Its Eyes Were Jewels
As way of disclaimer, I own none of Anne McCaffrey's characters nor do I own her world (though I sometimes wish I did), I'm simply borrowing them for the time being.
And yes, well, I tend to not do the whole fanfiction thing, but this idea has been working it's way through the crevices of my mind for years now. It's about time that it sees the light of day, I think.
As this is my first bit of fanfiction ever, I'd greatly appreciate any constructive criticism you guys can give. Regardless, please R&R. I love that stuff.
Warning in this chapter for the implication of Rape.
The taste was thick in the air, overwhelming in its ferocity. Almost chalky in a way that only ash ever is, bitter against the tongue and spicy to the nose. She just stared at the flames, unable to move from her spot on the tall hill. That's what she'd called it since childhood, the rise that overlooked her father's Hold in its entirety. The tall hill, in her younger years, had been something like a very small mountain. It was a very small mountain that suddenly seemed tremendous. No matter whether she ran down it toward the Hold or away from it, it was too late to stop what was happening.
She could see clearly from her vantage point that the flames had spread from the walls of the Hold to the fields, carelessly destroying the only livelihood they'd ever had – ever could have. They were simple farmers, with no extraordinary talents to their credit. For the most part they weren't musically inclined, though no one could accuse the lot of them of being tone deaf. They couldn't breed, animal or vegetable, none had the careful touch it required. They weren't particularly skilled healers. They weren't tough enough for mining or smithing. But they did what they could, and were content with what it provided them. And, with careful cultivation over nearly eight generations, it provided well. Had provided well, at least, until she came upon it burning to the ground.
However the realization that everything her family had ever worked for was suddenly ruined didn't bother her as much as the day it was occurring. Any other sevenday of the month, the turn would have done. Any other day save for this one, the one day that they came to visit. The only day out of the turn that everyone gathered. The one day that the children came. The Children.
They were the only thing in her mind as she was tackled to the ground about her waist. Eight innocent children had been in that house, and she couldn't have cared less that she was being hit across the face. They'd been in there, obediently sitting for their daily lessons in the Hold that was smoldering in the distance, and she barely registered that her tunic was being pulled at. It didn't matter. She kept her head turned to the side, staring at the sacrilege that was the destruction of her Hold. Emotionless through her violation. Apathetic in the aftermath as she was spat upon and kicked viciously. Told to stay like the wherry she was, or a burned home would be the least of her troubles.
Troubles? He knew nothing of troubles as she imagined the charred little bodies of her nieces and nephews, trusting in the promise that they would be safe in the Hold as she went to handle troubles. The son of a nearby Holder that wished to speak with her, but she would return before their lessons were done. He was a potential Holder himself, who had been courting her for months without so much as speaking to her patriarch, far off as he was on business. He'd been requesting her hand for about as long as he had been courting her, coveting her soft spoken nature and generally obedient grace to no prevail. She would not consider him before an audience with her uncle. There was the matter of the Hold to care for before marriage could even be considered, and she would not shirk her responsibilities.
Now she had no responsibilities to shirk, it seemed, and so there was no reason for her to deny his advances. Except his attack made it apparent that he didn't care for her nearly so much as he cared for the pleasure her skin could provide. By his hand she no longer had a Hold or family. She was alone in the world, presumed dead as no single body would be identified in from a fire of that size and intensity, so he would have her whether she wanted him or not with little fear of consequence.
He fully expected her to stay put as ordered, and in the horror that seized her mind at the sight burned into her mind's eye she almost did. He'd warned her that this was inevitable. She would be his no matter what measures were required in order to get her. But she had not listened to him, his warnings, or his threats, and so innocent blood had been spilled by her conceit. For several long moments she lay there until a cold wind tossed her hair in the way of the horrible vision before her, and she realized the gravity of what she'd inadvertently done.
It hurt to sit up, but she knew instinctively that it was the first step toward escape. It pained her to readjust her clothing, but she knew it was necessary to cover herself, hide the proof of her abuse if only for the moment. But the worst ache of all came from levering herself to her feet, eyes purposefully averted from the destruction to the west of the tall hill. She would not look at it again. Doing so would only steal her resolve, and she'd be frozen once more, left to the mercies of a murderer.
She would not have it! She would not willingly allow herself to be subjugated further, but hadn't the faintest idea as to an appropriate way to avoid it. The inevitable. It was the inevitable. He would have her no matter what, and there was absolutely nothing she could do to stop it. The Lord's Hold was a good sevenday's east, and no lesser Holder would prevent him from retrieving her. The waters were too far off to toss herself into, the mountains too steep to climb, and as her first step was made with a quavering grace she had a fantastical notion of sacrificing herself to the thread due soon to fall.
No, she told herself curtly, shaking her head sharply as though to imprint the command. You will not. It was not an option. Death was not an option. You will walk, and walk, and walk until you find protection. You will walk until you find a place safe from him. You will walk until there is no land left to walk on all of Pern, and only then may you consider an alternative.