I stumbled around on the track, calling and calling Melody back to me. The mare was long gone, lost somewhere in the bank of fog. I gathered myself and checked for injures, just a few cuts and bruises. My skirts, red velvet jacket and black cloak were damp and covered with mud, leaves and grass.
Breathing the frozen air, I got my bearings and decided it would be faster to continue walking forward then try to go back. My father had planned the road out so that it circled to the house no matter which way you went.
Wrapping my cloak tightly around me and putting the hood up, I set off. The fog parted as I went into it then rolled back behind me. The toes of my boots tapped against fallen branches and I crunched over brittle leaves.
I shouldn’t have bothered to come out here to find my father, brothers and guests. I should have stayed in the warm kitchen overseeing lunch being made and listening to the gossip of the servants. I should have brought my dog with me. Jess could have sniffed out my father faster then my eyes could have spotted him.
It had been, I don’t know, instinct? A whispering voice at the back of my head? That had brought me out here telling me something bad was going to happen. I trusted that voice and my mother had always encouraged me to do so.
I heard footsteps ahead. I stopped and called out, ‘Hello?’
No voice replied but the footsteps continued. Had someone else been thrown off their horse and were lost like myself in the forest?
‘Hello! It’s Rufina. I came to find you,’ I spoke.
The footsteps stopped.
My breathing was harsh in my ears and I thought I heard a rustle in the distance but it could have been anything as the fog muffled all sounds. Then, had it really been footsteps I had heard?
Unsure, I walked on, feeling my way more then anything. When the path didn’t feel solid under my feet, I stepped about till I found it again. It felt like being in a dim light, like it was evening time instead of late morning. Branches and leaves brushed me, heightening my senses.
I spotted movement ahead and thought a figure was coming out of the fog. Was it my father? One of my brothers? Or one of the guests? It was hard to tell but it looked like a tall man.
‘Hello? Who’s there?’ I shouted., ‘It’s me, Rufina!’
No reply came.
I picked up my pace and approached the figure but as the fog parted, there was no one there.
I turned around, peering as if I could see the figure somewhere else but there was only the fog and the shape of the close by trees.
‘Is there anybody there?’ I shouted, ‘please come to me! No playing games, it’s too dangerous out here for that!’
The wind shook the trees, there was a rattle of dry leaves and I felt a few brush against my legs as my skirts was whipped up. I pushed things down and straightened my cloak out. I tied the ribbon of my hood tighter and ordinate myself.
I did have a big imagination thanks to all the books I read but I couldn’t have really conjured someone just being there on the road?
Shaking the thoughts out of my head, I carried on and tried to work out how far away I was from home. I knew the road looped down to the edge of the forest before going back up. I must be close to that dip now.
A howling echoed through the forest. My all ready cold skin chilled further and I tripped a step. I held my breath and tried to listen. Where had the howl come from and what creature had made it?
No wolves roamed here. Was it a wild dog? Perhaps, it was the gardener’s pet dog? Or one of the hunting pack hounds?
‘I’m over here!’ I cried then realised how silly that was surrounded by this fog.
The howl sounded again. It was just a single one and it wasn’t answered by another. Not a good sign as the hounds would have been making a lot of noise. There must have been fifteen to twenty dogs all together, so there was no way they could be quiet.
I fretted, unsure what to do. Should I call the dog to me and risk it being a stray or wild dog that could bite me? Or it could be a friendly dog who would guide me back home?
Before I could decided there was a ruckus close by and something jumped out. I screamed and tried to run but something hit into me and I fell.
To Be Continued….