Wind whipped past my ears as I pushed my exhausted mare deeper into the forest of Winter Land. Foam was already forming at her mouth and I knew she wouldn’t last much longer. The snow that covered the ground was pushing the horse harder than it would have normally, but she was swift, a good runner. I hoped she wouldn’t stop till her legs gave out.
“I will get you, Tabri. You will be sorry you ever ran from me.” Farenan yelled over the sound of hooves on the ground. I knew that if he caught me, there would be nothing stopping him from taking my life. The terror of it drove me to push the mare harder.
I lay my face down on the soft hide of the horse’s neck, trying to shield my face from the snow. It stung as it kissed my skin. Ruan was holding onto my back for dear life. She was sobbing lightly, but I didn’t know what to do for her. If we stopped, her fate was tied to mine. Farenan would do what he wished with her. More than likely kill her alongside of me.
Farenan’s horse hooves sounded closer now. I glanced over my shoulder to see that he was only feet off my flank. His eyes were crazed. The blue in them pierced through me like ice, sending chills down my spine. I whispered in my horse’s ear to move swiftly. “Come on girl. You’re as dead as I am if he catches us.”
My magic flowed from my fingertips, pulsing through the mare’s life force. The mare picked up her pace. No matter how fast we pushed though, Farenan was gaining ground. Inch by inch he crept closer to my back. There was an odd feeling that his hot breath was reaching my neck. The thought made my spine shiver.
Farenan was right there, hanging just out of arms reach. A few more seconds and he would be able to grab me. I braced for the sudden jolt of his hand pulling me from my horse, but it didn’t come like I had expected. I felt the pull but it was from my waist. Then I noticed the sudden absence of Ruan’s face pressed against my back. He had taken her instead, to get back at me for running. I should have known that he would be so spiteful.
My heart raced in fear of what he might do. I pulled my reins hard, bringing my horse to a stop. She turned quickly, running in pursuit of the black stallion.
Farenan was headed back toward his men. Little Ruan hung over his saddle, her hands reached for me. Tears ran down her face as she screamed my name. “Tabri, don’t leave me!”
I wanted to tell her that it would be ok, not to worry, but I couldn’t bring myself to lie to her. Instead I told her the truth, at least as far as I could see it happening. I yelled over the sound of the hooves on the ground, “Hold on, I won’t leave you. I promise.”
My horse was falling behind. She was tired and wouldn’t last long at this speed. I leaned into the strides and placed my mouth near her ear. “Please horse, I made a promise to Ruan that I wouldn’t leave her. I need your help. Please don’t give up.”
My magic pulsed again but it was no good. The mare was slowing almost to a trot. She was tired and her legs threatened to give out. I watched as Farenan’s stead raced out of sight, swallowed up by the white winter snow. I knew I had lost. My heals found flesh as I kicked the mare trying to force her to move. “I made a promise, horse. I made a promise.”
All I could do was scream, and scream I did. I jumped off the horse and yelled at her. I yelled after Farenan and I damned Winter Land for slowing me down. My foot impacted the snow on the ground, sending it flying through the air in a white cloud of powder. My rage couldn’t be tamed as I let my magic go wild. It raged throwing snow into the air in all directions. “Damn you, Farenan! I swear I will kill you if you hurt her. I will hunt you down and kill you.”
My fear for the Lord of the Dominion had faltered. If I saw him again I would rip his throat out. I screamed again. It rang out through the trees and echoed forward toward Farenan.
My horse was calm, standing still next to me, waiting. With my new found rage I let my magic flow into the horse again. I laid my hand on the strong neck of my horse, a calming touch. The warmth boiled through my chest and down my arm. It flowed through my fingers, leaving my body and joining with the mare. She jolted with a whinny, prancing around the clearing, ready to run. She felt the magic like I did and knew what to do. “Fly like the wind, girl. We have to catch Farenan before he reaches his men.”
Her head nodded. I knew she understood. My legs lifted me on to her back with ease and we were off like a bolt of lightning. We followed the trail left behind by Farenan’s stead with a renewed sense of urgency. I had never felt this kind of speed before. It was almost as if we road above the snow covered ground, floated even. I laughed with excitement and a new sense of purpose.
I felt a presence in my path ahead, a familiar feeling of Artican blood. My heart jumped, it was Arsan. My horse galloped to a stop without me even having to tell her. She felt him to now that she had my magic flowing through her veins.
Arsan appeared from behind a thick cropping of trees with a snow bank to hide behind. There was relief in his eyes. He jumped out in front of me, ready to stop my horse, but she stopped first. I didn’t even hesitate, there wasn’t time. “Arsan! Farenan has Ruan.”
His head snapped in Farenan’s direction and then back to me. He hoisted himself onto the back of my horse. “Ride!”
