This is a joint venture of Kaana Moonshadow and myself. We had lots of fun writing it and hope you have as much fun reading.
We don't own Bishop, but we sure as hell wish we did.
It was eerie to be alone in the woods at night.
Liliana rubbed her arms with her hands against the cold, damp air, casting nervous glances at all sides while she slowly followed the small game trail through the trees. At first, she had been afraid not to be able to see anything at all, which would have forced her to feel her way and would have slowed her progress immensely, but the moon was almost full and cast a surprisingly bright light through the canopy of leaves, making it much easier to move on after her eyes had gotten used to the strange play of light and shadow between the trees.
Still, she had never been alone in the woods at night before, and the rustling sounds in the nearby bushes or occasional cries of a bird made her jump and her heart speed up painfully.
Her instincts screamed at her to just let go, to run, to bring more distance between her and the hut, but she forced herself to follow the path slowly, taking her time to check the ground for any half-hidden root or branch, while every rustle made her turn around in fear, fully expecting to see Bishop on the path behind her, the moonlight reflecting in his unusual eyes.
But beside the occasional rustling in the undergrowth, everything remained quiet, and so Liliana continued to follow the trail, her heart beating like a drum in her chest.
All the rustling worried her. It would not do to escape him and the hut only to be eaten by a wolf or a bear (or, even worse, by vampires or ghouls), but there was not much she could do about it besides sending fast prayer after prayer to the gods, begging for their good-will, and so she simply followed the path that she had chosen, her heart in her throat, hoping that she was moving in the right direction.
There was a wet, sloshing sound, and Liliana had to catch herself against the tree next to her as one of her heels sank deep into the still soaked earth, leaving a prominent imprint in the ground as she pulled it out to stagger on.
She knew that she was most likely leaving a trail that Bishop could follow even with his eyes closed, but as long as she was wearing her boots, there was not much that she could do about it.
She had even pondered to get out of her boots again and continue on bare feet, but had finally decided against it. Although it was much brighter between the trees than she had expected, it was still night, and one sharp stone or upturned branch would be enough to cut a foot, and then, she would never make it out of the forest in time.
But it was hard to search her way through the undergrowth and not turn around at the slightest sound, alarmed, the memory of her first try to escape still very vivid in her mind.
She shuddered as she remembered the sound of his voice, echoing through the trees, mocking her, playing with her, knowing that she would never be able to escape him…
What did I tell you about trying to run, mousie?
She swallowed as she easily recalled the sneering sound of his voice, the cold, menacing undercurrent of his words, and shivered, rubbing her arms more strongly to make the goose bumps go away.
Somehow, she doubted that this time, she would get away with a snarl and a show of his bad temper afterwards.
The memory of that afternoon brought other memories back to her mind, and her heart gave a strange pang as she remembered the look in his eyes as he had kissed her for the very first time, of how his fingers had gently reached for hers, that now so familiar burning in his eyes, and how that fire had suddenly died away, no doubt in the very moment as he must have remembered that she was not Riana.
Not the woman that he was waiting for.
Her heart gave another pang at that thought, and angrily, Liliana shook her head while trudging along the path.
I should be glad that I'm gone, she thought scornfully, her sudden anger at her weekness and stupidity making her movements stiff and disjointed.
No more hesitation. No more confusion. No more ill-felt notions of compassion, or affection, or… whatever. He was nothing more than a mean, evil bastard, willing to murder people for gold. There was nothing there to admire. Or to like. Only lies and deceit, and now, where she had miraculously managed to escape, she was done with him.
Simple as that.
But somehow, despite knowing all that, besides her mind easily recalling all the ordeals that he had made her go through in these days while she quietly searched her way between the trees, the heavy feeling in her heart would not go away.
It was barely more than a coincidence that made her find the road in the end.
She had been making her way quietly between the trees for what felt like hours, trotting down one game trail after another, always choosing the one that would lead her vaguely into the direction that she hoped to be South, trying to ignore the dull pain that slowly spread in her feet.
At first, she had felt confident to find a way out of the woods, taking a sharp look at the ground whenever she had come across another game trail, always relieved when she could find no trace of heel imprints on the ground, which told her that she was at least not running in circles.
