Elseworld (inspired by The Princess Bride and the Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom books)
Disclaimer: These characters belong to the CW and DC Comics, not to me.
I believe this is the moment when I am supposed to swoon, Chloe thought. But she had never been able to swoon. In this moment, all she could do was watch, wide-eyed, as the candle seemed to float through the air toward her.
"What are you?" she asked, or tried to. The words stuck in her throat somehow, emerging as a hoarse whisper.
The air seemed to shift in front of her, and a young, dark-haired man stood in front of her, holding the candle in his left hand. He was rather handsome, although there was an arrogant lift to his head that she didn't care for.
"Not what," he said. "Who."
Slightly relieved that he looked so ordinary, she glanced away from his face, looking around the hut once again. The stench of death, the human bones all over the floor, had somehow led her to believe she was dealing with a horrible monster of some sort, not a man. Even a man who could appear and disappear at will was still a man.
"My name is Graham," he said, smiling slightly. He placed the candle on another small table. "And I regret having to bring you here. But my friend must eat."
Cold terror gripped her heart, and she stared at him. "Are you telling me that you brought me here--"
"As my friend's next meal, yes. I'm quite sorry. You're very pretty, far too pretty to meet such a fate."
He took a knife from its scabbard at his waist and held it aloft. Its blade glinted dully in the light of the candle.
"Wait," she said hastily. "Let us discuss this."
He smiled a little. "This is why I gagged you, even though there is no one in these woods who would care for your fate," he said, sounding amused. "Because I have no patience for listening to women. They never fail to beg and plead and weep for their lives."
"I had no intention of weeping," she retorted proudly. "I simply wish to ask you to reconsider the matter."
His eyes went dark. "My friend would not be pleased with me were I to reconsider."
"But I am merely a traveler through these woods," she said earnestly. "I have done you and your friend no harm."
"Once you set foot inside these woods, you are fair game for any number of creatures. I simply managed to claim you first."
She glared at him, as arrogantly as she could manage. "I insist that you set me free!"
He uttered a soft laugh and lifted the knife, and Chloe realized that she was about to die. Suddenly she found her voice again, and screamed for the one person who might save her.
Clark stalked the mounted men silently. He'd established that there were twenty of them. A great number of men just to abduct one village girl, he thought, puzzled. Mercenaries were not cheap, and only a rich man would hire so many of them. And to hire so many for so simple a purpose seemed strange.
Even stranger was the stout cage at the end of the line, a gaol on wheels drawn by a powerful draft horse.
For Lana? he wondered. Or for someone else?
The cage seemed much too large and well-built to hold a single young woman. It made him wonder if these men had some other purpose in Smallcroft he had yet to discern.
He walked silently behind them, listening to their coarse words and trying to discover any other purpose they might have. But before he had heard much other than a ribald conversation about a tavern wench they'd tumbled in the last town, a scream rent the night.
At least, it rent the night to his ears. But it was quite some distance away. The men paused and looked around nervously, then rode on.
Clark didn't follow.
The clear panic in Chloe's voice spun him around and into superspeed before he was even conscious of his reaction. Almost instantly, he found himself at the thicket where they'd hidden, but she was no longer there. He had no difficulty following the trail of crushed undergrowth showing where she'd been dragged, struggling, through the forest. He raced toward her at top speed.
Bursting into a small hut, he saw a sharp knife descending toward her chest.
Rage exploded within him, rage aimed at both her assailant and himself. He had been a fool to leave her alone in the woods, even for a moment. He dashed across the small hut, caught the man's arm, and flung him aside. The knife fell to the floor, clanging dully as it struck what Clark realized was a human skull. He suddenly realized how close Chloe had come to becoming one of the skeletons on the floor, and a mixture of heart-pounding dread and immense relief filled him.
He spun back to Chloe, ripped away her ropes, and gathered her into his arms, holding her against his chest.
She clung to him, shaking, and it didn't even occur to him to wonder why he was holding her this way. He wrapped his arms around her and pressed his face into her hair, drawing in the fresh scent of flowers, a fresh, sweet odor that drowned out the stench of the hut.
And then she stiffened in his arms.
"Clark," she whispered, looking wide-eyed over his shoulder. "We have a problem."
He turned his head to see a rather large lizard staring at him. It was about as tall as he was, and its mouth gaped open to reveal two rows of razor-sharp teeth. He let go of Chloe and turned to confront it, pushing her behind him.
Suddenly a terrible feeling of nausea rolled over him, and he staggered and almost fell.
She grabbed his arms from behind, steadying him. "Clark! Are you all right?"
He shook his head, unable to speak. He was suddenly horribly ill. He'd encountered meteor rocks a few times as he wandered about Smallcroft, and he knew the green stones were the only substance that could make him feel this way.
There had to be a meteor rock in the room somewhere.
The monster took a step forward, its mouth opening wider, and the sensation of weakness and nausea grew worse. Clark fell to his knees.
Yes, he thought vaguely. They very definitely had a problem.
Read Chapter 5 here.