The wind howled as it pushed against the windows of a small house. Bangs were heard on the front door. A thin dark-skinned girl approached the door. With her hand on the doorknob, her father yelled,
"Selene, don't open the door! You know what they will do to us!"
"And if we don't open the door?"
Selene's father remained silent, without a response. Selene opened the door and saw three men towering over her, they held in their hands' rope and a wool bag. Selene was certain of what was in the bag, ruby necklaces, to suppress a witch and warlock's powers. She rubbed her neck nervously as she eyed the bag. The man in the front smirked as the other two pushed pass Selene to get inside. He reached inside the bag and pulled out the necklace and placed it around Selene's neck. Her shoulders sank from the weight of the enchanted necklace. Selene quietly winced from the burning sensation on her neck. The man then tightly gripped Selene's wrist and tied the rope, he pulled on the rope and lead her outside. Hundreds of people walked with their heads low in the street, well aware of what was to come. He then pulled her close and whispered in her ear,
Selene's eyes began to tear up but she quickly wiped them on her shoulder. The man threw Selene in with the walking crowd and walked away. The cold wind blew on her face, Selene shivered. Barely anybody had real clothes on, no, not clothes, rags, torn and thin. She shrugged her shoulders up to shield her neck from the wind. A passing man then tripped Selene, she fell to her knees. They began to sting from the hard cold concrete. The man then glared at her as he walked past. Most of the people didn't like Selene, due to her unfortunate past. Selene stood up and brushed her knees off. She then waited for her father and brother to come out of the house. Finally, they were dragged out by the two men and thrown in line.
"Are you ok?" Selene asked
Her brother nodded silently.
"Come on, we can't be seen just standing around." Selene's father said
And so the three of them began walking, where to? The town's plaza. A 40-minute walk, with barely any clothes, cold weather, and cruel men watching you, cursing at you as you walked, silently. The cold breeze blew once again. Selene's nose burned from its icy touch, she pinched her nose and breathed out of her mouth. Then in the distance, yells, and screams were heard. An audience filled with humans to watch how countless families were torn apart. But that's not even the worst bit. The yelling audience spilt in half as a path for the witches and warlocks. Yells, screams, slurs. No one seemed affected by it, because they knew what was coming. At the center of the plaza stood a stage. On one side were four nooses with people already there, ready to be hung. Selene stared as one of the many men on the stage pulled the lever to hang the four people. She quickly put her hand over her brother's eyes and looked away. The crowd yelled with excitement. She could hear it, either the sound of struggle or just the weight of a dead body on rope twisting and turning. On the other side were several men surrounding one. A pale man with an all-black suit on, with slicked-back black hair, stood by a glass bowl full of papers. How sickening she thought. How disgusted she was that people got their kicks out of seeing defenseless families killed or used for entertainment. How they get joy out of seeing people die. A few men then removed the dead bodies from the nooses and carried them away. The pale man then dug in the glass bowl, the crowd silenced as they eagerly waited to hear a name being called.
"The Williams! "The pale man shouted, the audience yelled with excitement.
"Now, for all of you newcomers, let me explain how this goes. All these filthy witches and warlocks have acquired such a debt, that they shall be tried either for death or a near-impossible task. But we can't forget about, The Runnings. And of course, your lovely ruler of this land, me, Valentino, shall decide their fate."
Selene's eyes widened, her only friend that she had made in such a cruel place was about to be tried. Her only friend, Lily. Lily and her family were shoved up unto the stage and stood beneath each one of their nooses. But in one of the guard's hands nearby laid a baby, asleep.
"Unfortunately, for the Williams, they have such a debt it cannot be forgotten with just a simple job. So, say your goodbyes. But for the little one here, he shall be turned when he comes of age." Valentino said smirking. Lily yelled as the noose was tightened on her neck,
"Please, don't! At least let him live a normal life."
"And have him turn into a warlock, why waste a good solider?"
Valentino signaled the man to pull the lever, but just before he could, Selene shouted.
The man stopped. Valentino's eyes glared a bright red. He swung his head in the direction of the voice and saw Selene. He took a deep breath and then spoke.
"Selene, darling, why interrupt one's punishment?"
"Because I would like to make a deal with you."
"Really? I'm intrigued, continue."
"If, I go on one of your missions, will you let my friend go?"
"Very well," Valentino said, the audience booed.
"Now, now, don't expect it'll be that easy. If you successfully finish the mission you AND your friend's debt will be cleared, but, if you fail, both of you shall be entered into The Running's. Do you accept?" Valentino asked.
Selene's little brother tugged on her shirt.
"Selene, don't," James whispered.
"Selene waited a short moment before she responded.
Lily yelled as she was released from the noose and taken away.
"Selene, don't do this! I'm perfectly fine! Selene!"
A nearby guard cut the rope on Selene's wrists. Valentino extended his hand and Selene hesitantly took it. He then escorted her to a car and they both got in.
"You can relax for a little bit," Valentino said.
"It takes a while to get to my mansion." Selene then slowly leaned her head against the window and fell asleep. An hour passed by and the car slowly came to a stop. Selene noticed how the car stopped moving and instantly woke up. She looked out the window a red tint was left on the ground and car from the stained glass surrounding the entrance to Valentino's mansion. The driver opened the door and the two got out and went inside. The halls were filled with paintings and pictures, but one stood out in particular. Two boys stood side by side, one slightly paler than the other with red eyes. And the other boy with brown hair and yellow eyes. Something about this painting just seemed, familiar. The driver grunted behind her, gesturing that she catch up with Valentino.
