How many escaped? I could only hope everyone did. Beings weren’t meant to be trapped in cages, especially by other Beings. The very idea enraged me, and I wished I could transform and trample the damn trolls. They’d disappeared, leaving only the stench of burned, oily flesh and singed hair behind.
I was tempted to hunt them, but I’d learned my lesson. The foals and Londe were more important than revenge. They’d be too stupid to track us once we left the area.
Jogging, keeping my senses open for any threats, I headed for the hill. It was difficult with a sword in one hand, but I wasn’t going to let it go. Not until we were all leagues from here, as far as our legs could take us in one day.
Crashing through the underbrush, less worried about stealth than speed, I raced for my family. I’d missed my mate and foals but thought my family had been safe, which made it okay to be away from them, until I learned otherwise. Losing them while I was off looking for a way to repair my magic shattered me. I wasn’t even there for them when they were taken, and I should have. I should have been there.
Gaining the spot where Londe should have been, my heart sank to find him missing. Him and the foals. No! Nothing could have happened to them already. That wasn’t possible. I wasn’t that cursed…
Searching the ground, I found what I’d missed in my rush and panic. Tracks. They couldn’t get rid of their hoof prints. I tracked them to the stream. Would Londe have traveled upstream or down?
It depended on why they ran instead of waiting for me. I wasn’t far behind them, and the foals had to know that. Why did Londe rush away with them? I didn’t see tracks on top of theirs, indicating another Being was chasing them.
Going upstream actually looked easier than down, at least if they forded the stream and walked in the shallows on the far side. They’d be moving away from the road, but that wasn’t a bad thing for a while. I sheathed my sword and shifted it to lie across my upper back and shoulders.
I splashed across the water, shivering and cursing as the icy water soaked my boots, then my pants, and then oh so gently caressed my nether region even as my parts pulled up as high as they could go to avoid the ball-numbing cold. I held one arm under the tiny furry Being I’d rescued to keep it dry. It was still in a ball, still inside my shirt and not moving.
If only I had my other form! The water wouldn’t be nearly as high, and I would be able to trot a lot faster along the bank. I almost wanted to go back in the water when the wind gusted against my face, my chest, and my drenched clothes, plastering them to my aching legs.
My feet burned, but I kept moving because I’d spotted a track in the muck on the side of the stream, half-buried under a bush that was covering part of the bank.
Or a mark left on purpose?
Londe had to know I’d follow as quickly as I could. My brain raced faster than my feet, but I still didn’t know why they’d left me. Nothing made sense.
Running at least warmed me. I wished for a cloak or something to wrap around my torso, but I used the need to keep moving to spur me on to a faster pace. At the same time, I stretched the senses the body I had possessed, listening for some sound of them, some sight of one of their shining tails or spiraled horns.
I felt the cold breeze stinging against my cheeks, the tight wetness of my pants twisting around my knees, my boots drying around my aching feet, the fuzzy fur and warm ears of the Being in my tunic against my belly. The water burbled over rocks, the bushes and trees swayed…
A shaft of light broke through the clouds right as I saw a mishmash of tracks leave the stream completely.
A shining strand of hair was trailing off one bush and dimpling the water, marring the surface of the small eddy by the bank.
Finally! I’d found where they left the water. Reaching out, I pulled the strand off the twig. Short, just the length of my arm—it was one of the foal’s tail hairs then. Still, it was something they’d have had to tangle and get pulled out; unicorns didn’t just shed their hairs like a common horse. No, all of their form was the purest of magics, and this hair could be used.
Used against one of my foals, my young one? No. I did loop it around and around my finger and then hold the end over my palm, blocking the wind with my body. Using a few words of power, I waited. The hair swayed gently at first, then went completely still to hang straight down over my palm.
It quivered, vibrating with invisible tension back to its maker, the magic tethering it to my foal. Slowly, the hair lifted, pointing the way.
“Good lad. Such a good lad.” I could sense it was one of Marces’ hairs. He always paid attention to the magic I’d learned to develop after losing my horn, and he alone of the foals knew of my scrying ability.
Coiling the hair in my pouch for safekeeping, I took off at a trot. It was a pace I could keep up for some time without getting too tired. I pulled travel rations out of my pouch when evening started to fall and I still hadn’t caught up, though at least we were traveling in the direction of home.
What could possibly be driving them so hard?
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