The cold, winter air nipped at her nostrils as she urged her horse, a beautiful white stallion named Storm, towards the faint light in the distance. Snowflakes whipped around her in a blinding tornado, making the lantern even harder to see. All of a sudden Storm stopped and whinnied, refusing to go any further. The rider increased the pressure of her heels in on his sides, begging the horse to keep going. He snorted and reared a little, putting them a couple steps back. Grunting, she slid out of the saddle and grabbed his reins. She stood in front of the towering beast and glared at him. His intelligent eyes stared back, unamused.
"You know, you're not as smart as you look. Heimskr," she growled at Storm, who only snorted disapprovingly in response. The snow clung to her black, cotton pants, soaking the fabric. "We better get moving. I'm sure they have hay for your fat self," pulling on his reins. At the mention of hay, Storm willingly followed the pull. What a fat ass! The rider thought to herself. Just then a long, and deep howl sounded from the trees next to them. Two glowing, yellow eyes emerged from the shadows not long after. Swearing, she quickly mounted Storm and dug her heels into his sides. Whinnying in fear, Storm shot off like an arrow of her own quiver. She bent low against his neck as growls and yips sounded behind them. The pack was hot on their tail. A large grey wolf with black markings launched itself at them, raking its claws over Storm's haunches. With this, Storm bucked and kicked, landing a blow and sending the wolf flying while sending his rider off at the same time. She screamed as she saw the world flip completely upside down and landed with a heavy thud on the ground. The howls and barks got closer as she struggled to maintain her consciousness. Storm was nowhere to be seen. Her fingers were numb and her left shoulder was screaming in pain. It was at least dislocated, if not worse. Struggling to stand, an arrow whizzed by her head, nearly nicking her ear. However, it didn't hit her but found its mark in the middle of a wolf's forehead. It hit the forest floor a mere finger-length away from her. She stumbled away from the dead canine and her hands found the smooth, solid feeling of wood. Despite her limbs being frozen from the cold, the rider still managed to scramble up the stairs and pin her back against the door of the building. The wolves now stood at the edge of the light, snarling and howling. A loud bang sounded and the wolves retreated into the woods. A hooded figure emerged from the shadows with a large pot and a piece of firewood in their hands. The rider looked up on the figure who then removed their hood, revealing a concerned face with soft features. A woman. The rider instantly relaxed.
The stranger knelt down next to the rider and offered her hand, "Hey Vennen, your safe now. I'm Gwendolyn, but you can call me Gwen or Gwenny. You're safe now, I own and run this inn. I'll have the stable boy head out and look for your horse in the morning. Let's get you inside and thaw out those bones of yours."
The rider smiled up at Gwendolyn and took her hand, immediately being pulled to her feet. Gwen wrapped her arm around the strange rider and helped her inside. A blast of hot air greeted her face as the rider stumbled inside. Gwen helped her over to a seat and barked orders to grab blankets, a change of clothes, and a fresh tea. Several men in flowing white blouses and tight leather pants rushed to fulfill her orders. They must be her workers. Gwen then left to retrieve a bowl of soup, leaving the stranger to combat the stares of the men who were drinking and eating when she burst in. It made her wonder though, why hadn't any of them come to her rescue. Maybe Gwen was just as headstrong as her. The rider was starting to like Gwen more and more. She wasn't surprised by the stares though. She was clad in ranger armor. Black, cotton pants, leather boots that reached her knees, a black blouse underneath a leather vest, leather gloves and a black cloak draped over her shoulders. However, that alone wouldn't cause stares. While female rangers were rare, they weren't a surprise. Her raven black hair with bright green streaks through it was usually the thing that caught people's attention. Colorful hair was a tell-tale sign that one was a witch or wizard.
The ranger was snapped out her trance by a large mug being slammed down in front of her. She carefully looked up at the man who had done it with a questioning expression.
"A ranger and a witch. Who woulda thought," the man growled, his breath reeked of alcohol and fish. It took everything in her not to gag. He had bloodshot, baby blue eyes, his hair was thick, blonde and full of braids and locs. He had multiple scars across his face and up his arms. He was bulky but muscular. He was obviously a warrior or once was. The ranger met his eyes again and smirked, baiting him. She enjoyed a challenge, maybe this would lift her spirits. His eyes blazed with anger and slammed down his mug again. He pulled back his fist, intent on landing a blow on the stranger but she quickly darted out of the way, utilizing her small frame and the space left between them. The man cried out in anguish as his fist connected with the back of the bench. He spun around and glared at the witch. She just grinned at him, suppressing a laugh. The other men in the room began laughing and pointing at him. The man yelled a string of insults and got ready to charge but was interrupted when a voice called out.
"Alexander! What are you doing? Have you lost your damn mind? Because I'll help you find it! Sit down!" Gwendolyn shrieked, obviously appalled at his actions. Alexander mumbled an apology and sat down with his friends. She quickly turned toward the rider and gushed out a bunch of apologies. The stranger just laughed.
"No worries Gwendolyn. It was actually kind of entertaining. Who doesn't love a bar fight?" She remarked, winking at Alexander. His face flushed red and his buddies cheered in agreement.
"Uh, the person who owns said bar!" Gwen intervened, obviously flustered. She shoved a pile of clothes into the strangers hands. "These are my old ranger clothes, they should fit. However, I'm out of rooms. So Alexander, since you offered so kindly, this nice young lady will be staying in your room."
"But I never—" he started but was cut off with a fierce look from Gwen, "I mean yeah sure, anything for you Gwenny."
"That's what I thought. Alex will show you to your room," Gwen said, satisfied with herself. Alex grumbled a few swear words and roughly grabbed the stranger's wrist. When she flinched, he let go instantly. He looked back at her and noticed that she was rubbing them. His expression softened and motioned with his hand for her to follow him.
Once they reached his room, he turned around to face her. "I, um, I'm sorry if I hurt you earlier, when I grabbed your arm. And I'm sorry for my behavior. I'd had a little too much to drink." The stranger offered him a smile and chuckled.
"You didn't hurt me and yeah I could tell, you were just fun to play with," she responded with a sly smile. Alex let out a loud laugh and a weird feeling appeared in his chest. The stranger felt it too. Her expression turned serious and she went to remove her gloves. Alex gasped when he saw the scabs and bruises covering her wrist. He gently took her hands in his own and examined them under the lantern.
"How did you get these?" He questioned, his voice laced with worry. She cast her gaze toward the floor.
"I escaped from The Ash Tower," she replied quietly. "I'm Cleo Grey." He gasped and dropped her hands.
"We need to tell Gwen who you are immediately. Before word spreads and Drake Skinner's men come looking for you." Cleo nodded and they rushed downstairs to inform Gwen.
Heimskr- idiot, stupid
Vennen- friend, darling
Merci pour la lecture!
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