"Do not drag your feet or we will shoot you dead!"
Deja hissed as she was given the command. As much as she doubted they'd make good on their promise, she had little choice but to comply as she walked down the path they forced onto her. With her hands tied behind her back and stripped of her weapons, she had no way of escaping her captors. The slavers had one archer with an arrow to the back of her head as another had a rope tied around her neck, leading her around by a leash as the last one was conversing with her opponent, Ayla. They all shared the same black markings upon their right cheeks and green bead decorations, showing their tribal pride.
"Just where do you plan on taking me?" Deja asked, the light in the sky slowly growing dimmer and dimmer as evening started to shower them. "Will I become some work slave?"
"Our chief will decide that." The man with the leash hissed at Deja, tugging at her leash to nearly make her fall as they continued to walk. They were guided by the moon as they mostly walked in silence, Deja only catching the occasional word every so often. One word that stuck out to her was a name.
The name was repeated from the lips of Ayla and her fellow tribeswoman, she'd occasional catch small sentences with the word sprinkled in or interchanged with the 'chief'.
Finally, it looked as though they had arrived somewhere. Around a large colony of trees, Deja could see that build upon the upper layers of these trees were wooden constructs. Huts, connected by branches, vines, and bridges that connected one of these huts to another.
"Is this some kind of village?" Deja asked aloud as she was walked up a series of steps of wood as she was walked up to the wooden platforms off the ground. Deja could see young men, women, and children, running across the bridges and canopies, to either do their work or to act on their leisure. Warriors and hunters climbed down as women and girls walked with pots of water, nuts, and fruit. Deja could see families and villagers in their huts, living their lives as normal, all sharing the green beads and cheek marks.
"This is the territory of the Tree Walkers." Ayla spook with a hiss, "our people live among the trees, above the sinful ground below where beasts and savages walk." Deja had to hold back a growl from the insult the redhead threw at her. "Chief Zheko will determine your place, animal. So prey that he is in a merciful mood and you may just be assigned as one of his concubines." Deja was seething as Ayla gave a hearty laugh.
"It is a roll that you do not deserve, but-" Ayla was silenced by Deja managed to give her a hard headbutt, breaking the redhead's nose as her blood spilled. She had slipped out of the hands of the man who leashed her as Ayla was forced to stagger. When she realized that she was losing blood, the redhead gave a war cry. She pounced like a jungle cat and tackled Deja to the ground. With fists balled up right, she repeatedly through punch after punch across her face. Each fists felt like cinder blocks as Deja was pinned underneath her.
"Ayla, stop!" The woman who talked with her tried to talk sense into her, but Deja would have none of it. The bound and now defenseless Dejja was helpless as Ayla walloped her. Spit and blood flew from Deja's mouth before Ayla stopped, a strong hand grabbing her wrist as a strong voice boomed.
"That is enough."
Ayla looked up and hissed before gasping when she saw the large, darkly-toned face of her chief. Zheko was a large man, well built, with eyes that were cold and grey. He wore not only the mark of the tribe on his cheek, but also more marks to decorate his face, with green beads decorating his arms, legs, and cape that appeared to have been from a wolf's pelt.
Ayla immediately got off of Ayla, getting on her knees before him. "Yes, my chief. Forgive me for my arrogance. Forgive me for damaging your property." A chuckle from the towering Zheko made her flinch.
"Be at ease, my child. You were doing your duty as a Tree Walker." His hand ruffled her fiery red hair, "what is our code, my child?"
"To fight. Fight to show our superiority to the savages." Ayla recited it without hesitation.
When Zheko moved his hand, "rise," he said, Ayla got off of the floor. Deja, who was still coughing and trying to recover from her beating, managed to sit up and watch the display of strength Zheko showed. In a way, she was impressed, and had to admit to herself that Zheko would make for a nice mate. Strong, easy to look at, and he had a commanding presence.
But such an idea was cut off as her leash was grabbed and she was hoisted by it. To stop her neck from breaking, she hurried onto her face. The coughing, hurting Deja tried to recover as she glared at the man now holding her leash. "My, my, what an exquisite treasure you've brought to me from the land below the trees."
As Zheko examined her, Ayla spoke, looking over her well-built body like a predator, "she was found hunting in our grounds, Chief Zheko. The savage even tried to claim my kill after I warned her to leave."
Deja grew a smirk, "you've left out the part where I defeated you in combat." Ayla growled, she wanted to strike her down, but knew that she couldn't within the chief's presence. She hoped the chief would do it for her, but instead, Zheko gave a loud laugh.
"A feisty woman." Zheko smirked, grabbing her cheek and forcing her to turn her head as she felt his eyes bore into her flesh. "I saw you strike Ayla. Despite knowing there was an archer right behind you and you were in my territory, you chose to attack her simply because you felt insulted. That's quite amusing."
Deja felt insulted. He was looking at her like a piece of meat. She felt his strong hands groping and grabbing at pieces of flesh, like her stomach, leg, and ass. He smirked as she was forced to look into his green eyes. "You would make for an excellent concubine. The child that you'd bear with my seed would be-"
He was silenced as Deja bit down onto his hand with all her might. He didn't show it, but the pain was excruciating, like a fire was put onto his hand. Two tribesmen had to grab and force Deja off of him before she let go, a sloppy, wet, bite mark left on his hand.
