Excerpt from Chapter One of The Witchbreed Series, Book One: In the Blood by R.L. Martinez…
“Ottilde caught the shadow of movement to either side of her. She sighed, then glanced up as her short-lived solitude came to an end. Hetch Bilo, her former cavalry squad’s lieutenant, and his two companions, Tanna and Hyrman, lurked over her. She watched them sit; Bilo opposite, the other two flanking her.
The lieutenant reached across the table and stabbed a thick finger into her soupy porridge before bringing it to his mouth. “Guess your high-born family wants nothing to do with you either, eh King Killer? Otherwise, they would’ve put in some pull with our military.” Ottilde schooled her face into a blank mask.
Tanna leaned close and touched the prisoner number running down Ottilde’s neck. Ottilde resisted the urge to jerk back. “And as long as yer body shows up at roll call, I don’t think anyone’ll mind if you ain’t movin’ or breathin’. Whatcha think?”
Ottilde examined the disgusting food on her tray. She curled her hands into tight fists on the table’s planked top. Her eyes fixed on the ugly crosshatch of scars decorating her arms, angry reminders of her stay in Lachlas. They throbbed with memories of being held against the hot stove. Her lungs burned recalling the many times another prisoner held her head under water in the bathhouse. The smack of wooden boards from prisoners’ bunks against her back and head rang in her ears. She had kept still and taken their vicious punishments to stay inconspicuous and secure her release. Coomb had destroyed that prospect this morning. Snatched away the solace of home and her sister. The time for silent acceptance was at an end. Her heart picked up its pace. Ottilde met Tanna’s sneering stare. “I think you need to keep your filthy hands to yourself.”
Tanna’s nasty smile twisted into a snarl and she raised her fist to attack, but Ottilde struck first. She rammed her elbow into the other woman’s face, smiling at the satisfying crunch of bone followed by a spray of blood. On her other side, Hyrman let out a shout of surprise but Ottilde had already risen and swung a leg over the bench to steady her body before delivering a sharp punch to his jaw. He flailed back and tumbled from the bench. The next instant Bilo leapt over the table, sending her tray and its messy contents smashing to the ground. He clipped her on the cheek with his meaty fist. She spun and slammed into the wall but recovered enough to swipe her spoon from the ground and ram it with neat precision into Bilo’s eye socket as he came at her again.
Her opponent let out a blood-chilling scream and fell back against the bench, clutching the gory spoon. Tanna and Hyrman had recovered enough to try for her again, but by then the guards, alerted to the uproar, had rushed into the fray, batons swinging. Ottilde ducked one swipe but caught another in the ribs. She sucked in an agonized breath and crouched against the wall. Tanna and Hyrman tried to lunge at her, which earned them each several knocks about the head. Once subdued, the guards dragged them from the dining house along with their still wailing comrade. The three remaining guards eyed her uneasily. Beyond them, the rest of the prisoners watched her too. This time, it was not hatred that radiated from their wide eyes, but fear.
One of the guards cleared his throat and reached forward to grab her arm in tight fingers. “Seems you want another trip to the black house, 296.”
Pride kept her quiet as her escort hauled her through the dining house and across the yard. But when she saw the four foot tall, two foot wide wooden stall standing at the center of the camp she snapped out of her mental paralysis enough to pull against the guard’s grip. “Please,” she whispered. But the guard shoved her inside and slammed the door shut.”