War and Despair

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Chapter 9

Callen knew that they knew that she was only pretending to be asleep. She also knew that they would let her escape, thinking that she would run back to Grabus with that information. It was clearly a trick, and nothing would ever send her back there.

She went to sleep, knowing that they would probably let her escape in the morning. She was correct. The next morning, she found a sharp nail that had been left near her. She played along, slipping it beneath the ropes.

Callen waited until they threw her onto the horse to saw the ropes off. Then she punched Sim from behind and kicked him off the horse. Then she dug her heels into the horse’s side and they galloped off.

When they were a safe distance away, Callen dismounted and patted the horse on the nose. Then she left it contentedly nibbling grass in the forest clearing. She walked away, grinning merrily.

About an hour after leaving the horse, Callen heard a noise like wood rubbing on wood. She quickly fell flat behind a bush and watched through a gap in the branches. All she could see was a dirty white robe spotted with dried blood. She heard a squishing noise as the owner of the robe bit into something. More blood fell on the robe and the ground in front of her.

Callen waited, barely breathing, until the creature was long gone to come out of the bushes. She saw the body of her horse lying a few feet away, a bloody hole ripped into it’s chest. Callen bit back a scream and fled into the forest.

Callen ran until she collapsed. Terrified that the creature would find her, she dragged herself into the bushes and passed out. Callen woke in a panic several hours later and realized that she was just fine. She looked around for water and found some gathered on the leaves of the bushes. She licked it off and stood up shakily. Hunger burned through her.

Not seeing anything that looked edible, Callen tore a handful of leaves off the bush she’d been lying under and chewed them up. They tasted bland, but not poisonous, so she swallowed them. She ate several more handfuls and tore some off for later. When she finally felt ready, she stood up and continued walking.

Near evening, Callen found a cottage. She guessed that it was probably abandoned, seeing as how there were no lights in the window or smoke coming through the chimney. Callen opened the door and stepped in.

The cottage had not been abandoned, the owner lay dead on the floor. A small shriek tore from Callen’s throat when she saw the unnatural angle of the old woman’s limbs. There was a hole scorched in the wall, and the whole place reeked of burnt hair.

Probably a witch, Callen thought, prodding the body with her boot. As much as it scared her to be in the same house as a murdered witch, Callen needed food. She found a few pieces of mushroom that didn’t look to terribly toxic and a small pot and left the house.

She built a small fire and by a nearby stream and boiled the mushrooms and leaves into a fowl smelling stew. But Callen was too hungry to care and drank it down anyway. A few minutes later she fell asleep under the stars.

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