Zheko looked at the panting Deja. It wasn't a look of anger, but of disappointment. "Is that your final answer?" D
eja stared him down with no regret or remorse in her eyes. She spat out, "I am owned by nobody. Be they man, woman, or God."
Zheko sighed, "well, you've made your choice." He then turned to Ayla and the archer. "Take her underground, to the dungeon. Maybe some time down there with the prisoners will help break her."
Once the command was given, Deja was given a painful punch to the center of her gut, forcing her to keel over as the fist sank in. She fell onto the ground, coughing and wheezing, desperate for air as she was held up over the shoulder as she was taken away.
She was walked back down the steps as she was taken to just in front of a tree. Deja was slowly recovering as she noticed there was a hatch. When it was opened, there was a man with a black hood over his face. Deja was forcefully handed off to this man as Ayla spoke, "the Chief will surely want her in the coliseum." The hooded man nodded as the hatch was closed, the cold stone steps and floor below illuminated only by torches hanging on the walls. The man with a hood took our a leather band and started to force it around the struggling Deja's neck.
When it finally came on like a collar, replacing the rope that was once there, the hooded man explained, "the Clerics have marked this collar with magical ruins." The hooded man rubbed his finger over the collar as a faint blue light lit up off the collar. "If you try to fight or struggle, me or my brothers can activate the spell. And it will be painful. Like so."
The hooded man spoke. "Tremor." Deja howled in pain as sparks of lightning jolted off of the collar. Deja fell onto the ground, writhing and struggling across the ground as pain raced through her body. It was as though she was struck by lightning and it was aimed right at her neck and transferred through her entire body, burning her nerves scream out in painful agony before the hooded man spoke again. "Prohibere."
The lightning stopped and Deja was panting, pain filled and twitching as she was rolled onto her stomach while she lied there on the ground. The hooded man spoke, "do you understand your position?" The hooded man moved to her bound wrists, untying them as a rope was leashed to her collar. The hooded man tugged at Deja's weak body as she shakily got off of the ground, gasping for breath as she was walked across the cold, stone floor. Eventually, she was taken a cell-like gate, made of cold steel and dividing one half of this dungeon to another. "Do not cause too much trouble." He spoke plainly as a door was opened. Deja was pushed inside and untied from her leash as she was locked inside.
Deja slowly recovered herself as she looked around the dungeon she was trapped inside. Various prisoners seemed to walk around, all wearing the same collar she was. It seemed that behind the iron gate that separated the prisoners from the hooded prison guards, they were almost free. If only they were more restricted, Deja though to herself, as the sounds of body's being struck and hitting the ground rang.
But that's not causing trouble? Prisoners beating each other to bloody pulps? Deja slowly walked deeper into the den of prisoners and she could see various stains of blood and beaten bodies littering the ground. Deja continued her walk, to find some sort of place to lie herself down to rest, when the sound of another fight hit her ears, this time not too far from her. Deja looked to her right and followed the corridor to what looked like a room. It only had hay for bedding, but her attention was on the people inside.
There was a crowd of people. A woman was being restrained by another prisoner, her black skin only obstructed by bruises and the white mark on her face, her ebony hair tied into dreads. She was being held back as a large woman towered over her and her restrainer. She was large, a full foot taller than Deja and the woman, and she was relentlessly punching the dreadlocked woman in her gut.
Deja marched into the room and as the assaulter prepared another punch, Deja reached up and grabbed the woman by her ebony ponytail. The woman screamed as Deja gave a hard yank, pulling her off her victim as Deja hooked her collar and threw her to the ground with a sounding thud. The room had gone quiet, stunned by Deja's boldness. The assaulter growled as she pushed herself off the ground. Deja could plainly see her tanned skin decorated with red triangles under her eyes.
"Just who the hell are you?! Do you not know who I am?!" She shouted as she stood to her full height. She was dressed in black leather, stitched and tied together with thread as she snarled down at Deja.
"I do not care who you are. But this is my room now."
"Like hell it is!" The giant woman slugged Deja, who ducked under the punch and rose up with an uppercut, nailing her jaw and causing her to stumble back and hit the back of her head on the stone wall. The hard hit to her head caused her to slip out of consciousness and fall onto the ground.
Deja then glared at the small crowd of women, "grab her and get out." When she spat the command, the room started to clear out, leaving just Deja and the woman with dreads. Deja walked over to her and offered a hand to help her up.
The woman gave a grin as she took the hand, "thank you so much." The woman chuckled a bit as she hunched over, holding her stomach. "I could have handled them if..." She coughed a bit, nearly falling over, "could have handled them if they didn't ambush me."
Deja gave a slight nod, lying down on the bed, "they were nothing but a crew of cowards, only attacking in a group."
"Very true." The dreadlocked woman hobbled over and sat down next to Deja. "I go by Taula. Taula Rusthawk."
"Deja Brightcry." Deja looked around the small room and asked, "what will they do with us now?"
"Fight." Taula spoke slowly as she recovered her strength, "they will force us to fight in the coliseum, for the Tree Walker's entertainment."
Deja sucked her teeth, "to make us perform like animals." Deja mused it over before turning to Taula, "if you watch my back in the coliseum, I will watch yours." She bit at her thumb, drawing blood, and then extended her hand to Taula.
"Do I have much of a choice?"
Taula rolled her eyes as she bit into her own thumb, drawing blood. "I guess you've more then proven yourself to be trustworthy." She grabbed her hand, "but if you betray me, I will hunt you down."
"Right back at you."