Beck shifted slightly from his stretched out position on the floor. He twisted his head up and looked over at the arrow slit. A thin trickle of yellow light was leaking in. He glanced down and saw that Olwyna’s head was on his lower legs. Her blonde hair was cascading around her and her high cheeks were flushed rosy with sleep. He felt a half-forgotten excitement inside of him and the urge to sweep her hair back grew.
Instead he moved slowly, took her head in his hands and lowered it to the floor. She moaned, making him pause. Her eyelashes fluttered and she stirred, coming awake. Beck took his hands away and shuffled across the floor. Leaving Olwyna to sprawl out as she rolled over and began moving her stiff limbs, Beck tossed the blanket away and got up.
He crossed the floor and tried to look out of the arrow slit, but it offered no view of the outside. Checking his weapons then seeing that Olwyna was dozing, he went to the staircase. He headed down and as he passed the quarters a soft, sleepy voice called his name. He stopped and peered into the first room almost as if he expected the ghosts from his past to be beckoning him. He heard his name again and this time realised it was Olwyna.
‘I’ll be back in a moment,’ he called out and carried on down the stairs.
Beck found Nightstorm on the ground floor nuzzling at his saddle.
‘Morning. You want some oats?’
The warhorse neighed and Beck dug the sack out for him. Leaving the horse, Beck went to the door and pulled it open. A winter blanket greeted him and the early morning sunlight shone down on frosty snow. Beck squeezed his way out and his feet sink into the crunch snow. He made his way around the back of the tower, his breath misting in front of him. The young trees surrounding him were dripping icicles from their snow topped branches. He watched the sunlight glistening off them and marvelled at the silence of the forest.
Reaching the back of the tower, he dug a small hole and relieved himself. Keeping alert, he shot looks through the close trees and listened out for approaching footsteps. No one, not even an elf or fairy could move silently on snow like this. Finishing, he kicked the dug out snow back and walked in his trail of footprints. Beck went back inside and fixed the door to try and keep some of the cold out. He went over to Nightstorm and patted the horse’s side.
‘It’s cold out there, but at least the storm is over,’ Beck said, ‘looks like you’ve had enough oats.’
He slowly pulled the sack away from the warhorse then tied a knot at the top. Whilst he was putting it away and straightening the tack out, Nightstorm went to the door. Beck heard an iron hoof scratching against the wood. He looked over his shoulder and saw Nightstorm trying to move the door with his head.
Stilling a laugh, Beck went over and slipping under the tall warhorse, helped him to open the door. Nightstorm stepped carefully out into the snowy banks. His nose flared and breathes misting before him as he scented the air. The frosty packed snow crunched and moved under his heavy weight, causing him to sink a little.
‘Don’t wander too far,’ Beck called after him.
Leaving the door, Beck went back up the spiral stairs. At the top he found Olwyna folding the blankets up. Her head shot up towards him as he appeared and fear sparked then faded from her tried eyes.
‘Morning, I was just sorting out Nightstorm,’ he said.
Olwyna nodded and turned back to the blankets.
‘The storm seems to be over, so I’m setting out soon,’ he added.
‘What about me?’ Olwyan questioned as she handed him the blankets.
‘I would not recommend staying here,’ Beck answered.
He went over to the fireplace and picked up the lantern. The candle inside had pooled into a circle of wax. Tucking the blankets under his arm, he picked up the water skin and dried meat leather bag with his other hand, before walking over to Olwyan.
‘I guess I can’t leave you here….but I cannot take you to Ravenglass.’
‘There’s no point in going there now,’ she muttered, ‘can you take me to Breland?’
Beck thought about it, ‘I’ll take you as far as I can,’ he stated then went to the staircase.
‘How far is that?’ she called after him.
He shrugged in the doorway, gave her no answer and started downstairs. He heard Olwyan muttering behind him, flapping out her skirts and pacing around. The notion of why he decided to be alone entered his mind and for a few seconds he thought about setting off without her.
‘But then what would she do?’ he said in a low voice, ‘she won’t get far without a horse and a guide. If she stayed here she would not survive. Even if a few a locals did know about this tower, they would not come. They would think she had been kidnapped or buried in the snow. Looks like I do not have a choice.’
Beck sighed as he reached the bottom of the staircase. He glanced upwards and his darker side questioned leaving her to die. He shook his head, the last remaining shreds of honour would not allow him to do it.
He put everything away in the saddlebags then went outside to look for Nightstorm. The warhorse was easy to track in the snow. Beck found him, drinking out of a small stream which he had broken the ice away from. Nightstorm raised his head as Beck joined him. Patting the horse, Beck crouched down and cupped some of the freezing water in his hands. He sipped it and decided the sweet, piney taste was fine.
Nightstorm nuzzled him and they walked back together, the snow crunching loudly underneath them. The tower appeared between the trees, snowflakes crystallised on the freezing stones. Beck lead the horse back inside and began putting on the tack.
Olwyan appeared at the bottom of the stairs, arms crossed in front of her small chest.
‘I’ll only come with you on one condition,’ she stared.
‘You do not have much of a choice,’ Beck pointed out without turning to face her.
Olwyan huffed, ‘I need to know. Are you an elf or not?’
Beck spun, closed the gap between them in fast strides and grabbed her wrist. She cried out, but didn’t twist away from him as the sliver bracelet jingled down her arm.
‘Only if you tell me about that bracelet,’ Beck growled.
‘All right,’ Olwyan snapped.
Beck dropped her wrist and took a deep breath, ‘I’m only half.’
‘My father was or so my mother used to tell me,’ Beck spoke bitterly, ‘do not tell anyone or…’ his hand closed around the grip of his short sword.
Olwyan followed the movement and nodded with a small gulp.
‘It is a long story. Can I tell you on the way?’
To Be Continued…