She landed with a loud thud.
"Ugh, fucking hell." Timena whined, rubbing her lower back in pain.
She had definitely underestimated the fall and her back and rear end were paying the price for it. Slowly, she pushed herself off the hard ground and began hobbling deeper into the alley.
She could see the end of the cobblestone pavement which led to a grassy slope and into a forest. She needed to get back now.
"Timena" The voice frightened her as she turned around. She visibly relaxed at the realization that it was only Aldus.
"I see you made it down safely, my brother's searching through the city you need to leave, now." He said hurriedly.
"What's going on? What is he doing here?" She asked angrily.
"Someone slipped word to him that you might be planning to escape." He grabbed her arm, leading her away from the church.
"He didn't say, he left in search of you as soon as he heard." Aldus replied hurriedly.
They both ran, dodging behind buildings and the grassy hill. As they neared the entrance of Gabaden, Timena could see her horse.
"Do you have a way out?" He peered his head out, ensuring she had a clear path.
"Yes I do, but one last question... why are you helping me?"
"I don't think that your independence is something you want to risk." Aldus answered before urging her to run.
The galloping of her horse sounded in Timena's ears, but she was lost in thought. She worried about her next move— where she would go, leaving her family... it was frightening. As the pace slowed, they entered the grassland. Timena led her steed into the stable, quickly giving the reins to Enoch.
She was almost out the door but suddenly stopped herself in her tracks. Turning back, she brought Enoch in for a hug, she held onto him tightly before pulling back and looking into his eyes. He could also see the worry in Timena's face but before he could say a word, she was already out the door.
"Norman!" Timena ran into the kitchen, looking around frantically.
He came in with a fairly large burlap sack. She sighed in relief, Norman was already prepared.
The stable was empty as Norman led the horses by their reins outside. Enoch must have been sent away sometime before and for that Timena was grateful— she couldn't bare the look of sadness on his face. It pained her to leave but she had no choice, there was no going back now.
Hoisting themselves onto the horses, Timena took one last look at her home before following Norman further down the hill and into the forest.
The horses trotted alongside one another steadily, Timena looked around, surveying the area.
"Where are we going?" She asked, hesitantly.
"You're going to stay somewhere for the night, it is close by and then tomorrow you'll follow the path that will lead you to Vitabesk. We'll discuss it more when we get to the cottage." Apprehension set in at Norman's words. He wasn't coming with her.
"You won't come with me?" Her shaky voice called out from behind him. His horse halted in its tracks. Norman could see the fear in the young girl's face, it pained him.
"I have to go back, it needs to appear as though you went off on your own. It will be less conspicuous this way, it's safer Timena." He responded, sadly.
She pursed her lips, knowing he was right.
Spotting an undersized cottage from a distance, a sense of dread took shelter in Timena's chest. As they got closer, they eventually stopped and moved to get off the backs of their horses.
"It was my childhood home." Norman answered the unspoken question.
Producing a small key from his pocket, he unlocked the door before pushing it open.
Dust hung in the air— the furniture was covered with large, dingy white sheets and papers were scattered across the wooden floor. At the far left of the room was a fireplace and surrounding it were three beaten down cushioned chairs.
"Come we have to discuss a few things." He gestured for her to sit. Dust hung in the air as both of their weights fell onto the cushions.
"Now, at the first light of day you need to be on the move. You know your way to Vitabesk mostly but instead of the path leading you into town, you'll be continuing left after you cross the stream. You'll be on that path for a while before you see a small cottage, quite like this one. Knock and when you meet Makar, tell him Norman sent you." Timena listened as her eyes followed the map of the forest that was being shown to her. Shaking her head in understanding, he gave it to her.
The part of the journey Timena was dreading the most had come. Norman's arms enveloped her in a long hug, resting his chin atop her head, they stayed that way for a few seconds before he pulled away.
"You will be fine, you're brave." With those parting words, he pushed himself up and onto the large, brown steed. She looked up to see him smile reassuringly before turning away to leave.
Timena stood there long after he had left, fighting the urge to succumb to her own fear. She was alone, and she didn't feel very brave at all.
The sun was beginning to set as Timena could see the rays casting a shadow behind every tree it touched. The salty beef she was chewing did little to distract her from the nervousness she was feeling about the following day. The uncertainty of how long her stay would be with this Makar, troubled her thoughts, how long would Silas stay until he gave up? Would he give up? Would it ever be safe to go back home? Her questions would remain unanswered she assumed, Norman had promised to visit her when it was safe and update her on everything happening within the castle walls, but Timena didn't know when that would be.
The dim light of the oil lamps were the only sufficient source of light now as the sun slowly disappeared. Walking to the room, Timena's eyes gazed upon the bed. Sleep was the furthest thing from her mind, but her body had other plans. She yawned, placing the lamp on the nightstand she began to survey the bed once more before decidedly climbing onto it. Exhaling deeply, Timena could feel any alertness her body had left slipping away from her— her eyes drooped, and her breathing slowed in preparation for sleep, then slowly everything faded away.
Unbeknownst to a sleeping Timena, Silas was already on his way to find her. He suspected that the castle's butler, Norman knew more than he was letting on but the real give away had been Timena's sister, Delacroix. No one had known she had been eavesdropping on the conversation between Norman and Timena, but she had entered a momentary fit of rage when she overheard King Silas speaking to their parents about wanting her sister's hand in marriage. Delacroix wasn't sure if she felt more guilt than jealousy and anger or vice versa but it was too late now. She had notified the king about the direction Timena had went without mentioning Norman's involvement.
