They dragged her through the streets, pulling her by the shoulders. It hurt, but not as much as the strange muted silence that filled her ears. She could see people screaming; she could feel the cold touch of the knights' hands; she could smell the smoke from the burning sticks the soldiers were using to fend off the villagers. And yet, she could not hear a single thing, except for the rapid beat of her heart.

The knights dragged her along, pulling her towards the wagon where the other girls were waiting. There were twenty of them in total, and all were badly bruised from trying to fight. Each girl called to their family, their friends, their lovers, but it did not make a difference. There was nothing that could save them.

Isabelle looked back, scanning the screaming crowd. She could see one tall figure pushing his way through. She could see his lips forming her name, and she reached towards him. She could almost feel his fingers touch hers-

Isabelle woke suddenly, trying not to cry out in pain. The other girls had fallen asleep, tired from their weeping.

Isa's stomach growled loudly, causing one girl to stir. She had been fasting her entire wedding day, and was supposed to break fast with the wedding guests early in the morning, just before the sun rose. She felt her heart tighten inside her breast. She was supposed to be a married woman this day, and here she was, in an unwelcome cage, surrounded by strangers. Her eyes remained dry, as she was not sad. Sadness was not Isabelle's way. On the contrary, she was absolutely furious. So furious her eyesight began to blur at the edges, and her heart pounded in her ears. She hit the ground silently with her fists, beating it down. She hit it until her eyes began to clear, and her fury fade into exhaustion. She lay her head on the ground, cheek turned to the side, and tried to pretend that she was laying on a soft bed, held safely in Mishel's arms. Her eyes drooped and she fell back into an uneasy sleep, dreaming of what could have been.

At sunset the soldiers rounded up the girls and bound them in shackles, forcing them to walk alongside the horses and wagons. The wagons, apparently, were kept for girls who 'caused trouble'. As far as Isa could tell, only the prettiest girls were forced to go in there, and the noises that came out of those wagons- Isa could not bear to think of it.

Luckily for Isa, her wedding dress was in tatters from her sprint through the woods, and coated in mud. Her hair was stringy from sweat, and her mother's precious jewels she kept tucked into her bodice, where hopefully no one would find them. She was short and blended into the crowd well. As long as no one saw her eyes, she would be unremarkable, and therefore avoid the fate of the wagon girls.

The wagons were also used for new arrivals, girls who were recently captured, to muffle their sobs as the group wandered through the countryside.

The girls were given a small piece of bread to eat every night, and a ladle of water twice per day. Just enough to keep them from starving, but not enough to keep many of the girls from getting sick. A deep lung cough had started up in the group, which made breathing very difficult for many of the girls. As a result, the group was very slow going. Isa overheard one soldier complaining: "At this rate, it'll take us weeks to reach the palace."

Isa wished she had the courage to speak up, for every girl was wondering the same thing: why were they going to the palace? But Isa knew she had to keep her head down. Mishel was not here to defend her now; she must fend for herself. She must make it to the palace. Perhaps there she could explain who she was, and they would let her go.

The chances of an escape were highly unlikely, as the girls were constantly surrounded by soldiers. Soon, their group would pass into the desert, and then there would truly be nowhere to go. The fate of a lone wanderer in the desert was death by thirst, a fate no girl- not even the boldest- wished to experience.

Isa overheard another soldier's mutterings later during their super. Through a mouthful, he told his partner "Should've just had the new king ride through the villages himself. Would've spared us a whole lot a trouble."

Isa frowned. What had the soldier meant by 'new' king? Was there another king now? Was he looking for someone? A wife, perhaps? But then, if he was looking for a wife, why would he not look himself, and why would the girls be treated so poorly? Were they to be taken as slaves? Was that the answer?

A rough voice startled her from her thoughts.

"You, girl. The meal is over. Get up." A soldier kicked her so hard she fell to the ground, her nose banging against the packed dirt. Blood coursed down her face as she lay on the ground. She felt the rage take over, and let it carry her on a wave straight into an ocean of unreason.

"You," Isa said lowly, her eyes still firmly planted on the ground. She sat up, and spat on his boot. "Your mother would loath the day you were born if she saw you at this moment."

The soldier kicked her again in fury, then reached down and picked her up by the shoulders. Isa fought like a wildcat, but the man's strength was too great. The soldier gripped her arms so tight Isa yelped in pain. She turned her face away as he brought his face very close to hers.

"Bitch," he spat, his spittle landing on her cheek. He slapped her hard, and then threw her into the dreaded wagon.

