Waves of nausea erupted in my gullet; my head throbbed. With aching arms and burning skin, I stopped fighting against my captivity. If I couldn’t remove myself from this camp, I would wait until I could send their Chief to the Underworld. I knew enough about tinctures and tonics, herbs and roots to concoct a potent poison or two, but it would require careful planning and a way to escape the Duros fury.
While I plotted my enemy’s downfall, I heard a ripping noise behind the shelter. Try as I might, I couldn’t see far enough over my shoulder to the back of the tent to figure out what was happening. The tearing, scraping and rustling continued until I sensed someone was squeezing through the gap in the skins.
“Mel!” I knew the hushed voice immediately. It was Morven. A rush of emotions infilled me, until I could no longer form sensible words. He crept around the tent and stood close. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry. When I opened my mouth to speak, he leaned in and kissed me. I got the impression it was more to shut me up than one of passion, but I was happy to see him.
“Untie my bonds. Hurry.” I whispered.
He raised his finger to his lips. “Not so loud. We are completely surrounded. My sister wouldn’t listen to reason. I offered her everything I have to keep quiet, but she’s loyal to father. We have to get out of here. I’ve bundled a few things together and tethered a horse near to the northern gate. You’ll need to hide under my cloak and ride behind me until we get clear of the camp.”
I looked at him with fresh eyes. This was not the ambitious, carefree young man from the cliff path earlier in the day. This was a man willing to risk everything to save me. “What about your kin? They’ll know who helped me to escape the moment we are missed.”
Morven shrugged. “I’m not important in this tribe. Father only has eyes for Nyle and Teague. I’m just the spare child in case Nyle falls in battle and that’s most unlikely. Now mother is dead, I have no reason to stay.” He reached around and began cutting at the knots of leather.
“But where would we go? Anyone caught helping us would be skinned alive.”
“We’ll become homesteaders. I have some metal we can trade. It’ll be fun.” His face didn’t match his words. The false smile and tense frown told me that he hadn’t thought our escape through. Running away with the bride intended for the Chief would incur lethal consequences.
It was a noble quest, filled with uncertainty and peril, but it made me love him all the more. There was no time for desire to get the better of us, but I had to kiss him nonetheless. He let me take my fill of comfort, then led me to the gap in the tent skins.
Morven crawled through the hole first and then turned back to offer me his hand. I knelt down on the rushes and poked my head through, breathing in the cool night air. As I shimmied and wriggled my shoulders between the skins, and tried to draw up my knees, I felt the hot grasp of strong hands clutching my ankles.