Tales of a Horse Thief, Cycle 2 Part 2a

Tales of a Horse Thief, Cycle 2 Part 2a

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Part 2) Asta


When the monsters had first appeared Asta had run in the only direction that had been available to her, downward. Down the slope of the mountain, across jagged rocks and hidden crevices at a speed that had left her barely in control of her descent. In her headlong flight she had left Loden behind, not even thinking about her companion. Her only though had been to get away from the strange creatures. She had been vaguely aware that she had been screaming.

The creatures had been a horror to behold. Though she had not stayed to observe the things, she had been left with the impression that they were slimy and somewhat like egg whites in appearance, though not as runny. They moved through the air with an undulating motion and had multiple long snake-like limbs.

She had succeeded in getting away, somehow managing to stay ahead of them. Though the next problem had been how she would stop, she could feel her energy waning and her legs had been about to give out. She had never been much for running and had never run anywhere close to the speed she had during the near plunge down the mountainside. To her left she could see the edge of a drop off and if she kept going straight she would run right off the edge of the mountain. Her only choice was to direct herself to the right, barely in control she leapt through one pace to the next. Her next obstacle was a rapidly approaching wall of natural stone, not the sort of thing one should run into at speed.

She had tried to stop, the leg she tried to stop with buckled and she skidded across the ground, completely out of control. She slid though scree and hit the next rock, was briefly flailing through the air, hit the ground hard and rolled to a gradual stop. She also stopped screaming. Pain had overwhelmed her, she may have passed out, certainly she had lain on the ground stunned for an unknown length of time.

Pain. Her left leg throbbed, her right foot was partially exposed, sock ripped and blood soaking through, her boot had been torn apart. The damage did not stop there, her robe was gashed in many places, she had multiple cuts and scrapes along her legs and arms, her right hand looked like someone had rasped it with a grater. She struggled to sit, being careful of her leg, at least she saw no bones protruding from her flesh. When she glanced down at the front of her robe she was startled to see a number of small bits of scree protruding. Thankfully she still wore the rope halter Flint had tied for her, only a few pieces of stone had forced their way into her torso and breasts, most of that seemed superficial.

She briefly wondered what had happened to Flint, but then remembered the horror she had been fleeing from and looked around wildly, her heart racing. She did not see the creatures, nor could she believe how far down slope from the mountain’s peak she was, surely she had not run that far. Had she?

Asta had difficulties catching her breath, her throat was sore. Her pounding heart started to slow a bit, her leg was increasingly painful. She broke down into a fit of tears and in her dismay wailed, “Oh merciful one, where have you brought me?”

Startled by her own outburst, she glanced back up the side of the mountain, there was no sign of the creatures. With a sinking feeling she came to the conclusion that they must have caught Loden. That thought saddened her, she teetered towards dismay and once again started to cry. Though she made an effort not to wail like a child, the pain and the difficulties breathing regularly still produced audible sobs.

With painful effort she shifted her position and looked around. A few paces away was the stone cliff face she had nearly run into, some twenty to thirty paces above her she could see the cloudless twilight sky. Near the base of the cliff, or the base relative to her as the rock wall continued to the right with a slight inclination down slope from where she observed, she spotted a crevasse. It looked large enough that she could probably crawl into its shelter.

She did not make an attempt to stand, whatever she had done to her left leg had messed it up pretty badly, it might not be broken but if was also no going to support her weight. It took a while to reach the narrow cave mouth, she left a trail of smeared blood. She thought, hoped, that most of that was from her foot. Her arms were shaky with exertion as she came to the opening. She wondered what might be inside such a shelter. Insects? Reptiles? Or, something much worse. When she caught her breath, such as she could, she sniffed at the entrance, the odd smell of the air masked any telltale scents that may have been within the cave. After a moment she thought she heard the sound of trickling water.

She pulled herself into the crevasse, it was not very large inside, her body blocked most of the outside light. She shifted around until she was able to mostly sit up, though the low ceiling prevented her from sitting up fully. Now with slightly better light she spotted a small pool towards the back of the cave. It was only an arm span wide and half as much again in length, there was a small amount of outflow further back, but she could only hear it, the light too meagre to allow her to see that far. Near the pool she was forced to lay back down as the ceiling slopped towards to the floor above the pool.

She drank a small amount of water, it was in fact water, though there was a definite mineral taste to it. With a shudder of relief she sobbed and cried, she cupped handfuls of water into her mouth. “Oh Goddess of Mercy, thank you for this small gift. Grant me the strength to tend my wounds and if you find me worthy, I would beg of your healing gift.”

With effort she was able to slip most of the way out of her robe but was somehow tangled in parts of the tattered cloth. Painful as the effort was she felt a bit better than she had been just a few moment previous. Water was something she needed and if that need was provided, then she had hope that her Goddess did in fact want her here. Though, she had never expected to face this sort of testing. She had to use her small knife to cut off part of the robe and soaked it in the pool, she moved closer to the entry and after a struggle to find the least painful position, she inspected her foot.

She had a fairly deep gash along the side of her foot. Her boot was still around her leg and since it was not in her way she ignored it for now. As best as she was able, she cleaned the wound and then wrapped it tightly. After that, she tended to the other cuts and scrapes. Most were superficial, while some were deep. At one point she pulled a long jagged sliver of stone from her hip, the size of her small finger. She nearly fainted. She crawled to the water and back to the entrance a couple of times, cutting up more of her robe to improvise bandages. The cleaning of the wounds was painful, though the activity was familiar, almost comforting compared to the rest of her situation. When she had cleaned and bandaged everything she could see and reach, she crawled to the back of the cave again and drank deeply from the pool. Her left leg did not seem to be broken but there was swelling at the knee and the ankle. Other than soaking it in the cool water there was little else she could do for it.

Exhausted she collapsed, her left leg still in the pool, she was spent. Tears seeped from her eyes and if she had the energy she would have had a good cry. Quietly she spoke to her Goddess, “Sweet Mother of Mercy, thank you for delivering me to this water. I beseech you for healing and the strength to carry on. Compassionate Goddess, Bringer of Hope, shelter and sustain Loden in your loving embrace. Sister of Sisters, provide me the guidance and strength to find my companion and deliver to him the mercy he needs. Help me to move beyond fear and let no terror rule over me. Guide us from this wretched place and let us return to the lands we know.”

With effort she tried to still her mind, she put aside her fears and quickly found that she was bathed in the warm presence of her Goddess.

She wept silently until she fell into a deep sleep.


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