Josphitha's legs throbbed with pain and, her back was one solid ache. Sweat soaked the hide of her horse, causing it to glisten in the disappearing light of the sun. Foam dripped from the horse's mouth as it trotted onwards, making Josphitha wish she didn't have to drive the beast so hard. Yet her passion to find her missing brother overpowered her sympathy for the animal. Hopefully it wouldn't drop dead beneath her, causing her to walk.
Through her link with Jesseph, she was able to find traces, though faint, of where his kidnapper was taking him. From the looks of things, it seemed as though he was being taken east, to the mountains. As far as Josphitha knew, there was nothing in those mountains, or beyond for that matter. Why would the kidnapper be heading in that direction? No matter how much Josphitha thought about this, she could not come up with an answer.
The villages had dwindled away long ago, leaving nothing but thick forests and rocky, inhabitable grassland. No one lived out here, and most likely, no one ever would. From what Josphitha could gather from the traces of magic, Jesseph had been here not to long ago, two days ago at most. She was getting closer.
Her horse stopped abruptly, its sides heaving as white foam dripped from its mouth; it was near death. A pang of sympathy and guilt shot through Josphitha, and she dismounted, undoing the girth and bridle. She tossed these aside, letting the horse sink the ground in sheer exhaustion. Giving the horse a pat of thanks for taking her this far, Joshitha gathered up her things and continued on foot.
Jesseph awoke with a start, the end of his sister's name dropping from his lips. His body was cramped from the odd position he had fallen asleep in. The shackle on his ankle felt too tight and bit painfully into his skin. It was cold and dark in his cell, for there were no windows. With no windows, it was impossible to tell the time of day, which also made it difficult to tell how many days had passed since the gruff men brought him here.
It didn't take long for the fingers of despair to close upon the young prince's delicate heart. He felt so certain Josphitha would set out to rescue him in some valiant manner, as he had read about in the books she had given him. After awhile he began to abandon those thoughts, what with his guards telling him every day that no one knew where he was, thus no one would rescue him.
At the sound of shouting and the clang of swords, Jesseph sat up, his ears straining. He could hear screams of pain from the men outside, as well as the sickening squish of sword meeting flesh. His hopes soared for but a moment. Perhaps the castle was under siege! But, no one knew where the castle was, for it wasn't on any map; his guards had been certain to pound that little detail into his head. Then what was going on?
He crawled across the hard, cold, straw covered floor, hoping to get closer so he could perhaps hear more of what was going on outside. Unfortunately, the chain on his shackle didn't reach as far as the door; it stopped him, almost as though it meant to tease him, but two feet from the door. Cursing violently under his breath, Jesseph did his best to hear what he could from that distance. The shouting and screaming had stopped as though it had never started. Dead silence met his young ears.
That's odd, Jesseph thought to himself, I wonder what has happened.
At the sound of a key turning in the lock to his door, Jesseph scuttled backwards into a dark corner, praying the guards meant only to leave him some water or spare bits of stale bread. It seemed as though time crawled as the lock came free. The creaky, wooden door slowly scraped across the floor. Jesseph held his breath, fearing for his life.
A soft, whispering female voice spoke. "Jesseph?"
Jesseph didn't say anything at first. What if it was a trick?
The woman came closer, the light from the torch in her hand playing across the features of her face. Jesseph looked up and gasped.
"Josphitha!" He cried, almost unwilling to believe what he was seeing.
Josphitha set the torch in one of the rusty brackets before dashing across the room and scooping her brother up into a crushing embrace. A few minutes passed before she held him out at arms length, inspecting him.
"Are you all right," she demanded, her voice shaking, "did they hurt you?"
"I'll be fine. They didn't hurt me too badly; they mostly tried to scare me."
Josphitha frowned, her eyes darkening. "Did they tell you why they brought you here?"
Jesseph looked down at the floor and didn't say anything.
"Jesseph . . .?"
"Did they say anything to you?"
He looked away, his body shaking. Slightly frustrated, Josphitha put a hand under his chin, forcing him to look at her. "I need to know what they said, Jesseph. It's important. Now, why did they kidnap you?"
Tears streamed from his shattered, crystal blue eyes as he trembled. "They . . .they w-wanted to-to use me as-as a . . .a way to . .," he broke off abruptly.
