Ice Quest Serial – Chapter 14

Tinhara took her hand gently in her own. She looked at Hadyn, whose impassioned plea made her seem much older. Her eyes were sharp, but not malicious. It was not long ago that this young woman had been too frightened to speak at all, and now she seemed to possess an elegance and grace that far exceeded her years. She thought of the way Hadyn had looked at the auction. She had lost the childish fat around her face: her stomach was flatter, her arms and legs more muscular and graceful. She had grown in the past few months in a way that Tinhara had seen on such a gradual basis that it had sneaked up on her.

“I have heard what you’ve said. I think we need to discuss it. Wuhhhh!” she said as she held her hand to her lips. It silenced Hadyn before she had begun to protest. “Not now. We still have a few days before we reach Bertik and your family. Please, listen. I am much older than you, and I have seen and done things that you have never imagined. Some I am proud of, and some which still bring me shame. I think in a different way than you, but I understand what you mean. I have had dreams about the same thing, about spending my life with you, wandering through Qan, hunting and sledding and being with you. I know what it is like to want something that desperately, to want your life to be different than it is. I know the feeling of hopelessness. It passes, believe me.”

Hadyn looked at her in disbelief before withdrawing her hand. She wrapped a skin around herself and got up out of bed. She walked to the other side of the small room, as far away from Tinhara as possible. Her head was down, her hair covering her face, and her shoulders sagged forward.

“You have a destiny that is far greater than life with me,” Tinhara said. “The mystic said I was to return you home…”

“The mystic!” Hadyn interrupted. “The mystic who did not tell you everything you needed to know. She did not tell you that you would be hunted like an animal, did she? She did not tell you that I would fall in love with you, because even I did not know I would. Have you wondered what else she did not tell you? Did it occur to you that maybe she was wrong? Maybe I am not supposed to go home. Maybe,” she said as she flung her hair out of her face. Here teeth were bared as she snarled out the last sentence: “maybe she meant for me to die. Maybe that is the plan!”

Tinhara sighed and shook her head. “I don’t believe it is.”

Hadyn stepped forward, challenging Tinhara. “You told me she is a shape-shifter. What if she isn’t who she says? What if she is a Karech magician?”

“Stop it! That is not the prophecy.” But now a dreadful thought flashed through Tinhara’s mind. What if Tanki shape-shifted, to trick her, and lead her back into his vision of destiny?

“I can see by your eyes she told you nothing! All I know is, if you take me home and leave me there, I will die.” Hadyn leaned against the door of the room, exhausted from her raving. Tinhara hung her head. Every time she had thought to question the prophecy, she would drive those thoughts out, unattended and unexamined. She took in a deep breath.

“If this was not the way, Lefe would have…” Tinhara wanted to explain that Lefe would never have come into her life to help her at the cells, but she paused for a moment. Lefe never actually confirmed that Cyr sent him.

“Lefe died. Maybe he as part of the plan, and maybe he was too simple minded to be part of it. Maybe your mystic sacrificed him the way she wants to sacrifice me. She’s the mystic, she must have known he was going to die. I doubt she warned him. What makes you think she’d warn you that I will die? How much did his death help us? He died for nothing, and so will I,” Hadyn pleaded.

Tinhara sucked in her lower lips and bit softly on it. She sat down on the bed to consider all that had been said. All of her life she had wondered if there was more, more than pain and loneliness and the occasional comfort of a drink or a kiss. She looked at the fur on the bed skins. Even they held their secrets from her. She loved fur, its softness and sleekness. How useful it was, on an animal or off, at keeping the cold and snow at bay. She ran her fingers through it, letting the tiny hairs catch on her rough skin. Each piece stood on end, bending momentarily to her will, and then springing back into place, returning to its peace beside the others. Each one waited, resilient yet flexible, until it had a chance to move. And when it moved, it did so knowing that it would return to its rightful place. A soft glimmer shone from the fur, and she wondered, as she often had, if that faint glow was the life of the animal that once sported the fur. Every time she touched fur there was a sensual delight, a magical quality of life that trickled out of the fur and into her hands. Somewhere, deep in the recesses of those tiny hairs, sat a spirit that she would never understand. This was the magic of dreams and hopes, magic she had always been afraid to consider. But now, the magic of possibility washed over her. She stroked the fur back and forth, scratching it as if it was still on an animal, and she smiled.

