With that, Jon departed with the two other girls, Eliza and Alexandra. He told us with an anxious look in his eye that a guide would arrive in a few moments to lead us to a safehouse, but that he must go with them at that very moment.
Uneasily, Nellie and I agreed, and sat in the silence of the night, waiting. We were in a foreign, enemy, land, and had no other inclination of where we were. We did not speak, jumping at a little ruffle in the branches. The seconds dragged on, yet it was not long before we heard hoofbeats getting nearer to us, pushing through the shadowy underbrush.
I took a deep breath, taking a quick glance at Nellie, and grasping a dagger from my dress pocket, just in case. My palm sweat as we stood close to one another, crouching behind a bush as we heard the sound of the horse coming nearer and nearer.
A muddy brown horse with an obscure form of a rider stood a few yards before us, gazing about. "Katrina...Nellie?" a murmur came from his face, masked by the murk of the night.
Slowly we rose from our hiding place, cautiously stepping out from behind the brush. The cloaked man dismounted, stepping closer to us. He was perhaps as tall as I was, but taller than Nellie. That was all we could discern from our first meeting.
"Unfortunatly, there is no time for pleasantries, we must hurry to the arranged safehouse." he said in a near whisper. He drew his horse nearer. I stiffened as he took me about the waist and lifted me in one swift motion upon the horse, and then did the same to Nellie, setting her behind me. "There is a road, as you may know as you may have travelled it to reach here, a little ways North. You should reach it rapidly. Take it West until you reach a narrow pathway which branches north-ways. It will not be far until you come upon a small village. On the opposite side of the village on the outskirts, there will be a cottage with a latern in one window and a latern at the door. Go to that house's stable in the back and inside you will find your safehouse and the others."
"The others?" Nellie inquired.
The man nodded hurriedly, "I shall follow on foot and arrive in the morning. Be off before first light arrives!"
He smacked his horse in the rear and sent us off North, nearly throwing us out of the saddle. The horse charged through the forrest, branches whipping at our faces as I grouped for the reins to continue pushing it towards the road the man had mentioned.
The horse slowed as the trees opened and we arrived upon the road. We made a left hand turn and galloped westwards. Following the stranger's brief intrusctions, we turned to a narrow, dark pathway.
Morning light began to seep into the sky as we saw the village, a shadowy smudge on the still dark westerly horizon. "It will be too dangerous to go straight through at this time of morning." I muttered over my shoulder as I pulled the horse to a stop.
"Indeed-it would be far too suspcious for two women alone to come wandering through." Nellie agreed.
"Perhaps we should go around the village." I said.
Nellie nodded, "Yes, it won't take that much longer."
I spurred the horse onwards, light creeping it's way over more and more of the sky. Day was fully fledged when we had reached a cabin with two lanterns-one in a window and one at the door-faintly flickering as our beacon. Carefully, we made our way to the large, delapitated barn out back.
My heart fluttered in my chest as we dismounted leading the horse over as we tip-toed over to the large stable door. What if this was a trap? What if that man was a traitor? It was too late to turn back now.
Swallowing, Nellie and I wrenched open the old sliding door, letting golden light spill into the empty, open barn, dust hitting us in the face as it floated lazily through the air. Nellie covered her mouth, attempting to muffle her cough, as we stepped inside, my fingers tight around the hilt of my dagger once more.
Nellie gasped, grabbing my arm, and I turned, noticing a shadow shifting in the corner of my eye from the barn's attic. "Hello?" I called, my voice wavering slightly.
A head peered over the end, eyes meeting our own. It was a young woman, perhaps even younger than Nellie, matted curls around the roundness of her face. Her big, blue eyes widened and she slipped out of sight.
"Hello!" Nellie continued, both of us nervous as we shifted from foot to foot.
We heard heavy steps on wood nearby in the attic, and then we saw a glimpse of cloth from the corner. We stepped closer, and a different woman, older with a plump figure to her, came before us. Her grayish hair was wild from beneath her bonnet, and her face was worn like leather from the sun. She had lips set in a thin, grim line, her eyes squinted as she looked over us. There was something familiar about her, yet I could not put my finger on it. "Did you come with Frederick?"
"Frederick?" I answered, furrowing my brow. It must be the man who assisted us, or so we thought. "Indeed, I believe so."
"Katrina and Nellie, yes?"
We both nodded quickly. She bit her lip and gazed over us more closely. "Alright then. I assume you two are hungry. I have your sleeping areas set up in the attic with the others. Don't expect anything, it's not fancy."