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Chapter 3

I awoke with a start, realizing I’d been dreaming the oddest dream ever. Perhaps I’d played too hard with my siblings and my mind was worked up. Today was my wedding, though, so I had to cast everything else aside and focus on my future. My eyes flashed open, and I was greeted with a most unwelcome sight.

Rocks. Trees. Dirt. My head ached even more horribly than before. The sun was just peeking out from the distant flat land; it was still fairly dark. The embers from the fire the night before smoldered. I rolled over slowly, every muscle aching from my fall and crash onto the rocks the day before.

Jon lay a few feet from me, facing the large rocks and his horse. He seemed to be fast asleep. So much for him keeping watch, I thought bitterly. There was a loud grating noise of rocks hitting one another some distance away in the forest. My heart stuttered to a stop, my mouth devoid of moisture. Something was out there. I scooted closer to Jon, debating on whether or not to wake him. There was another crash, this time much louder. I plucked up my courage and gently grabbed his shoulder.

Before I knew what had happened, Jon was on top of me, his knees pinning my arms down, something that felt like cold steel against my throat. My heart began to beat again, only now it was hammering in my chest and ears. It took him a moment to recognize me.

“Sorry,” he muttered, pulling the sharp knife away from my delicate throat. He stayed straddled on top of me though, which I found rather uncomfortable for many reasons.

“Why did ye wake me?” his brow furrowed.

“I-I, well there was this noise, and…” I trailed off, losing my voice out of fright.

“That’s nothin’. They open the gates every once in a while to exile people.” He explained.

“The gates?” I was perplexed.

“Yes, the gates to Mount Tier. They only open them when they are getting rid of criminals and the like. Ye must have pissed someone off.” He said sourly.

“Well, if the gates are open then take me there! Take me home!” my voice rose with hope. His face became closed off.

“I can’t do that.” I immediately became angered, and struggled beneath his weight to no avail. I was a princess, and I needed to get home and to my wedding before it was too late.

“Let me go!” I yelled. He clasped a rough hand over my mouth. His eyes flashed dangerously, my flaming red hair reflected in the black depths only making him appear even more deadly.

“Think about it, princess. They just opened the gate to expel a criminal. If that person finds us, he may try and kill us. I cannot go marching up to the gates with you in tow and tell them to let you back in. It doesn’t work like that.” My mouth went slack under his hand. It had to; my grandfather would make them take me back! Angry tears rolled down into my fiery hair. He sensed I still wasn’t willing to accept his logic.

“I take ye back, they kill me without question. They may let ye live on the bottom Tier, but you’ll never go home. You’re impure now and not fit for marriage, and you know it. You’ve seen how unfair they can be.” He removed his hand. I refused to meet his gaze. He knew this all along. Why hadn’t he told me yesterday?

“You promised to help me.” My voice shook. His face stayed stony.

“Aye. I kept ye alive through the night. I never said you’d be going back home. You’ll never be able to.” I let his truth sink in. Deep down, I knew he was right. He rolled off me suddenly.

“We need to move now. It won’t be safe here for much longer. So ye can come with me or stay. I don’t care either way now.” He stood and began to pack everything up while I watched, trying to decide what to do. Without him, I was dead. With him, I could die just as easily. I stood and brushed off my skirts. He was already on his horse, heading farther away from Mount Tier. He glanced down at me, quirking an eyebrow. I glared at him and turned on my heel, heading towards home. I heard his dark chuckle as I retreated. I commanded myself not to look back. I was going home on my own, and I would never tell anyone the full story.

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