I sang softly to myself to ease the silence of the world around me; I'd taken to doing that a lot lately. After I found the note that Kat so graciously left me, I decided to follow the faint boot tracks she left and procure a horse, just to take off after her. I knew she was continuing on with the journey; her letter said so. I also knew that a part of her wanted me to follow, because she left me the map.
I knew she really didn't need the map in the first place, though. Her navigating skills were off the charts…literally. She only had to look at a map once or twice before having it practically memorized. Same with going along a previously unknown route (to her).
This was now about three days ago that she left me in the night. I kept worrying that at every turn I'd see her dead body lying bloody and mangled from some beast. Instead, I found traces of campsites and…apple cores? "At least the horse is getting fed…" I sighed heavily.
Food was one thing I thought about. I knew I could hunt, and in fact I got most of our food, but I don't think she could. She hated fish, to boot. Could she even cook? I shook myself. Yes, she could cook! She often cooked for us, at least when I didn't feel like it. Her specialty was fixing drinks, though.
I spurred on my horse a little faster. I was tired of keeping myself company, of talking and singing to no one just to stave off loneliness. I wanted to speak with her again, to hear her sweet voice carry through the trees on those few occasions that she would sing for me. I, being the man I was, wanted her back, to protect and care for, to have conversation, and above all, for the general company.
Cheval, my hore, flicked her ears back and shook her head. I reached down to pat her neck. "What's wrong, girl?"
She whinnied eagerly and suddenly shot into a gallop. I barely grabbed the reins in time to avoid being thrown off. As she hurried to wherever it was she was taking me, I tried desperately to get to her stop or at least slow down. "Whoa! Whoa!"
I finally got Cheval to slow into a brisk trot. We came to a clearing, in which I saw that a small camp was set up. A black horse was tied to a tree near the edge. He neighed happily as she went up to him. I dismounted carefully. "Oh, so you two know each other?" I smiled slightly.
Just then, I heard something. It was a faint, distant sound, mixed with falling water. But it was familiar, so familiar that I began walking through the foliage to find the source. I pushed away brambles and bushes, and as I went, the sound got louder. Then I realized: it was singing. But who was—
"Kat!" I whispered to myself incredulously. So as not to be seen, I hid in the leaves of a bush, watching her. Her clothes were hanging in the branches of a tree as she bathed in a spring.
She continued to sing to herself, sometimes losing a few words due to surprised cries when the cold water touched her body. She suddenly twirled around. I averted my gaze until I was sure she was turned away. Her pale skin contrasted starkly with her red hair, now a brown color when wet. She was turned a little to the side and it was just enough for me to see the knotted angry-red scar marring the right side of her abdomen.
I leaned forward slightly, my heart beating uncomfortably fast. She went to stand under a small waterfall, crying out in surprise when the cold water hit her body. Once she stepped out, I again turned away.
She reached for a small article of clothing—I indentified it as her cloak—and tied it about herself, gathering up her clothes. "Hmm… Still wet…"
I hurried silently back to her camp, grabbing Cheval away from her horse and dragging her away. Once my horse was secured to a tree, I went back to watch Kat. She walked into the clearing and hung out her clothes again. "Oh Nightmare, I'm hungry…"
He neighed in response. She laughed lightly. "Don't worry; I have more apples for you. I'm so glad we stopped in that town, or else I'd starve!" She dug around in her saddlebags before grabbing a fruit and holding it up to his mouth.
I tilted my head in confusion. Last I knew, she was scared of horses and would never let one eat out of her hand. Hence why I was so surprised when I found out she had gotten a horse from the stables.
She gently stroked his muzzle. "You're such a good horse." She pressed her forehead against his for a moment before pulling away.
Why won't she treat me like that?
Kat sat near the fire and added a log to it. Apparently she was getting good at making fires. "What should I have for dinner, hm?"
I honestly couldn't tell if she was talking to herself or the horse… Maybe she had gone mad? Either way, she got out her sword and stuck a bit of salted meat on the end, sticking it in the fire. She then leaned her head on her palm and waited. I sighed softly, watching.
I wanted to go out and see her, really I did, but I knew that that'd be the wrong thing to do. She told me to go back home. But I hadn't, obviously. Now she was traveling alone and seemed to be doing fine. I needed to choose the perfect time when she was weakest to appear again. That was the time when she would be most accepting and want me back.
She stretched out and yawned. "Ah, Nightmare… I'm so glad I decided to get a horse than walk." She crossed her ankles and laid back.
Now that she had ceased any real activity, I decided to go set up a camp of my own. Cheval watched as I got a fire going and soon had dinner cooking. As I waited, I glanced in the general direction of Kat. Was she going to be all right tonight?
Of course she would. She had obviously been fine for the past three days. Still… No. No, she'll be fine. Perfectly…fine.
I ate my dinner and decided to try for sleep. As I laid on my bedroll and wrapped my cloak about me, I closed my eyes and saw her in my mind. But not just her; her, as I saw her in the spring.
The contours of her body were outlined by the water as it cascaded around her. Her pale skin turned even whiter from the cold. And her lips, her soft-pink lips, parted slightly with a gasp. I could see her blue-green eyes, which dimmed even the brightest star in the night sky, close as she tried to block out the low temperature.
My eyes snapped open. How could I even think about her like that? I shook my head and rolled over on my side. Maybe I would have an easier rest in this position…
This time I saw Kat as she lay in the clinic. Beads of sweat covered her brow, her hair sticking to her skin. She looked up at me helplessly as she was barely able to whisper a desperate, "L-Leon…" My heart wrenched to see her in such a weakened state, and just as I reached for her hand, I once again woke.
Good God, what was wrong with me? I pulled on my boots and made my way over to her camp. Peeking through the hedge, I saw that she was sound asleep by the dying fire. But I also saw that she was shivering. Poor girl was freezing…
I tiptoed in and placed another branch on the fire. It crackled and she shifted slightly, but didn't wake. I smiled at her once before stealing back to my own bed.
"Good night, love…" I sighed heavily and lay once more, hoping for a less distracting dream.