But after a while, when she had walked down hill after hill without finding the slightest trace of a road or a settlement, she had been forced to admit to herself that, in truth, she had no idea where she was going, and whether she had ever been able to find the direction Bishop had been talking about in the first place.
It had almost brought her down, the rising panic mingling painfully with her growing fear that she would not make it, that he would find her again, until she had finally realised that she could use the starlit night to her favour.
One of her paths had crossed a small clearing, and she had looked up to see Selune high in the skies above her, her tears sparkling bright, half-hidden in the top of the trees. For one moment, she had stared up, her hand shielding her eyes against the light, and had noticed with surprise how much brighter the moon seemed to shine out here in the wilds, compared to Waterdeep.
And then, the idea had hit her. She might not have moved in circles, but she had been painfully aware of the fact that she had not been able to walk always in the same direction, no matter how hard she had tried to find her way in the woods.
But if she kept an eye on the moon, trying to keep it always to her right… wouldn't she be able to walk in a line then? And eventually head south?
It might have been only a small silver lining on the horizon, but it had been enough to calm her fears and rekindle her determination, and so she had left the path that she had originally followed to choose another, smaller one which lead deeper into the woods, but brought the moon to her right side.
She had followed that path for a while, always moving from clearing to clearing to check whether the moon was still in the right place, and then changing her way according to it, until she had reached a part of the woods where mostly conifers grew, and it had been getting really hard to follow the trail on the mossy ground, and to keep an eye on the moon.
Just in the very moment as another choking wave of fear and resignation had welled through her, she had spotted a band of bright light between the trees, and had swiftly moved in that direction, hoping that she hadn't lost her way completely… only to step down a small hill and see the road lying before her, a small ribbon of earth and grass cut into the line of trees.
For a while, she had just stood at its side, gaping at the horse-shoe and wheel imprints in astonishment, not able to believe at first that she had truly made it this far. Then she had looked up and down the empty lane, and confusion had mingled with the sudden joy that had flooded her being.
Where to go?
To her, every direction had looked the same, and she had had no idea whether this actually was the same road as the one that they had travelled from Waterdeep, alone in which direction her home lay.
Longing had pierced her heart at that thought, an urge so powerful that it had made tears well up in her eyes, and hastily, she had wiped them away with her hands before casting one last glance at the sky, finally deciding to follow the path down to her right.
This way, she would walk towards the moon, and not away from it, and strangely enough, it felt right to her somehow. She knew that it was a childish notion, but from the moment that she had decided to let Selune be her guide, things had changed for the better, and so it had felt natural to walk towards her rather than to turn her back on her.
Now she was walking down the road, still casting nervous glances over her shoulder from time to time, fearing to see Bishop or his wolf following her down the road, but except for a racoon, she had not come across another living being for what felt like hours.
Her feet were burning like fire now, her heels feeling so chafed that she feared they were actually bleeding, and Liliana cursed herself for her own stupidity to have chosen these shoes for her trip into the wilds, for they had never been made to walk long distances outdoors.
Next time, I'll wear breeches and boots for a picnic, no matter what Jeanne might have to say about that, she thought ruefully while she limped down the road, the exhaustion of a long and wearing night finally catching up with her.
She staggered on, step after aching step, focusing her mind on willing her feet to keep going, and so it took her a while before the strange noise reached her ear. It was a rattling and squeaking sound, and Liliana turned around, puzzled… and her heart almost caught in her throat as she saw the covered wagon merely a hundred yards down the road, rumbling towards her.
Rescue, was the first thought that came to her mind, and her heart swelled with joy and relief as she watched the cart approach. There was a man sitting on the box, holding the reins of the two horses that pulled the wagon, his bearded face half-hidden under his hood while the other half was illuminated by a lantern which dangled at his side.
The sight of the beard brought other, darker memories to her mind, and she swallowed as she remembered the bearded man who had come to the hut with his companions, shuddering at the memory of his lecherous voice.
What if he's hostile?
That thought put a sudden damper to her freshly risen spirits, and Liliana silently cursed herself once more for her stupidity. How could she just stand here, waiting, when she had no idea whether that man and the companions who might be hiding in the wagon were decent?
