… One of those dreams I often had. I was younger, much younger, and he was too. His hair was still black and his skin was smooth. Mother was there too, and we were outside in the country, looking at the green mountains of summer, playing under the warm sun.
Mother came to me and said that thing I could not hear, and then Father knelt and told me about Thorn and the different kings and queens. He said I’d be the first queen to rule the five realms.
I don’t know now if I dreamed about a memory, or if my memories were dreams.
Then, like every time I had the dream, storm clouds clogged the sky. We were running, looking for shelter, but we got wet, so wet. And then the air changed and the wind blew us all apart and Mother was lost and I could not save her.
And, at the end, she came and cursed my father.
“You are not blood,” she said, looking at me with those purple eyes of hers. She had me seized by the guards and they locked me in the tower for ever.
I woke up panting. My forehead drenched in sweat and my breath short.
The sounds of the dark murmured: the creaky branches, the whistling of the wind, the hooting of the night birds, and in the distance, the howling of a pack of wolves.
The hearth in my room was lit, a timid flame dancing with the wind. I flexed my shoulder through the bandages. It hurt, but a lot less than the night before. The wounds on my back felt itchy too, healing underneath the binds.
I stood up and walked to the window. There was no moon, as in that night in the river. I hadn’t been asleep for days, which was somehow comforting.
In the deep darkness, I was able to see that the stable was a few steps away.
I sat on the bed and considered my situation. I did not know these people and I could not tell them who I was. If I did I risked them taking me back to my father for a reward. And even if they had no intention of doing that, soon enough they would start asking questions I did not want to answer. I had to flee before that.
My bow and arrow bag were on the table where the kettle had been. I grabbed them and wrapped the bag around my back. To my disappointment I could not find my map or food but I resigned to leave without them.
I opened the window. A breath of cold air snuffed the feeble flame on the hearth. I peeked to ensure there was no one outside and then crept through the opening.
The air was colder than I had thought. I was grateful Everett had given me the fur I wore on my neck. I wondered how he was. Was he already dead? Did they torture him? Thinking about him crept me out.
The stable had two wooden doors, locked by a loose belt knotted in the middle. They made a creaking sound that echoed in the silence of the night as I pulled them open.
It was a small stable. Four stalls lined up in a single lane. Motet was in the last one to the right. As I opened his compartment, he snorted and nickered, happy to see me. “We are leaving, boy,” I said, as I placed the mount over his back.
The bandage on his croup made me hesitate for a moment. “Do you think you can make it?”
Motet flickered his ears and pawed the ground, as if telling me he was ready to leave whenever I was.
“I knew you were strong.”
I grabbed the reins and guided him to the exit. Once outside, I closed the door and tied the knot back the way it was. On his mount I scanned ahead. A thick forest surrounded an open harvest field in front of the house.
Without a map or idea where we were, we would have to wait until dawn when it would be easier to find our way.
I kicked Motet with my heels and released the reins. His dark crest waved against my face and a sense of complete freedom took me. After all those years locked up in the tower even a cold night in a strange forest felt right. Once again we were in our quest to Rohm and to freedom. Freedom for my father and for the kingdom I would someday rule.
Part of The Princess of the Secret Blood
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