Though she thought long, in the end, she could see no good reason why Hadyn’s questions must remain unanswered, unchallenged. She had no way of judging whether it was Cyr or Hadyn who was right on the matter. It was not too many years ago that she might have passed Cyr in the snow, never stopping to rescue her. As a member of the King’s Guard, you learn never to look left or right, but to keep your eyes front, as directed, and see only that which you are told to see. But she was not in the Guards anymore, and was free to see whatever she wanted, to believe whatever she pleased. Tinhara had no need to follow a half-spoken prophecy given out by a mystic who could have been anyone. She had no assurance that she was following the prophecy, that she had rescued the right woman, that redemption truly waited for her. She was not sure anymore that she wanted to be redeemed, since it meant losing Hadyn. She had followed the path, risked her life over and over, for Hadyn, not so she could reach the end of the prophecy and abandon this woman to an angry father and a sad life. Finally, she resolved to listen to the other half of her soul, and take Hadyn back to Qan, to Kashunaq, and another life.

She turned to speak to Hadyn, who had remained quiet against the door.

“I think you are right,” she said as she took Hadyn’s face in her hands. “I want you to come back to Qan, to live with me.”

Hadyn burst into tears and put her hand to her own mouth. “Is that not what you just asked for?” Tinhara asked, angry and frustrated by the tears.

Hadyn wrapped her arms around Tinhara and bent to bury her face in Tinhara’s neck. “Thank you,” she mumbled between heaving sobs. Tinhara could feel the tears soaking through her light undershirt, and she held the woman tightly. She laid down with Hadyn on the bed, kissing her forehead and holding her closely, stroking her hair and whispering softly in her ear. She struggled to pull some skins out from underneath them to cover her naked partner. Finally, she lay there, quiet and calm, with Hadyn’s head resting on her chest, and she listened to the night birds sing. Giz added his own soft chatter from the roof beams.

“They sing beautifully,” she said at last. “I did not know that birds sang at night.”

“Some do,” Hadyn replied. “Few, but their songs are sweet.” She stroked Tinhara’s arm, letting her soft fingers tickle their way from scar to scar.

“Your songs are sweet too,” Tinhara said. Hadyn beamed at the compliment; one of the few, Tinhara realized, that she had ever given.

She leaned into Hadyn, drawing in her intoxicating musk. “What are you doing?” Hadyn giggled.

“You smell good.”

“I haven’t had a bath since before the sin auction, how could I smell good?”

“That was not so long ago,” Tinhara said. “I had a bath in Visby, just a few days before I found you. I must smell as good,” she said as she sniffed at her own underarm.

Hadyn swatted Tinhara lightly. “Stop sniffing yourself, you look like an animal. Of course you smell good, especially now that you don’t smell like grog.”

“I look like an animal?” Tinhara growled with a grin. “I’ll show you an animal!” She leapt on top of Hadyn and pulled off the skins that covered her. She snarled and leaned down to nibble at her neck, her hands roaming around Hadyn’s body, tickling and poking and grabbing. Hadyn giggled as Tinhara gently worked her way down her shoulders to her hands, and across to her hips.

Giz suddenly let out a screech, startling the women. He flapped madly around the room before heading out the small window. “What is wrong with him?” Hadyn asked. A cool breeze came in through the open window and she shivered.

“I don’t know, maybe he got hungry?” Tinhara replied. She got up and tried to look out the window, but it was high and she could not see out of it. She motioned for Hadyn. “Can you see him?”

