“It gladdens me to see you safe, Princess.” he said, kneeling before her. Dasa impatiently pulled at the reins he held tight in his hand. “I found this one on the road.” He allowed the reins to fall from his hand as Dasa pranced up to Erinael.
Erinael then began to cry at the sight of the horse, as well as the mare’s happiness to see her. Dasa at once butted her head into Erinael’s chest before patiently allowing the girl to wrap her arms around her neck. Erinael then buried her face in the animal’s mane. “I never thought that I would see you again.” she whispered.
“We couldn’t find your saddle or other belongings.” the scout said, interrupting the moment.
“That’s okay.” Erinael said, staring into Dasa’s brown eyes. “This is far more important.”
The Dead Hunter spell on Idriss was beginning to wane, and his breath and heart rate were gradually returning to normal. Morena assured her that he would regain consciousness over the next several days.
Erinael was suspicious. His wounds were well cared for, yet were healing faster than what she felt they should. His skin felt oddly cold to the touch. She said as much to Morena, only to get a jovial response. “He is of the Kindred.” she said simply. “Of the bloodline of Sartoris.”
Erinael could only stare dumbly at her. Sartoris had been the Lord-King of the River Clans back during the Great War. “If he is of the Kindred, then that explains the sword and status of Elf-friend.” she murmured.
Morena nodded. “He was planning to take you to the River clans for harborage, wasn’t he?”
Erinael said nothing, turning to fuss with one of Idriss’ poultices.
“You can trust us.” Morena said softly. “It is not our wish to see you come to any harm.”
“You were not the one to be told by other children that you were to do the work of evil. To be called the Runebreaker, spreader of Darkness and Death.” she did not look up to see the expression of sadness and sympathy on Morena’s face. “Apparently I was cursed from birth.” she continued. “Born under the Dragon Star…” she trailed off.
“The Dragon Star isn’t evil.” Morena said gently. “It is a very powerful omen, yes, but not solely an ill omen.” She crossed her legs as she settled in more comfortably. “It symbolizes the beginning of a new era.”
Erinael frowned. “I’m not sure that I understand.”
“The star appeared on the horizon the summer that you were born. Now, it is nearing when it will set. Considering the events at Loreth, some have applied special significance to you.”
“And when was the last time that the star appeared?” Erinael asked.
“The time of the Great War.”
Erinael felt as if an immense weight had been lifted from her. If it was true that it was merely coincidence, then it was the irrational fears of the others that had made her feel so out-of-place. So afraid of her own self and what she could be capable of.
She glanced down at Idriss, wishing that he was awake. She wanted to hear what he thought on the matter. “You would probably tell me that I read too much into things.” she said quietly. Hearing the sound of voices and horses just outside the cave, Erinael then left Idriss to see what was going on.
She came out just in time to witness Nolan and Tanis clasp forearms in greeting. “Well met.” Nolan said cheerfully. Not realizing how much she had missed him, Erinael darted forward, a strangled cry in her throat. In two swift bounds Nolan met her half way, clutching her to him in a tight hold.
Various emotions bubbled to the surface all at once. Relief, happiness, grief. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” she said over and over. Nolan only hushed her as he smoothed her hair, guiding her back inside the cave and away from the others.
It took several moments until she was calm again. Nolan then made her look at him as he examined her face. His jaw was rigid and his eyes flashed with anger as he took in the healing bruises and the split to her lip. She wore some of Morena’s clothes, the black cloth making her skin appear sallow.
“What had gotten into you? Father and I were worried sick!” Nolan scolded, taking her face in both of his hands.
The tears began anew as the words tumbled from her lips. Her encounter with the Blind-Woman and the spell that enabled her to leave the palace. Meeting Idriss in the woods. Being abducted by the bandits and her rescue by the Dead Hunters.
Nolan listened in silence, his stunned expression telling all. He considered her to be very lucky, knowing that if she had not met Idriss when she had, she may very well have been dead by now.
“Who is this witch supposed to be?” Nolan demanded. “What could she possibly want?”
“I don’t know.” Erinael said quietly. “But I want to find out.”