The sun’s glimmering rays shone down on Merilwen’s face.
Dawn had come. She raised her hand to shield her eyes from the glare as she tried to pack her saddle bags with only one hand. She gave up and let the warmth engulf her. The light reflected of her eyes, changing their color from gray to sky blue.
She finished packing, closed the leather bag, and threw it across the back of her horse. She patted her steed and ran her tapered fingers through his coarse black hair and sighed. She dreaded this journey from the moment she heard the words leave her father’s lips. Thoughts of running away had crossed her mind many times, but she gave in to her father’s will. After all, how would it look if the leader’s daughter deserted the camp? They would have found her anyways. She had trained most of the young children to track things.
“Merilwen! We’re ready to go!” yelled some of the men. She quickly mounted her horse and pulled up in front of the group of bandits. A cold breeze passed, and she pulled her furs closer to her neck.
One of the more experienced men spurred his horse and stopped when he was next to her. She looked at him, face to face. The man had a wild, tangled beard of dark brown with eyebrows as bushy and untamed as his beard.
“We’re going into the forest. The one east from here.” he said, as a father would to a misbehaving son.
“I know what I’m doing.” Merilwen said, and she looked at him coldly. “I am not a child.” She frowned at him.
“I didn’t mean to offend yer missy.” he replied and shrunk back into the mass of people.
Merilwen held her head high and gently nudged her horse into a trot. She glanced over her shoulder momentarily, to make sure that the others were following, and wouldn’t desert her. She smiled grimly as she noticed that the others were slowly approaching.
The bandit party traveled for a few hours until they reached a wood with dark canopies of overhanging branches. “What is this place?” asked Merilwen under her breath. She looked back warily at the other men, and gulped. She gazed at the darkness beneath the trees for a long time, and then entered the forest.
The party carefully concealed themselves in the shadows as they rode. The bearded man approached Merilwen again, and whispered into her ear, “Best be careful, missy. There are treacherous beings in these woods.”
The man’s comment made Merilwen’s heart race faster with fear. She slowed her steed down, so she was riding at the back of the group. As she passed under light that broke through the trees, a glint caught her eye. She stopped and looked towards the light and looked back at the other bandits. She noticed that they had stopped to make camp. Slowly, she didmounted and walked towards the blinding glint. The light came from a glade a few feet away. She bent over and picked up a brooch in the shape of a leaf. Silver metal entwined the green veins of the leaf, and Merilwen ran her fingers across the ridges.
Her ears twitched as she heard a snap behind her. She whirled around and looked up into cold blue eyes staring sternly down at her. The fright in her built up until there was only one thing left to do. Faint.