Chapter 35 : Taken
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Godric reached out a hand towards Rowena’s delicate wrist and clasped it tightly. This was in the hope of easing the pained expression she’d worn over the past few days. It was clearly torturing her, all the worry she felt towards the poor girl.
“Godric what if that woman - ?”
“She’ll be fine,” Godric assured her. He hoped he sounded convincing because he didn’t feel it.
“We should try reasoning with her mother.”
“We’ve been through this,” he sighed. “She wouldn’t understand. She’s too narrow-minded!”
“But then…what now? Are we supposed to just leave her and hope she’s not beaten every time she accidentally uses her powers!” She exclaimed hysterically.
Godric glared at her for a moment, silently telling her that she should keep her voice down.
“Of course not,” he said quickly.
“I…I don’t know. I’m afraid I haven’t thought that far ahead yet.”
“We need to do something fast,” she insisted. “Her mother is horrid. Who knows how many more injuries that poor girl has now!”
“Calm down!” He muttered, clasping her hand tightly.
He took in her anxious expression as she gazed out of the window, the image outside distorted by all the rain. She’d been mulling all this over for far too long.
“We need to get out of here…clear our heads,” he said suddenly, rising from his chair and holding out a hand for her.
“Godric - it’s pouring of rain!” She gasped in disbelief.
“Ah, it’ll be more fun this way. Come on,” he chuckled, when she still frowned, as though she thought he was joking. “It’s only a bit of water!”
“I’d say it’s a little more that a bit!”
She grabbed onto his hand nonetheless and braced herself as Godric pushed open the heavy oak door. It was lucky the air wasn’t too nippy or they may have run the risk of catching pneumonia. Godric ran out into the rain first and was almost completely soaked after just a few seconds. Rowena reluctantly followed and somehow found herself laughing out loud as the heavy rain spilled over her face and caused her hair to fall limply around her shoulders.
“And where are we going exactly?” She asked, hurrying to catch up with Godric.
“I don’t know yet!” He chuckled.
They ran through the streets, their boots becoming very muddy very quickly. The locals, who stood beneath any shelter they could find if they could help it, were staring in bemusement at them both as they dashed through the rain, laughing quite merrily.
They’d soon made their way right out of the central area of the village and were near the larger farm buildings on the outskirts. This wasn’t a difficult journey to make, as you could probably have crossed from one side of the village to the other within half an hour if you walked briskly.
“Oh, look, it’s stopping a bit,” Rowena commented, squinting up into the heavens.
“Aye, so it is,” he nodded, coming to stand behind her and holding her in a comforting embrace. “Just look at you now, princess!” He laughed. “No one would guess, would they?”
“Hey, you!” She scolded, laughing along with him.
She shook her head forcefully from side to side and the water from her hair splashed him squarely in the face, making him recoil.
“Now, play fair!”
She darted off towards the barrier of trees that lay upon the brow of the hill just up ahead and Godric gave chase, laughing heartily as he did so. She had to hand it to him - he was certainly good at distracting her from her worries.
By the time they were amongst the tallest of the fir trees the rain had completely stopped and all they could hear was occasional birdsong and the drip, drip from the water still held by the trees. The dim sunlight managed to pierce through and dapple the forest floor with a soft green glow.
“You don’t provide much of a chase!” Godric chuckled, when Rowena came to a gradual stop in a small clearing.
“Oh yes I do,” she smirked. “If I remember correctly you forced your way through a fortified castle to get to me!”
“Did I really?” He joked. “I don’t think I’d do something so heroic!”
“Was it worth it, do you think?” She asked quietly, as he held her in a tight embrace again.
“Definitely,” he breathed, kissing her for a long, long moment.
They finally broke away from each other when they heard a strange shuffling noise. They exchanged a puzzled glance as they silently tried to work out what could be the source of this noise. They were about to go and investigate when the source made itself known. Little Gwen shuffled into the clearing, looking terribly exhausted and upset. She jumped in fright when she spotted them, obviously thinking them to be someone else. Her expression relaxed when she realised who they were. They probably looked a little different after being soaked by all the rain.
“I thought you’d left the village,” she muttered.
Rowena stared in shock at the poor girl and it was quite an understandable thing to do. Her clothes looked even more worn than usual - if that were possible - and she was shuffling about with bare, muddied feet. It was clear she’d been crying, as her eyes were severely bloodshot and her cheeks red and puffy. She inconspicuously tried to wipe away a fresh wave of tears before either of them noticed.
