10. Shadows in the Night

It is a mad run through trees and underbrush.

Several times Stellia trips over a root or a branch or rock, only to be caught by Garroth before she can fall. Mostly, she is aware of the night air, of its sweet smell, its intoxicating rush against her skin. The alcoholic stink of her assailant in the tent is still fresh in her memory. She fears it will remain so for some time.

Still, she worries what her rescuers’ intentions may be. What are their motives for saving her?

For the moment, it is all she can do to keep breathing as they race through the woods. There is no moon, and though the sky is thickly dusted with stars, the darkness among the trees is nearly absolute.

She hears a loud snort from somewhere ahead, and neighing.

“They overtook us!”

“No.” Garroth motions for her to stop running.

They enter a small clearing, and he points to its far edge. Two large shadows stand there, calm, unmoving: horses, nibbling on the grass and herbs that cover the ground.

Garroth crosses the clearing with huge strides. Stellia has to run in order not to fall behind; even Sedwin has to trot briskly to keep up.

“You’ll ride with me,” Sedwin says. “Together, you and I are still lighter than Garroth.”

“You left these horses here?”

“Who else?”

“Horses aren’t good at stealth,” Sedwin says. “And their tracks are easier to follow than ours. If the brigands try to pursue us, we will be long gone by the time they come to this clearing, if they find it at all.”

“Thank you for coming for me,” Stellia says. “But how did you know where I was?”

“Providence, little girl,” Garroth says. “Now let us go.”

Sedwin mounts his horse and lifts Stellia into the saddle in front of him. She is elated to be off her wobbling feet, and by the prospect of moving swiftly away from these sinister woods. Sedwin clicks his tongue and spurs the horse.

The animal whinnies eagerly in response, and carries them with breathtaking speed into the night.

NEXT: Questions and No Answers


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