The night was cool. The sky was clear and the half moon brightly lit up the ground. The breeze was gentle against my fur. It was refreshing from the hot of the day. I lay patiently for Taria and Daniel. Both of them were saddling up their horses. Lia had given them both packs with enough food for a week. Plenty to get back to the White Wood. Lia had also made sure asked three times if they had everything. Once she was satisfied I watched as Lia hugged Daniel and Taria goodbye. Gean was already asleep and didn't know what was happening. Lia had the job of making up a story for their absence when he woke the next day. By that time they planned to be far away.
Taria’s horse grunted as Taria swung the pack onto her back. Taria patted the horse’s neck and calmed her. They were trying to be as quiet as possible. The guards from the capital could be anywhere, watching and waiting for me to appear. If they were to catch me then there was no chance that I would survive. They would kill me and possibly Taria and Daniel. We had to get away, there was no turning back.
Taria mounted her horse and turned to Daniel. He held a weapon towards her. “I taught you how to use it and now you may have to.”
Taria shook her head. “I’m better with my bow.”
Daniel sighed. “I know.” He placed his hand on her thigh. “But a bow won't always go through their armour. This will.”
Taria stared at the weapon but took it from Daniel’s hand. She slipped it into the holder on the saddle and gripped the reigns.
From the moment we stepped out of the house Taria had been tense. We all were. But the fear in her eyes made me nervous. I was worried what she would do if something went wrong or if something happened to Daniel. He was her father and I could tell that she wouldn’t be able to deal with losing him.
Daniel pulled himself up onto his horse and said, “We will have to run for it. Kara you will need to led us. Try to avoid any main roads and let Taria know if you notice anything, even if it is small.”
“There is a large river to the west. Horses can cross it but their vehicles won't be able to. The mud will cause them to get stuck.”
Taria nodded at me. She said, “Kara said there is a river we can cross. The guards won't be able to follow though.”
Daniel nodded. “Let’s go.”
I moved towards the front of the stable and took a deep breath. This was it. I took a few steps and pushed into a run. Hard smacks from the horse’s hooves followed close behind me. We quickly moved to the edge of their farm and up the hill. The hill facing the White Mountains was steep but not a hard climb.
We slipped into the trees but didn't slow our speed. I jumped over fallen trees and avoided branches. Daniel and Taria kept up. Their horses finding it easy to fly over the trees and avoid the rocks.
I slowed my pace as we grew close to a main road. I stopped and I turned to Taria. “We have to cross that road. There isn't a way around.”
Taria nodded and told Daniel. He sighed and looked at me. “Could you sneak forward and see if you can see or smell anyone.”
I nodded my head. I slipped under a bent tree and stopped on the edge of the road. The dirt road was well travelled. There were fresh tracks from vehicles. There was no light or sound in either direction though. No sign of the guards anywhere. I slipped back to Taria and Daniel and got them to follow me.
On the edge we slipped over the road, one by one. I went first and quickly slipped into the brush of a bush. Taria went next. She walked her horse across the road and into the tree. Her eyes looking over every inch of the road and treeline. Daniel followed and slipped into the trees. We moved away from the road when I heard a crack.
My head snapped around and I froze. Taria stopped in place.
“What is it?” she whispered.
I focused on the trees in the distance. I kept still and waited. The crack could have simply been an animal but the woods were quiet, more so than normal at night. With my heart hammering in my chest I hadn’t noticed. But as I waited I realised that there wasn't a single sound. Guards were somewhere in the trees. They had scared off the animals.
“Something is out there,” I said.
“Animal?” Taria said.
“Notice how quiet it is. Even for night, there is nothing.” I crouched down. “Only thing that scares animals away completely is man.”
Daniel gripped his weapon. “What’s going on?”
“Kara hears something, she’s not sure though,” said Taria, her voice shaking.
“Well, let’s keep moving. Just in case.” Daniel released his grip on the weapon and looked at me.
I nodded and moved towards the river. We moved at a slower pace, not wanting to cause too much noise.
