"Kaniem!" Iohanna was trying to get to her, she reached her hands past the soldiers that were blocking her from getting any closer. "Kaniem!"
"Ioh!" Kaniem was crying as she was being pulled away. Her voice was hitched in her throat as she was pleading for Iohanna to save her.
"Kaniem." Iohanna watched as her new friend was being dragged off by the soldiers to their personal tent.
"Don't worry, your whore of a friend will be back." The man that was holding her back snickered when he tossed her backwards to leave. He double checked the locks on the cage to make the point that she couldn't escape before he hastily joined the tent with the other men.
Iohanna sat by the cage door with the memory of her mother's screams. She covered her ears, so she couldn't hear her friend make the same noises her mother once did. Iohanna rocked herself back and forth singing softly to distract herself from knowing what was happening to her friend, if she couldn't hear it, perhaps it wouldn't happen.
"Looks like we have a scared one." A soldier laughed in a mocking tone as he rattled the cage. Iohanna was shutting the world out, in an instinctive manor her voice had gotten louder to drown him out. "Shut your filthy mouth! " His anger grew as she ignored him, but no matter what he did she kept on singing. "You better listen to me you little brat." Demanding his respect from her, he reached into the cage and took a fist full of her hair. With a firm grasp he pulled her face against the cage. "When I talk to you, you listen."
Iohanna's eyes grew wide as she watched a sword rise up next to the cage. She quickly squeezed her eyes shut waiting for her death to come swiftly. Instead the man's hand that was on her head had relaxed and slipped off. When she opened her eyes again, she met the cold green eyes of the commander. He had killed his own man to protect her, but why? She stared into his eyes, but he was cold and distant, there were no answers there for her. He turned away from her without a single word and left her there to await the cold long night alone.
Kaniem was thrown into the center of the tent and was surrounded by soldiers blocking every direction. They were quickly shedding their armor while taunting her. She kept her hands over her newly developing body in an attempt to protect herself. She was of age to marry but her fiancé died in the defense line. Not wanting to give in she decided to try to escape, but as she neared the exit one of the soldiers attacked her from behind. She went flying to the ground as his body toppled over hers. The soldier grabbed her hands and forced them behind her back, while another soldier passed him some rope, which he then proceeded to tie her hands. When she was finally subdued, he lifted her up back to her feet, and led her back into the middle of the circle. Her legs buckled from him kicking the back of her legs causing her to fall down to her knees. Another man approached her from the front, he took her chin in his hand forcing her head back to make her look at him. "Don't blame us whore, it's your fate."
It wasn't until morning when Kaniem came back to the cage. "Kaniem!" Iohanna grabbed her to inspect her body for bruising. Her stomach twisted when she saw and smelled the evidence from last night still on her.
Kaniem broke down and cried in her arms. "They said it was, because it was my fate." Iohanna felt the hatred rise in her as her friend shook in her arms, but the reality was she couldn't do anything about it. "Ioh, I don't want to live like this any longer."
"I know, but you can't give up." Iohanna sang softly to her until she fell asleep in her lap. She was upset with herself for being unable to protect her. A small sense of relief washed over her knowing she was still alive and with her unlike her mother. Now that Kaniem was back with her, she could finally relax enough to get some sleep. They both slept cradled next to each other for the rest of the morning.
The sun stood in the middle of the sky bringing heat and misery for those damned in the cages. Iohanna woke up to the noise of soldiers training in the distance. "The commander wants to see you." Iohanna looked to the side of the cage to see a bunch of men approaching her. Some were laughing and making crude gestures as to what the commander wanted from her.
"You can tell your commander to kiss my ass." Iohanna glared at the men, twitching in anger that resulted in waking Kaniem up.
"Ioh, what's going on?" Kaniem had quickly hid behind her after recognizing some of the men from last night.
"Are you fucking stupid? I said the commander wants to see you. Now come out or I will force you out." The cage door unlocked. When Iohanna didn't move he ducked in and forcefully pried her away from Kaniem. He had finally gotten her outside of the cage, and one of the men had placed his hands on her sides pulling her closer to him. "Oh, it's a bloody shame you are off limits, there's a few things I wouldn't mind doing with you." He brought his face close to her neck and breathed in her unwashed scent.
Iohanna launched forward in an attempt to attack him. "Haha, we have a feisty one. I'm starting to understand why the commander wants her all for himself." The men were laughing as they held her back. She leaned as far forward as they would allow her and spit up in his face when he finished speaking. The handsy soldier pulled his hand back in an attempt to smack her but was stopped mid motion.
"Is there a problem here?" The commander came up behind the soldier that was touching Iohanna. The laughter had quickly halted, and the soldier turned around quickly. Shame flashed across his face and he bowed his head in respect. He stood there motionless, terrified of what the commander might do to him, but he paid no attention to him and pushed him to the side. He took off his long coat and draped it over Iohanna's naked body. He wrapped his hands around both of her shoulders and without bending or tilting his head down he looked at her face in a cold stare as he spoke with the authority one could not ignore. "Follow me."