“Gwen, what happened?” Rowena demanded, rushing over to her and placing a comforting hand over her shoulders.
It was then that the girl broke down, her tears leaking down her face and splashing against her ragged old dress. She sobbed uncontrollably.
“You can tell us,” Godric assured her, hastily glancing around to check that no one else was within their vicinity.
“Your mother?” Rowena prompted, when she sobbed in between her words again. She nodded once.
“She thought I had been practicing my magic. I promised her that I never do it on purpose. I try to do it as little as I can but…but I…”
“It’s difficult not to?” Godric suggested. Again, she nodded.
“She beat me because I told her you were the same,” she stammered.
“You told her what we are?” Rowena asked. She maintained a calm tone of voice but shared a very worried glance with Godric.
“Yes. I told her I could learn how to use my magic properly. I promised I’d only use it for good but she wouldn’t listen. She kept hitting me. She said…she said…”
“It’s alright. Calm down,” Rowena said soothingly, rubbing Gwen’s back in order to ease her breathing. “Say it slowly.”
“She said she’d tell everyone what I was!” She finally managed to gasp. Her face screwed up in fear and she began to cry again, the tears now causing large wet patches to form on the front of her dress. “She said that they’d hunt me down because it’s not natural - the magic!”
“That horrible - !” Rowena began to say.
“I take it she doesn’t know you’re out here?” Godric asked knowingly. After a moment or two she shook her head, looking rather sheepish.
“I wanted to get away. I’ve never been to another village so I’m afraid I’ll get lost.”
“You’re trying to run away?” Godric asked calmly.
“Yes. I need to leave before I’m found out!”
“Perhaps…” Rowena muttered, looking thoughtful. “Well, you intend to hone your skills, don’t you, Gwen?”
“I don’t suppose I have a choice now,” she shrugged.
“Well then…maybe she could…?” She said, glancing across at Godric. “It would make perfect sense.”
“You’re not suggesting…? Rowena, I don’t think - ”
“But we can’t just leave her behind!”
“What are you talking about?” Gwen asked, looking confused. “Are you leaving the village? You’d take me with you?” She asked excitedly, suddenly grasping what Rowena meant.
“We can’t just kidnap her. We don’t need any trouble following us around,” he insisted, lowering his voice slightly.
“But you wouldn’t be kidnapping me,” Gwen piped up. “I’d willingly come with you. I want to see your school! Please?” She begged, noticing that Godric still seemed highly reluctant over the matter. “You said yourself I was a potential student!”
“The village will search for you. We’ll be caught, Gwen, and we’re two people who really can’t afford to have the law chasing after us,” Godric muttered regretfully.
“No one would miss me. Everyone here would be glad to see the back of me. They all think I’m strange. They say I don’t belong here.”
Rowena stared pleadingly at Godric because he was still obviously in two minds. He’d begun pacing up and down. Godric knew he’d feel incredible amounts of guilt if he left this poor little girl to fend for herself. She just wasn’t capable of protecting herself. On the other hand, he didn’t want to jeopardise everything he and Rowena had worked so hard at. They’d fallen off the map and could live their lives in peace. With this slight hiccup in proceedings that could all be ruined if they made a wrong decision.
“The stories my mother used to tell me were horrible,” Gwen said, finally breaking the pain-staking silence. “The way they burn the magic kind, even the innocents they thought were using dark curses!”
“But that’s not going to happen to you!” Rowena promised.
“That’s why I’m leaving. I’ll go somewhere where they won’t find me if I can’t come with you. I’ll hide for years if I have to!”
“You’ll be in danger if you’re not with your own kind,” she said anxiously. “You won’t be able to learn everything you need to.”
“It doesn’t matter,” she said, shaking her head in determination. She took a great, shuddering breath and seemed to accept things. She gently shrugged from beneath Rowena’s arm, forcefully wiped away her tears, and began to stride on through the trees.
“Gwen, you can’t!” Rowena squeaked, looking terrified. “Godric?” She breathed, looking to him for some kind of assurance.
He stared after Gwen and felt a great stab of guilt in the pit of his stomach. He couldn’t let this happen.
“You’re not leaving this village!” Godric called sternly, causing her to freeze and turn around. “Not on your own.”