She watched the cart approach, a lump of dread settling in her stomach, but did her best to fight that feeling. There was nothing she could do about it, anyway. Her hair and Bishop's tunic shone like a beacon in the bright light of Selune, and so she doubted that she could vanish between the trees unnoticed, even if her feet were not hurting so badly.
She lifted her eyes to the moon, and her heart beat fast in her throat as she began a silent prayer.
Moonmaiden, she pleaded, I know we have never been close before, but today, I felt like you were watching over me, your presence soothing, encouraging me. Please, do not forsake me now, and I will honour you. I swear!
There was the sound of a snorting horse nearby, and Liliana looked up, the lump of dread in her stomach icing over as she saw that the cart had almost closed the distance between them. She had just enough time to ask herself why she had not been clever enough to take at least one of Bishop's daggers with her as the man on the wagon looked up and pulled at the reins, just once, making the cart stop right by her side.
The cart driver was an elderly man, his trimmed black beard already rimmed with silver streaks, and even his wide cloak and hood could not hide the fact that he was well-built, the buckles of his leather armour blinking conspicuously in the light of the lantern as he leaned forward to size her up with piercing grey eyes.
"What are ye doin' out here, missy?"
His voice sounded deep and suspicious, with a strange accent that she had never heard before, and at his words, Liliana felt her heart leap in her chest as a different kind of panic welled through her.
"I… I have been out in the woods with some friends for a picnic,", she stammered, a part of her opposing to tell the whole truth all of a sudden, to acknowledge what had truly happened to her in the past few days, " But then I got lost somehow, and have been trying to find a way back home all night…"
The eyebrows of the man shot up, and Liliana almost squirmed under his scrutinizing stare, fully aware of how foolish her story must have sounded, considering that they had met in the middle of nowhere, at night, with her dressed in man's clothing.
"Please,", she continued pleadingly, and driven by the sudden fear that the man would simply leave her behind because he had sensed her obvious lie, she took a step closer and reached for the cart with trembling hands, "I know what this must look like, but it's such a long story, and I really mean no harm, I promise. If you could only take me to the nearest settlement, I will…"
"Why have we stopped, dear?"
A second voice came from behind a heavy velvety veil that separated the box from the inner wagon, a woman's voice, questioning, and although it had not been overly loud, Liliana jumped nonetheless.
The curtain parted, and a woman's head appeared between its folds, curly black hair framing a beautiful, heart-shaped face, and although she seemed to be the same age as her companion, not a single grey hair disgraced the mane of dark curls that fell over her shoulders. Her black eyes wandered searchingly to her companion, and then to Liliana, widening noticeably as they settled on the girl.
"Oh, sweetheart, what are you doing out here alone at night?"
"Says she's been out fer a picnic with some friends, and got lost somehow.", the cart driver answered in his deep, suspicious voice, his piercing eyes still fixed on Liliana's face.
"And so you're just going to let her stay out here, or what?", the woman replied rather sternly, a frown on her beautiful face.
"No.", the man growled, casting the woman an annoyed look. "But never hurts to be suspicious."
"Nonsense!", the woman replied vehemently as she glared at her companion, while on the other hand making an encouraging gesture towards Liliana, who watched the dispute with large eyes. "Come up here, sweetheart, you must be freezing!"
"Could've been a trap. Bandits. Not unheard of.", the man grumbled over his shoulder, but leaned forward nonetheless to offer Liliana a hand so that she could climb onto the wagon.
"Name's Korban.", he murmured as she sat down on the box next to him, „Charmin' lady in the back s'called Deliah."
"I heard that!", the woman called Deliah addressed her companion in a cross voice, only to turn towards Liliana and ask with a smile:
"And what's your name, sweetheart?"
The woman's smile widened.
"And what a pretty name that is."
She moved back behind the veil and into the wagon, her hand waving for Liliana to follow her.
"Come in, sweetheart, come in."
So Liliana quietly got up again, her heart still beating fast in her chest, and followed the woman into the wagon, murmuring words of thanks to the man as she passed him by.
Korban nodded at her, acknowledging her grateful words with a pleased glint in his piercing eyes, and then returned his attention to the road. There was the sharp, whipping sound of the reins, and the cart began moving again, rumbling down the road, and Liliana had to catch herself quickly against the wooden walls at the unexpected motion.
