Lillee chanted and chanted, as fast and softly as her panicked mind would allow her to. Dapple was foaming at the bit now and she knew that he couldn’t keep this up for long before he fell; his heart would give out. She knew she had to stop him and fast but couldn’t find the right chant to bring his mind back out of the fear he was feeling.
It was then that she remembered. When Lillee had been breaking Dapple, the only time he would come out of a gallop was if she fell off. This sparked an idea in Lillee and without a second thought she pitched to the left and threw herself from Dapples back; hitting the ground with a thump as the world went black.
Lillee hurt. Perhaps throwing herself from a moving horse wasn’t such a brilliant idea after all, she thought as she lay in a heap with her eyes closed. She could sense Dapple, hear his hooves crunching twigs and leaves but a few feet away and she was glad her plan had worked. It was then she sensed another presence. A small, timid and frightened mind was hiding in the shadows just out of Lillees minds reach but she knew it was there.
She could hear it now, moving closer and she wondered why dapple wasn’t nervous; wondered why he wasn’t bothered by it. Slowly Lillee opened her eyes and gingerly sat up. About halfway between her and Dapple stood a tiny little girl, battered and bruised and covered in blood. Lillee recognised her right away as she had delivered her into her mother’s arms not five winters past.
Kiyonari had been one of the unfortunate youngsters to have not headed their parents’ warnings and wandered into the forest last summer; never to be seen again. Everyone assumed that all who entered had perished and Lillee felt a pang of guilt at the time the girl had been allowed to fend for herself.
Immediately Lillee jumped to her feet and ran to the girl’s side. As she reached the girl Dapple trotted over and dragged his saddle blanket off his back and dropped in on top of the girl so she could be wrapped up warm. Kiyonari looked at Lillee and collapsed in her arms, such was her sheer exhaustion.
This presented a quandary for Lillee, should she take the girl back to her family or continue along the path to her goal, taking the girl with her. She knew she had a long way to go to reach the end of the forest; no light from the moon shone through the trees and without her light orb they would be in total blackness, she could not leave the girl alone any longer and so she mounted Dapple with Kiyonari on her lap and jigged the horse into a quick trot once more.
The witch seethed. How was it that she had missed the child? How could she have not noticed another human in her lair? How many more of them had she missed? She was livid at the thought her powers were waning, livid at the thought Lillee had rescued one of her prizes. The witch decided upon her revenge.
Lillee, Dapple and Kiyonari were making good ground again and Lillee was confident that she could make it through before dawn. Little did she know that the witch had an ally of her own; a dragon called Grom. The witch summoned Grom to retrieve the trio. His prize was the child and the horse, so long as he delivered Lillee to the witch alive.
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