Home > Dryad-Born (Whispers from Mirrowen #2)(9)

Dryad-Born (Whispers from Mirrowen #2)(9)
Jeff Wheeler

Trasen shielded his eyes from the rising sun. “It’s difficult to see him,” he said.

A pang of nervousness slid inside of Phae. A butterfly danced on the morning air, coming in front of her. Strange to see such a creature so early in the morning. The feeling of dread intensified.

“Something doesn’t feel right,” Phae murmured.

Trasen nodded. “I agree. It feels wrong. Grab your things.”

Phae went inside and collected her blanket and gear. She saw Trasen stringing his bow and did the same herself. She tested the pull and then put an axe in a hoop on her belt. After securing her pack, she joined him on the porch.

Trasen shook his head and muttered softly to himself. “Doesn’t have Winemiller’s gait. I don’t know how the Vaettir did it, but I think he followed us. Let’s go into the woods a bit where we can watch the house. Might have to put an arrow in his leg to slow him down. I hope not, though, if he’s a prince. Come.”

They shut the door firmly and fled into the trees surrounding the small cabin, moving to higher ground. Many giant boulders had tumbled down the mountainside and finally crashed through enough trees to slow down and stop. The boulders were oddly shaped and varied in size. They were interspersed with a variety of trees—mostly stunted bur oak and bristlecone.

Trasen pointed to a cluster of granite boulders and motioned her to join him where they could observe the cabin and remain hidden.

The smaller stones allowed footholds to mount the rest and soon the two sat amidst the stones, above the ground and with a clear vantage. The stone was freezing against her palms and Phae started shivering. The feeling of dread that had eased somewhat as they walked intensified again. She was not prone to irrational bursts of emotions, but the fear and dread she experienced was quite real. She leaned close to Trasen, trying to share his warmth a little and hoping it would calm her.

It didn’t.

Phae watched the stranger approach the cabin, a man with a hood and cloak. He was dressed in browns and grays, a woodsman’s garb and not the black vestments the Vaettir had worn. This man was not a Rike of Seithrall. Looking at him caused a shiver to go down her back. He approached the cabin straightaway and tugged at the door, not bothering to conceal his approach.

Trasen shook his head worriedly. “Looks like a Finder,” he muttered.

Phae knew somehow he was wrong. She knew it by instinct. Every part of her body warned her to flee that man. “I don’t think so.”

He nodded with certainty. “They wear garb like that. Strange that he doesn’t have a bow. Lucky for us. Wait, he’s come out already.”

As soon as she saw him, Phae’s stomach turned to jelly. She began shaking uncontrollably.

“Cold?” he ventured, then looked at her face. “What’s wrong?”

“We should go. Now.”

“We’ve both got bows, Phae. He has none. If he follows our trail, I’ll give him a fair warning. I could hit him in the leg easily before he reaches us. He’s ill-equipped to be hunting us.”

“I don’t like it, Trasen. We should go.”

“We’ll be all right, Phae. It might be helpful to get some information out of him.”

“No!” She clutched his arm tightly. Her breathing was short, gasping. Every part of her screamed to run.

He saw the look on her face and sobered. “Remember the trail we found years ago, leading up the mountain? Dragon Pass, we named it. There was that stump that we fancied was a dragon’s skull. You go up there and I’ll wait here. I’m a good shot, Phae. I can handle this.”

She shook her head adamantly. “We need to go, Trasen. Now. Come on.” Phae scrambled down off the rocks.

Trasen waited a moment longer, staring at the cabin. “He’s coming after us. He’s not even pausing to look at tracks.”

“Come on!”

The two began winding their way up the mountainside. It was steep, the trail overgrown with thick green vegetation and mossy boulders. The trees were thicker now, crowding together to block the vision of their pursuer. Phae’s heart started to calm once they began moving again. She felt slightly better, though still panic-stricken. The path ran up and back, winding sinuously along the steep edge. Sweat came easily now and she was no longer chilled by the morning air. Phae had assumed they would have several days together before Winemiller showed up. Something was terribly wrong.

The trees whipped by as they hurried up the hillside. It rounded and leveled off slightly, exposing a small grove of trees. She recognized the place immediately as it was always a favorite haunt during the family trips to the cabin. She could not recall which of them had discovered it first, but part of her was comforted when she saw the large misshapen tree stump, whose gnarled roots were shaped like a dragon’s head.

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