Hadyn laughed and pulled one knee up. She stroked her thigh. “Do you really want me to look for a garboil?” Tinhara grinned and joined her again in bed.

Tinhara was almost asleep, listening to Hadyn’s steady breathing, until something else caught her ear. She roused herself slightly and concentrated. The birds had stopped singing. She turned her head slightly but heard nothing at all. She relaxed again and turned her head toward Hadyn, giving her a soft kiss on the head, and closed her eyes. She caught it again. A rhythm she could hear, far off. She could hear it running, closer and closer to the house. She nudged Hadyn and cautioned her to be quiet.

Listen,” she said.

“Horses!” Hadyn shouted.

“Do they attack people?” Tinhara asked as she leapt up from the bed. She quickly put on her pants and shirt, and began to search the room for a weapon.

“No,” Hadyn said with a laugh, “People ride them, on their backs.”

The hair on Tinhara’s arms stood on end. “People?” she whispered. Hadyn shrugged, able to offer nothing more. Tinhara’s heart began to pound. She stood up and dragged the bed under the window. Peering out into the darkness, she saw them.

She could see a strange figure bobbing up and down. It disappeared once as the road dipped, and then reappeared on the crest. She gritted her teeth and wondered what kind of animal this horse was. The creature was large, with four spindly legs that carried it very quickly over the land.

“My father!” Hadyn shouted. She had stuck her face into the window, beside Tinhara, and watched the rider approach.

Suddenly there came a thunderous sound from beside the house, pounding toward them, and each woman went silent. Hadyn turned and quickly kissed Tinhara, a tear in her eye.

“It is my father, Tristan, coming for me,” she said. Tinhara raced for the door, and flung it open. Fret and Tili were sitting by the fire, and looked up in shock at the force with which the door opened.

“Is everything okay?” Tili said as she raced over to Tinhara.

“Who approaches?” Tinhara asked.

“Tristan Mekka. Hadyn’s father,” she said.

Hadyn walked out into the room. Taag had the front door open, ready to greet the Mekka family. She had quickly gathered some skins and held them close to her, covering herself. “Where are my clothes?”

“We are mending them, here,” Fret said as he held up a pair of pants.

Tinhara could see through the door, and watched as they arrived. There were five men on horseback, each one with a different countenance that became clearer as they ran through the streaks of moonlight. The tall grey-haired man, obviously the leader and by his age, obviously Hadyn’s father was at the front. His face was full of anger, gritting his teeth in an open-mouthed grimace. Beside him and less than a half horse-length behind was the biggest of the men. He had Hadyn’s fiery red hair, as long as hers, and it flew madly in the wind. The horse’s eyes flared and froth flew from its mouth as he whipped it with a stick to keep it moving fast. The others trailed behind these two, although it was not for lack of horse speed. They were younger, and had their places. She could tell by the man’s face that he was furious.

“I will kill the dog!” he shouted from outside. Hadyn froze.

“He’s mad. Oh no! He’s really angry! Run Tinhara, get out!” Hadyn screamed. Tinhara was shocked by the terror in her voice. It was pure, gut-wrenching.

“I am not leaving you,” Tinhara whispered.

Hadyn dropped her skins and got down on her knees, pleading. “Please, Tinhara, please. Run now! You still have time. I’ll tell him how much I love you, I’ll…”

Tinhara could hear the men yelling outside, and heard a dull thud, the sound of a fist hitting a face. She heard Taag yelp. Hadyn began to wail hysterically, crying out and thrashing against Tinhara as she tried to calm her. She scratched her, and jolted the already injured arm. Tinhara recalled Hadyn warning that if her father found out they were lovers, he would kill them both. Tinhara knew what she would have to do.

“Have courage,” Tinhara whispered to Hadyn.

“Papa!” Hadyn screamed. Tinhara turned to look at Tristan, and knew instantly the man would take his own daughter’s life if it pleased him. He stood, dumbfounded by what he saw: his daughter was on her knees, naked and crying, in front of a battle-scarred Qanian.