The inside of the wagon seemed much larger and spacious than it had looked from the outside. Soft cushions and carpets lay on the floor, draped artfully around a small cherrywood table. Trunks and cupboards rimmed the walls right to another curtain at the far end of the cart, which seemed to separate two bedsteads from the living room.
Various lanterns cast a bright, homely light, and the smell of perfume and foreign herbs filled the air. Liliana stood in the entrance, one hand still pressed firmly against the wall of the cart, and nervously watched her hostess gather a heap of parchments from the small table, uncertain whether she should step closer or not.
The woman took the papers, quill and ink and walked over to one of the trunks to her right, whispering a quiet word under her breath while her hand wandered casually over the lock of the chest. There was a soft, metallic clicking sound, and the woman opened the trunk to store the things inside.
Liliana caught a quick glance of several books and the beautifully crafted hilt of a sword before the chest closed with another clicking sound, and the woman turned around and smiled at her guest, making an inviting gesture towards the table.
"Come, sweetheart, you don't have to lurk in the doorway all night. Sit, and let me make you a cup of tea – you look frozen."
Liliana cast the woman a small, trembling smile and walked over to the table, careful not to fall over as the cart rumbled over the road.
"Thank you, madame.", Liliana said as she sat down gingerly on one of the cushions, "I am so grateful for your offer, and that you and your companion have taken me in."
The woman's smile widened.
"Please, it's Deliah, not madame."
She walked over to one of the cupboards and placed two cups and a teapot on the small table, right along with a stony warmer. Small runes were edged all over its surface, and Liliana's eyes widened as her hostess placed the teapot on the warmer and the runes began to emanate a soft, reddish light.
"Heating charm.", the woman said, obviously amused by the astounded look on her young guest's face. "Not strong enough for cooking, but very handy if you like to have a cup of tea on the road without setting up a camp."
She sat down on the table as well and started to fill some deliciously smelling herbs into the already steaming pot.
"So, sweetheart, where are you heading?"
It sounded like an innocent question, but as Liliana looked up, she saw her hostess watching her with a thoughtful expression on her face, the look in her black eyes strangely reminding her of the way Nerdanel used to stare at her when her governess already knew that Liliana had done something wrong.
Another pang of longing pierced her heart at that thought, and Liliana lowered her eyes to the glowing warmer again, deciding to go for the truth this time.
She heard the woman chuckle, a merry sound, like the ringing of a bell.
"Ah, sweetheart, Lady Luck must really have been smiling on you today."
That made Liliana stare up at her again, her eyes wide and her heart beat speeding up painfully fast.
"You mean… are you really…?"
The woman smiled.
"Oh yes. But tell me, sweetheart, how come that a young girl like you ended up in this part of the forests, alone, and at night?"
Liliana swallowed, painfully aware of Bishop's way too large tunic and breeches, practically screaming that every tale that she could come up with was an obvious lie. But how could she explain what had happened to her in the last few days, the nightmare that she had just left behind?
"I… already told your friend. I got lost.", she replied in a rather subdued voice, averting her eyes, letting them wander through the cart, desperate to find something that she could use for a change of subject to distract her hostess with, and her eyes fell on a lovingly decorated lute hanging on the wall, its polished surface gleaming in the dim light of the lanterns.
"Are you a bard?"
"Oh yes.", the woman smiled, but her eyes betrayed that she had noticed Liliana's attempt to change the subject.
"Deliah al-Haffrain – legendary bard, fortune-teller and best bellydancer on the Sword Coast, at your service.", the woman stated with a small, flourishing bow, and Liliana giggled, thankful that her hostess seemed to understand her sudden discomfort and had allowed the conservation to turn in a different direction.
"One of the great fairs of the season will start in a few days, and what bard would I be if I missed such an opportunity?"
"I see.", Liliana replied, but only half-registered that the woman was handing her a steaming cup of tea.
Memories came to her mind, of Evelyn and her sitting in the girl's room the day before the picnic, making plans for the coming season, laughing and talking all afternoon about wonderfully silly girl things.
It seemed a lifetime ago.
