NA: I realise the narrative voice changed, I didn't even realise it while writing until a page into the next chapter. Let me know which one you prefer, ok? :)
She wasn’t sure which way was out, and with her guide out of commission, she had to guess.
Before she went investigating though, she sidled up to the fire and reached her hand out, touching the flames. Her eyes closed as a shudder went through her at the pure energy flowing through her body.
Feeling invigorated, Helga stood and surveyed the mess she’d made. There was little she could do for the guards; all she could do was hope, for their sakes, that their friends found them before they were due to change shift, or they’d have bled dry by then.
Not your problem, she told herself sternly. They kept you in a dark dungeon, away from Finn.
She had to get out of there.
She jumped over the lying bodies quickly and followed down the corridor the woman had been heading for. The difference between the upper floors of the cave was clear straight away: there were torches along the walls here, something they hadn’t dared risk down by her cell.
The torches were welcome both as strength and as a way to help her see her way around. She could see now that the cave they’d been keeping her in had to be enormous; the corridor she was walking down had dozens of smaller, not so well illuminated, corridors branching off from it. She kept to the main passage, looking into every turn-off she came by.
Most of them were dark, with a torch flickering dimly in the distance. The last opening was directly ahead of her, and Helga paused, listening for any footsteps or voices.
When she heard none, she crept forward, one knife in each hand and an extra one at her belt, the gun tucked in the waistband of her jeans at her back.
The corridor opened up into a huge underground room, with a domed ceiling. The ceiling had a circular hole in the middle that let in a ray of moonlight; all around the room, there were openings to corridors similar to the one she had come from.
“Shit,” she whispered to herself. “It’s going to take me all damn night to find the way out.”
Just as the words left her mouth in an incredible whisper, she heard shuffling coming from her left and turned, one knife ready to fly at whoever it was. She peered into the darkness of the passage, creeping closer. Just as she was about to attribute it to her jumpy nerves, something moved in the shadows, and she raised her knife again. Luckily, she didn’t let it fly.
“What the hell are you doing here?” she whisper-yelled when she the dark form stepped out of the cover of darkness of the corridor and into the moonlight.
Thor, he brother’s best friend and her own best friend’s little brother, looked sheepish. “Saving you, of course.”
She winced at his normal tone of voice. “Keep your voice down, you lunatic! And what do you mean, you’re saving me? Who said I needed to be saved?”
He shrugged, but when he answered, he was whispering too. “Finn stopped by. Freyja got worried - you know how she is.”
“So she sent you?”
He looked away. “Not exactly.”
She snorted. “Unbelievable. She’s going to murder you.”
“Not if you ask her not to.”
“And why would I do that?” she asked, marching down the corridor he’d come from. If he’d come to get her, this must be the way out. “You deserve it, for doing such a stupid thing. You know I can take care of myself.”
“No buts, Thor! By Freyja, you could have been killed! Just because you’re named after a god doesn’t make you one!”
He trailed behind her silently, but she noticed he didn’t look too sorry, as she stormed ahead, checking every opening to other passages, but it was all deserted. She frowned.
“Did you see anyone on your way in?”
“No, it was all empty.”
“Hm,” she muttered. Her pace became faster, and he jogged to keep up.
“This is too easy.”
“Is that a bad thing?”
She hesitated. “No. I just don’t like it. Why go through all the trouble to abduct me and then make it this easy to escape? It’s sloppy, and it doesn’t make any sense.” She looked back at the young boy and gave him tight smile. “Come on, last one out is a loser.”
Thor sprinted past her, always eager to win a bet, and she kept a steady pace just behind him. The passage they were in followed the cave uphill, where other corridors stopped appearing, and Helga relaxed a little.
I only let myself breathe properly once we had half-run, half-skidded down the mountain and hid behind the treelike at the foot of it.
Once under cover, I turned to Thor and whacked the back of his head, sharply, with my palm.
“Ow!” he cried, jumping away from me.
Like that would do him much good. I was a killer by trade; he was just a kid, only one year older than Finn’s ten years.
God, Freyja would have my head if anything happened to her little brother.
“Serves you right! Can you imagine what it would do to your sister if you hadn’t come back? Gods, Thor! They abducted me, how hard would it have been for them to overpower you, do you think?”
He at least had the good sense to look ashamed.
“I didn’t know what else to do,” he whispered. “Freyja wouldn’t say, she never tells me anything - “
“Can you blame her?” I muttered.
He turned bright red but continued anyway. “And the girls have been restless. I’ve heard her talking to them about you.”
I frowned. “About me? Do they want me to kill every man in the city?” Not that I wouldn’t gladly do it, for what those leeches did to my best friend and her… colleagues.
Freyja was a working girl. And hers was the oldest profession. Growing up, she hadn’t had the weapons training that I had; we all did what we had to, to survive. I killed more people than I could count, and she sold her body.
Neither was an ideal situation, to say the least.
At least it hadn’t been the other way around, I supposed. Freyja turned white at the mere mention of blood, whereas I was actively repulsed by the very idea of sex with a stranger… of most sex, actually. Growing up, I was told I’d start having naughty thoughts when I hit puberty, but they had never come; I was what people had once called asexual - I wasn’t sexually attracted to anyone. These days, I counted that as a blessing - it meant nothing distracted me; not from a hunt, and not from Finn. Before, it had been a source of potential problem, but none of that mattered anymore.
Thor was looking sheepish in front of me. “I wasn’t supposed to have heard it; I was meant to be asleep. The other day, just after Finn arrived, Olivia and Freyja were talking in the kitchen. Freyja said her best friend would change our lives. That she’d take care of the King, and make everything better.”
I felt my stomach bottom out. She couldn’t mean…
We’d talked about this, years ago. We’d both agreed.
But that was before it got really bad for her, a little voice told me. Before the men got violent. How many times have you had to step in? Would it really be so bad?
I tried to shove the voice back down; that was not a future I wanted, not a future I had thought about in seven years. Not even in my nightmares.