“Sin trader!” Tristan screamed as he rushed toward them.

“Hadyn!” The shout boomed out from another voice.

Tinhara leaned in close to Hadyn. “Scream,” she commanded. Hadyn remained silent for a second, so Tinhara slapped her hard across the face.

“Papa!” Hadyn screamed.

Tinhara heard boots scrape against the wooden floor, and before she had a chance to turn around, they were on her.

She managed only a strangled shout before they had her. Tristan was the first, his massive hand grabbing her hair. He pulled her off her feet while another man struggled to get Hadyn. Pain ripped through her scalp, she could feel her hair starting to pull out. She struggled, kicking madly at whatever she could hit. She opened her eyes once to see a third man with Hadyn, hugging her, while a fourth struggled into the house and leapt past Fret and Tili. It was this man, tall and wiry and full of hate, who punched Tinhara in the face. She closed her eyes again and could feel other punches raining down from all sides. Hadyn was crying and the others were shouting as she was dropped to the floor. She felt a momentary relief when Tristan let go of her hair, but the dull pains caused when they began to kick her replaced it. She grunted and moved to cover stomach with her hands.

With a loud command, they stopped their attack. She could hear them all, breathlessly panting, and she opened her eyes, but all she could see were feet.

“Bring her out!” Tristan shouted. Men around her scrambled and someone grabbed her by the feet. She tried to kick free, but her feeble attempts got her a foot in the back, so she stopped. She spun around on the floor as she was dragged toward the front door.

“Papa,” Hadyn said weakly.

“Silence! Look at you! Where are her clothes?” Tristan shouted. “Someone cover her,” he said, and Tili quickly ran to another room. Tristan looked down at Tinhara, his arms crossed, his face red with fury. Tili returned with Hadyn’s clothes and her brothers helped her dress. Tristan spat in Tinhara’s face and he sneered. “I will cause you so much pain, you will beg me to let you die. I will not let anyone take my daughter!”

“She does not speak our language,” Taag said meekly from the doorway.

“Dog!” he shouted as he kicked her in the side. Tinhara could feel a couple of ribs give in, and she curled up in pain. “My daughter was stolen and sold like a, a taksin!”

“Papa,” Hadyn said, reaching out to him with her broken hand.

“Schul!” he yelled as he raised his fist. He saw her wounded wrist and took her hand gently in his own. “Did she do this to you? Did she torture you?” He gave her no chance to respond, but instead shouted madly he shook his fist at Tinhara. “You beat her, you break her bones and you strip her like an animal! I will show you what it is like to be beaten and broken! And you will die like an animal!” he screamed.

Tinhara laughed a little. An angry father was the last thing she thought would stand in the way of her redemption. But she knew Hadyn would go home. She smiled as best she could, with her swollen cheeks and cut lips, and she was now ready to die.

He placed his foot on her chest and slowly began to put pressure on it. “You smile? Do you have any idea what I am going to do to you?” Hadyn gasped and, holding her hand over her mouth, began to cry. Finally, she turned away, burying her face in her brother’s chest. Tristan took his foot off Tinhara’s chest and shoved it roughly between her legs. “Do you know?” he grinned.

There was a strange look on his face. Tinhara had seen it in the eyes of men who had stayed awake for too many hours during the long, dark months in Qan. When others slept for days at a time, these men would wander in the snow, tearing off their clothes and attacking their own dogs. They would rip their animal’s skin off, pull at their legs and gnaw on them while the animal whimpered helplessly, unable to pull free of their harnesses and unable to fight back through their muzzles. Tinhara had seen the evil that men were capable of, in this madness. She felt his foot again between her legs, so she did the only thing she could. She peed on his foot.

Tristan shouted and pulled his foot back, shaking it and sending droplets of urine flying around the room. “This filthy animal has pissed on me!” he screamed. “Take her outside!” he ordered. One of his sons grabbed Tinhara by the feet and dragged her around through her own urine. He hauled her outside, leaving Tristan inside with Taag and Hadyn.