"Sorry, the necklace is weighing me down." said Selene
She turned the corner and noticed that Valentino was looking at her directly in the eye. He leaned in close only inches from her face and reached for her neck.
"Then let's take this off." Valentino said with a sly smile on his face. He took the necklace off of Selene and handed it to the driver. Selene followed Valentino silently until he led her to a room.
"Here take a shower and put these on." Valentino said as he tossed Selene some folded clothes.
"Maids' clothes? What for?"
"Just take a shower first." Valentino said while walking out of the bedroom.
Selene took the maids clothes and went inside the bathroom and quickly got undressed. She took her hair out from the sloppy braid and got inside. The hot water soothed the burns on her neck. The dirt from her body tainted the water's color. Brown water flowed from her body rinsing off the stench, the grime she had lived with for so many years. Yet no matter how many times she washed herself, the memories of the vampire filth had left an imprint on her. She scrubbed every inch of her body. And then quickly got out. She wiped the steam from the mirror and saw, herself. She hadn't seen her reflection for a long time. Her wet hair dripped on the tile floor of the bathroom. Her once rough and unruly hair had curled from the hot water. Selene dried herself, got dressed, put her hair into a low ponytail, and then left the bathroom.
"Ok, I'm done." said Selene as she walked to the door. She slowly reached for the doorknob, but before she touched it, she felt warm vibrations in the direction of her palm. She pulled her arm back. Selene sighed in annoyance.
"Did you have to bound the doors?" asked Selene
"Don't want to lose my favorite witch." responded Valentino ask he walked inside. Valentino noticed the change in Selene's appearance, his eyes glared a bright red. He eyed her newly curled hair. Her skin no longer tainted by the soil from the fields. Selene blushed with a sour expression on her face from the excessive attention she was given from Valentino. He then shortly after chuckled.
"You look so disappointed that you are favored."
"Of course I am. Especially if it's by you. So can you just tell me about what this job's about?"
"Of course, business first. Your lucky, you get to travel across the border and apply for a job. A spot as a maid, hence, the maid clothes. Practically every girl applies since the ruler of the western land is very much admired. So to increase your odds of being chosen you'll have to do an attraction charm. Once you are chosen, try to stay as inconspicuous as possible so they don't suspect you. Maybe if you can, earn his trust, let him get comfortable around you, then, kill him." Selene's eyes widened.
"But, I'm not capable of killing someone!"
"Oh, you are more than capable. I for one should know."
Selene looked down in guilt.
"But the main goal here is to send us copies of his political and military plans. We'll have a way of contacting you, so just wait patiently. Also, here are some clothes, money, things you'll need to lower any future notoriety if you arrive with no belongings." Vincent handed Selene a bag with the items. Although, she didn't ask whether the clothes were in her size.
A knock was heard at the door.
"Sire, its time." the driver spoke.
"Ladies first." Valentino said as he opened the door. Selene went out followed by Valentino. They entered the car and drove in silence for half an hour until they reached their destination. A forest.
"We'll be watching from a distance, so make sure to do things right." Valentino said as Selene exited the car. The car then slowly turned and drove off.
"Watching from a distance, huh?"
The air smelt like pine greens, it agreed with Selene since all she smelt were strawberries. She began walking along a dirt path, she loosened the black ribbon choker on her neck, for it was hot here. Unlike across the border, it was practically always cold. The black skirt with a small white apron didn't hide the fact that Selene's legs were irregularly thin, perhaps people would think she was just a scrawny girl. She continued walking until she met a small brown fence with a sign, she didn't bother reading it before jumping over the fence. Then in front of her laid a village, with many people. She couldn't tell if they were witches or not, they all looked human at first glance. Then, they were several girls, around her age with maid outfits on. The speakers came on and a man made an announcement.
"All girls who desire to be a maid please report to the plaza immediately."
The girls began to flock to the plaza, but Selene stayed with the crowd slowly walking, she began to speak her eyes glared a bright purple,
"Nafali ealume crafatos elude."
Selene then began walking with the girls to the plaza. Four black cars then slowly drove into the plaza. A tall and built man stood out of the car, the warm breeze blew his brown hair. He sniffed the air, his eyes glared a bright yellow. His eyes began to wander in the crowds of girls, to figure out who had that scent. A woman then came behind him and said,
"Remember, only four can be chosen." The man nodded and the woman began to shout,
"Please all get in a line shoulder to shoulder so Master Vincent can have a look at you.
The girls stood shoulder to shoulder silently waiting. He then pointed to three girls,
"You three, you may go."
The three girls squealed and giggled excitedly as they walked to one of the black cars. The woman gave a confused look at how Vincent chose the girls without first looking at them. He then walked over to Selene, her eyes met his collar. She stood nervously.
"You can have the job."
Relived, she began walking to the black car where the other girls were but was stopped by Vincent pulling on her wrist.
"No, you'll be riding with me." Selene gave a scared expression as she looked at everyone as they watched her being dragged into Vincent's car.
Thank you for reading!