Chapter 27: Finding Vincent
The night was hauntingly dark, and utterly still. The only thing that broke the spell of eerie silence enveloping the land was the sound of hooves hitting the ground sharply as the horse carrying me rushed along speedily. The night was silent, but my thoughts were far from it. Words spoken just few hours ago by Adrian and Genevieve kept playing in my head over and over again.
“He cares for you profoundly. He probably loves you or he would not have risked his life time and time again to just see you and keep you safe,” Genevieve spoke the same words for the millionth time in the confines of my head.
Since the moment Adrian had disclosed the information to me that Vincent; Andre’s cousin and my friend, was the crown prince of world’s greatest empire my thoughts had gone haywire. One after other, every moment I had ever spent with Vincent or the prince sprang to the surface of my mind, and details subtle but still evident now jumped in front of my eyes that should have told me before that Vincent was the prince.
Several emotions swirled inside me. I was mad at myself for not paying enough attention to the details to pick up the truth before. I was mad at Vincent for lying to me. I was beyond worried for the safety and wellbeing of Vincent. Lastly I was furious that Vincent was so careless towards his own security, putting me always ahead of himself. Worry had taken the dominance causing me to discretely get hold of Vincent’s black stallion from the stables of the mansion of Adrian, dodge all the guards, and make run for the heart of Beygul city, where I had last seen Vincent. I was holding on to the hope that he was alright, for I knew I was not capable of suffering the loss of him all because of me.
Three and a half days of ridding through the forests went by with a maddening slowness filled with horrific thoughts. Twilight was melding into darkness by the time I came to the opening of the forest leading to the busy market streets. Dismounting the horse I pulled the hood of my weather beaten cloak over my head, and adjusted it such to bath my face in darkness that would leave me unrecognizable.
Reins in hand and the horse at heels, I began to make my way into the bazaar at a mild pace. My eyes swept around watchfully all around not taking any chances of being tailed or attacked this time. I kept my ears open to not miss any gossip in case it was about Vincent. I picked up the words prince and Vincent from the conversion in between four men standing near a cloth store. Stopping outside the shop, I began to look through different clothes while eavesdropping on the conversation going on next to me.
“.....being said the prince has been caught.” said a short man.
“No, Francisco, he has not been caught, but it is said that he was sighted, and chased by the army, but he escaped somewhere in the north side of the woods.“, replied a gruff voice, “but it is also said that he is injured and will not last long, even if the army did not get to him.”
My heart stopped as my brain registered his words. Fear began to stir inside my chest. In order to not seem the least bit suspicious I quickly bought cloth enough to stitch at least two dresses, and made my way back to the woods. I had to get to Vincent, I did not know how, but I had to try.
As the population thinned, and the forest began to get dense, I hopped on the horse back, and broke into a trot. Without any sense of direction or destination, I kept moving through the forest scanning the ground and trees in hopes of locating Vincent.
Night gave way to a bright day which was again followed by a dark and cold night. After a few days I had lost track of time, and just kept searching without any success. My search was a crazed one, I knew, but still kept going. It had been days since I had a proper meal, and my energy was swimming dangerously low. The weariness settled in my bones would not let me go any further, and I slipped off the horse back falling on to the ground with a loud thud. Pain seared through my ribs as broken branches and logs came in contact with my body on falling of the horse back. The pain coupled with hunger and cold weather pushed me over the edge into the welcoming world of darkness.