When I came to, we were no longer inside the castle walls.I tried to look around, but Bull’s grip was like a vice. I could tell at least we were crouched in the shrubbery outside of the fortress, and the sound of trotting horses echoed from nearby. The second thing I noticed was Gavin’s absence.
“I’m gonna move my hand, but you’ve gotta promise me you aren’t gonna speak. I’ll explain everything, but you have to stay quiet. Got it?” I nodded, gasping for air as he let me go.
“Fyn, he wouldn’t have made it through that wound without someone stitching him up. And even then, his chances of survival are slim. It’s not often someone survives a stab wound through the stomach…”
“Wait, what? What are you talking about?” Bull raised a finger to his mouth as my volume rose. “Sorry.”
“Gavin had to go someplace where he could get the medical attention he needs. Isabelle took him with her and the Princess, back to Traug.”
“So Isabelle was okay after all, then?”
“Yeah. Turns out she’s craftier than I anticipated.”
“But she took Beatrice… Why didn’t you send me with her?”
Bull grinned as I finished my sentence.
“That’s because you and your friend have to come with me.”
My stomach sunk as I realized what was happening. “But… I can’t go with you… I have to save Beatrice!”
“What are you talking about? She’s going home. She’s safe.”
“No, no, no, no… You don’t understand. She can’t go back there.”
“Wow, wow, wow. Slow down, kid. We can talk about this later, but right now, we don’t have time for it. We’re both in a lot more danger than they are…”
“How is that even-”
Bull grabbed me by the face, ducking further into the bushes. Two people came riding out of the fortress gates; a man clad in black, gold-trimmed armor, and a woman gowned in a cloak of crow feathers. Call me crazy, but something about their presence felt ominous.
“Any sign of the empyr wyrmling?” The woman spoke loudly, scanning the surrounding bush. Bull ducked lower, both of us trying to stay as still as possible.
“No, ma’am. No sign of the boy either. Looks like that knight’s information was faulty.” The knight’s voice was low and gruff, his mouth seemingly still underneath his thick, black beard.
“We can’t afford to waste any more time. If we fail to find him before the next rebirth…”
“Don’t worry, Priestess. We have all of the fools resources at our disposal.”
“Good, Ingram. Carry on with the search. I have a little detour to make before I return to the Keep.”
The black knight took off down the pathway, the roadside littered with the corpses of bandits. Maybe it was because of Ash, but I could feel the malice coming from both of them as we watched from afar.
“She’s scary…” It was the first thing Ash had said all day, and I could feel the fear that came with his voice.
“Don’t worry, it’s okay…” I muttered under Bull’s hand. I could feel Ash shaking, trying to burrow further into his nest of hair.
The woman reached into her cloak, producing a small vial of red liquid. She then crushed it in her hand, tracing a circle in the air. Within seconds, a portal materialized in the shape she’d drawn, it’s perimeter made from a red and black crystal-like material. She glanced from side to side once more, and let out a sigh.
“Why can’t I feel the flow of his empyr anymore…” The rest of her sentence was cut off as she stepped through the gateway, the crystal shattering as soon as she’d passed, and disintegrating. Bull finally released me from his hold.
“What… What was that?” I staggered backwards, falling on my backside.
“It…. I’ll explain it later. Once we’re far away from this place. Okay?”
Bull’s expression was reluctant. What did this giant know?
“No.” I refused, crossing my arms. “I need some answers, and I think you know something about the power I have.”
“Fyn, listen. It’s not safe here. If we remain here any longer, your little friend is going to start creating energy, and she’ll track us down again. The only reason she hasn’t found you is because you keep depleting it’s resources before it has a chance to completely regenerate.”
“Uhm… Okay…” It was like he was speaking another language, but he was right about leaving. Besides, even if I tried to run, he could easily just pick me up and carry me off with him. As I shifted my weight, I was reminded of the events from earlier with sharp pain shooting down my arm.
“Fine. I guess I don’t have much choice, do I?”
“Nope! Now come on, before she catches our trail.”
“Where exactly are we going?” Bull let a mischievous grin spread from ear to ear.
“You can’t mean…”
“Yep. We’re heading to Kadriel, through the Frostpeaks.” My eyes widened as I painfully hopped to my feet.
“Wait, what? What about the Princess?”
“She’ll be safe, at least for now. I’m not sure what happened with you two, but you’ll have your chance to rescue her. We have to take that little guy back where he belongs, as soon as possible.”
“And that’s in Kadriel? Seems a little bit far…”
“It’s the only place that’ll be safe from her, and even that will only be temporary. You’re going to have to trust me on this.”
Bull’s behaviour was becoming stranger by the minute, and I honestly wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. What if something happened to Gavin and the Princess while we were gone? What choice did I have than to take Bull at his word?
“It’s okay. We can trust him.” Ash’s voice popped into my head without warning, but it eased the tension in me. Bull didn’t carry the malice those other two did, but instead hope.
“Then I guess there isn’t much more to talk about.”
“So you’re not going to argue? Great! I was worried I’d have to tie you up or something…” Bull grinned, wrapping his massive arm around my shoulders. I couldn’t help but wince.
“Somehow, I think you aren’t kidding.” We both laughed as we set off on the next leg of the journey, unsure of what might come next. I was overcome with so much worry, a level of uncertainty I wasn’t used to. In a matter of days, my entire world had been flipped upside down and then some. Even though I was terrified, I knew I couldn’t walk away. The strings of fate had pulled me into this, and there was no getting away from that.
“First things first, we need to get us both cleaned up and some warmer clothes. We won’t last a day in those mountains if we aren’t dressed properly.”
I looked up to the skyline as he spoke, the white peaks stretching beyond the clouds. The Frostpeaks were a nomansland, but neither the Kadriens or Sevestians dared send soldiers into the frozen wasteland. It was a deathtrap, all sorts of feral creatures making those mountains there home. Even during the war, it was seldom that a platoon returned from those perilous peaks. Yet here I was, about to journey through the entire pass with a man I barely knew.
My mind wandered back to Beatrice, hoping that whatever happened while I was away, that she’d be okay.