The scent of the freshly brewed tea rose into her nose, and at the enticing smell, her stomach began grumbling audibly, the loud sounds making her flinch. The woman cast her guest a knowing look, but got up without a word and returned a few moments later with a small plate, bearing cheese and dark bread. Liliana's stomach grumbled again at the sight, and unconsciously, she curled her hands over her belly to make it stop.
"Here,", the woman said softly, "But take it slow. And when you're finished, you should lay down a bit and get some sleep. We won't arrive at the city before dawn, and you could use the rest."
Her black eyes still bore that knowing look, and Liliana gulped, a great wave of gratitude and relief welling through her that the woman seemed to have guessed that there was much more to her story than she had let slip, but was still not prying into things.
"Thank you.", she murmured, already reaching for the bread. The woman smiled gently, and then bent down to ruffle Liliana's hair.
"You're most welcome, sweetheart."
"I will go and sit with Korban for a while.", the woman continued while reaching for a thick, woolen cloak hanging on a hook near the entrance. "Eat, and then sleep. I will wake you when we near the gates."
And with that, she draped the woolen cloth around her shoulders and stepped through the curtain, leaving Liliana behind, slowly chewing the bread and cheese while sipping quietly on her tea, relishing the warmth that spread through her aching stomach, and joy and astonishment filled her heart with wonder as she suddenly realised that this was truly happening to her.
I'm really going home.
The first light of day was already illuminating the horizon as the cart entered the small lane that lead to the main mansion.
Liliana sat on the box next to Deliah, a blanket around her shoulders, and stared with wonder at the familiar sight of the lovingly raked gravel and well-trimmed bushes.
It felt so bizarre.
For days, she had dreamed to see this sight again, to return to her home, to her family… but now that she was here, watching the cart rumbling through the familiar streets of the North Ward, everything felt unreal, somehow.
Like a dream.
She would never forget the face of their gatekeeper as Korban had stopped the cart in front of the gate and old Jebediah had shuffled out of his gatekeeper's house, his hair tousled from sleep… and how his eyes had grown large as he had seen her sitting on the box, almost falling over his feet in his hurry to open the iron gates and then sprinting up the lane, probably heading for the house.
The cart followed the last turn of the road, and Liliana's heart felt as if it was squeezed roughly in her chest as the manor finally came into view, the sight of the familiar marble staircases and elegantly swung windows filling her with a strangely powerful ache of longing and joy, and her heart swelled as she watched the cart crossing the remaining distance towards the entrance.
Something felt off, somehow, but it took her a while to realise that, although the sun had not yet risen over the horizon, the lights in most of the rooms were already lit, and she gaped at the illuminated windows in astonishment, surprised that the household seemed to be awake already at this hour of day.
But she did not have much time to dwell on her realisation, for the door of the mansion flew open the very moment Korban stopped the cart at the foot of the staircase, and a woman ran out of the house, dressed in a simple dressing-gown, her usually exquisitely styled hair in a loose plait, hurrying down the stairs, and at the sight, the ache in Liliana's heart became almost unbearable, and with a small cry, she hopped down from the cart and into the woman's open arms.
Her mother's arms closed around her in a crushing embrace, pulling her against her chest, and Liliana closed her eyes as the familiar scent of perfume and make-up made tears well up in her eyes. She could feel her mother's tears on her cheek, slowly streaming down to her neck.
"My baby!", the woman sobbed as she pulled her even closer against her, her voice shaking. "Oh, my poor, little baby!"
"Thank the gods!", said a deep, male voice near-by, and Liliana looked up, her heart giving another squeeze as she saw her father standing beside them, looking pale and over-worked, but with a happy smile on his face. His eyes were glittering moist in the first light of day.
"Papa?", Liliana asked, the surreal feeling increasing at the unexpected sight. "But… I thought you were still in Neverwinter…"
Her father laughed, a strange sobbing sound, and stepped closer, his arms closing tightly around his daughter. Her mother stepped aside, still crying silently, but with a smile on her pale face.
"My silly girl.", her father whispered into her ear. "Did you really think that I would stay just one single day in that cursed city after I had gotten the news?"
He leaned back to look into her face, his hand softly stroking her cheek, and Liliana was stunned to see the dark circles under his eyes and the light stubble on his chin.
"Blessed be Waukeen!", he said, his lips trembling slightly. "We had almost given up the hope of seeing you again."
