The King's Forest, or to the ancients Pavidus, was a dangerous place. The only safe way through it was the Debello or King's Path. The ancients had built the path when a young woman, the heir to a kingdom, had been lost within Pavidus, never heard of again. The Forest was thought to be haunted, full of ghouls and monsters. But whatever stone the anceints had used detered any creatures of the dark from. Many had tried to study the stones, to steal them for their powers. All had failed. Whatever power the anceints had called upon to create this path had lasted for centuries and had no intention of being dissuaded from its purpose. A purpose I was sorely grateful for at the moment.
A growl from the behind me was the cause for my current gratefulness. Although I had faced many beasts in my day, I didn't enjoy those confrontations. And no one ever enjoyed a confrontation with a wolven. Tall, harry, and ruthless to the point of... well, to the point of death. More civilians and hunters alike were killed by wolven attacks than by any other creature in the Pavidus. Though they don't generally travel in packs, like wolves, when they do it is most likely because they see their victim as a threat to their territory. Apperntly, I was a threat to their territory.
The Forest was filled with howls. And wolven howls were known to drive a man mad. My horse needed no pursuasion to go any faster. In fact, he was going a little faster than I cared for, but I made no move to stop him. In the days to come, I would wish I had.
My already terrified horse was sent into a frenzy when a sudden and far too close howl came from our right. This caused my stede to vere to the right, off the path. I did what I could to direct him back to the path, but my efforts were useless. I ducked my head beneath tree branches, yet all the while searching for the beasts. Yellow eyes flitted about all around me, the darkness seemed to be pressing in. Many men have gone mad in these woods. I'd had the experience once before, but there hadn't been any wolven that time. My survival senses were on edge, ready to strike out at a moments notice when, suddenly, a light appeared ahead.
The horse, thinking the light led to safety, rushed toward it. I did my best to halt him, but to no avail. Apparently, I had met my match in this horse
And that's when I saw her. A girl, maybe fifteen, stood in the clearing, staring at me with defiant, brown eyes. I renewed my efforts to calm the stupid horse. Oh Helina help me to stop this cursed stede. Unfortunately, my horse payed no head to the power of the old gods and forged ahead.
"Out of the way!" I shouted to the girl.
Apparently, she was either deaf or terribly stuborn, because she did nothing of the sort.
We were almost upon her, and there was nothing to be done. At least, I couldn't do anything. The cursed horse had other things in mind.
At the point where he should have bowled over the girl, he stopped dead. In accordance with the natural laws, I flew from the sadle, crashing to the ground a few meters away.
My world was darkness for a moment, but the sound of howling brought me back to the present. And the present problem.
Quickly, I pushed myself off the ground and drew my crossbow from its position on my back.
I slipped a bolt from the satchel at my side and loaded it into the crossbow. Then I remembered the girl.
She was standing in the ruins of a home, next to my traitor horse. Sunlight streamed from a slight gap between the bows of the trees above filling the enitre clearign with light.
"Excuse me, but aren't you going to apoligize for nearly killing me with your horse?"
I glared at the girl as I stalked over to them.
"Blame the horse." I growled. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I have-"
"No where to go."
I looked at the girl again.
"The Wolven won't bother you in the clearing, but if you leave, well. I can't say you'd last long."
"What do you suggest?" I growled, trying, and failing, to keep my anger in check.
"Wait them out. That's about all you can do."
I growled again. I don't have time for this! Every second I waste in these woods is a second closer to losing my father and my freedom.
"But you can risk the Wolven for all I care."
"How long?" I growled.
She shrugged. "Who knows. It depends on how badly they want you."
"Very Badly." I muttered.
"Then you can expect it to be a few days."
"I don't have a few days. Are you sure there is no other way?"
I didn't like the glint that passed across the girl's brown eyes.
"I can show you another way. But there is a price..."
"Give me your supplies. Money, food. Everything."
I stared at the girl for a moment.
"Allright. Now show me."