Chapter 4 (Part #1)
Arnav quickly locked up the cottage and with a lantern in hand, started to walk north-east. He figured it would have seemed the best option to her since she now knew that staying here would mean certain death.
He had been sitting for a few minutes in his cottage, brooding, when it had suddenly struck him that the woods were dangerous at night, with wild beasts and hunters on the prowl and it was so easy to get lost in the dark. Things could go very badly for her. As soon as this thought crossed his mind, it was all he could do to stop himself from running like crazy in her direction. Fear and worry for her were eating him alive as his heart beat faster with every step he now took. Her foot was injured so she couldn’t have gone too far. There was a good chance he would find her. His pace increased automatically and he continued to tread along, listening carefully for any indication of her.
Khushi tried to jerk off the hunter’s hand from her face but his grip was hard and firm. The rude sneer on his face clearly hinted his indecent intentions.
“C’mon. Say somethin’ sugar or I’m going to have to make ya say ‘t. Where ya headed?” He smirked, making her notice the ugly scar running down the left side of his face.
“I am going to the courts of the Kingdom beyond the woods. I’m a messenger of the queen’s and I have to get to Prince Shyam.” She lied, hesistantly, thinking that he might let her go on hearing the queen’s name.
“Well, well, well. Working for tha queen n all! That bitch sure got herself some pretty servants. Too bad darling, we ain’t no friends of tha queen’s. And since we found ya n all, we’ll make our own use of ya. It’s been a while since we got a girl’s company n all.” He said, moving his fingers roughly over her cheeks.
Khushi’s pulse raced with trepidation. She knew exactly what he meant and she closed her eyes in repulsion. She thought of a smart reply but to argue with him wouldn’t help matters in the least. She would have to buy her time and make an escape when she got the chance. Oh hell! She thought, starting to miss her hunter and his cottage. She couldn’t believe she was missing the man who had planned to kill her but she did and the worst part was she didn’t even know his name.
“Tie her up to that tree for now Enkay until we’ve had ourselves some dinner. Oh n make sure ya tie her hands behind her back. She don’t look like no messenger to me in her jeans and knotted shirt.” He said rudely and walked off to sit with his friends.
“It’ll be a busy night boys!” he said and the hunting party chuckled in response while Khushi shivered from the cold fear rising inside her as she watched them get drunk.
Arnav stopped when he saw the flickering shadows in the distance. A fire in the middle of the wilderness could mean only two things. Travellers or hunters. For Khushi’s sake, he hoped it was the former. Most of the hunting groups around these woods were immoral outcasts and were part time robbers. They camped about living off the wild animals and plundered any travelling parties crossing the forest for gold. They were known for every uncouth and disgusting crime in the kingdom. He took each step quietly, one hand on the hilt of his sword, preparing for the worst.
When he was much closer to the clearing, he saw the fire and the group of men by it. Hiding behind a large trunk, he counted the men. Six were sitting around the fire, eating and drinking. They were all turned in the same direction and as he turned to where they were looking, his eyes fell on Khushi and the man standing next to her. Khushi was tied to a tree and he saw the man with a scar place one hand on her bare waist under the knotted shirt. Anger broiled inside him and his grip tightened around the hilt of the sword. As he saw her squirm and turn her face away in desperation, he had a burning urge to chop off the arm that had dared to touch her.