"Hide!" Mama whispered to me. "I'll be fine. Just hide, and don't let them catch you." Then she pried my hands off her skirt and pushed me. I whimpered, trying to cling to her. "Run!" Mama hissed. And I ran. Out the back door, past the smouldering community center, towards the N'ohia woods where my treehouse was. Birds screeched and rose from the trees as I ran by, stumbling on roots and ripping my dresses on branches. I turned back to look at my house, hoping for a glimpse of mama. To my horror, the house was on fire.
"Noooooo!" I screamed.
With a jolt, I woke up from my nightmare. "Quiet!" a voice hissed. "I'm gonna lift you up now, so don't scream in shock."
I was too busy being stunned about my dream to reply. That was the first time I'd had that dream in a long time. The forest of N'ohia had always protected me, even when I was just five. And now ... it had let me down.
As the person lifted me up, I braced myself against the sides of the trunk to stop myself from tumbling everywhere. I didn't really have to move my arms much, as the trunk was supposedly carrying a puppy ... not a human three times the size of one.
As the person carried me out to the docks, I only heard the Jadian language, which meant we were in New Jadeland.
I felt a jolt as I was loaded into another carriage. I would probably stay hidden there for a while, as the officials in New Jadeland checked all the carriages. That was because they were at war with Scareymon, a neighbouring country, home of the Scareymonish and their warriors. Binster was the part of New Jadeland under Scareymonish control - or was New Jadeland the part of Binster under Jadian control?
"Hey! You!" I heard a carriage pull alongside ours. "Would you be so kind as to pull over? We would like to search your carriage, if you please." The person saying this sounded like a woman. Probably a Jadian official. During wartime, Jades had no choice but to obey the officials. Which meant maybe I had hope of escape?
"What the ..." one of the lady slave traders whispered something under her breath that I would never dare repeat.
"Of course!" said another under the fake pretense of cheerfulness.
"What's in that trunk?" one of the officials asked.
"A puppy. Poor thing won't stop jumping around, so we put in there with food and water. And, course, air holes."
No! I wanted to scream, There's a person locked in here! About to be sold to the Scareymonish!
But obviously, I hadn't learned any advanced magic, like controlling thoughts. All the sudden the trunk seemed to grow a shade darker.
And so, ten minutes later, tricked into thinking I was a puppy and my trunk was locked and they had lost the key, the officials drove away. They don't seem so smart, I thought to myself. Anyways, shouldn't they help 'find' the key so the puppy doesn't die?
One of the slave traders came and unlocked my trunk. I pushed open the lid, blinking at the bright light. Tamara, who had just gotten out of her trunk, reached out her hand to help me up.
"Thanks, Tamara," I said.
"You Jades are so weird. I'm just being polite, gosh darn it. Ya don't have to say thank you," Tamara replied. "And, uh, you can call me Tam."
"Oh. Okay," I replied awkwardly.
"Stop chatting!" the person who had unlocked our trunk yelled. I hardly bothered to look at him, but for the three seconds I did, I didn't particularly like the way he looked. He had dreadlocks of black hair and a beard that desperately needed to be rid of all the food crumbs stuck in it.
"And git yerselves seated," he continued. "Don't wanna fall out the back accidentally, eh? Then yer might jest escape. And, now, we wouldn't want yer to get hurt, either, would we?"
"No, sir," Tam replied for both of us. Together we pushed the heavy oak wood door that attached the storage compartment of the carriage to the seats. I sat down at the window, and she sat down next to me.
For a while we sat in silence, while I watched the scenery pass by the window. Birches from Earth and rabushe bushes native to Jadeland grew side by side. Not like Humans and Jades.
I stared at the clouds for a bit, trying to make out animals within the puffs.
"Um ... so, where are you from?" Tamara asked me once, quietly.
"Culmary. What about you?"
"Oh! That's pretty far from Culmary," I said stupidly. "Er, I mean, most places in Jadeland are pretty far from most places in Mambria. I mean, you have to cross the Olken Strait ..."
Thankfully just then someone shouted at us to be quiet, saving me from my downward spiraling comment.
A couple hours later, we arrived at yet another dock. This one was dirty and slippery. The sun hardly broke through the heavily clouded sky.
"Into the trunks again!" the leader told us. I crawled into my trunk, this time using my sweater as a pillow. The lid closed and everything was dark again. I heard a lock click, and knew I was due for a long, cramped ride once more.