Iohanna clutched the commander's coat closed shielding her body from the unwanted stares. The sun had been blocked by thick clouds leaving the ground still moist from the morning mist. The dew beneath her feet was both a blessing and a curse for Iohanna as her dry feet felt relief from the wet ground, but her feet would most likely crack later because of it. Iohanna half jogged to keep up with the commander’s pace, his long strides were at least three steps for her. She didn’t want to be far behind him; she was afraid of his lurking soldiers and found herself seeking refuge in his protective behavior.
When they arrived at the commander’s personal tent, he stretched out his hand and offered for her to sit down on a wooden bench-like seat. "You can eat and drink as much as you want." He calmly gestured towards the food on the small table with an expressionless face. He could tell the small girl wanted to resist at first, but her body had been starving since the war broke out, and it didn’t take long for that hunger to overpower her will. She drank as much water as she could to the point of overflowing her stomach making her spit it all back up. He compared her to his hunting dogs on a hot summer day, she lacked any self-restraint as a beast would. "Don't gorge yourself after not eating for a long time, take it slow, it’s not going anywhere."
Nodding her head, she wiped her mouth and sipped on the water not wanting to experience the same mistake twice. "Why am I here?" Iohanna couldn’t help but to look anywhere but at the commander, the tent was bigger than the home she shared with her parents and it was fascinating to her, she had never seen anything like it before.
Looking at the young girl he poured a glass of honeyed wine. "Do you have any idea who you are?" His eyes were starting to change, and the bright green pair that killed the harpy was staring right at her.
Iohanna felt panic build up inside of her. "What do you want with me?" She sat her cup down on the small table and stood up, she wasn’t sure if she would make it to the exit in time, or even if she should try to.
"It's quite simple really, what I want is you." He was playing with a small dagger in his hands, even though he did not need it to kill her, he knew the most common fear shared among beings was to see objects that are associated with pain or death. "You see, there's something special, something rare about you, and I intend to harness it for myself."
"I think you've mistaken me for someone else. I have nothing special about me." She started to back up to the entrance of his tent, she needed to get away from the dangerous man. His green eyes locked onto hers speaking words she couldn't understand once again. Iohanna's tried to quickly turn to run, but her lungs had ceased to work in a matter of seconds. She grabbed at her chest trying to grasp for air while falling to the ground on her knees.
"I don't think you understand the situation here girl." He walked towards her and crouched down so his face was level with the kneeling girl he gripped onto her chin tightly with one of his hands. "I wasn't asking." He spoke in a harsh tone, standing back up, he paced the area in front of her. "Have you never questioned why your eyes are always different than everyone else's?"
Iohanna was clutching the dirt beneath her trying to keep herself from passing out. He waited for her to be moments away before releasing her lungs. With heavy gasps she looked up at him she tried to glare in protest, but her body could only focus on replenishing its oxygen supply. "Why... Why are they different?" She asked between each painful breath. Iohanna didn't really care, but it sounded important to him and she didn't want to feel so close to death again.
He smiled down at her; a smile laced with victory at finally getting her attention. "Because girl, your mother was a Leraphron, and you my dear have her blood in you." He went back to his spot and sat back down resting his elbows on the chair’s arms. "When we marched into your city the plan was to take Helena with us, but as you know my men don't..."
Iohanna interrupted him, "you knew my mother?" She spoke before her body could warn her to keep silent. Her eyes flickered back and forth between his searching for the answers she would need, but he just stood there emotionless, as if he was intentionally trying to torture her with his silence.
He waited a few minutes before responding, he was contemplating on how much or what he should say to her. "Your mother was once my bride, we were engaged through family connections, but she was taken from me by your bastard of a father." He laughed dryly, spitting at his feet. "It's funny how fate works. I had intended to kill you and take back what belonged to me, get rid of any existence of the life the woman I loved had to suffer through, but I guess the universe had other plans." He took a drink from his cup and stood back up. "Get dressed, I have things to show you." He tossed the clothes that were sitting on his cot at her before walking out the tent.
Iohanna stared at the clothes on the ground in front of her thinking of Kaniem and the others. Everyone was suffering because of her family. The only reason they plundered their city was because of a hateful revenge on her father. Iohanna sat for a moment thinking about how she wouldn’t be able to face the others, but something kept telling her that it might not be true that he could be trying to get between her parents for a different reason. Iohanna reasoned with herself, she told herself these men were bad men, and the possibility that he was telling her the truth is slim and she needed to get to the bottom of it, but the fact that her family is still connected to so many deaths pained her. Iohanna set her mind to finding the truth and quickly got dressed to meet him outside.