<< Return to part 4 - Half Light <<
With a gentle swaying rhythm, Tom's hips rocked in time to hoof beats of the horse beneath him. Long and weary hours together fused them into two parts of the same being. With every mountain and river and enemy that fell beneath those hooves, a kinship was forged between horse and master. One step, one breath, one sway of the hips, one movement closer to home.
A long dry summer had left the road down which they walked ready to fly away, and with every step a puff of dust was released into the air. Thought the ground was dry, the forest surrounding the road was lush and green, tempting. How pleasant it would be to wander through the trees, to escape the raging sun, but the Darce Forest was not to be trifled with, not by one man alone. Many a man had been drawn into those silvery boughs on their own, with no one to hear them scream and no one to report why they could not return. Of late the problem had been growing. The gangs of men who had been safe entering the forest together, dared to venture forth no more. In hushed whispers they could be heard speaking of a shadow stretching through the forest, leaving bloodshed in it's wake. They called him Grosvenor, the merciless prowling hunter.
Dragging his eyes from the Darce Forest, Tom lost his thoughts in the dirt of the road. Nothing but dusty brown dirt.
"Brown, brown, brown, brown", the words ran through his mind, "brown, brown, blue, brown, wait! What? Blue? What could be blue?"
Amidst a quivering mound of dirt he found blue, wide, perfectly round, deep sky blue. Not just one blue, but two. Two of the pretty blue circles, like punctures in the ground revealing the sky on the other side of the world, like two eyes so the dirt could watch him pass
"Hello dirt, why are you looking at me so?" he chuckled to himself, thinking of coloured beads fallen from a saddle bag.
Then, the dirt blinked and Tom reigned his horse in suddenly, laughter forgotten on his lips. The idea of bead-like eyes in the dirt seemed funny, but blinking dirt? Surely not. In the glaring sunlight he forced his mind into motion and began to separate shapes from the earthen backdrop. He discovered the form of a girl, crouched, filthy, and ready to fly. A savage girl with skin the colour of the earth and hair matted with dirt and twigs and blood. Shocking though her body was, with bones pointing everywhere as though trying to escape, her eyes were what held him captive. They were large, intelligent, and wild with fear.
The eyes of a caged animal staring from her hollow face.
In one fluid movement he dismounted. As his feet found solid ground he looked for her again, looked for those eyes, but all he saw was a whip of hair as it disappeared beyond the nearest tree. With a yell he began the pursuit, following the sound of her ragged breathing.
She was fleet and light of foot, obviously familiar with the forest, but Tom was faster. Fit and healthy and well fed he gained on her quickly.
She reached a clearing in the trees and whirled around to face him. With the force of his momentum they collided and his arms wrapped fast around her. Spitting like a feral cat she clawed at his skin and thrashed against his hold. But hold he did, and eventually in exhaustion, she stopped and sagged against him. Once she relaxed, Tom was able to get a better view of the clearing. He staggered backwards at the sight. In the middle of the clearing a body has been left, mangled and broken with congealed blood and entrails all around.
"Oh god, this must have been the Grosvenor," Tom though to himself.
He felt her hanging limp against his chest and thinking her frightened from the mess of death on the ground he began to croon softly in her ear. With the words he used to calm wild beasts, he attempted to soothe her.
As the giant man held her tightly Sarah fought. She fought for freedom and air and life. The terror that raced through her veins screamed of captivity, torture, and punishment for the sins of her past. He would drag her back, she knew he would.
As she struggled she felt his skin, his clothes, his hair. It all brushed against her as she moved. Howling and pushing and scratching against him, she suddenly knew what it had been like for all those creatures she had killed, the ones that had put up a fight.
As she grew weaker she began to breath deeper. She smelled sweat and horses, leather and man, forest and earth. Something was missing though, something didn't smell right.
After a moment she discovered the difference in the air. Falling limp with shock , Sarah realised that for the first time in her life, she could not smell the ocean.
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