Fiona nodded as Lily waved and went down the corridor, fussing with her hair as she walked to her office. Fiona took the other hall entrance to her main office. She opened the great oaken door that had her name engraved on a brass plaque in the middle of it and walked in. To her left was the desk where she spent most of her time, covered with drawings and sketches of the machinery she was designing. In front of her was the fireplace, already lit by the office staff. On the right were two wooden and leather chairs for visitors and a wall behind them, lined with bookshelves stuffed with technical journals and scrolls of diagrams. This was her place, her “grounding” as her aunt, a long-time believer in omens and portents would call it, and she loved it.
She sat in the chair behind the desk and relaxed for a moment, till her eyes fell upon a small plain metal box on top of the desk. She brushed some of the papers aside and placed the box in front of her, then opened it up. Inside lay only a cheap necklace made of glass beads, strung with rough twine and tied together, not even a clasp on it.
She reached out a tremulous hand to the necklace and picked it up, the distracted stare on her face showing that her mind was not on the office work. The flashing of the lights on the glass beads made her remember... made her remember...
Pandemonium ruled the village. Low-standing peat houses were on fire, people were screaming, her friends and family being chased by the angry dark men in strange clothing. She hid under the fireplace supports of one house till finally, it, too, was set on fire. She darted out to escape but a rough strong hand grabbed her long hair from behind.
"We could sell this one to the Sinese, Lieutenant. Wash her up and she might get a pretty price". She struggled futilely in his grip and the men laughed at her.
A third man walked over and she could tell, even at her age, that this man had power over the other two, over her. He looked her up and down for a moment, then spoke.
"I know this one, I think. She's the daughter of the... what do they call that? Shaman? Priest? of their tribal council. What are you doing here, girl?"
She said nothing but spat at his feet, receiving an immediate blow to the side of her head from the man behind her that left her partially dazed.
"Tie her up and pack her away for safekeeping, we'll see what we can get for her. This will be proof we have her". He reached down and before the girl could protest, yanked the glass bead necklace from her neck, the one her father had given her after his last trip to the trading post. He held it up and it glinted as it reflected the light from the burning houses.
"What about the rest of them, sir?" asked the other man standing next to her.
The leader looked at the remaining captives being grouped up, beaten, bloody, the other children crying and frightened.
"Kill them. Kill them all."
As the man holding her hair picked her up, the last sight she saw that night was the dark-skinned men wading into the group of survivors, swinging already bloodied swords and clubs as she whirled down into darkness...