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My Name is Honor: Chapter 4
The ride seemed longer than it had ever been before, by the time I reached the edge of their sheep fields, Fiona was lathered in sweat, her sides heaving with every breath. I dismounted and turned her back in the direction of home, took off her bridle and sent her on her way. She trotted away briskly as if she hadn't just run for miles. With any luck she wouldn't make it back before sunrise... before Carrick woke up and began to look for his wife. I could only imagine the pure, unmitigated rage he would feel, how he would hunt me down. They all would, he would gather a posse, notify the Council, and when they find me they will most certainly kill me. There will be no discussion, no allowance of last words, just the swing of a scythe or the snap of a rope. Whether it was the thought of my imminent death, the loss of blood, or simply exhaustion, the world suddenly spun around me and brought me to my knees. I fell forward onto my hands, vomiting in the tall grass, and fought my heavy eyelids which wanted to desperately to close. The rag tied around my neck was now dry and crusted, perhaps the bleeding had stopped, but there had been a good deal lost, and the house lay across a vast field, a seemingly impossible distance. I clutched the grass in handfulls, attempting to hold the Earth still beneath me, fighting the unconsciousness that threatened to take me any moment. Slowly, I regained control of my body, though I knew I would only maintain it a short time longer before I would have no choice but to rest.
Making my way across the field as fast as I dared, I began to wonder if I should involve Orin at all. It had been his plan to leave all this behind, but not like this, if we were found they would kill him too. I was so lost in the conundrum that I didn't hear the movement through the grass, the soft footfalls of a beast stalking it's prey. When the hound knocked me to the ground, I hand't any strength to resist and fell easily under it's weight. His low,rumbling growl came through bared teeth, his huge forepaws pinning my shoulders easily.
"Archu!" a voice hissed from somewhere in the grass.
The hound snapped to attention, growl ceasing immediately, his long tail began to wag.
Now adding the jarring fall to the ground to my already shaky state, it took a moment for me to recognize the name and the voice. Orin moved closer as Archu backed off, eyes on his master now.
"Get up, whoever you are. Tell me, what are you doing in my Father's field in the middle of the night." His voice was stern, betraying no fear of this perceived stranger and possible sheep-thief.
"Orin.." I marvelled at how weak my own voice was, cracked and broken.
The grass rustled as he rushed to me, kneeling at my side.
"Honor!? What are you doing here? Who did this to you?!"
He helped me sit up and offered me water from the leather vessel slung from a strap over his shoulder.
"I came to find you, Kaya attacked me in my bed, she was mad."
"Gods... how did you get away?" he began to peel the blood caked rag away from my neck
"I killed her, Orin."
He made no audible acknowledgment, only furrowed his brow, nodding slowly.
"It's going to get infected if we don't clean it, and I can sew it up, I've done stitches on Archu a few times."
"I.. I can't ask that of you, Orin, When Carrick finds her body... they're going to come for me, to kill me and anyone with me. You know that."
"If I'm with you, they'll never find you." he grinned "Can you walk?"
"Not far, but yes."
He helped me make it to the barn to clean and stitch the wound, which had started to bleed again the moment the bandage had been removed. He made me comfortable in the tack room while he went about the barn gathering various supplies. When he produced the needle and thread, Archu moved decidedly across the room and eyed him warily.
"It's not for you, boy." Orin assured him
"This is going to hurt, isn't it?" I queried, taking note of Archu's reaction.
"Yes, very much. Now, bite this and lean your head back." He replied, handing me a bit of wood.
When it was finished, Orin applied a paste, explaining it was an herbal mix they used on the animals when they got hurt to help heal, ease pain and prevent infection. It smelled awful but worked wonders. He bandaged my neck with clean with cotton cloth and had me drink more water.
"I know you're exhausted, but we only have a few hours before the sun is up, we must leave as soon as we can." he said, hauling me up off the feed sacks I'd been resting on.
"Orin, please, you've fixed me up, and I am grateful, but I cannot take you with me and risk your life."
