Only a fool rides a horse into the night. For this woman, I am that fool.
— Kadem Gasinar-Mordan
Linsan tried to find a comfortable position on a heavy canvas bag. The fragrant perfume from the contents rose up around her with every shift of her body. She wasn’t entirely sure what was inside the bag, only that Maril said it was a dried vegetables medley used for soups. Occasionally, when she found a new position, she got hints of onions and garlic.
She squirmed for a moment and then tried to convince herself to sleep. Every time she closed her eyes, though, her thoughts began to spiral into despair as she thought about how far ahead her quarry was.
With a groan, Linsan rolled over and tried to find a new position to sleep. She tried pushing the contents of the bag around to adjust but the bag remained an uncomfortable lump digging into some part of her body.
On the other side of the wagon, Maril let out a loud snore. She had three blankets on top of her and another two wrapped around her feet. One hand was wrapped around a short knife and the other on a metal bar.
Linsan sighed miserably. It was near midnight but she couldn’t go anywhere with Maril sleeping. No matter what she did, the wagon wasn’t moving until morning.
Every hour the older woman slept was one more hour that the murderers got ahead. Every minute Linsan wasn’t rushing forward, they were going ten times as fast. In their car, they could easily travel a hundred leagues in a day where she could only do a dozen. The wagon wasn’t much better, even with the increased comfort.
Nothing would let her catch up.
Tears threatened to rise up. She fought them, not willing to break down.
With her throat dry and her chest aching, she looked around for any comfort. Spotting her case, she reached down and picked it up. The leather scraped against one of the bags. Pulling it into her lap, she wrapped her legs around the base and pressed the head against her belly.
She bowed her head. Taking a deep breath, she let the smells of wood stain, dust, and oils fill her lungs. The comforting smells of an old instrument pushed back the growing despair.
Tightening her grip, she rocked back and forth.
Why wasn’t she giving up? Why couldn’t she just turn around and head home? She knew her parents would understand. No one would blame her when she walked back into the house.
Linsan let out a long, shuddering breath.
She would know that she had given up.
After so many years steeping in the history of her family, so many visits to the ruins of the workshop, all the music, playing, and seeing her family being worn down, she couldn’t give up.
She pressed her lips against the violin case. “I can’t,” she whispered. “I can’t. Even if it takes me years, I can’t give up on you.”
She wasn’t sure if she was talking to her mother, father, or both. Her thoughts were too confused. For all she knew, she was calling out to Palisis or Duncan’s spirit.
Wrapping tighter around the case, she closed her eyes tightly. “I can do this, right?”
No answer came.
She gulped and took a deep breath. “I can do this,” she whispered. Her voice cracked as she realized she was lying to herself.
“I can do this, right?”
“I can do this.”
Her chest ached. She wanted to burst into tears.