Beck finished putting on Nightstorm’s saddle and bridle. With a glance over his shoulder, he led the horse through the broken door and a few steps away from the abandoned elf tower. The snow crunched loudly around them and once again Beck and Nightstorm sank a little in the white drifted. Leaving the warhorse listening and smelling the air, Beck went back and held his hand out for Olwyan.
She stood in the doorway, peering out uncertainly huddled in her riding cloak. She looked down at his hand then the depth of the snow and the footprints he and Nightstorm had created. Olwyan picked up the side of her skirts, lifting them clear of the snow then took his hand and stepped into one of Beck’s footprints. Her smaller booted feet sink into the snow. She took another step and found the going easier then she had first thought.
Beck led her up to Nightstorm and reached for the back of the saddle.
‘I shall give you a lift up.’
‘I cannot,’ Olwyan stated, ‘I have never ridden a horse.’
‘That does not matter,’ Beck replied.
‘I will walk, thank you.’
She turned and took a few steps away, still using Beck’s footprints. Behind her, she heard Beck clicking his tongue and walking Nightstorm on. She stepped onto fresh snow and her feet sank into the softness, she stopped looked into the forest, the task of walking back to the road now daunting.
‘It’ll be easier,’ Beck said close behind her.
‘I can’t!’ Olwyan snapped.
She turned and saw that Beck had come to her side with Nightstorm two steps behind him, standing still. The huge black horse stood proudly out against the white snowy scene, an ink blot on white paper. He flicked his tail and looked off into the forest, his ears pricked for any sounds.
‘Give me your hand,’ Beck said gently.
Olwyan held it out, but did not look at him. Beck moved her hand towards Nightstorm’s nose. She shut her eyes and tensed, holding her breath. She felt a hot breath then warm velvetiness on the back of hand.
‘He’s soft and he wouldn’t hurt you,’ Beck whispered, ‘turn around.’
She did, but kept her eyes shut. Olwyan felt her hand being flattened against the horse’s muzzle and moved upwards. The velvet feeling changed to one of silkiness as she felt his short hair under her fingers.
‘See? That’s not so bad.’
Olwyan nodded, not trusting herself to speak. She felt her hand being dropped and movement beside her. Beck’s mumbled words reached her, but she couldn’t full hear them. When he came back to her side, she cracked open her eyes and saw that Nightstorm had moved and she was now looking at his saddled back.
‘I’ll lift you up,’ Beck said, ‘put your foot here and your hands here.’
‘I shall try.’
She felt Beck hands on her hips and her feet leaving the ground. She placed the right on into the stirrup and her hands on top of the saddle and helped him lift her up. Moments later, she was surprised to realise she was there. Straighten her skirts and cloak, she patted Nightstorm at the base of his mane and looked over his head. She had a higher view of the forest now.
‘Where are you going?’ she called to Beck as he moved away.
‘It would be unfair to ask him to carry the both of us and my things,’ came the reply.
Olwyan wiggled in the saddle, ‘I have changed my mind. Get me down.’
‘Sorry, but no, your highness,’ Beck tacked on as he grabbed the reins.
He grinned up at her and clicking his tongue, tugged Nightstorm into moving. Olwyan swayed forward and grabbed the top of the saddle, her legs knocked together and a sick feeling hit her stomach.
‘Tell me about your bracelet,’ Beck called up.
‘I want to get down!’
‘Trust me. It is easier and faster this way. Talking will take your mind off it.’
Olwyan pressed her teeth together and sucked in a deep breath. She felt Nightstorm moving under her, the warhorse not seeming to notice her fear. She shut her eyes and thought about anything else other then what she was doing right now.
‘When we get to the road you can get down. The snow might not be so deep there,’ Beck’s voice drifted to her, ‘the passing carriages and horses will have helped too and we are lower here. We need to make to the next outpost before we lose the light as well, even if it does not snow again, it’s too cold to travel at night now.’
‘Do you know where it is?’ Olwyan asked.
She opened her eyes and mouth at the same time, harsh words dancing on her tongue.
‘Don’t worry about it. Now tell me about you.’
Olwyan was silent for a moment. She slid the sliver bracelet around her wrist, looking at the detailed pattern and words etched across it.
‘You know don’t you?’ she said softly.
Beck didn’t answer, but carried on leading Nightstorm through the snow.
‘I wanted to a be City Priestess,’ Olwyan breathed, ‘but I could not learn the magic. I barely got into the Order, but I thought being there, practising and learning would help. But it was beyond me. I did not want to leave, so they said I could go to help set up a new order in Ravenglass. Of course, that meant being married off and having babies. I did not mind, I was doing it for the Order and if I had a child who could weld magic then I would have been happy.’
‘Do you believe that?’ Beck asked.
‘Yes. And my suiter was so nice. He was tall, not as tall as you though and he had black hair and a young face. The first time we meet he presented me with a dried flower from the mountains. I thought…well, that we would get on. We were in separate carriages,’ Olwyan dropped her voice, ‘I do not know what happened to him.’
‘We should head back then and see if we can find anyone.’
Olwyan nodded and looked through the snow covered trees. She could see nothing resting against their trunks or tangled in their branches. A gently wind blew some snowflakes about and soft chiming coming from the movement of the icicles. Nightstorm snorted underneath her, but ploughed onwards. She patted his neck then wrapped her fingers around the leather saddle again.
To Be Continued…