"What do you think the plan was all along? Don't you see they would have hunted us down either way? And you need us, Archu and I, we know the wilderness for miles, we're good hunters and excellent guardians. Why do you think Father has us take nightwatch over the sheep? Archu can kill a wolf like it's a kitten." He smiled proudly at the hound. "Now, you just stay here, we don't have alot of time, do you think you can ride? I've got a quiet little mare for you, and she's fast."
"I think I can manage."
"Good. Rest a minute while i get the horses ready and we'll be on our way."
I closed my eyes for what felt like mere seconds, and then he was back, shaking me gently.
"It's time, Honor, we have to go now. "
The horses were saddled and waiting, each with a leather satchel tied to it's saddle. Orin helped me up, mounted his own and we headed out across the field, Archu bounding ahead of us. When we'd reached the edge of his village, we urged the horses on faster until we were barreling through the night. I stayed close behind Orin who seemed to know exactly where he was going. We passed over hills, through gullies and creeks, until we reached a wide span of forest.
The sun had just started it's ascension as we made our way past the trees, and finally, to my great relief, just when I thought I could hold my eyes open no longer, Orin pulled his horse to a stop. As my mare stopped beside him, I turned to ask where we were, felt myself sway in the saddle, and the world went black.
When I opened my eyes again, I was wrapped in darkness still. It was cool, comfortable, a slight musty smell to the air. Somewhere in the shadows the horses sighed and snorted lazily. Next to me, a body radiated warmth, it's coarse hair brushing my cheek. I turned my head slightly to be greeted by Archu's breath on my face. He stirred at my movement, opening one great brown eye, and licked my face, tail thumping against the earth beneath us. I groaned and rolled away, wiping away the moist trail across my cheek.
"How are you feeling?" came Orin's voice from the dark abyss.
"Like I could sleep twelve more hours."
A chuckle, a spark, and candlelight illuminated our shelter. Orin sat a few feet from me, his back propped against the log wall, at the farthest end of the one-room structure stood two makeshift stalls where the horses were tied, munching peacefully from haynets.
"you've been out for two days, my dear." he said, grinning.
"Two days!? How can that be? what happened after.." I paused, struggling to dredge up the last thing I remembered from my murky memories of that night.
"After we stopped? Well, I rested the horses a few hours, changed your bandage, loaded you back up on Ginger and we moved on. We arrived here this morning."
" where is here?"
"A safe place. It's well hidden, been here a long time I suppose, damn thing's so covered in moss and brush you'd never know there was a building here."
"How did you know?"
"Alot of questions from someone so tired... I came across it after I got lost tracking a deer a few years ago. Now, if your curiosity can wait - " He passed me a small satchel, filled with smoked jerky and various edible roots. "You need to eat, take some water, we will move again tonight."
"Are they close?" I said, my mouth full of jerky.
"I haven't seen or heard anything, but there's no telling how far the Council, and Carrick, will go to get their hands on you, my dear. Kaya's family, well, they were well respected, in the religious community especially, the Council will surely unleash the full extent of its brutality."
".. and all the while preaching pacifism and love, right?" I smirked at the hypocrisy of it.
"Well, yes. They will put word out, probably have already, that you are a cold-blooded killer, the daughter of two executed criminals, no village will take us, and most will send able-bodied men to help in the search."
"I know, I know. So what exactly is the plan, then? Evade capture until they forget about us and live in the wilderness for the rest of our lives?"
"They will never forget, Honor, you know that. The Council will have you hunted until you are captured or your body found. They don't give up. Can you think of a single story where the betrayers escaped successfully?"
"Then what are we doing, Orin!? You said you had a plan!" A dozen bricks seemed to be sitting on my chest, my breathing became laborious, my heart raced as the walls began to close in. We were going to be killed, we would be strung up in the forest and left for the buzzards, how would we survive, why hand't I thought of this before!?!
Then Orin was there, grasping me be the shoulders, giving me a stern shake.
"Honor! listen, don't lose your fire now, alright? I won't let anything happen to you, I swear it. They will not find us, because we will be gone. I told you I had a plan and I do. I wanted to wait until we'd made it a bit farther and you were healed up some... We're going to the Otherlands. "
Now I knew it for certain; we were both going to die. Orin read my face with startling accuracy.
"It's not what they say it is, they've lied to us all our lives, Honor."
"How would you know what it's like?"
"Because I've been there."