Her father stepped back, turning his attention to Deliah and Korban, who had watched the events from a small distance, obviously trying not to intrude on the family's reunion. Her mother stepped forward again to press her tightly against her chest, laughing and sobbing at the same time, and Liliana leaned into the embrace with a sigh, relishing the caress... and her eyes suddenly fell on Damian, standing on the stairs, watching them with a thunderstruck expression on his equally pale face, as if he could not believe his eyes.
Her heart gave another loving squeeze, and Liliana gently disentangled herself from her mother's touch and ran up the stairs to pull her brother into a tight embrace.
He huffed as she pressed the air out of his lungs, and his voice sounded rough as he murmured into her ear, his arms closing around her.
"Lily…", he whispered, and she could feel his hands trembling. "Thank the gods you have returned…"
"Of course I have returned, silly!", she smiled as she nestled against his chest, her silent tears wetting his tunic as a wave of joy and relief flooded her being, finally driving her fear and her nightmares away.
She had made it.
She was home again, and from now on, she would be safe.
Someone was pounding the inside of his skull with a sledgehammer.
Bishop groaned and tentatively opened one of his eyes. The bright light seeping into the hut was like a dagger driving right into his brain. With another groan, he shut his eye again and carefully extracted one hand from under the blankets to touch his aching skull.
By the pits of all nine hells, what had happened? He felt like he was having the mother of all hangovers...
Last night... the girl, his harebrained plan at seduction... the way she rejected him... the pain, the booze...
He froze under his blankets. He did not even have to open his eyes to know he was alone. He could sense it. There was no one in the cabin. No one except for him.
She was gone.
Except he had chained her to the wall, hadn't he...?
"Bishop... come here... Come to me..."
"Come to me, Bishop... it's me, it's Riana..."
His eyes sprang open again, and this time, the horror he felt drowned out the pain in his skull. His hand went to his chest, searching for the locket and key he wore on the chain... finding nothing.
For minutes, he just lay petrified, trying to process what had happened.
She tricked me!
She made me believe... believe she was her... and shit-faced idiot that I was, I fell for it, I went to her...
The images came in rapid succession. How he had kneeled before her, blubbering like a ninny. Her hand in his hair. His lips on her mouth. His fingers, ripping her dress. Her hands, pressed against his shoulders. Her warmth, surrounding him. The pure bliss of feeling her skin against his. Drawing her near afterwards, her hand stroking his chest...
Searching for the key, more like.
The thought finally made something snap in him, and the frozen shock dissipated, leaving him with a medley of emotions warring in his chest, pain, fury and hurt pride most prominent amongst them.
She has played me for a fool!
He let out a hoarse cry of fury and jumped to his feet. His eyes found the open ring at the end of the chain – and the key and locket discarded next to it.
Red-hot rage descended over him, and with another harsh cry he turned, grabbed the iron pot that stood next to the fireplace and hurled it across the room. It connected with the opposite wall with a bang and dropped to the floor, leaving a dent. Another step brought him to the lopsided chair, which he lifted and smashed it against the fireplace, where it broke to splinters. With a scream of pure ire he tossed the remnants aside, lifted the table over his head and sent it flying against the wall as well. Some of the legs broke, but the board dropped to the floor, intact.
He went over, lifted it up and smashed it against the wall again and again, until there was nothing than splinters left as well. Then his eyes fell on the heap of blue cloth on the floor, next to the blankets. Her dress! With a snarl, he grabbed the soft velvet from the floor and ripped it to shreds between his hands.
Then, there was nothing left to destroy. Another howl of impotent fury escaped him, and he sank to the floor, breathing heavily, his fists clenched so tightly the nails were digging into his palm, drawing blood. He did not even notice.
After endless minutes the red mist in front of his eyes seemed to lift, and his brain started working again.
Unfortunately, that meant he could feel the pounding in his skull once more. And the way his mouth felt parched.
Water... need water.
He went to his feet and stumbled out of the hut, leaving the devastation behind. With shaking hands, he pulled up a bucketfull of water and drank thirstily. The rest he dumped over his aching head. The cold water felt wonderful.
