Corryn hated to have lost a precious half-hour, but expected he'd make up for it in short order. Valarr had been trained for riding and fighting along the rugged coastline, so open fields and roads wouldn't slow the powerful horse one whit. They cut across a farmer's field, heading toward the hills the thatcher had mentioned.
With Valarr's hoof beats and the pounding of his heart in his ears, Corryn felt an elation he'd almost forgotten. The wind smelled sweeter, the colors around him appeared sharper, and the sun felt like kisses on his skin. For two years, he'd been dead inside. Now, the Riverwolf stirred once more. He could almost taste the blood on the air. And once again, he cared not if it would be his own. As long as his fair Limosa lived and Syndra remained safe in Holdfast, he could happily find his Good Death.
And just maybe—just maybe—his Heartwife would see him again.
It was well into the mid-morning by the time Corryn reached the scattered outskirts of Marshend, so long had their journey been delayed. He crested a hill and saw a small cottage. So distant away, he could see evidence of a rudimentary camp - and armed men, perhaps a dozen or more. He was too far away to see their livery.
Corryn paused at the crest and gazed down at the encampment. "Well, old sod," he said to the horse. "Looks like our quarry has a few new friends. The Warrior does have a sense of humor, I suppose." He rubbed the horse's neck, patting the animal reassuringly. Valarr whickered in agreement, but shivered with tension.
The Riverwolf climbed down and let the horse rest for a moment. He spent the time stringing his bow and observing the movements around the cabin. "Just like old times, eh?" he said to the grazing horse. "Of course, you weren't around when I was the Riverwolf were you?"
Valarr snorted, as if this were obvious.
"I died. Hrm. What was it now? Three times? So what's a fourth, eh?"
Valarr raised his head and stared at Corryn with dubiously.
Corryn tested the bow and shrugged. "Well, if we live through this, I'll put you to stud. I think I'll put myself to stud too, to be frank. Find a nice, round wife and turn my back on all this bollocks."
Valarr shook his head, his brown eyes even more doubtful than before.
Corryn chuckled and climbed back onto his horse, "I'm glad we could have this talk, old sod. Makes getting run through sound almost worth the effort."
And with that, he guided his mount contralaterally to the hill, circling around so the rise and trees would block his approach until he could get close enough for a better look at the men-at-arms.
He saw that some were dressed in Bolton livery - others in the livery of Clearwater.
Then he saw a window of the cottage open, and the dark head of a young woman thrust out. From this angle, all he could see was her hair as she watched the men outside. It was impossible to tell if she was Limosa or not.
And then, closer, he saw two people watching him, both with arrows nocked. And beside them were two large dogs. No, not dogs. Wolves.
No, not wolves.
Bollocks and Damnation, Corryn thought, as he noticed the wolves. Did I ride passed the Wall and not notice? As for the rest and their affiliations, his stomach sank farther. Well, maybe they'd be kind enough to send his body back to Syndra, rather than allow their pets to eat him.
Of course, with his luck of late, that didn't seem likely.
Corryn patted Valarr's neck, "Don't mind them, old sod. They're nothing more than big dogs. Very, very big dogs, mind you, but dogs none the less."
He steadied the horse and slowly made his way toward the group. "Hail, goodfolk," he said, raising his good hand. "I'm looking for my daughter, not trouble."
(Continued in Wolf at the Gate)