Drewin hiked through the woods, and thought again about his decision to make this journey on his own. His gnawing hunger and his aching body told him he was wrong, but his foolish pride told him that this really was the best way. If he went on his own, he could also choose his destination. No place of refuge for him over the border—he would join his father’s army in a moment of dire need, and they couldn’t help but be glad to see him.
He pushed his hair off his forehead and paused to look around him. The sun was shining high above the trees and lit the forest even down to its very floor. An uneasy breeze rustled through the branches so loudly that he didn’t even notice the twig snap behind him.
He wandered along some more until he discovered some berries and a cool stream. After refreshing himself a bit, he hiked on even faster than before suddenly fearing that the farmer may have followed him. The day wore away in this manner until he decided to stop for the night under the sheltering branches of a large oak. He had with him neither something to start a fire nor anything to prepare a shelter. All he had was that useless silver arrow. He was truly on his own.
Ryla was returning from morning prayers feeling quite refreshed and trustful, when the mother told her she had a visitor. Her heart stopped for just a moment, but she gathered together her courage and followed the mother down the hall to the office.
“Has he come for me?” she asked a little timidly.
“Yes, Angelique. Sir Wystan has come, and you must leave immediately,” the mother said gravely.
Ryla felt the slender case of her arrow in her pocket and forced herself to breath. So the danger was that close. She had brought nothing with her to monastery, so there was nothing to take back with her. “All right,” she said resolutely.
Sir Wystan greeted them kindly when they reached the office. He was an older man with graying hair and milky blue eyes and had always been her favorite of all the courtiers. She was glad he was the one sent to escort her, but she still felt nervous about the coming journey.
“Is the danger quite near?” she asked.
“No yet, little one, but the key is to be several steps ahead of it,” the old knight said gently.
“Is Drewin all right?”
“Sir Larkin was sent only a few days ago to escort him. I am sure they are well on their way now and should reach the haven even before we do,” Sir Wystan explained.
“May I say goodbye to Chasity?”
“One of the lay sisters,” the mother explained.
“In these circumstances, the fewer people there are that know you are leaving the better. There will be chances to see her again when all is well,” Sir Wystan replied.
The girl swallowed and nodded breathing a silent prayer. He was right of course. Turning to the mother, she said her goodbyes, and moments later they were on their way out of the convent.
“It is good you chose to take the dress of a nun. It will do to help you not be noticed by the townspeople. If they ask, we will tell them you are traveling with your grandfather to another convent,” he said, answering her silent questions.
Ryla smiled, and the sun shone.
Drewin’s look was as black as the storm clouds overhead. Of course, it would rain on his first night on the trail. He pulled his cloak around him and shivered in the night air. At least the tree would shelter him some, and he retreated more into the shadow of its branches.
Taking the slender gift from his father out of his pocket, he stroked the leather a little. Perhaps when he got to the battlefield, he could use it for something more than a comforting reminder of home. Sliding it back into his pocket, he lay down and let sleep overtake him.
The storm clouds overhead closed the gap between them and clashed like cymbals when they came together. A torrent of rain began to pour down, but still the exhausted boy slept.
It was a slight sound that awoke him. He sat up and looked around. He was cold and wet with rain. He couldn’t remember where he was or why he was awake; but in a moment that didn’t matter as he felt a knife of cold steel being pressed against his neck. He almost cried out, but a low voice checked him, “Not a sound.”
The dark cloaked figure pulled him to his feet, twisted his hands behind his back in a strong grip, and pulled him towards two waiting horses. Drewin began to struggle; but the strong hands held him powerless, and in a moment more he was on a horse with his hands tied to the pommel and a bandage bound tightly around his mouth.
The man climbed onto the other horse and led both out of the thicket. It was slow going through the thick underbrush, but Drewin’s thoughts were in a whirl as he tried to plan a way of escape. He could feel the arrow bumping against his side with every jolt of his body. What good was it now with his hands tied? He thought of prayer, but he wasn’t so sure he was brave enough to talk to God at that moment. Maybe somewhere his family was praying.
Before he could think of anything else, he was jolted forward in the saddle as the horses broke into a run to cover an open stretch of meadow. The man riding on the horse in front of him rode with an unmoving calm that angered Drewin to his very core. What sort of man would carry one off in the middle of the night as if he were going for a pleasure ride? The slightest chance he got, he would serve this man justice.
They galloped on towards the trees that closed around them in a sheltering embrace. For an instant, the mysterious rider turned his head to glance behind them then flicked his gaze forward to face the oncoming trees. Were they being followed? Drewin craned his neck to see and sincerely hoped they were.
His captor gave a quick cry of warning, and he ducked his head just in time to miss a low hanging branch. He felt no gratefulness in his heart at all; he was beyond that. The ride seemed to go on forever, but the angry boy had no time to think of escape plans for he was kept busy trying to stay in the saddle and keep his head unbruised.
Before he knew it, the horses slowed to a stop, and the man dismounted to examine the trail. When he was sure the man wasn’t looking at all, Drewin kicked the sides of his horse, and the frightened animal shot forward almost trampling his master. The man looked up just in time and caught the horse’s bridle seconds before the crashing hooves hit him.
He stared up into the boy’s face with an unreadable expression. “So, you are Drewin. They told me it would not be an easy assignment to have you in my care. I should have believed them.” The words were very calm and very accusing at the same time.
Copyright 2015 Kate Willis
Do you like Sir Wystan? What do you think of Drewin’s ride through the woods? What did you think of Sir Larkin? Let me know in the comments! ; )