Darkness. As Aster spoke her last words the torch guttered out. The dark separated the two girls, leaving them only voices.
“Oh,” said Sarah. “Well… I’m Sarah. My sister called me Sal, but that was a long time ago now - or it seems like it anyway.”
There was a silence before Aster spoke: “I didn’t want to scare you. But I didn’t know if I could trust you. And we needed to be quiet, for your sake and for mine. If they saw me, they would take me back.”
The darkness curled between them, caressing their cheeks with its cold fingers.
“You’re sure you didn’t see Danny?”
“If he left you, he is no different from other men.” Aster’s voice was bitter with unhappiness. Amy had said something like that once. Sarah remembered Nate’s dark eyes filled with drunken violence. She felt his hands gripping her neck, saw his fists meet her sister’s stomach and face. She shuddered at the memory of his corpse, mauled and bleeding as the looming minotaur gouging itself on the flesh. The railroad tracks that were a path of fear and hope, possibility and nightmare. The darkness gave space for memories that spilled through her mind like the papery bodies of dead moths, disintegrating as they fell.
“Why did you run away?” Sarah asked.
“I learned what my father does as the Lady’s First Swordsman.”
Sir Raymond rode into the woods, shaking the water from his cloak. Across the field he could barely see the stone entrance, partially hidden and well guarded. He sighed as he looked up at the clouds, an expanse of unbroken clouds stretching over the hill, over their hidden city. He loved missions outside because of the sun, its large red presence, filling the sky, its light both dim and bright, the star slowly dying even as it gave light. But it had been many months since he had seen it and he knew he should welcome the rain.
Beam whickered and Sir Raymond patted his neck absently, his gloved hand protecting him from the stiff spikes covering Beam’s body. Beam was black, his body long, thin and low to the ground. His head resembled a horse’s, but his teeth were sharp and his body sinuous. Beam was the best of the beasts that the Lady’s Swordsmen rode. He was faster than a train, his mind as sharp as his spikes were venomous.
Sir Raymond turned to face the depths of the woods, turning his mind from the sun, his daughter and the boy. His face hardened. “Alright Beam. Let’s go.”