My hysteria waned inside Nyle’s tent. I began to realise that no one would come to my rescue. How could I have put my faith in someone as fickle as Morven. To him, I was an illicit lover and nothing more. He valued his place in the tribe more than my freedom.
Cador looked smug. His deal with the Durotriges would allow our tribe to grow and prosper, with allies at our borders instead of enemies. It had never been achieved before in living memory and the only person who lost from this alliance was me.
Cador laid out his plans to expand trade routes through the Duros to other tribes, using Blake’s good name to pave the way. While he wittered on and praised himself, I edged closer to the entrance with a view to escape. There was nothing he could say to make me change my mind. Everything about the old man repulsed me. And now, even Morven had left me at my time of need.
The closer I got to the door, the more my heart pounded in my chest. I could creep across the woodlands and get to the crossing at the River Sid before daylight. From there, I planned to make for the moors and walk to the northern coastline of our lands. No one there knew my face and I could start again at the mining settlement or set up my own healing service at one of the stone circles.
With a plan forming in my fevered mind, I lunged for the door skins, but Cador’s reactions were too fast. He took hold of my hair and pulled me back inside. I yelped, the pain across my scalp was instant.
“Ho there!” Cador called out, expecting Nyle to be hovering about just beyond the shelter. He guessed right. The rugged warrior stepped inside and nodded at my brother. “I need bindings, something sturdy. She’s stronger than she looks.”
Nyle tittered, dipped back outside, and fetched a few lengths of leather straps. From Cador’s expression, I knew that I’d get another clout across the cheek if I struggled. Biding my time, I let the two men secure me to the central post in the shelter. Another opportunity would present itself sooner or later. I was prepared to do whatever it took to be free of this wretched tribe and my cruel brother, even if it meant taking a life.
Within a few moments, Cador negotiated an agreement with Nyle, allowing those of our surviving men to take turns in guarding me. The Duro heir looked suspicious at first. He squinted at my brother with mistrust, until Cador suggested that Duro warriors could watch over me instead. “I’m telling you, Nyle. She’s as slippery as an elver in hot lard. My men know how best to deal with her when she’s like this.”
They did too. Cador’s brutality spread to those of his Head Hunter Clan; their women folk could attest to that. I suspected that I afforded some protection from their violence, being kin to the Chief, but while they had his permission to beat me, I would not be spared their wrath.
Cador finished checking the bindings and stood next to Nyle. “I think we should encourage Chief Blake to wed her as soon as possible.”
Nyle looked back at my furious expression and nodded. “Agreed. I’ll get the preparations underway; you go and speak with my father.”
Alone in the fire lit tent, I peered about for something I could use to free me. The leather straps scored into the flesh on my wrists, as I struggled to loosen the ties. It was no use. I was trapped.