“What…why…what do you mean?” She stammered, taking another unsteady breath.
“No student of ours is going to be left to fend for themselves!”
“You mean I can come with you?” She asked, her eyes sparkling brighter than they’d even seen them before. “You’ll take me to the school?”
“Yes,” he smiled. “But we have to leave soon. Wait…” He muttered, feeling his spine tingle uncomfortably. “Do you think your mother will realise you’re gone?”
“She might still be sleeping off the ale,” she said quietly. “She was quite drunk when I left her. She was snoring so loudly. I don’t think she heard me leave,” she explained uncertainly.
“I’d say we have an hour to get out of here,” he said thoughtfully.
“Then let’s go!” Gwen urged.
“No, we have to get the horses and our coach. We can’t travel on foot.”
“You can’t go back to the village!” Gwen hissed, looking terrified.
“Before she fell asleep she…I think she meant it too!” She gasped. “She said she was going to tell the whole village about me. She said she’d tell them all about you as well. She guessed what you were.”
“Okay,” Godric muttered, sounding far more calm than he felt at that precise moment in time. “I’ll have to go back alone to get the coach. It’s not safe for us all to return to the village.”
“But Godric - ” Rowena began to protest.
“You and Gwen should get to the outskirts of town. Wait for me by the main road. Stay out of sight!”
“Wait!” She called, as Godric dashed off through the trees.
She stared after him in utter horror, only capable of thinking the worst. Her breathing became shallow but she knew she had to control herself so as not to worry Gwen. She took the little girl’s hand and they hurried through the trees together.
Godric raced through the forest, dodging all the trees and feeling his feet pound painfully upon the uneven ground. He was a fast runner and had soon reached the first few houses close by. As soon as he’d crossed the bridge that spanned out over the river he slowed down, knowing it would look suspicious if he were to continue running through the village.
He strolled quickly, though, his breathing becoming audibly shallow. When he spotted a small group of the residents he tried to maintain a blank expression, glancing straight past them.
“Morning!” One of them called, smiling in greeting at him.
Godric smiled in reply, inclining his head slightly. So he now assumed that no one yet knew what he truly was. That was a great relief but he guessed that it wouldn’t take long before everyone found out. He’d have to be quick and inconspicuous.
He’d soon reached the inn and had a horrid sense that it had all been a tad too easy. He disregarded his anxiety nonetheless and retrieved the small bag of things belonging to himself and Rowena. Once he’d done this he managed to slip out the back door and cross the small courtyard that led to the stables. The two horses they required to travel were standing quite contently within their stables, staring over the bottom doors.
Godric was relieved to see that there was no one around and hastily led the first horse over to the carriage, which was left over in the corner of the courtyard. He’d done this so many times that he managed to fasten the horse to its harness quite easily. Just as he was coaxing the second horse to back up and stand alongside the other he was startled by a call that shot across the yard.
“Godric! You’re not leaving, are you?”
He glanced over to see the owner of the inn. He was a rather beefy man with small eyes. He asked this question quite conversationally but his eyes were narrowed.
“I’m afraid so,” he replied, hoping he sounded as casual as he thought he did.
“It’s a shame, is that!” He muttered, shaking his head. “You taking that pretty young thing with you?”
“Of course,” he nodded, knowing that he meant Rowena.
He slowly fastened the horse into the harness. He would have done it as fast as he’d done the other but knew it would look suspicious if he were to use unnecessary speed. He just hoped this conversation wouldn’t go on for too long.
“Where are you off to then?”
“We don’t know yet,” he replied truthfully. “We’ll just see where the road takes us!”
“Is that so?” He chuckled, strolling a little closer.
As Godric finished attaching the horses to the coach he suddenly realised that the man was now standing right next to him, still chuckling to himself.
“Well,” Godric said finally, feeling a little uncomfortable. “I best be off - long way to go!”
As he was about to climb aboard the coach the man grabbed hold of his arm.
“I don’t think so, boy!” He growled.
“I’ve been told something rather interesting about you.”
“Have you really?” He asked, trying to remain calm as he felt uncomfortable panic grip at his throat. “And what’s that then?”
“You’re one of them magic users!” He snarled, sounding disgusted. “You’ll be burnt at the stake for that!”
Godric held the man’s gaze, amazed at how well he was maintaining his composure. He knew his face gave nothing away.
