Monday, August 24, 2009

Day 16-Mondai, Augusta 24...Finally! No more Vensk.

Well, when I woke up this morning I prepared myself for the worst...another day stuck in Vensk. I peered over at Antonia who was already awake, a good sign. I wasn't about to get my hopes up though. She looked better than ever despite the healing wounds. She turned to me and said good morning with a smile on her face. My mood suddenly brightened. She then told me that Olin had checked in and had told her that she looked well enough to travel. Antonia also said we wouldn't be able to travel as fast as before, but that was understandable. Anything would be better than staying in this dreadful place another day. I hopped out of my bed and grabbed my things, which were already packed up, and hit the floor running downstairs. I met Olin at the horse pen to help him get them ready. Wow! I had a lot of energy this morning. What a difference a day makes! Olin and I finished packing the horses and had them all ready for our trip when Antonia came out of the inn under her own power. She needed assistance from Olin to get on her horse and then we headed out and never looked back. Finally we were on our way to the Pass of Sorrows and then down into Valley of Shadows. Olin was hopeful that we might make it to a small keep in the valley called Castle Thornburg. It is one of my father's outposts.

We made slow progress over the pass. The wind near the top was brutal and visibility, thanks to the low hanging clouds, was near zero. Olin and I led our horses on foot most the way, while Antonia rode atop hers. We made it to the top after several grueling hours, thankfully the descent was much easier. It was mid-afternoon when we stopped at a bridge that crossed the river to rest ourselves and the horses. Olin commented that he thought we were making better time than he had planned. The place was so serene and lovely. The sound of the river rushing over and around large rocks was very calming. Well, it was up until a pack of feral dogs surrounded our resting spot and crushed the peacefulness of it. The menacing pack looked crazed and starved. They growled loudly and snapped at each other while they positioned themselves around us and closed in. The horses immediately started in on their panic ritual, rearing up and making all sorts of racket. Olin had anchored them down so they couldn't run off and now they couldn't get away or defend themselves. Olin and I unsheathed our weapons and placed Antonia between us. Those manic beasts were going to have to go through us if they wanted to get to her. I am not exactly sure how many angry mutts we were facing, but just as soon as I collected my thoughts and started counting a barrage of arrows rained down upon them. Suddenly, as if from out of nowhere, a small patrol from my father's guard burst on to the scene. Each of them was notching another arrow on their bows and ready to fire again. The dogs that managed to survive the initial barrage fled in confusion. Some of the soldiers pursued them a short distance to make sure they were indeed leaving for good. Olin raised a hand to one of them, they seemed to know one another. They talked in private for quite sometime all the while glancing in my direction. I just know he told that man that I am the princess. I really wanted to make this trip incognito, but considering our luck on this trip thus far, it may not be a bad idea to have a few more armed personnel around. The patrol group consisted of five men all on horseback. They just happened to be in the area when they heard our horses start squealing and rushed to aid them. I am thankful they did. Hindsight being what it is, I'm still glad we left Vensk.

The guard patrol escorted us back to the small keep, as it was getting dark, with no more incidents. We ate some grub and headed off to bed. Tomorrow, with any luck, we'll be on the other end of the Valley of Shadows and closer to the Lake District.

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