Chapter 2Where One Is Named

It wasn't unknown to me that supposedly wounded girls had been used as bait. A traveler would get off his horse, cart or whatever and be a much easier prey to the trappers. Very few people escaped with their life or possessions in those situations. As those ruthless enough to use a girl as bait, usually have little mercy for their prey. One of the most important things was to pay attention to the signs. Silence in the forest, foot or hoof prints around the girl and other details. I was still too far to see anything important on the ground, but despite the sound of my horse, I paid close attention to the forest. There was no silence here. If the girl or others had disturbed the forest, it had been quite a while ago.

As I got closer I noticed something else: What I had mistaken for clothes, appeared to be no more than sheets wrapped around her figure in the most basic approach to modesty. Feet sticking out from underneath betrayed the lack of footwear of any kind and an arm and a hand above the sheets were bare as well. I didn't see any indication of previous wearing of jewelry, the skin surprisingly pale, but not sick looking. I wondered if she was naked under there.

All things considered, it didn't look like a trap at all.

Despite being aware that I might be much too trusting or weak minded, I slowed down more and stopped next to the girl. She was sleeping, unconscious or dead and hadn't noticed my arrival, apparently. Though the forest had grown a little quieter with my own arrival, around me the birds and insects still continued their sounds. I got off the horse, mentally preparing myself to jump back on if it was needed, holding the reins tightly in my left hand.

Nothing happened. No change in the forest, no appearing bandits, no sudden silence. The girl was quite pretty, brown hair with the suggestion of curls in it and about my age, near twenty. As my ears adjusted, I could hear the girl breathing, which caused some relief in me at least. There was no blood either, she didn't seem hurt. Very carefully, the horse close to me as mental support, I moved my hands towards her cheek and touched it. It was warm. I hoped my voice would wake her.

"Hello? Wake up?"

The girl blinked with her eyes, gray with a hint of blue. She blinked in that moment of bliss when the mind still has to catch up with the world. It changed quickly. She noticed me standing there, my hand still stretched out to her face. She pulled the sheets closer against her and moved back a little, taking some time to sit up and take a good look at the forest around us.

I tried to speak calmly, holding as still as I could after I pulled my hand back. "Awake I see?"

She looked back at me suddenly with a fierce look, her gray darkening. She looked almost hostile, ready to fight. She calmed down however, when she took a second to take me in. Maybe someone was following her?

"Is this still Runewald?"

I nodded. "Near Bleakfield."

She closed her eyes for a moment. I wasn't entirely sure, but it looked like a dark aura was surrounding her. It surprised me that someone dressed so light was a Dark user, but I supposed that clothing wasn't really important for her now. Besides, sheets hardly counted as clothing. For me it was important not to show I noticed it, display of power was rarely a good thing. I waited for her to calm down more, watching the aura dissipate. I guess it was time for me to continue the conversation.

"What are you doing here?"

She looked at me quizzically. "Why?"

I knew I was about to state the obvious. "That doesn't look like travel gear, and you have no horse."

She sighed a little and look up at the horse. "Where are you heading?"

So, she didn't want to answer. I decided not to push it for now. I wasn't sure if I wanted to answer her completely. There was no sense in lying as such, I just didn't want to tell the whole story. Besides the obvious political sensitivity of missions such as mine, it never did well to spread the word one was a messenger with important news. It would only attract undue attention and it was dangerous enough to help her without additional problems.

"Bleakfield."

The girl looked at me as if trying to judge me. Her eyes filled with intelligence now, intriguing me quite a bit with that stare of hers. She took in every detail and weighed it all carefully. It looked like the end result was positive enough.

"Can you take me there?"

She asked it politely, even a little hesitant. She knew just like I did, that staying in the forest was not a good idea. It wasn't that far to the town though, a distance she would be able to walk if she wasn't too weak. Though she might not make it before nightfall. Of course, considering I already stopped and woke her kindly, it would be difficult to refuse such a request. And she did ask me, so she probably thought I was no danger to her. Unless, of course, she still had thoughts that I had other, less honourable intentions.

"Alright, but we have to leave immediately if you can."

She nodded and tried to stand up. Stumbling, almost falling and grabbing my hand, almost pulling me with her but barely managing to stay upright. There was a soft strange feeling going up my arm but I ignored it in favor of keeping her steady. She smiled a little apologetically, holding the sheets against her with her right as she waited for me to get on my horse. I pulled her up right after me, surprised slightly by both her lightness and her weight. Something told me she was making herself lighter. She sat behind me and, hesitantly, put her arms around me to hold herself steady. It wasn't easy for her to stay seated, but the saddlebags gave some flat space at least. I set the horse to walk while the girl held tight. It felt nice.

"What's your name?" I asked her.

She answered softly. "Deirdre"