Magda wasn’t sure how many days she’d been running. They had begun to meld into a continuous blur of light and dark, green and brown, somewhere in the second. She was tired all the way down to her bones, and she knew that Bastian, her horse, wouldn’t be able to go much further before collapse. Still, the urge, the desperate, clawing need, to go further wouldn’t abate.
No amount of distance felt safe. Not from the king’s men. His seers could see her anywhere she went in his lands. Unlike most villagers, she knew this to be fact rather than just rumor, because until she'd snuck into the stables and stole away on the old horse, she had been one of them. A novice seer, that is. A job she’d loved until she’d discovered the awful truth about the king. Until she’d made the fatal mistake of following her heart. And until the moment the king set his hounds on her with the order she be brought back, dead or alive.
Knowing what she did, Magda couldn’t decide which option was the better, and so she hoped she would face neither. Unfortunately, being able to see people on the king’s land, is not the same as being able to see the lay of it, and Magda had no idea how close she was to the border, or how to tell when she’d crossed to the other side. She was tempted to use her gift to search for a soul that might know it, but the risk of opening her mind to the sisters was too great. Opening up, even just a little, was enough to make her a shining beacon on the map. They’d be there in no time.
Even without the opening her mind, she stood out too much. She still wore the bright red robes of the consecration ceremony, where she looked into the golden bowl and saw the king’s true, monstrous, face upon the surface of the water. Whatever he was, he was not King Cadriel and as she stared with dawning horror, she saw that the sisters, and everyone in the court had fallen under his spell. She felt pinned to the spot, as though someone were holding her there and sending her this vision.
Amidst the flickering candles and the stone-faced sisters, Magda watched the thing-that-was-not-her-king’s plan spool out across the water in scene after horrific scene. He would turn the kingdom into a wasteland where other beasts like he could thrive, and then they would spread to other lands, until the whole of the world was swallowed, and those in it dead or worse, playthings. When the vision finally released her, she found that she had already planned her escape. Each step fixed inside her mind except this last – where to go.
Bastian trembled beneath her and his steps began to slow. Magda couldn’t remember the last time they’d had water. Only that it had been in the moonlight and now, the sun was slipping behind the hills that never seemed to get any closer. “There now,” she stroked Bastian’s neck, letting him know he could stop. “It’s alright.” They’d been running along the edge of the forest, where the land was flat, and she nudged him toward the trees. She doubted they could make it far enough to find water, but at least they would be sheltered, perhaps hidden from view.
This way, girl. The voice sounded inside her mind, Magda was sure of it, but Bastian’s ear pricked, and he turned in the direction from which it seemed to come. Only a few steps more. The voice was reassuring. It reminded Magda of her grandfather, not in the sound of it, but in the gentle tone. Magda was too tired to fight it, she felt her body go slack with relief. If this was a trick, she would meet her end. She couldn’t run anymore, nor could Bastian, who even now, stumbled as he slowly made his way over roots and fallen branches.
The scent of wood smoke lay heavy in the air, enveloping them. In the dim light of the fading dusk, Magda could just make out a cottage, and in its doorway, a man. No, she thought, as Bastian came to a stop with a soft whiny. Not a man, a boy. Not much older than she.
“We’ve been waiting for you,” he said, with a voice that was at once kind and calming, and decidedly not the voice she’d heard in her mind.
Magda let go of the reins, and slid off the fatigued horse. She managed one step toward the boy before exhaustion overtook her and she fainted into his waiting arms.
Come back Wednesday for part two from Lacey!
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