"To what? What did they want?"
His voice dropped far below a whisper. "You."
Josphitha leaned closer. "What?"
"They were hoping to get you," he replied in a rush.
Josphitha rocked back on her heels, staring at her brother with a look in her eyes that told him she didn't really see him. The light from the single torch flickered across the golden inlay upon the sword girded at her hip. The silence was choking.
At long last, she ran her fingers through her tangled hair and bit her lip, her eyes sliding over to look at her brother sitting impatiently before her. "We need to leave, now."
Jesseph just about exploded. "I know! I was going to tell you before, but I didn't want to say anything in fear you'd bite my head off for interrupting your thoughts."
She hugged him gently before releasing him to undo the shackle at his ankle. "I'm sorry Jesseph."
Jesseph ignored the apology as he dragged his sister out of the cell and down the hallway. She seemed in a daze, as though her body was with him, but her mind was somewhere else entirely. Perhaps she was trying to figure out why her brother's captures wanted her.
"You did kill everyone, didn't you?" Jesseph asked cautiously as the two of them emerged outside.
"Yeah . . .,"
Jesseph poked her sharply in the side. This seemed to work, for the distant haze in his sister's eyes vanished for a moment.
"Pay attention will you!"
"Sorry, were you saying something?"
"Yes, I asked you if you killed everyone!"
Josphitha shrugged. "I think so. I killed all the ones that got in the way at least."
"We'll have to trust that you got them all. We don't have time to check. Did you perchance bring a horse?"
"I rode it too hard and had to leave it behind," she replied sheepishly.
He threw his hands up in frustration. "You of all people should know how to pace your horse! Why did you ride it nearly to death!"
Her eyes hardened at she glared at him with a look that told him not to argue with her. "I was worried about you. I wanted to get to you before you were hurt or worse. There was no time to think about what I was doing to the poor animal."
Jesseph didn't say anything. In all actuality, there was nothing he felt he has to say. Inwardly, his heart was bleeding over the compassion and dedication of his sister. How could he believe she wasn't coming for him? Remembering his momentary doubt in her made his chest tighten and his eyes water.
"Are there any horses around," Josphitha asked, cutting into his thoughts, "preferably strong ones?"
"I don't know. Since this is a castle, there should be a stable around here somewhere," he replied curtly.
Jesseph turned sharply on his heel and headed off; he didn't want her to see his tears. He found the stable without too much trouble, mostly by following his nose. Josphitha came up behind him, walking past without saying anything. She began walking down the rows of horses, looking for one that suited her. Jesseph followed tentatively behind her, careful not to get too close, for he sensed she was somehow angry with him.
He watched her inspect the horses until she found one that suited her; a black mare with white socks and a white blaze. Streaks of white showed in the horse's mane and tail. Josphitha quickly got the horse saddled and bridled before she picked Jesseph up by the waist and set him somewhat roughly in the saddle. He didn't have time to object, for Josphitha leapt up behind him and put a firm arm about his waist. He could feel his tears spill softly down his cheeks.
Josphitha kicked the horse's sides, causing it to lurch forward, its hooves thundering on the ground as it raced away from the hidden castle. The two of them rode in an uncomfortable silence for several miles, the horse's legs moving rhythmically beneath them. At long last, Josphitha slowed the horse to a gentle trot.
"I'm sorry, Jesseph," Josphitha whispered, the arm around his waist easing slightly.
He turned around to look at her. "For what?"
"For being rough towards you, causing you to cry."
"You saw my tears?"
"Felt them rather."
Jesseph nodded, he knew his sister had somewhat odd talents for magic. He knew of some of them, such as her healing talents, but most of them she kept to herself. Perhaps it was her power that led her to him. "I'm sorry too," he murmured softly.
She hugged him to her chest. "I love you Jesseph, never forget that."
Tears sprang to his eyes again, but they weren't tears of sorrow. Rather, they were tears of love. "I won't. I love you too," he paused for a moment, "thank you for coming for me."
"You're welcome," she whispered, "I'll always come for you."
They were silent again, but this time the silence was a comfortable one, a silence that rang with understanding, and the power of the bond between a brother and a sister.