I ambled carelessly down the dirt path that led to N'ohia, the forest I called home. Birds chirped in trees along the roadside, and the sun streamed down in a dreamlike haze. I caught a glimpse of a rabbit disappearing into a bush. What a cutie!
I crooned to it, "Here bunny! Here sweetie!"
Of course, it scampered away to the safety of the grassy meadows, and I was alone again. I began to hum a cheerful tune. "My mother told-a your mother that-a you caught me a-snooping in your notebooks!" the chorus sang.
A few minutes later N'ohia came into view. Almost there, I thought to myself.
I heard a twig crack, and thought maybe the rabbit was back. "Here cutie!" I said in a calming voice. What a mistake!
One lady, probably thirty, appeared from behind the bush.
"I wouldn't recommend calling me a 'cutie' in the future," she said, her voice crisp and business like.
What the heck? My brain tried to process her.
"Surround her!" she called out.
From everywhere and nowhere, people clothed in one-piece camouflage suit surrounded me. I stared at them all, bewildered. "Wh-wh-what do you want?" I asked, backing against a tree.
"Are you Yasmine Tersdotter? Daughter of Amelia Tersdotter and Charles Wannick?"
I nervously twirled my dark brown, almost black hair between my fingers - chimney sweeps hair, as my mother used to say.
"Why should I tell you?" I asked. To myself I thought franticly, how do they know that?
"And why should I tell you that?" the lady who I thought to be the leader, retorted.
"Maybe I am."
"Seize her!" cried an old man who was using a walking stick that looked awfully sharp on the end. It reminded me, even in the state I was in, of a bee stinger, enlarged and unattached from the bee.
"Why?" I repeated dumbly to myself as they tied my hands and feet, a larger one slinging me over his shoulder. "No! Stop!" I screamed, struggling to no avail.
"Mind yer manners, missy, or ye'll be much worse then ye're," the man carrying me said.
They turned off the path and, hidden cleverly few feet away, was a small carriage. They had hid it in a circle of bushes, and the wood of the carriage blended in to the surroundings. Had it been any bigger, the small opening between two of the bushes would have been to small to fit the carriage through.
Two of them pulled the carriage back onto the road, and I noticed two other children in there - a boy, younger than me with tuffled, chocolate brown hair, and an older girl who was so skinny I could see her ribs.
"In yer go!" the man who was carrying me said. He dropped me onto a ripped and patched leather seat, next to the girl. As I took in my surroundings, I noticed a theme - lots of patched fabric, replacement parts, new wood next to rotting wood, and a pillow with a tea stain.
"What are we doing here?" I whispered to the girl as the man wandered to the opening between the two bushes, a few feet away from us, and stood guard.
"I think they plan on selling us to the Scareymons or whatever you call them."
"Why - you're Mambrian!" was my first response. She pronounced all her 'e's like 'a's.
"So what?" she asked, scornfully. "Anyways, I'm fifteen and I'm called Tamara. What about you?"
"Yasmine. Yasmine Tersdotter. I'm thirteen." I answered, quietly. "How do you know they plan on selling us?"
"I overheard them, that's what."
"Oh." All this was too much for me to take in. "Why do they want to - ?" I left the last part unspoken.
"Well, my ma fought fiercely in the JAK, so that's why I think they hate me.'
"You mean they're sympathizers?" I knew JAK was the Jadian Army, but I wasn't quite sure what the K stood for. Maybe the 'Jadian Army of Knights'? Yes, that sounds right.
"Shush!" Tamara said, her voice full of anger. Not at me, I hoped. "They can hear you if you talk that loud!"
After that she left me to my thoughts. Maybe, if I could somehow distract them ... no, I'm tied up ... Or! What was that 'untie' spell? Oh, darn it! I don't know!
So by the time the carriage started to move joltingly, I still didn't have a clue how to escape.
"Where do you think we're going? To Wellmeve, then to Scareymon? Or to Pesise, then to Port Princip in New Jadeland, then to Binster?" I asked, thinking aloud.
"No talking back there!" the driver yelled.
"Sorry," I whispered forlornly to no one in particular. This'll be a long drive, I mused. I mean, From Culmary to Wellmeve or Pesise is at least five hours, and then a boat ride across the Strait Of Princip to New Jadeland is an hour, or from Pesise across the Nemesis Strait to Scareymon is two hours to Fort Fel, or one and a half to Sooton Point.
We passed through many different towns, some which I was able to identify. We crossed the Scove River over a long bridge, we went through Gina Town where we bought some supplies - me and the girl, Tamara, stayed in the carriage, but the boy was allowed out. "I think he's the son of one of these people," Tamara confided to me.
I fell into a restless sleep, jolted into a half-awake state now and then by the carriage. I lost track of time, but it was evening when Tamara shook me a awake. "We're boarding a ship now," she whispered. "We've gotta get into trunks - with air holes in them, 'course. C'mon!"
"What if we don't?"
"How, exactly, do you know that?" I asked, confused. She seemed scared, and a girl like Tamara, in my experience, doesn't get scared easily.
As it seemed I wasn't getting an answer soon, I had no choice but to crawl into the trunk. I felt like I was climbing into my coffin, gloomy and dark. The atmosphere was that of a place where someone had died. I was almost surprised when I didn't here the clunk of dirt bouncing off of my trunk. Enough of your imagination! I scolded myself.
"Don't make a peep!" someone whispered at me before locking my trunk. I was stuck.
I wanted so bad to yell 'help!', but I had a feeling the ... slave traders? ... wouldn't hesitate to slit the throat of whoever heard and then proceed to slit my own throat.
Someone asked what was in the trunk.
"We're using it for our dog - it's got air holes, see? Don't jolt it too much!" came the clever reply from the young lady whom earlier I had presumed the leader of the group of slave traders.
It soon got stuffy and cramped in the coffin-like trunk. I rolled about, trying to get comfortable and miserably failing.
As the steamer got closer and closer to it's destination, wherever that might have been, I wondered to myself, what would mother and father think?