The story of Allyandrah and Kru’Nah continues.
The prompt is: It’s winter. There is a thick blanket of fresh snow on the ground. A lone set of tracks leads away in the snow.
Read Part 1.
Allyandrah sat, unable to believe her luck. How had she been pardoned by the queen? Her only task was to leave the kingdom and never return. Her heart ached at the thought of leaving Kru’Nah behind, but she must. After all, he was the prince and who was she? Only a lowly Kjelger slave.
Even so, he had come to save her from the flames of the fire. He had shown up on his very own Grojodan to save her. She would never forget the feel of riding atop the marvelous stag, his horns stretching out wide, his body firm and sure underneath her. Sitting behind, she had clung to Kru’Nah with desperation as they fled, thankful for his taut muscles, his strong arm wrapped around her to help keep her on the beast.
The small fire in front of her crackled and spat resin from the burning Hornothol Needle tree. These were the only trees this far north. She had fled to the far north, hoping to survive. There were fewer threats in the north. It was hard to survive her and not enough reason for even the Hoomverdauns to visit. The short, stocky creatures were able to live anywhere, but even this cold was too much for their hairy bodies.
Allyandrah shivered, trying to decide what she would do now. She supposed she would need to make a shelter first. There was no point in trying to settle here without a shelter. Sighing, she thought there was no point in trying to settle here at all, but what else could she do?
The sky above was black and dark, the sparkle of stars pinpointing the blackness. Tonight, she would simply have to sit and keep her fire burning, her blood moving. In the morning, she would begin assembling her shelter.
Allyandrah tossed another branch on her fire, the wood slowly catching flame. The warmth radiated out and she huddled closer into herself, wrapping her body with the long fur cape Kru’Nah had sent with her. It was on his suggestion she had gone north. He had provided her with a pack of thick fur clothes and a stash of food. Despite the electricity sparking between the two and their aloneness, he maintained his regal dignity and kept his distance from her. His eyes told her another story, though, and it was to that story that she hung her hope.
Exhaustion began to take over and Allyandrah found her eyes closing, her head drooping. She fought the sleep as long and as hard as she could, but eventually, sleep won.
Several hours later, Allyandrah woke with a start. It was light and the fire had been buried in several inches of snow. She looked around trying to see what had woken her. Was it a sound? She pushed the oversized hood off her head, dumping snow off herself, revealing her cropped blue hair and blue skin. Scanning the horizon, Allyandrah searched for any sign of movement. Turning around, she saw a lone set of tracks from as far as she could see to as far as she could see, leading to the woods.
Standing up, Allyandrah pulled her hood back up and shook off the remaining snow. She was stiff from the cold and her heart hammered in fear, but she needed to know who, or what, was there. They looked like Kjelger footprints but she had to be sure. Who else would be up here?
Looking around again, she saw no movement. Quickly, she moved over to the tracks and then followed them precisely. The tracks went on, mile after mile. Fishing out some of the supplies from inside her coat, she munched on some food and scooped small handfuls of snow for water. She began to grow warm moving and she knew she needed to slow down even more. She couldn’t risk getting too warm and then dying when she got cold later. As she passed by the trees and closer to the mountains, she saw the tracks continue on and on. Looking at the sun dipping ever lower in the sky, she needed to make a decision. Either she would need to stop for the night again and sleep or she would need to figure out how to follow them by night. What if it snowed again?
Against her better judgment, Allyandrah continued on and picked up her pace. She continued to eat more of the food even though she knew she should ration it. She grew warm and began to sweat as she more and more recklessly followed the prints. Just as the sun reached the horizon, she came to the base of the foothills. The tracks curved sharply and suddenly to the east, around a tall rock spire. Slowing down, Allyandrah caught her breath and as silently as possible, followed the tracks in the quickly darkening sky. She was running out of time.
She then heard the crackling of a large fire and froze. It was someone, but who? What could she possibly do to defend herself? She had no weapons.
Looking at the rock spire, she saw the rough surface. There must be rocks under the snow. Quietly, she crept to the spire and dug under the snow. She silently rejoiced as she found a fist sized rock with one fairly smooth side and one jagged side. Cupping the smooth side in her hand and holding the jagged side out, she continued forward. As the darkness crept in, she began to see the light from the fire.
Steadying her breathing, she crouched down and peered around the edge. Just more rock. Slowly moving forward she reached the next semi-corner. A small cave loomed in front of her with a large fire. Someone was in it, watching the fire, clothed in fur skins just like hers.
Allyandrah crept back until she could just see the cave and knelt down, watching. Suddenly, the person in the cave looked out her direction. She sat completely still, hoping to blend into the rocks around her. The person walked out to the mouth of the cave and looked around before turning and heading back in.
Soon, Allyandrah began to shiver as her body cooled down. She had gotten too warm and sweated. There was no way that she would warm up now without the fire. Taking a deep and slow breath, she stood up and slowly approached the cave using as wide a berth as possible given the surrounding rocks, watching the movements of the person inside, who still seemed to be engrossed by the flames.
Using the large fire as a block between the two, Allyandrah crept to the mouth of the cave in a low crouch, still holding onto her rock weapon. The warmth from the fire reached out to her and caressed her frozen cheeks. It was time.
She stood and watched as the other caught her movement.
“Allyandrah? Is that you?”
Shocked, Allyandrah dropped her rock and backed out several steps. Could it be?
“Allyandrah?” He pulled down his hood, revealing his auburn hair and peachy iridescent skin.
“Kru’Nah? What are you doing here?” Allyandrah fairly shouted.
“What do you think?” Kru’Nah replied. “I am here for you!”
Allyandrah’s mind wouldn’t work. It simply went blank. There was no possible way that he would leave for her. It must be a trap.
“If you are here to kill me, I accept my punishment,” she said resolutely.
Kru’Nah rushed over and embraced her. Pulling back, he looked in her eyes, down into her very soul.
“I would never kill you. This is not a trap to punish a slave.” He backed off and raised his hands. “I swear. I am here on my own, of my own accord, without the blessing of my mother. She will hunt us. She will try to find us. She will try to kill us. She will not succeed because we will work together.”
“I knew it!” she cried. “I knew you loved me! I never doubted, I swear!”
“I know,” he said soothingly. “I know.”
Allyandrah’s excitement quickly was replaced by violent shivers as her body became colder and colder.
“We need to warm you up!” Kru’Nah cried. “I did not come all this way just to watch you freeze to death!”
Kru’Nah rushed Allyandrah into the cave and began stripping her of the clothes that encased her cold body. Peeling off his own outside layers, Kru’Nah helped her redress into his furs and pushed her as close to the fire as either dared.
He offered her some food to eat and hot tea that had been sitting near the fire. She gratefully and wordlessly gulped it all down.
“We must leave in the morning.” Kru’Nah said as Allyandrah ate. “I know which direction we must go. We have a guard stationed up here to the southwest, so we must move northeast, away from them. They patrol up here, which is how I knew about this cave. I was going to stay here the night and then try to find you.”
Allyandrah nodded in agreement, her eyes sparkling with hope realized. She knew. She just knew. Catching her eye, Kru’Nah smiled and took her hand.
“We will celebrate soon. For now, we must conserve our energy and survive,” he said tenderly.
“I will follow you to the ends of the world, my love,” Allyandrah declared.