The sun had long ago disappeared behind the frozen horizon, leaving the sky vacant for the dark to invade. The moon was the only light left to illuminate our course, a soft purple lantern in the sky. We’d been gone from Emperor Saber’s palace over a month now; I could only imagine the armed guards in their blood red robes searching the snow for the Lady and the Hunter trying in vain to appease the Emperors wraith. Many would die in this hunt but none would succeed.
I led my horse across the frosted landscape the cold biting my hands. Lady Electron rode beside me, her head lolling sleepily on her shoulders.
"Can we please stop hunter?" She asked drowsily.
"No, not here."
I said looking up to the stars for navigation guidance, but when they offered no help I turned back down to the compass in my hands.
"I'm so tired, one night can't possible make the trail any colder than it is." She said.
"My lady, please." I said slightly annoyed.
Finding my way through the blank canvas of the Russian snow with no landmark to tell of my location had never been a problem for me. However I had always been following something that had already traversed road, leaving its mark like ink across parchment spelling out my way. I was not used to making my own trail or following the directions of this compass.
I shook the device frustrated-ly.
Was it broken?! I was no good at reading these things, I never had been.
I paused, frozen in my stance.
Lady Electron, in her half sleep didn't notice my halt and kept trotting onward, the needle of my compass followed her advancement.
"My God!" I growled throwing the useless device into the snow, it skipped twice before lodging itself somewhere in the distance. I climbed up into my saddle.
"What is it?!" Lady Electron asked snapping awake.
"You are a curse to travel with!" I cried.
She frowned at me taken aback.
"The first village I see, I'm leaving you there!" I barked pushing my horse into a gallop.
"Excuse me!" she cried following me as I lead my horse quickly past her.
"You scare the animals, complain and you messed up my compass, how I'm I supposed to find your Prince now!" I demanded frustrated.
"Well, forgive me but I thought ‘The Great Predicator’ didn't need to use instruments in the hunt!" She demanded riding up beside me and keeping pace.
I wasn't tracking, I was escaping and now I was lost.
I growled once more. Why were women so infuriating?! No, it was just this woman, most women you could just leave but this one insisted upon following!
I pushed my horse into a faster gallop. Lady Electron took the hint and trailed behind me.
It wasn't too long before I pulled my horse to a halt and slid of his back. I dug through my saddle pockets and pulled out my map.
Lady Electron dismounted beside me.
"We are not stopping here." I said.
"Why not? We can find our way tomorrow when it's light out and when you are not grumpy." She offered. “I’ll stay far away so you can read your little compass.” She promised.
“I threw it away.” I muttered unfolding the map. “But still, no.”
Lady Electron glared at me, her stance crackling with electricity.
“Dear Hunter, should I demonstrate why people strive to please me?” She asked. Her hand poised in mid air. I had a vague idea what that was for.
“If it amuses you my lady, though, I have no interest.” I said scanning the map guessing to our location.
I folded the map and tucked it way into my vest pocket.
“Before you do that allow me to tell you a story about this stretch of land.” I said climbing onto my horse.
She frowned at me curiously.
“It’s cursed.” I said walking on.
She rolled her eyes, mounting her horse and followed me once more.
“When I first came to Russia, I met Emperor Saber in some strange woods that I have yet to venture into again. The trees spoke of mystery and witchcraft and snow was a marble tomb to many a source of spells. But it was the meeting place of one starving hunter, a savage man with the head of his latest kill on his shoulders to hide he’s own face and one Russian Emperor, a beast like none the hunter had very encountered.
“The Emperor wanted the hunter to aid him in the hunt of a white wolf, he promised him riches in return, but it was not any white wolf, the royal sought. He wanted the heart of a wolf with snow white fur so pure that it melted in with snow and in the light of a full moon you could catch a glimmer of gold dust beaded on the wolfs fur where the moon had kissed her.
“The hunter brought the Emperor into the company of ten white wolves that night, and all were slain, but now turned out to be the Emperor’s wolf. The hunter did not believe that such a wolf existed but the reward was too tempting to be left behind. So when they came upon the next white wolf the hunter approached it alone and once he killed the wolf he weaved golden threads into the wolf’s fur and brought it to the Emperor. The wolf’s body was taken back to the castle where it was prepared for the Emperor.
“Though, I’m sure that the wolves I killed that night had no magical powers, there was a presence in those woods that left me with an odd sort of caution. I feel that presence here again, I think we are near that forest, by how many miles I know not. But I do not wish to encounter it again nor sleep within its intimacy for no rest will be found. I believe it was called the Twilight woods.”