“Tie her by her feet to my horse, we’ll see how much she smiles!” she heard Tristan yell from inside the house. Two men grabbed her, one foot each, while a third rushed to one of the horses. She struggled to pull away, but the fourth man, the one she had forgotten about, stepped on her throat and held her still. The youngest returned with a length of rope. Tinhara’s eyes had swollen but she could still see. Her legs were brought together and her feet bound by the rope. They let her feet down, and it gave her a small comfort that she was now lying flat on her back, all body parts where they belonged, and no one was beating her. The foot on her throat was uncomfortable, but was not heavy enough to block off her air. She waited, her heart pounding, her blood beating loudly in her ears. She could hear the men talking softly amongst themselves, and then stop. She heard two sets of footsteps approaching, one heavy and one light.

“Calin, let Hadyn ride with you. I will take care of this thing,” Tristan said. Tinhara heard one man lead Hadyn away. There was the sound of creaking leather and anxious horses. Horses had a mild smell, much more mild than a musk ox or bear, but they seemed never to stand still. They moved from foot to foot, impatiently waiting to begin their journey. The foot was removed from her throat and she turned her head to see what was happening. The last man had climbed on top of the horse, which was why the leather had been creaking. The rope that bound her feet led to Tristan’s horse. She curled up and put her arms up, locking her fingers behind her head in the hopes that it would be her hands and not her brains that would be left along the trail. Giz landed momentarily on the rope that bound her. He sniffed and nibbled at the rope. She decided that keeping her sore, inflamed eyes open was too difficult, so she looked at Hadyn sitting on one of the other horses, and closed her eyes. She would be content if that was the last thing she ever saw.

She felt something land softly on her chest and knew by the chattering that it was Giz. Tristan shouted and his horse leapt away, yanking her hard by the heels. Giz flew away as she was dragged through along the ground. The leather tightened around her ankles, and she was grateful for her thick boots. Within moments, she was stretched out fully, unable to maintain a curled up position against the pull of such a massive animal. Tristan urged the horse on, and it sped up. The rocks and earth ground into her hands, splitting them open and ripping them apart. Her fingers gave way and her arms flew over her head, trailing uselessly behind her. Tinhara tried to keep her head lifted but it was futile as she slammed over small bumps and twisted through gullies. He led her along a winding path and each time the horse changed direction she spun at the end of the leather. Something hit her face and cut her cheek. She refused to scream, refused to give him the satisfaction of her cries. She prayed silently to Hecath to end her pain quickly, and her prayer was answered.

The rope snapped and sent her tumbling and rolling behind the horses. The riders continued for a moment, but turned immediately to fetch her. Tinhara lay motionless on her side, unable and unwilling to move. The simple act of breathing hurt.

“How did the rope break?” Tristan shouted. He rode his horse close to Tinhara and stopped it. The others in his family gathered around; Tinhara could hear the horses’ hooves clomping near her head, and she wondered if they would just crush her. “I said, how did the rope break?” Tristan’s voice was a measure in controlled rage. Even Tinhara knew that if anyone answered, he would be beaten. No one answered except Giz, who chattered unseen nearby.

Tristan dismounted, she could tell by the sounds he made, and walked over to her. He grabbed the rope around her feet and spun her onto her back. He held the end of the rope in his hand; it had snapped about half way, making either length useless for dragging her. His face was red and his hands shook as he silently motioned for one of his sons to dismount. It was the one who had tied her up. He held up the end of the rope, waiting. The young man stood shaking slightly, his face down, his hands clasped together in front of him.

“Papa,” Hadyn said. Tinhara startled. Se had not realized that Hadyn was so close.

“Silence! Schul!” Tristan shouted as spit flew from his mouth. He bared his teeth, letting a white foam form at the corner of his lips. He turned back to his son and whipped him across the face. The young man winced but did not move or turn against his father. Tristan whipped him again, yanking Tinhara hard as he did so. As if he suddenly realized that his weapon of choice was attached to her, he jerked it hard from side to side, like a bear ripping through a carcass. Tinhara gritted her teeth as the open wounds in her back were raked across the earth again.