He clambered in after her, and she flung herself away from him. Heart pounding, hands sweating, harsh breathing- she dragged herself as far as she could. And screamed, as loud as she could-

"If you touch me, I will lay a curse on your family. By the hands of Dune, the god of shadows, every member of your family shall suffer as I suffer in your hands. So help me god-"

"Silence," the man said, still furious. He grabbed her arms and picked her up, throwing his weight on her until she was barely able to breathe, sandwiched between wall and man. "I shall have my way with you, you filthy wench!"

Isa fought as hard as she could. "Dune shall condemn you-"

"The gods have turned their backs on you, bitch," the soldier sneered, his teeth gleaming in the semi dark. "So have your parents, and your brothers and sisters, and of course-" his smile grew more sinister. "Your lover."

Isa's voice raised a pitch. "Curse on your mother, your sister, and your daughter, if you-"

"No one can save you," the soldier pressed against her harder. Isa could not speak anymore, for she could not breathe. "Everyone will forget about you. You are nothing, girl."

Isa felt rage pile in her stomach as the soldier groped her roughly, tearing at her flesh with his teeth. Her vision grew clouded, sparks lit her eyes until she could not think, or feel. She wrenched her hand from the wall and pushed her palm against his chest, as if by strength of sheer will, she could move him.

"Curse you," she hissed. Then, as if struck by the hand of Dune himself, the soldier jumped away from her, a string of curses leaving his mouth as he did so. He clutched his chest, a look of surprise and panic in his grimy eyes. As he removed his hands from his chest, Isa could see a small singed mark in the very center-

Her palm.

Her palm had burned through his shirt.

Isa glanced at her hands in wonder, but did not question it. She had called upon Dune to protect her, and he had answered.

"Dune has spoken." She said calmly, allowing her eyes to drift back to the ground.

The soldier, still wide eyed, backed out of the wagon, leaving the doors wide open. Calmly, Isa stepped outside and went to stand with the rest of the girls, who avoided her eyes immediately. They all thought she had suffered the same fate as the other wagon girls.

Isa shivered. She hoped the soldier was too afraid to mention the odd incident to anyone else. An event like that was bound to draw attention to her.

Her objective was now clear: make it to the palace unscathed, and then perhaps there she could use her mother's jewels to bribe her way out. For deep down in her heart, she knew that whatever lay inside the castle would not be welcoming for her, whether she proclaimed herself as a peasant or as more. Deep down, she knew that if she was discovered, it would mean certain death.


Deep inside Isa's village, everything was still in chaos. Only this time, the chaos was created by the villagers themselves. All men whose wives, daughters, and friends had been taken had rallied together, hoping that through alliance, they could band together and rescue their loved ones.

The idea in itself was good; the reality was not.

'Ideally,' Mishel thought to himself, 'we would all be marching this moment towards other villages to gather support, then head to the castle.'

In reality, half the men were not willing to cross the desert with so little water; the other half wished to go straight to the castle immediately. The result was utter chaos, and their chief could not even begin to form order in such a din.

As Mishel stood at the back of the crowd, he decided that he must take action. He needed to help Isa escape somehow, for the castle was a dangerous place for her. Mishel had heard rumors that the king was looking for a woman who had plotted against his throne. Mishel had also heard rumors that the new king wished for new bride.

'This tale,' Mishel thought bitterly, 'could go both ways.'

Either way he would lose his Isa, of that he was certain.

Silently, Mishel slipped away from the crowd, and walked up the sloped mountain. It was a long trek, but it did not matter. This was a trip Mishel had to make.

At the top of the hill, in the tiny cabin where he had lost Isa days ago, Mishel knelt and prayed to the gods. He needed a guide, a word of wisdom to tell him what he must do.

"Menore, I beg of you, please show me the way to my bride." He murmured. He held his breath, and waited. And waited. Finally, he gave up and sat on the ground in defeat, his shoulders bowed under heavy thoughts.

"Perhaps I can help you," a woman's voice said.

Mishel looked up to see a woman standing in the doorway. She had waist length raven hair, twisted and tangled with brambles and dirt. Her hands were badly scratched, and her dress torn. She had a heavy look in her eyes that Mishel could not decipher.

"Who are you?" Mishel asked, standing up.

The woman smiled at him uncertainly.

"I'm Isabelle's guardian." She frowned. "I lost her to the soldiers, but I think I know how we can get her back. But I will need your help, as you will need mine. Are you with me?"

Authors note: Hey guys, I know there's a lot of stuff about 'praying to gods' in here. I would just like to note that this story is not based on any sort of religion. The only religion it may be based off of would be pagan, which sort of goes with the medieval theme.

Thanks to all my reviewers!