Chapter 35 - Secrets and Lies
They traveled until they could find shelter. Alena and Rowan waited until Marcus slept before making their way as far from him as they dared, without disturbing him. They seated themselves across from one another.
“Ariana said you would tell me about the past, about our father and her mother,” Alena requested of Rowen in a low voice. Rowan told her what she learned from Ariana with some trepidation.
The truth hurt Alena, made her sad, but most of what she felt was mostly disappointment in finding out the truth about her father. Rowan touched her face gently as Ariana did for her and Alena did not draw away. She took comfort from the gesture as Rowan intended.
They were both afraid Marcus would wake and hear, but he didn’t. His slumber seemed almost unnatural, and Rowan wondered if it was Ariana’s doing. Maybe she gave them the space they needed in the only way she could.
They returned to Marcus’s side and fell into a deep sleep. When they awoke at sunset, he noticed that they had this quiet reserve about them. They were different, he could see that, and it made Marcus suspect that something happened to them at the castle of the witch. Something they could not share with him out of fear or through some manipulation of the witch.
He wanted to know. Needed to understand, but somehow found himself incapable of phrasing the question, and it frustrated him to no end. He became silent and brooding. They glanced at him often but dared not catch his eye, and for the life of him, he could not bring himself to calm down. He hated witches and their tricks, but most of all he feared what the crone might have done to them.
His unease lessened as they moved further away from the accursed castle and his mood improved as the night passed. It occurred to him that his fears occupied his mind, and he lifted his head to pay attention to his surroundings. They made their way toward the coast as if someone decided for them.
Marcus sighed as a new thought entered his mind. His entire life led to this road, this path and these women. A new had formed between them that he could see it in the way they interacted. It removed their hostility and distrust, but also healed their resentment and pain. He sensed that they found a common fate that aligned them side by side, but not necessarily with him.
His anger intensified but found he could not sustain it. He found he had grown tired of the tension between them. They were either on this path together, or not. He had the distinct impression they might not survive their journey.
The two women rode side by side, and as their eyes met, they knew they had the same dream. True to her word, Ariana was with them, but not in the way they imagined. She appeared in their dreams.
Ariana didn’t turn them and then abandoned them to their fate. She gave them their birthright, which they would have received after their first turn if they were male and the world fair. She handed them the legacy of their line, along with the benefit of her wisdom and knowledge.
She showed them the past. Ariana taught them and prepared them for this future they did not choose. She guided them into the mysteries of their world, and they struggled to hide the changes in them, from Marcus. They were not so sure of their success in that area. He watched them with reserve and with too much keen perception, but he refrained from saying anything. Something that was not true to his nature, and they attributed the changes in him to Ariana.
There was no time to find food. They had too far to travel each night to reach safety before dawn. When they reached the coast, their hunger had become an overpowering force. Striker became testy and prone to anger, which reminded Rowan of things she would rather forget. The horse remained tense and jumpy; with every passing hour, his true nature surfaced more and more. He kept spooking the other horses and trying to nip at them. Rowan had a hard time controlling him, but she did, and he allowed it.
“Striker can’t go with us,” Rowan raised the issue, and Marcus nodded.
“What are you going to do?” He asked, deducing that she had a plan in place, from her lack of concern.
“I have this friend in Oslo, he would take care of Striker, what about your horses?′ She asked, and until that moment, he gave their horses no thought. More urgent matters occupied his mind, such as their own lives.
“Few horses tolerate our kind, but we dare not sell them, that would attract attention to our presence. We...” Alena started and stopped. She glanced at Marcus, who shook his head at her and frowned, his face showed no emotion as he took charge of the situation.
“We’re all hungry,” Marcus explained and Alena’s jaw set as she touched the shoulder of her mare, showing an attachment to the horse he hadn’t even noticed before.
“There would be no other way for us to feed and feed enough to keep us strong until we get to where we’re going,” his matter-of-fact tone only made Alena stare off into the night sky, and Rowan glanced at him only once, her eyes unreadable, but he could sense her anger.
“Striker may be the exception Rowan, but these are just horses, and our fates are more important,” Marcus didn’t sound as comfortable with this matter as he wanted. He saw their attachment as impractical, but they were women, and women found some things harder to stomach than men. When push came to shove, they would do what they needed.
“It will be a long voyage, and if we kill anything on a farm, they will note our presence. We can find other horses once we get there,” Marcus explained as Rowan led them through an unfamiliar forest. He didn’t even understand why he justified himself to them; it was not his way.
“I understand the necessity, Marcus,” Alena finally bit out in anger. He criticized her as much as he ‘explained’ to Rowan.
“From here we will be on foot,” Alena raised the other issue in her thoughts to change the subject. On foot, they will expend more energy which they could later need. Spending energy made it necessary to feed, and it created a dangerous cycle.
“We have to walk from here,” Rowan whispered, and they dismounted. Her manner warned them that there could be people in these forests or other things. They made their way through the trees with stealth, and as if the horses sensed their urgency, they were quiet. They made their way deeper and deeper into unfamiliar territory, which unsettled Marcus.