“Set her on his horse, tie her on!” he commanded. His other sons quickly moved, picking Tinhara up and throwing her over the top of the horse. She was thankful that they laid her on her stomach, it was one of the few areas not raw and bleeding from being dragged. One of them grabbed the rope that bound her legs and slipped under the horse, binding her hands with the same rope when he emerged from the other side. The horse smelled strong from its run, and she could feel its massive chest heaving. She rested her head against the animal’s side, feeling its powerful muscles flex as it stepped from hoof to hoof. She wondered if it could run forever. The horse’s brown fur was short, soft and pleasant to her touch. Like seal, she thought.

“You can walk back!” Tristan spit out to his son.

The young man’s jaw dropped, obviously upset by what he had just been told, but he quickly responded. “But it was not my fault! I did not know the rope would break!”

“The rope has been cut!” Tristan roared as he reached for the piece that was still attached to his horse. He held it up as proof of his assertion. “There was no cut in this rope when we left Bertik! I did not do it. I know Hadyn did not do it, so that leaves one of you. Did someone else cut the rope?” Everyone quickly assured him that no one had cut the rope.

“Look at the edge of this piece. Look at it!” he screamed as he grabbed the back of his son’s head and pulled it forward to the leather he held in his fist. “It has been cut. This is not frayed or worn. Cut! One of you fools stepped on it or let it slip against a buckle. And since none of you will admit to it, then you, Franz, you will give up your horse so we can take this dog back with us!” he screamed.

Franz pulled his head away and stepped back again, his head bowed and his shoulders rounded. “Yes, father.”

“Ugh! A disgusting garboil is after her flesh!” one of them shouted as he swatted at the air. Tinhara could hear Giz chatter and squawk, and she hoped he would keep out of the hands of these men.

“Leave the thing alone!” Tristan screeched. He dove forward and punched Franz in the face, even though it had been someone else swinging at Giz. His son staggered and collapsed, blood pouring from his nose. He stood for a moment, watching Franz kneel in the dirt, “We must return home, we must keep Hadyn safe,” Tristan said with an eerie calm in his voice. It held none of the rage that had driven him to hit his own son.

The others clambered onto their horses without any further discussion, and they headed off, Tinhara’s horse led by one of the young men. Franz scrambled onto another horse, behind the original rider. Although the trip was painful, she tried to rest her mind and her body, to prepare for what lay ahead.

As they rode Tinhara would sometimes catch a strong scent on the wind, some other kind of animal, in great numbers, nearby. With the wind in her face and the land blazing past, she became dizzy and vomited. She struggled to spit the bile from her mouth knowing that if she sucked it back in she might choke. The horse’s wide girth made it impossible for her to bend her knees properly, and the constant bobbing motion of the animal put a tremendous strain on her legs. She would alternately let them hang loose and then tighten the muscles to prevent them from flopping around. She felt herself slipping around the horse; it was a peculiar sensation, like slipping backwards into an abyss. There was nothing she could do, and she certainly would not call for help. Each time the horse landed, she slipped a little, time and again. She looked around, but none of the riders noticed her. Up ahead, through the trees, she saw a narrow piece of the river that they would have to cross. It was not large at all, but she would get wet as they went through it.

Tristan’s horse went first, and the beast took a great leap and cleared the water, landing on the other side. Tinhara’s mouth dropped: never before had she seen an animal jump so high and so far. Calin’s was the next to go, and even with Hadyn, the horse cleared the river but landed hard on the other side. She watched as Hadyn swayed a bit and squirmed to remain on the horse. The lean, blond fellow who led her horse tightened his grip on the reins and lifted himself slightly from the saddle just moments before his horse flew over the creek. Tinhara swallowed hard as her horse sped up slightly, changing the rhythm of his steps in preparation for his flight. She felt its leg muscles grow tight and release with an explosion of power. She and her horse soared over the river, and as each of the horse’s hooves landed on the earth, she slipped a little further down. By the time his fourth hoof landed, her head was now resting on the horse’s back and she clung desperately to the leather seat that was beneath her. But her hands were sore and bloody and quickly lost their grip, and she swung completely under the horse.

