Ventus – Day 115 of 135


Armiger heard the commotion, but at first didn’t turn. Galas was telling him about her relationship with Lavin, and he didn’t want to seem distracted. Then the queen, who was seated on a rock, looked past him and said, “What is she doing?”

He turned in time to see a flash of Megan’s naked body, before she pulled down the robe she was donning. It was the queen’s robe, the one she had worn when they escaped the palace. And now Megan was cinching her horse’s saddle…

“Megan!” He started toward her, but she hopped nimbly into the saddle and flicked the reins.

“What are you doing?”

“Ride east! Ride east, love, if you love me!” She waved a hand over her head as she galloped; then she was through the gateway made by two huge boulders at the western side of the vale, and vanished in a cloud of dust.

It took precious seconds for him to bridle his own mount, and while he did that Galas ran after Megan. She too vanished in the swirl of hoof-drawn dust, then raced back.

“Riders!” she shouted. “There are riders coming! They’ve seen her, they’re trying to head her off!”

Armiger paused in cinching up his saddle. He closed his eyes, and leaned his head against the fragrant flank of his horse.


Megan had the rings of office on her fingers. She wore Galas’ robes. As she rode she undid her hair and let it flow behind her, the way the queen did.

She felt free, fulfilled for the first time in ages. There was no time to reconsider, no options to hem or haw over. Only the thundering hooves under her, the jarring of her horse’s spine through her legs and pelvis, and the fire in her blood as she screamed at it to go faster.

They want the queen alive. I’ll lead them a merry chase, then go with them. Oh, let there be no one among these horsemen who knows the queen by sight!


“She’s gaining ground on us!” cried the sergeant’s flankman. “It’s her horse!” The queen’s mount was lighter than their war horses, and relatively unburdened. She probably could outride them.

“Crossbows!” commanded the sergeant. They had muskets, but at this range crossbows would be more accurate.

“No!” It was the White Wind, running on all fours to match his own pace. “She is not the one we seek!”

“She is not the one you seek! Take your people and catch him yourself!”

The Wind snarled and leapt away. The sergeant tipped his head back and laughed. He had been waiting for a moment to show her up.

“Shoot her horse out from under her!” he shouted. “Aim for its hooves. I want it lame, not dead–I don’t want it to throw her.”


They came out of the settling dust like ghosts–eight white forms like giant panthers, leaping from rock to rock and laughing. Galas screamed as they launched themselves over her head at the place where Armiger had been standing.

She spun around to see, but he wasn’t there anymore. Before she could find him the floor of the little valley exploded in colored fire.

The concussion knocked her over again. When Galas regained her feet, it was to see Armiger, halfway up the sheer rock face of the northern wall of the vale, leaning back and sending bolts of fire from his outstretched hand. White forms dodged in the roiling smoke below.

Something soft slid past her hand. Galas snatched it away, only to find a large form flowing around her. It sounded like it was purring.

“Oh, what have we here,” said a measured, hypnotic voice. “The once and never-again queen. Who then was it that we saw barreling out of here a second ago?”

Two golden eyes rose up to her own height, and blinked lazily at her. Over the thing’s shoulder, the vale flickered with white light. Something screamed.

“It hardly matters,” said the thing. “We have you now. A bonus–since you’re not the one we came for. But I know some people who’ll be very happy to see you.” Before she could move it had her by the arm–claws embedding deeply in her muscle so that she shrieked.

“Armiger!” cried the creature. “Stop harming my people! I have your lady companion. If you don’t come down now and surrender yourself to me, I will kill her.”

Galas looked down at her arm, and blinked at the blood there. Once, she would have had a thousand–no, ten thousand men willing to die to prevent even such a tiny injury as that.

And who was this creature to ill-use her so? No one touched her like that!

“I will give you one minute,” the monster was saying. The lightning-flashes from the hillside had ceased. “Starting from–“

It was the monster’s turn to scream, as Galas twisted the hairpin she had thrust into its ear. It let go of her arm, and she ran into the dust and confusion of the vale.

Blue and white light light and roaring thunder surrounded her.


Megan’s horse screamed and staggered. She rocked in the saddle, falling forward across the beast’s neck. Hanging on to its mane for dear life, she looked down. A crossbow bolt stuck out of the poor thing’s flank, just above its front haunches.

Too soon! She had to get a little farther, to give her love time to escape. She withdrew one foot from its stirrup and leaned down to try to grab the bolt.

Pain exploded in her side driving all the breath from her. She grabbed at the reins and missed, then she was tumbling headfirst off the horse, straight at a big rock.

Armiger, my love, I–

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