In the previous episode, Karyna noticed her kin being treated very poorly at the dinner and decided she could not marry the Wolf Slayer knowing they would continue to be treated that way. Readers voted that she disappear into the hills during the night to escape.
Stig galloped over another hillock, splashing into the creek on the other side. Karyna took every opportunity she could to throw off anyone trying to follow her rapid flight. Where she could, she rode across rocks or through streams, hoping that each obstacle would give her more time to find a way off the island to safety. It would not be long before the village woke and she would be discovered missing. Birkholm was larger than Draget, but it would still only take a few days to reach the other side of the island, riding at the pace she currently held. She had little time to find an escape. And her pursuers knew the island better than she did.
“Alright, Stig,” Karyna breathed, looking at the pale gray sky to the east, indicating a rising sun behind the bank of cloud cover. “I think we can afford a short break.”
Sliding off the gelding’s back, she climbed to the top of a nearby hill, hoping to find a vantage point to get her bearings. She knew that she was heading southeast toward the far end of the island, but was not sure what she might find on the way.
“If we follow this river, we will reach the highlands around midday, I think,” she said to herself and Stig, looking down at the shallow stream winding through the low hills. “Hopefully we can lose any pursuers in the rough terrain.”
Karyna’s estimate turned out to be fairly accurate. It was just past midday when they reached the highlands, a mixture of rocky grasslands and pine forests. Further south, the land sloped steeply upwards into a barren peak that was half hidden by the thick fog still hanging over the island. The fugitives paused again on the border, where the river turned sharply south towards the mountain, dotted pines lining the banks wherever they could get a foothold in the rocky earth.
As she sat on a tree root, watching Stig drinking from the shallow river, Karyna heard movement behind her. Turning sharply, she looked for the source of the sound. She relaxed as her eyes fell upon a raven perched on one of the low branches of a tree just behind her. But as she turned back to face the stream, she let out a gasp of surprise, her hand reaching for her knife.
“There is no need to fear, Bloody Rose. I come to you once more as a friend and a guide.” Heart beating rapidly, Karyna stared at the figure in front of her. She recognized his voice instantly, though it was not surprising that she had failed to recognize him only by his appearance. Before, he had come to her in a dark cloak, surrounded by shadows. He now stood in front of her in robes of grey and green, his deep brown hair falling to his shoulders, though it did not hide the distinctly pointed ears that revealed to Karyna who—or what—had come to her aid.
“You are an elf,” she said in shock, feeling stupid as soon as she said it. Blinking to break herself out of her trance, she continued. “I do not understand. Why would you waste your time helping me, a mere mortal of no significance?”
“That is not for me to say,” Einar said, the corner of his mouth twitching, indicating the faintest echo of a smile. “But I come to you to give you a direction. I assume you are here because you have realized the truth of my words. Would you like to know the whole story? To understand the motivations of all the actors in this tale?”
“Yes,” Karyna said quickly, though she hesitated to say anything further, wondering if perhaps she should be focusing solely on her escape. Einar must have noticed her frown.
“You should not flee from your fate this way. It would be much better for you to understand what role you play in these events before you abandon it so hastily. But it is still your choice, so I shall give you two options. One, you can continue to the rocky shores to the southeast, where you will find nothing but a vast sea and flocks of seagulls crying out, mocking you as you are discovered and returned to your betrothed, with no more knowledge of the truth than you have now, for there is no escape for you to the south or east. However, there is a second choice. You can climb the peak to the south, through the fog bank to the highest point, where you shall find the answers to all your questions and more. If you choose this second path, just remember this wisdom: you must be truthful to uncover the truth. Choose wisely, Bloody Rose. Good luck.”
A sudden strong wind-swept across the landscape, causing Karyna to flinch from the ferocity of the gust. And just as the time before, Einar was gone when the winds slowed once more. Karyna paused for a moment, looking first to the east, then to the north, and then finally letting her eyes fall on the gray peak lying to the south.
“It seems we have a new destination, Stig,” Karyna said firmly, striding toward the gelding. The horse appeared unaffected by any of the strange happenings that had just occurred. He just looked up at Karyna as she stopped beside him, running her fingers through his mane as her eyes drifted once again toward the south. The menacing cliff sides and sharp outcroppings seamed to call her, simultaneously sinister and inviting. Taking a deep breath, Karyna hoisted herself into the saddle.
“It is time to find out the true story of Garik the Wolf Slayer.” Vote below on what will happen next or if reading in email click Take our Poll.
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