Chosen (Laws of Segregation Book 1)

By: Nina Croft

Laws of Segregation Part 1



Prologue


Freya huddled on the narrow bed, one arm chained to the metal post above her head, the other resting on the swollen curve of her belly. The birth was close.

It was the time of the witches' moons. Through the narrow slit of window, she could see the blood-red crescents as they rose above the high wall surrounding the Keep. As their sullen glow crept into the small cell, her hopelessness clawed its way closer to the surface, and she gasped aloud.

The baby stirred inside her, and Freya recognized the now familiar hum of magic. Moon magic. Witch's magic that would doom her child to a life of slavery.

If her unborn baby had been a boy, she would gladly give him life. But she knew what the future held for any girl child she bore.

Her daughter was restless. As Freya stroked her stomach soothingly, the hum of power increased, emphasizing the empty place within herself where her own magic should be. Her resolve hardened.

All her eighteen years, she'd lived as a slave to the Order of Warlocks though she could remember little of that time, moving through her life as though immersed in a thick fog. Only when her daughter was conceived had she awoken and felt the first stirrings of despair. The moon magic was strong in her daughter, and Freya finally understood what the Order had taken from her. She wouldn't allow them to do the same to her child.

She'd been fighting the choice, praying to the Goddess for some sign of hope, some indication that she and her sisters were not completely forsaken. But the Goddess no longer listened to their prayers.

Maybe all witches were damned, as the Order claimed.

There was no one else to free her daughter, and Freya would have to act quickly.

The room was empty but for the bed, only a thin sheet drawn up over her naked body. The walls were bare stone, and a black metal door stood opposite where she lay. A small grill in the door allowed them to watch her, and every couple of hours a face would peer in. She stroked her stomach one last time and blinked away a tear. “I'm sorry, little one.”

Freya would have given anything to hold her child, to see her grow. But not in this world. Instead, she would give her own life to save her daughter from suffering the fate of the witches of Arroway.

Lifting her hand, she studied the thin skin of her wrist, where the blood lay close to the surface forming a tracery of blue veins. Raising it to her mouth, she bit down. The skin was tougher than she'd anticipated, and a sob rose up in her throat. Ignoring the pain, she bit harder and a spurt of warm blood filled her mouth. She gagged and spat, then worried at the wound with her teeth until the flow was strong and steady.

A quick glance at the door showed there was no one there, and curling on her side, Freya lowered her hand over the edge of the bed where it wouldn't be seen by a casual observer.

It didn't hurt so much now, and she sang softly under her breath. Songs she had learned from the other women, songs borne down over the generations during a thousand years of captivity.

Of a world of beauty, magic, and freedom. A world lost long ago.

The air was heavy with the sweet stench of fresh blood, and nausea roiled in her stomach. But her life force was growing weaker, and the baby was quiet inside her. Closing her eyes, Freya hummed low under her breath as fog invaded the corners of her mind, draining her consciousness.

The click of the door opening jolted her from the encroaching darkness. Keeping her eyes clenched shut, she prayed they would see nothing remiss and would believe she was sleeping.

“Freya?” The voice was harsh with urgency. “Freya!” He spoke louder this time, his tone laced with panic.

Her thoughts froze, then began to race. She couldn't remember a time when one of them had called her by name. That would have meant seeing her as a person, and they could never do that and live with what they had done.

She turned her head to the side, forcing her heavy lids open. A man stood beside the bed, staring down at her. Tall, with dark-red hair, green eyes and pale skin, a long wooden staff clasped in his hand. She rolled away, curling her body into a ball.

“Freya, listen to me. I'm here to help.”

She took no notice of the words. Soon he would cease to matter. A few minutes more, and she would be beyond anything they could do to her.

“In the name of the Goddess, what have you done?”

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