As we neared the river, the flowing of the water became too loud to hear anything else. I slid down the muddy side of the hill and stopped on the edge of the rushing water. The water was at high tide but we would still be able to cross. The trees were dense around the opening of the river. They made the perfect vantage point to attack from, we needed to be quick and get back into the trees.
I looked up the hill as Taria and her horse slipped down the hill. Her horse grunted in frustration. She clearly didn't want to be going down such a hill. At the bottom, Taria stroked the horse’s throat and hushed her.
“Daniel should go first,” I said. If he was across the river he could keep an eye on the trees with his weapon and tell us if something or someone was coming.
Taria looked to Daniel. “Tara says for you to go first.”
Daniel nodded. “Alright.” He nudged his horse forward and it placed its hooves into the shallows of the flowing water. The horse halted slightly. Its ears flickered but Daniel nudged it forward. The horse didn't like it one bit but did as asked. The water quickly reached past Daniel’s knees as he crossed, the horse forcing itself through the muddy waters to the other side. The horse reached higher ground and pulled itself up. Its hoof slipped and the horse stumbled but caught itself. Daniel smiled and patted his horse’s neck. “Good boy,” he said. He looked across the river to us and nodded. “Taria, you next.”
Taria looked at me.
I nodded. “I will be able to get across quicker if someone comes. Best you go.”
“Okay,” she said, her eyes focusing on the rushing water.
“Just relax,” I said. “Your horse will get you across. She is stronger than the water.”
Taria took a deep breath and nodded, and nudged her horse forward. Taria’s horse was just as hesitant as Daniel’s. It moved slower but the water wasn't slowing it down. Taria’s grip was causing her knuckles to turn white. She was terrified and her horse could tell.
“Relax, Taria,” I said.
Taria looked back at me and forced a smile.
“You’re almost across, sweetheart.” Daniel was keeping his eyes locked of Taria.
Taria’s horse broke from the water onto higher ground. Taria released a heavy breath and smiled. Daniel reached out and squeezed her shoulder. She held his hand and then looked at me.
Now it was my turn. Unlike Taria and Daniel I would have to swim across. There wasn't a problem with swimming but the water was sure to be cold. I place my front paws into the water. Just as I thought. The water wasn't freezing but it sent a harsh shiver down my spine. I would have to suck it up. We didn't have time for me to waste. I stepped further in when I heard a click. I looked up and Daniel was aiming his weapon towards the treeline behind me. What had he seen? I didn't know if I should make a dash for it and swim across quickly or turn to face whoever or whatever it was.
Daniel lowered his weapon slightly and frowned. A confused look set upon his face. He looked at me and nodded. I took it as an all clear so I slipped into the water. I shivered but it was almost refreshing. I hadn’t been able to swim in awhile and while this would be short lived, it was a nice change.
I reached the middle of the river when Daniel lifted his weapon rather quickly and fired. “Hurry, Kara.” Daniel pulled something on his weapon and aimed again. A bullet flew towards Daniel and hit the tree beside him. The horses cried out, the loud bang scaring them. I pushed myself through the water to the other side.
Taria had her weapon out and had it aimed but she had yet to fire.
Daniel fired again as I pulled myself up onto the dry ground.
“Guards. Move it.” Daniel aimed and fired.
“Across the river!” A man stepped out from behind a tree and fired. The bullet hit where I had stood.
I moved to the trees. “Taria, come on.” Another bullet flew down and struck the ground beside me. I jumped and moved away. If they knew who we were then it was over. They would go back for Taria’s family but we couldn’t just go back. Not anymore.
“Taria, follow Kara.” Daniel fired again.
Multiple bullets flew towards us. One scrapping Taria’s arm. She cried out and dropped her weapon. Daniel caught the gun before it hit the ground and slipped it into the holder.
Taria nodded and turned her horse. She held her wounded arm with one arm and followed me into the trees. Daniel not far behind.
“Their getting away,” said a guard.
We moved quickly up the side of the hill. The horses struggling to keep up a fast pace while climbing. I glanced back occasionally and could now hear the sound of their vehicles groaning. We reached the top of the hill and I could see the White Mountains. The peaks covered with clouds. Moving across the top of the mountain the sound of the guards faded into the distance. We had lost them for now.ns 18.104.22.168da2