He slipped to the ground, his head leaning back against the well, and took deep, even breaths of morning air. Gradually, the pain in his skull lessened a bit, and his ability to think clearly returned.
The little mouse had fled. She had duped him, and ran back into the arms of her precious Cedric.
And left him looking like an idiot.
His fury returned, but this time it was cold and calculating.
We'll see about this, won't we...?
His eyes opened – and met Karnwyr's stare, who was reclining next to the worm eaten bench, muzzle on his paws, watching his master intently.
Bishop's fury rose a few notches.
"And you...", he said, low and menacingly. "You just let her go...?"
The wolf lifted his head and stared at him.
"Don't give me that look! How could you let her go?" Bishop climbed to his feet and approached his companion, hands balled to fists again. "You knew I did not want her to leave!"
The wolf blinked and let his head sink to his paws.
"You did it on purpose, did you not? Whose side are you on?"
His companion's head shot up again, and he glared at his master, incense and indignation written clearly on his furry face.
"Oh, don't act all offended! Next thing you're going to tell me you did it for me!"
Karnwyr's tongue lolled out, and he seemed to grin.
Bishop watched him, his eyes narrowed to angry slits. "Well, whatever you were thinking, you were wrong. And it's not going to work. I'll find her, believe me. And if I do, she will wish I'd just shove her down a cliff. She made a fool out of me. Trust me, I'll make her regret that. And now get out of my sight."
He turned back to the hut to gather his stuff, still fuming at the betrayal of his usually so reliable companion. Minutes later he left the cabin again, his leathers donned, his scimitars strapped around his hips, bow on his back, his belongings in the backpack on his back, and the locket around his neck again. Wearing the shirt the girl had washed and mended for him. His hands shook when he held it, repressing the urge to rip it with a howl like he had done with the dress. But common sense had won, this time... after all, it was the only shirt he had left, since the girl seemed to have nicked the other one.
He'd be glad to leave this cursed place behind at last.
He circled the hut in some distance, ignoring Karnwyr's wounded stare, looking for the tell-tale imprints of the heels of her ridiculous boots. And sure enough, he found them. A track, not more than a couple of hours old. Leading into the direction of the small road that ran nearby.
"By the way, you could have easily escaped that day, if you had run in the other direction. Let that thought keep you warm tonight."
He groaned. He had even told her where to go. Smart move, that.
Except he had never expected her to outsmart him like that.
The thought made his stomach churn with anger again.
He who laughs last, laughs loudest. This is not over, princess, I swear. And I will laugh. While you scream in pain.
His jaw clenched, his rage a cold weight in his stomach, he followed her tracks easily. At one point, she seemed to have stopped and turned back to the the hut.
To gloat one last time over the dolt that fell for your little game so easily? Well, hope you had a lot of fun – you're going to pay dearly for it.
Murder on his mind, Bishop proceeded in her footsteps. She had not walked in a straight line, probably because she did not really know where to go, but in the end, her tracks reached the road that ran through this part of the woods.
Luckily, after the heavy rain two nights ago, it was not too hard to find the imprints of her boots on the lane either. She had even picked the right direction, the one that would lead her to Waterdeep eventually.
Now that he knew where to go, he followed swiftly. Maybe he could still catch her on the road, since, in her silly boots, she could not walk as quickly, and would tire much sooner than him. If he was lucky, he'd catch her soon. And boy, would she be sorry.
Periodically checking for her tracks to make sure he was still on her trail and she had not left the road for some reason, he stopped when he suddenly could not make them out anymore. Frowning, he slowly made his way back and found the point where they just seemed to vanish.
The last imprint of her boot was turned towards the middle of the road, and deeper than the rest of them, with a bit of a slide backwards.
There were cart tracks, too. Obviously, the cart had stopped here for a short time.
She had managed to hitch a ride. So much for his plans to catch her on the road. The track he was watching still was some hours old. She was long out of his reach.
For some moments his fury seemed to choke him, but then he lifted his head and looked ahead, along the road, with a cold smile on his face.
No harm done, really. What were a couple of days when in the end, there would be sweet revenge? He could wait. Let her believe she had escaped to safety. He would teach her better. And it would make everything so much worse for her when she finally had to see her death in his face.
He would find her. And he knew exactly where to start looking.