The road flies by!
In the dizzying blur of hawthorn leaves and star-speckled sky, Stellia clings to Phylia’s neck. She is terrified. The mare, finding herself on the open road, knows what is expected, and begins to trot, a slow pace for the horse but still faster than anything Stellia has experienced riding in circles in the yard under her father’s supervision.
Stellia forces herself into an upright position, as her father taught her during those quaint circumambulations. The pace feels utterly reckless but also exciting.
She is riding, truly riding!
Now she has a chance to accomplish all she means to do: find Sedwin and Garroth, and then with them, Lord Osdath and Till.
Of course the two men might refuse to take her along, and send her home instead.
Let them try!
They can hardly afford the time to turn back again and escort her to Phoros, not without allowing Lord Osdath to put an even greater distance between himself and them. And if they should want to send her off by herself, well… who knows what might happen to a helpless girl on such a long road, without their protection?
Suddenly, Phylia’s trot seems dreadfully slow. They’ll never catch up like this, nor, and this is worse, will she be able to outdistance any pursuers once her escape is noticed in the morning. Her father taught her how to spur Phylia, though of course in the yard Stellia did so only very cautiously, just enough to keep the mare moving.
She clicks her tongue and presses her heels into Phylia’s flanks, careful not to kick the beloved animal.
Phylia understands at once. Soon they travel at what must be a gallop. The road, a dusty pale strip between the black bushes, slips away underneath them, and the wind rushes in Stellia’s ears.
How long can they go this fast, before Phylia is exhausted?
The poor beast can’t talk to tell the rider that she needs rest, after all. Stellia leans forward, and kisses the horse’s warm smooth neck, and mutters words of encouragement. No doubt the mare will slow down of her own accord once she tires. Hopefully, they will be far from Phoros by then.
But getting away from Phoros is only the first step.
That she must head north is all Stellia knows of the route she needs to take. She’s seen a map of the Realms in the archives in Maltaros, but at the time, she did not take note of the exact location of the Sundrance of Silence, where Sedwin believes Lord Osdath to be headed. It’s somewhere on the other side of the Heavens’ Teeth, that much she remembers. Whether the road there leads around the mountains or through them, she can’t recall—and even if she did, she wouldn’t know how to find it on her own.
She must find Sedwin and Garroth, and soon.
With every passing hour, with every moment even, there is a chance that the men might choose some route she will not be able to learn or guess. She feels the hatching of despair inside her heart. Can she truly hope to follow them? They’ve had a day’s head start on her; does that alone not render her endeavor futile? But despair will benefit her no more than sadness. Clear thought is her only true friend now.
And food, what will she do about that?
That’s another thing that has to wait, though she does not care to think for how long it can, in truth, wait.
Surely riders wishing to travel swiftly will prefer to stay on a road wherever possible. Sedwin and Garroth, then, must have taken the same road on which Stellia is now traveling, at least if they left Phoros heading northwards. Eventually it would have led them to the fork where it continues north to Godossas one way, and west to Maltaros the other. Godossas is closer, and there is an inn there where one can stop for the night, and merchants that sell supplies.
Godossas it is.
Godossas is also where father’s older brother lives, Uncle Ezriyon, with aunt Tammora and their two sons, Oraxas and Yakkon.
That gives her an idea.
She should be able to reach Godossas before dawn. Before, hopefully, anyone back home discovers. And even if they have, it will take time for the news to reach Godossas.
If all goes well, she’ll have a few hours before her aunt and uncle find out what their niece is really up to.
NEXT: A Long Morning