“And who told you that?” He asked.
“Mrs. Jones,” he replied. “A valued member of our community.”
“And a drunk, I’m told?” He added conversationally. “Forgive me but I don’t think you have any right to accuse me of such things when the person who’s spreading these rumours can barely stand!”
“Not rumours, though, are they?” He said darkly. “I knew what you were the moment you came here!”
“I’m afraid you have no proof,” he pointed out. “The moment you do, I’m all ears.”
Godric tore his arm from this man’s surprisingly tight grip and climbed up onto the carriage.
“Meredith!” He shouted suddenly, the shout carrying through the silent afternoon. Godric panicked as he yelled, dreading what would soon ensue. “Tell them he’s here! I’ve found the sorcerer!” He glared up at Godric and wore a very nasty grin upon his face. “He’s trying to make a run for it!”
“You really shouldn’t have done that,” Godric said, an amused tone coming across in his voice. “I’m sorry.”
He thrust his hand out towards the man and caused a bright spark of light to send him flying backwards. After this he knew he would soon be in big trouble. He had to get to Rowena and Gwen before anyone else did. He whipped the horses into action and they obediently tore through the village.
It was now too late to remain inconspicuous and it was quite clear that the news had gotten out. As Godric raced past the villagers they now shouted abuse and attempted to chase after the carriage. The moment he got to Rowena and Gwen he knew they’d not have long to get as far away from here as possible before the villagers caught up with them.
His heart lifted slightly when he spotted the beginning of the road that led through the forest up ahead. This relief didn’t last long, though, as the thunderous sound of hooves echoed behind him. Some of the men from the village were giving chase and were gaining fast. This carriage was a heavier load for his horses and Godric knew, with a sinking of the heart, that they’d soon be upon him.
He’d soon shot through the first line of trees and began tearing along. The horses were becoming tired, their breath deep and rasping.
“You can’t get away, sorcerer!” Someone cried.
“Watch me!” he muttered under his breath, urging the horses to go faster.
They painstakingly and loyally did so, soon providing enough distance so that Godric could no longer hear all the angry shouts. He almost laughed out loud when he spotted the end of the road, which marked the edge of the village’s land as it joined with a much larger one. He slowed the carriage, knowing he’d have to try hard to get up such speed again.
“We were worried about you!” Rowena gasped, emerging from the shadow of a large tree and ushering Gwen into the carriage.
“Hurry. Keep your head down!” He warned, glancing swiftly over his shoulder before whipping the horses once again.
The carriage jolted forwards and they were soon tearing past the edge of the forest, noticing that the road ahead provided no cover whatsoever. They’d be visible for miles!
“Godric,” Rowena squeaked worriedly, also noticing this.
She fearfully turned in her seat and gaped in horror at the men that still pursued the carriage on horseback.
“You filthy magic users!” One of them roared. “You’ll be burnt before sundown!”
Gwen started crying hysterically, shaking in terror. She tried covering her ears to block out their shouts but all the jeering was deafening.
“They’re going to kill us!” She sobbed.
“No they’re not!” Rowena said defiantly through gritted teeth. “Not if I can help it!”
“What are you doing?” Godric demanded, as Rowena hung out of the side of the carriage in full view of their pursuers. He was terrified she’d fall at any moment, as they were travelling at quite a hefty speed.
Rowena focused upon the men chasing after them, trying to ignore her racing heart and the blurred sight of the ground just feet beneath her. She unwisely let go with her right hand and directed it towards a large pile of rocks, willing them to obey her invisible grasp. When she knew she had control she shot them towards the men and their horses. The startled animals reared up, sending most of the men crashing to the floor. She grinned in triumph.
For those that were still pursuing them she had another little surprise in store. She sent the grains of dirt and sand upon the track scattering up in the air so that their vision became obscured.
“No!” One of the men yelled, pulling his horse to a stop. “Leave them. The witch is dangerous!”
With that the men all turned back, glaring after them. Rowena carefully clambered back inside the carriage and closed the door. Her breathing was shallow and harsh. She was unable to believe what she’d just done.
“You did it!” Gwen beamed, hugging her tightly.
“A fine shot!” Godric shouted in agreement, smiling fondly at his love.
“Is it like this everywhere you two go?” Gwen asked anxiously.
Godric and Rowena just exchanged glances, finding the situation rather amusing now that it was all over.
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