Daughter Of Conwy – Episode 42

Merlyn reached the lane to the cottage just as the moon began to sink. The trees arched thick above her, blocking out the sky, and the lane was dark and still. A branch cracked deep in the forest, echoing in the stillness. There was a prickling in Merlyn’s shoulder blades, accompanied by the rise of the hairs on the back of her neck. She found herself straining to catch every sound, like a small animal venturing from the safety of the hedgerows.

With creeping unease overtaking her, she left the centre of the lane, where the grass between the two tracks was a guide for her feet, and walked instead along the rough edges at one side, where she felt less vulnerable with the cover of the trees at hand. She tried to hurry, her anxiety for Nain growing with every minute that passed, but the darkness slowed her footsteps, making her fearful of turning an ankle amongst the fallen branches and spread of brambles, ready to trip passers-by.

She had never been so thankful to see the lightening of the darkness as the trees ended. Her mind had begun to play tricks. Sometimes she could feel the scent of burning in her nostrils, only for it to vanish again into nothing. Sometimes it was a crackle of flames that had her pausing to listen, only to hear a deep silence echoing in her ear.

And each time she paused at the crack of a branch in the forest, or the sudden spring of a branch high above as some night-time creature soared away from her presence, Merlyn’s heart began racing until she could hear nothing else. She quickened her pace.

A crack of a branch came again, this time nearer. She stopped, holding her breath, her ears straining to hear the slightest sound. In the distance, she could hear the rumble of hooves galloping fast. Galloping urgently towards her.

David! It had to be. Relief flooded through her. She stepped out into the centre of the lane and waited. At the far end of the lane, still shrouded in darkness, shadows of the riders appeared, racing towards her. She lifted her arm to draw their attention, opening her mouth to shout. But before she could draw in breath she was grasped from behind. One hand covered her mouth and a strong arm circled her, pulling her – kicking and struggling with all her might – back into the darkness of the forest.

“Don’t move,” a voice hissed into her ear.

Fury gave Merlyn a strength she didn’t know she possessed. She pulled the hand away from her face.

“Let go of me, Rhodri Tudor!” she snapped. “Haven’t you caused enough trouble already? You can’t hold me prisoner, and you cannot stop me.”

His grip tightened around her arms.

“I’m trying to save your life,” he growled.

The horses had almost reached them. Rhodri pulled her down again until she was deep amongst last year’s leaves. His grasp was tight, but not harsh. She could feel the race of his heart and the ragged intake of his breath. It struck her that he was as frightened as she was, if not more. Merlyn stopped struggling and lay still, scarcely breathing, until the horses passed. A little further down the lane the riders came to a halt and dismounted.

“Are you sure we weren’t followed?”

Alan Spink

Alan is a member of the “Friend” Fiction Team. He enjoys working closely with writers and being part of the creative process which sees storytelling ideas come to fruition. A keen reader, he also writes fiction and enjoys watching football and movies in his spare time. His one aspiring tip to new writers is to “write from your imagination”.