He didn’t have to tell me twice. My horse took off like lightning again, plunging us into the white of the forest. The snow had let up a little bit, but not much. It didn’t bother me now. I let the icy flakes sting my face without care. The magic that surged through me helped my mind single in on my task instead of my surroundings. It was stronger than ever.
Seconds flew by before I saw the red coat of Farenan peak through the white. It grew steadily closer as my horse flew over the ground. My mind formed a plan as we closed the gap between us. It was simple and I knew just what to do.
“Switch me places and take the reins,” I whispered to Arsan. His arms reached out to take control as I swung myself on to the ground. I pushed off the soft snow and jumped back onto the horse behind Arsan.
The magic was in control now and guided my body as it willed. I felt graceful, natural as I climbed to my feet on the bare back side of the horse. The air whipped passed my body but I controlled my balance with ease. “Get me beside them.”
Arsan smiled a deviant grin as he dropped his head to guide the horse to where I wanted it. “I can’t wait to see this.”
I let my anger toward Farenan fill me again. I felt the rage building inside me. It spread from my chest down both my legs. It surged through my arms and down my fingers. It engulfed my whole body with the magic of my ancestors. I was ready for Farenan.
My horse crept closer. Farenan hadn’t seen us yet so the element of surprise was on our side. Arsan kept us behind him until the last second when he veered to the left. Ruan screamed for her brother. Farenan looked me directly in the eyes. That’s when I jumped.
I flew through the air, connecting with Farenan’s shoulders. The force of my impact sent him tumbling from his horse, me alongside him. Just as I hoped, Ruan stayed in the saddle and Arsan was able to take control of the black stallion’s reins.
The snow was cold on the ground. It covered my hair and stung my skin as I rolled to a stop. Nothing was broken but the pain of such a blow still hurt. It bruised even. Farenan was on his feet faster than I was which would be a mistake on my part.
He lunged for me, grabbing on to the back of my jacket and arm. I tried to pull free, but he was strong, a skilled fighter, something that I wasn’t. His Foot landed a blow to my ribs, knocking me back to the ground. The wind left my lungs and I cried out in pain. Farenan tried to grab me again, but I rolled into his legs knocking him to the ground.
Arsan dismounted his horse quickly and ran to my side. His strong arms pulled me to my feet. I wanted to run but I knew Farenan would pursue me again. This had to end here so I could finally have peace. I pulled away from Arsan. “I am done running.”
There was a strange tingling across my chest. The magic was trying to tell me something, something urgent. I let go of my control and let it move me. My hands moved quickly to Arsan’s chest and sent him falling to the ground. In a split second my back arched, bending me backwards. Cold steel sliced through the air where I had stood. It became imbedded in the tree next to me with a silencing hack. Farenan had pulled his sword from its scabbard. He intended to kill me with it.
My body straightened and my arm swung with force. It contacted Farenan’s nose spreading blood across the white snow. He staggered back giving me enough time to get Arsan to his feet and move him toward the horses.
“You can’t fight him, Tabri. He’ll kill you.” Arsan pleaded with me to run, holding onto my arm as I tried to turn back to the fight.
“I must. Don’t you see that he will never stop searching for me? This is the only way.” My chest tingled again. I spun just in time to throw my arms up and block a jab from Farenan. His chest pumped rapidly with rage. His brow was furrowed in anger. Blood ran down his face and dripped onto his already red jacket. There was sharpness to his eyes that would have frightened me before, but I was beyond that now. He swung again, landing a blow to my jaw bone. The force threw me to the ground and startled me.
Arsan threw his body as hard as he could into Farenan sending both of them sprawling to the ground next to me. Farenan was up in an instant. I couldn’t believe how quick he was. His movement was a blur. His hands quickly clamped around Arsan’s throat.
The rage built inside me letting me know it was ready to act. I found my footing. Grabbing the back of Farenan’s jacket, I pulled. He rose to standing with the force. I spun him around to look me in the eyes. I wanted him to know that I wasn’t afraid of him anymore. He stared back fiercely. My boot lifted from the snowy cold ground and I planted it in the center of his chest. The force of my kick threw him yards away where he rolled down an embankment.
All was quiet. The sound of the falling snow felt deafening to my ears. I ran to the edge of the embankment where Farenan had gone over to find out what had happened to him, to finish him if need be. He wasn’t there. Tracks in the snow lead away from the small clearing and down into a gully. I didn’t know if I should follow or not.
“Please, Tabri. Just leave him. More than likely Nell has taken care of all his men and we have his horse. He will freeze to death in this god forsaken land.” Arsan was atop Farenan’s steed with Ruan seated in front of him. She pleaded with me as well.
“We can’t be sure he won’t make it south and find a way to follow us again.” I knew that if I let Farenan go, that I would never be able to rest at ease. I would always be looking over my shoulder, waiting for him to come kill me. It had to be this way. I had to make sure he was truly dead.