Delacroix avoided Norman's gaze as the sensation of guilt swelled inside her, she only wanted to punish Timena for a short while but the longer she thought about it, the more she realized she might have made a grave mistake.
A sound somewhere outside alerted Timena. Her heart was pounding at the sudden intrusion of the outside world. Her vision was foggy from sleep as she placed one foot down at a time gingerly, walking into the living area, she dimmed the light of the lamp before buckling the scabbard around her waist and pulling away her blade.
Opening the door softly, she could see the faintest light of day which offered enough darkness to cover her. Her horse stood peacefully as she walked out with the sack in hand, placing it onto the horse's side, she held onto the reins. What's our next move Timena?
"Come on Ephraim." She whispered.
Bringing the horse by its' reins with her as she tiptoed near the corner of the cottage, she peeked out, seeing what looked like figures in the distance. Timena knew she was hearing the crunching of leaves and branches breaking under the weight of something. Focusing her eyes a little more, she questioned her own vision, it couldn't be who she thought she was seeing. It couldn't be Silas. Her chest tightened and everything became cloudy, how would he know where she was? There was no way he could have known, Norman would never betray her. The thoughts came one after another, she needed to move quickly.
Placing a foot in the stirrup and swinging her other leg over the horse's back and onto its' side, she tried to move quietly. The crunching of leaves grew closer, she couldn't go any slower, gripping the reins tightly and applying pressure with her legs, the horse shot off quickly.
Rushing through the woods swiftly, the sounds of yelling and more galloping hooves came from behind Timena. She had to take them off her course, so she briskly led the horse left and continued through the trees. That had caught them off guard, but they were still gaining on her and she wasn't sure where she was going with her plan. She needed to ditch her horse.
Making a series of turns, she'd lost them but only temporarily. Timena prepared to jump off her horse's back, and as soon as she was near enough to the ground she leapt off. The brunt force of the drop was painful and overwhelming, but she quickly shot up and ran over to hide behind the cover off a large oak tree. The galloping continued, the men had taken her bait.
She gasped for air as she fought to calm her pounding heart, she had a bit of time to try and escape. She still had the map, her sword, and the burlap sack she thought to herself.
The sounds of galloping horses and men yelling had quickly passed and Timena peeked her head out from behind the tree, seeing that the forest was clear for now. Gathering her things, she referred to the map so she could return to the right path.
By the time Silas and his men had made their way back into the vicinity of the cottage, Timena was long gone. Scouring the forest had proved to be somewhat difficult when the men did not have proper knowledge of its' landscape.
"Maybe we should leave and return with someone who knows the lay of the land better than we do brother." Aldus suggested.
Silas was seething quietly, but knew his brother was right. He would have to come back with more sufficient help as soon as possible. Taking one last look through the trees, he cursed under his breath in frustration as he and his men began to retreat.
The only sounds that could be heard were the crunching of leaves underneath Timena's boots as her feet guided her along the unfamiliar path. It was much more difficult traveling since she'd had to abandon her horse, but she tried not to think about it, but instead focus on the task at hand. Somewhere in the near distance, Timena could have sworn her ears detected the sound of water and her steps grew faster.
When she reached the stream, she realized she had forgotten just how small it actually was. The current wasn't too fast but she would be knee deep, to say the very least in cold water and was no other way around it. Putting her things over her shoulder, she approached the water slowly before sticking in one foot inch by inch, and finally the other. Timena made a small splash as she got in, the water was well past her knees as she trudged on against the pull of the stream.
Placing her things down on the grass, she quickly leapt out of the water, immediately bringing her knees to her chest as she massaged the bone chilling feeling of the cold away from her legs.
Keep moving, we can't stay here forever.
She rolled her eyes at her own thoughts before getting up and retrieving her belongings. Her body shivered in protest, but she continued left now.
Another straight trail awaited Timena as she followed the map's directions. She was unsure now of what to expect since she was unfamiliar with the territory.
"Mommy, I saw something in the water. I promise." A small voice startled her, she went to hide in the bushes nearby.
"Didn't you hear that mommy, something else is here." A little girl ran around, searching for what she had seen.
Her mother appeared unamused and paid the young girl no mind as she continued on her way, most likely back into Vitabesk.
"Let's go Violet, we have things to do." The lady called after her, still walking further and further away.
Looking away from the woman, Timena was frightened to see the little dark-haired girl staring directly at her hiding the bushes.
"I see you." She giggled.
"Well, pretend you didn't and run along with your mother." Timena whispered as the girl came closer. She shooed her away, but it did nothing to deter her.
"Why are you hiding?" Mimicking Timena, she kneeled on the ground.
"I'm hiding from a scary man, so you have to pretend you never saw me, alright?"
The little girl's warm brown eyes offered a look of sympathy as she put her finger to her lips and shook her head.
"Violet. Haven't I been calling you?" The mother asked, exasperated.
Timena stayed completely still as the girl got up and took her mother's hand, as they walked away she continued to look back until they both disappeared from her line of vision. Letting out a deep breath, she laughed at the close encounter.
As soon as she considered the area to be clear, she hastily went back on the path, sparing no time to slow down. It wouldn't be much further now she thought, and she knew right then that she was right. Because not too far away, puffs of smoke in the air through the trees could be seen. She was getting closer.