Her horse reared up, standing on two legs and shaking its head wildly. “Hold him steady!” Tristan yelled. The rider lost hold of the reins and it brought its two hooves down, jolting her bindings and forcing them deep into her skin. The horse jumped up, its back arched, its legs straight, and landed with tremendous force, trying to remove this dead weight around its stomach. A horrible screech came out of its mouth, and it jumped again and again. Each landing brought Tinhara closer to the powerful back legs, and she grabbed at the horse to try and stop its deadly panic, but that only frightened it more. Someone grabbed hold of the reins and tried to keep the horse on the ground; she could feel it throw its head back and shake it, all the time screeching and frothing at the mouth. It kicked its back legs out, narrowly missing a scrambling figure and she slipped toward the front of the horse.

“Cut her loose! Cut her loose!” Calin yelled. With her weight now at the front of the horse, near his chest, the horse kept all hooves on the ground but still moved from side to side, pulling at the reins. The next thing Tinhara knew, she was on the ground under the beast’s hooves, and one of them stepped on her leg. She grunted with relief as the horse pulled its leg up and moved away from her. People stomped around her, more concerned with the horse than with her. She rolled up onto her side and then onto her knees. The rope between her hands and feet had been cut, although she was still otherwise bound. She swung her head up, sending a jolt of pain shooting down her neck and across her shoulder, and looked around. Everyone was looking at something else: Tristan and Calin were with the wild horse, Hadyn and her other brothers were watching the events from the sidelines, holding their own horses but paying no attention to her.

Quietly and quickly, Tinhara struggled to her feet. They were tied tightly and after only a few hops, she gave up and laid down again. She looked around one more time and spotted heavy bush just a few steps away. They might give her cover in the night, and, seizing the moment, she stretched out and began to roll. She rolled and rolled and rolled, gaining speed, whirling and spinning to leave behind Tristan and his family. She raised her arms above her head to help send herself in the right direction and was, by her estimation, almost at the trees when she heard a shout from behind. Her escape had been noticed and they were coming after her. With a couple of more turns, she hit the bush and pushed through its tangled arms. Tristan shouted and cursed and followed quickly behind her, but she had already squirmed slightly to the left and, after taking a deep breath, lay perfectly still.

There was a lot of shouting and noise as the brothers also crashed through the brush, desperate to find their quarry. She shimmied a little deeper into her particular bush and slowly let out her breath. Her lungs were aching, but she kept her breathing measured and quiet, just in case the hunters realized that they would never find her with all their noise. She could tell by their voices, by their footsteps, that they were searching deeper and deeper into the bush; they obviously assumed that she had the ability to move must faster than she really did. She quickly turned her attention to untying her feet. The leather was already worn from the dragging, although not as worn as she would have liked. Tinhara plucked and clawed at it, tearing away tiny threads, knowing that she would never be able to finish in time.

A small rustle in the bush beside her head made her freeze: she refused to even turn her head to see what it was. It rustled a bit more and a nearby stem bent down. Giz walked slowly along the branch, hand over hand, foot over foot, as quietly as he could. She watched as he carefully crawled down the bush and onto the ground, but instead of gnawing at the leather as she had hoped, he scurried deep into the bush and vanished from sight. Where did he go?

Ice Quest – The serialization of a novel written by S. Molyneaux. Published on the 1st and the 15th of each month. This is a work of fiction – bad fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are a product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead or anywhere in between, is entirely coincidental. Copyright © 2004 by S. Molyneaux. All rights reserved. ISBN 0-9735190-0-2

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