Night had fallen again upon the world, and Siska was far away from where she had thought to be. The city of her birth had been left far behind—and along with it everything that had given her life meaning and value—but she knew that she had done the right thing. The forces that had sought to end an innocent life had been sent by the great darkness, and she would not give in to their wickedness.
Now that she had escaped the clutches of those who would see the young man with her dead, however, there was the more pressing question: how would they survive now that they were out in the middle of the wilderness?
After that first treacherous climb down the plateau, she had made her way swiftly through the country. She was not ignorant of the ways of the wild, and she was fortunate that this was the time of the year when the peaches and other fruits were in harvest. Of course, she had been almost attacked by several dogs, and she had heard a lion coughing in the distance, but so far she had been safe.
She wasn’t at all sure how much longer that was going to last.
After all, she had come quite a way south, into the Gashastan region, and all she had to go by was her knowledge that the boy’s grandfather lived somewhere in the mountains. She didn’t know where, exactly, but she held firm to a faith that somehow she would find a way to get there. She knew that Ormazdh would not have put this child into her path unless he intended her to be able to save him.
The mountains frowned down at them, but there was even more menacing presence. It was no secret that the mountains of Pishapur were the haunt of all manner of strange beasts: gryphons and manticores, sphinxes and other creatures that lingered on the border between human and animal.
What’s more, she could feel the chill desert night air creeping into her bones, and she knew that if she had to spend more than a few nights in this place she would almost certainly perish. She had only managed to gather the barest necessities from her foraging, and she had to pray that it would be enough to see them to the boy’s grandfather’s house.
If not, she very much feared that all of her sacrifice would be for nothing. Both she and the boy would die, and no one would be any the wiser.
With a grimace, she pushed such thoughts aside. She had not risked everything she held dear to give in to this type of fatalism.
Hitching the child higher on her shoulders, she started her trek into the mountains.