile. The pearl pulsed electric shocks through her body to keep her still. A hunter had a hold of her, just stalking behind her; examining her colossal wings with a grim smirk.
“I got you now.” The mans’ tone was surly but tight as a plucked wire. The long-haired man was bustling with triumph. In his hands was a long chain that rattled with his movements, eyes wickedly pinned on the helpless girl.
“Please. Don’t h-hurt me.” Ilarias’ voice was thick and raw, an explosion of words falling from her choppy lips.
The stranger gave an expected click of his tongue, face shadowed from his black locks. He gave a giddy bounce in front of the motionless lass, lips firm upwards into a mocking smile “Now that would be no fun, wouldn’t it?”
The crimson-eyed male was bemused, all happy that her voice was quivering with fear, confusion, and that helpless raw undertone. He crouched down to her, smiling largely at the look of her bloodied complexion.
“You put me through a lot to catch you.” He drew out his words, tapping at his scruffy chin. He trotted around her, chain grasped tightly in his calloused gloved hands. With a swish the chain was brought down on her wings. It produced a shrill cry of pain from the avian.
The blow threw her against the earth, her face grinding against multiple pebbles and twigs that littered the ground. Still motionless and unable to interact, she pitifully lay, crying from the immense pain that wrapped her body tightly. The man was sick, enjoying every little cry that came from the young lady. He smirked to himself, tangling the rusted metal bounding around her large wings, steadying it to keep the powerful accessory useless.
The hunter balled his hands in her hair, ripping her from the ground and into the air. She could barely yelp, throat too parched and dry for her to even mumble “please”. It felt like fire was ripping through her wings as the chains were tightened, cutting off the blood circulation and ripping off some of her long feathers.
The man purposely held a hand to the access chain, gripping it tightly and tearing through the rough flesh of the wings with each tug. Fresh pain grew in her wings and she erupted into a pain-stricken scream. Her loud wailing bounced through the needled pine trees, echoing through the large forested area. “Shut up, will ya?” it was more of a fierce warning, lips curled. The pearl that dug deep within her neck forced her to stay motionless, helpless in his grasp.
Ilaria was dead, she was totally dead. Her pale cheeks were dappled and painted over with a silvery liquid, dripping down her chin and onto the ground. The hauling continued, nearly making her scalp bleed from his vicious handling. As the man approached his snow-white horse a crackle of a branch stopped him in his tracks.
“Who goes there?”
Nothing answered, only the shrill breeze swept through the mans’ unruly locks. The thin air sent tiny shivers crawling up his spine, like claws, digging and scratching at the soft flesh of his back. The silence made him wary, his hands growing clammy as he held onto the metal chains.
The man spun on his heel as another snapping of a branch erupted elsewhere in the dense forest. On the wind, Ilaria could smell the presence of a mythical being – good or not – she didn’t have a clue. Her hopeful thoughts quickly faded as she was shoved to the ground, right beside the bustling horse. The large beauty kicked up its legs in alarm, huffing and making a fuss over the intruder lurking in the wooden territory.
The round bead shoveled into her neck only pained worse now, the shocks it drove into her body were more defined and her body rocked and twitched. The hunter was out of her view now but she distinctly heard the unsheathing of a weapon. Her shoulders hung weakly as her body vibrated with little spasms.
It was like one of those electric prods was being dug into her neck, immobilizing her and extending heavy paths of pain through her body. She remembered one day getting whacked in the leg with one of those batons, she still had an ugly scar to remind her everyday.
The thud was a clear ring to her ears as she lay on the ground. Her lilac eyes began to enlarge as heavy-set steps began approaching her. The horse had scurried off at this point, just missing her with its hoof at a close inch.
She was taken aback as the grip on her arm was chaste and gentle, being ever so careful as she was turned onto her side. Instead of being faced by the crimson-haired hunter, welcoming blond hair was presented in her face. The face was narrow, nose splotched with tiny specks of freckles- the eyes that belonged to this being were glimmering with concern. The optics were no longer merciless or cold.
His eyes were a moss green, enticing her with the colours’ unforgettable light. The man had unruly horns peeking from his blond hair, the skin covering the horns was black- a mild black compared to the dark night sky.
The boy drew away from the girl, still holding her from the muddy earth. His voice echoed as he spoke up, voice delivered in a calm and unhurried tone. “She has a Murkrey lodged in her neck.” It didn’t take her long to notice the smudged shadows lumbering behind the blond male- most of them adorned with large horns, others having pointed ears.
As she was swept from the young blond, two arms supported her off of the ground. The pain slowly faded in her wings. The familiar sound of rattling chains, a taunting music to her ears, was present only a second longer before she gained feeling to her wings once again. Her wings gave a powerful bat, searing pain still noticeable among her feathers.
She could feel the quizzical glances laced with sympathy beginning to approach her. Strangers appeared out of nowhere and she was confused, puzzled that they jumped to her aid.
Her eyes swept the earth, still dotted with blurry specks from her crying. Her eyes found a figure that lay limp among the dirt- hair crimson and bright. The hunter. His limbs were awkwardly sprawled, bone popping out of the soft flesh of his neck. The image made her stomach bubble with disgust. Vomit was present in her throat, Ilaria had to force herself to hold it back.
She finally got a good look at her saviors, although her vision remained unfocussed and drowsy. A blue female was standing in front, twirling a knife between her slender and bruised fingers. She had emerald eyes that seemed to scream independence and justice, even her smile brought a little flare of a regal feel. Next to the blue lady was a short boy with pointed ears, he held a wary frown; fingers picking at the leather of his belt.
A taller figure, more broad than most of them had magnificent grey horns sprouting from his head – his skin was a darker shade, splotched with flecks of blood. The male looked unwelcoming, a chilly gaze averted into the depths of the forest. The two people holding her up by her arms appeared to both have horns, one even had the looks of a succubus, though Ilaria was unsure, the people who helped her stand were masked by long hair.
The last person she saw was the blond male, who scurried off to the side of the green-coloured girl. It was the boy earlier, the green-eyed one. Ilaria shot an uneasy glance his way as he strode forwards, hands clasped together.
The blond spoke up, confident as he introduced himself; porting a sure smile. “My name is Saorsa. You are safe now. I promise.”