Adriana Toutsaint tried to block the memories of the unmitigated nightmare that was her childhood. Immediately after being born, she was given to a farmer and his wife to raise as their own. What little gold coin that they were paid for this act of mercy was spent on a few luxuries for the family: a new chest of drawers, a pretty dress for her, a sharp, shiny straight razor for him. As for the baby, once she was a few years old, she was impressed into hard labor, scrubbing the floors of the ramshackle house, slopping the pigs in their ramshackle pen. Up at the crack of dawn, her first job was to feed some grain to the chickens. When her little hands were big enough, she was taught how to milk a cow.
As for her education, she learned to read on Sundays after Mass. One of the nuns was charged with teaching them their letters, while and elderly priest taught them adding and subtracting. A few old, worn-out bibles were the only textbook, so that by the time she was a young lady, she could identify any line she was given by chapter and verse. Perhaps the hope was to send her to a convent where she could learn the healing arts and then bring them back to the family as a reliable source of income.
At any rate, she never set foot in the convent. Life had other plans for little Adriana. Or rather, Adriana had other plans for herself. Late one night, at the age of twelve or thirteen, she stole one of the pack mules, and fled in the direction of the nearest big city. With a bridle in one hand and a torch in the other, she took the slow moving mule down a well-used road. Until sunrise, her heart beat a feverish rhythm against her ribcage. Adriana knew full well that this path was infested with all manner of bandits and cutthroats, rapists and thieves. Luckily it had been a new moon, so the light was poor. The denizens of the forest preferred to operate under the soft glow of the full moon.