Satisfied, Eryn shifted the bag on her shoulder, trying to look determined. Yet inside, her thoughts were racing and her heart was aquiver.
When she had first heard of Drystan’s disappearance, she could at least hope that he’d chosen to disappear into the woods, like he always promised he would when they were younger. But now that hope was lost—dashed to pieces actually. Drystan was indeed in danger, and not even to something at least somewhat benign, like the bears-of-one-voice, haunts, or even kelpies. No, he was in the clutches of golems. Asrial’s golems. Eryn tried not to let the flicker of fear that crossed her soul also cross her face, lest the nymph be watching.
Hold on, Drystan, she prayed earnestly.
She tried to picture his face as it had looked last time they had seen each other, but for some reason, it was hazy. Had it been that long? She scanned the last few years of memory and came up shocked: yes it had.
It was three years ago, almost to the day, that she had caught sight of his roguish features as he sat, fishing on the bank of the stream outside Mindondelu. Eryn had been perched in an oak tree several yards away with her eye on a pair of doves roosting nearby. Slowly, she had drawn her bow and taken careful aim. A breath in. Thwang. Thwip. Drystan was on his feet as soon as the arrow met its mark, a split second’s time. His knife was out, held in that special three-fingered way he always held it, and his eyes shifted through the trees. They rested on her, though Eryn could have sworn she was invisible from where he was standing, and he tensed a bit. But then he looked up at the arrow that was nailed to the tree several feet above him, and he smiled.
“Come out, come out, I know where you are!” he sang, quoting one of their favorite childhood calls. He threw his knife into the moist sod at his feet and proceeded to spring effortlessly into the limbs of the tree. Eryn smiled to herself, sliding down the tree trunk, and losing sight of him for one moment. When she came around its base, he was gone. Immediately, she was on the alert, reading the intentions of his game very clearly. She crouched, spinning slowly to scan the maze of trees and carpet of underbrush. She saw nothing but a squirrel and two chickadees not far off, but no Drystan.
Suddenly, a splash. Eryn whirled around to face the stream, hearing footsteps but seeing no movement. She ducked into a clump of ferns and racked her senses for a clue to his whereabouts. There was the sound of scraping on bark not more than a few feet away. Eryn grinned with sudden realization, swept her stooped body two steps to one side and sprang, pulling her dagger from her belt, toward the source of the sound. And within a second, there they both stood, eye to eye, each with a weapon to the other’s throat.
Drystan held the arrow somewhat nonchalantly, a dead dove dangling from his other hand. “Well good morning to you too, my dear,” he said with a half-smile. Eryn felt a chill up her spine as the arrowhead grazed her sternum. “Looking for something?” he held up her kill.
Eryn held the blade of her dagger close against his neck. “Why, yes, in fact, that must be my breakfast. It’s obviously not yours with a shot that good.”
He glanced at the dove, which had been shot right through the eye, and gave a small harrumph. “I don’t know about that, but I do seem to recognize this little token as being one of yours,” the arrow dipped as he nodded toward it. Indeed, it was obviously one of Eryn’s, for she made a point to always use one red feather—from the crest of the whistling pheasant—in the making of her ammunition.