Hyd was glad that Sucat and his men had left their horses behind. If they had been mounted, Hyd and Ranee would not stand a chance to escape. They were also lucky that Ranee had agreed to wear a tunic and leggings. It turned out she was able to run for long periods without stopping unlike most women, or rather ladies, that Hyd had come across before. It was a good thing that hyd had spent time in these woods when he was a child and his father brought him here to visit his cousin. Hyd knew more about these woods than Sucat did because Sucat always prefered his comfort and would not spend too much time living rough.
Hyd took Ranee's hand and pulled her along after him. She asked no questions. She just kept running away from Sucat. Hyd pulled Ranee into a creek that was at the bottom of a ravine. They started running up stream where Hyd knew the stream went around a bend. If they could get there fast enough perhaps Sucat, Captain Kennard, Gregor and Konard would not see which way they went and they would have to slit up, increasing the odds that Hyd and Ranee would be able to escape.
Hyd and Ranee made it around the bend and stopped to take a short break, splash some water on their faces and take a couple of sips from the stream. They were both very hungry since neither had eaten now in two days plus they had not slept well during the same amount of time. They would need a place to rest and eat very soon or it would not matter where they went, they would be dead anyway.
Of course, Hyd needed to do something about his shoulder wound. He still could not believe that Sucat of all people had managed to shoot him. Hyd's shoulder throbbed with pain. The arrow head had gone all the way through the soft flesh between the shoulder and his arm socket, the arrow head sticking out through the front of his body and the feathers sticking out of his back. He would have to get Ranee to break the ends off of the arrow and pull it out so that he could have her pack and bind the wound. If it was not taken care of soon, it would get infected and he would die from that instead of lack of food or lack of sleep.
The last few days had not been the best of Hyd's life. He was not sure how they had gotten so messy. Actually that was not true. He knew where his problems came from. His cousin was greedy and wanted everything and it did not matter to him how he got what he wanted. Hyd should have let him die when they were children and then he would not be here now and he could have saved Ranee her troubles too.
Hyd and Sucat were close in age, they were cousins, the last of their lines, so their fathers thought they should spend time together even though their fathers, first cousins, could not stand each other themselves, but nobility had certain obligations. Every three months or so they would visit each other rotating which estate they would be at. The visits usually involved Hyd protecting others from Sucat's cruelty. Sucat always played the high and mighty, punishing some one for some imagined slight. When Sucat came to visit Stahlheim, he spent allot of time taking his frustrations out on Eadward because Hyd and Hyd's father Allan loved Eadward as did every one who came in contact with him.
Once when Hyd and Sucat were twelve, Sucat and his father had come for a visit for five days in the summer. Stahlheim always had particularly good hunting on the grounds. Hyd, Eadward, John and Stephan were told by Hyd's father Allan to take Sucat with them went they went hunting. The boys did not want to take Sucat because he complained all of the time about how uncomfortable he was and he always talked about how bad things were at Stahlheim compared to his own home. Also he could not hunt. He could not shoot an arrow straight. He even shot his own trainer once. Usually he just dropped the arrow a few feet in front of himself because he could not draw the bow back far enough.
The boys reluctantly set out on their hunting trip. The weather was fine as it usually was in June so it was not long before they were all in good moods despite having Sucat along. They just ignored him, which made him really mad, so he became even more obnoxious. He decided to focus all of his hate and bad behavior on Eadward, who was the youngest of the group at ten years of age, but also the one who was always in a good mood, laughing and telling funny stories. Eadward was also the best rider and the best shot in the group. He had a natural talent when it came to any kind of physical endeavor and Sucat hated him for that and the fact that Allan had acknowledged Eadward as his son and Allan allowed Eadward and his mother to live in his house as full fledged family. Sucat also could not stand the fact that Hyd did not hate Eadward for sharing his father's love.
Sucat denigrated the clothes Eadward wore even though they were the same clothes Hyd wore. He told Eadward he was not a real son and could never inherit and that when Allan died Hyd would throw Eadward and his mother, Maryn, out of his house. He spent so much time and energy trying to upset Eadward that he was not controlling his horse properly. He moved in a way that upset the horse and it got out of his control and took off into the woods at a rapid pace, breaking through branches, the last of which knocked Sucat in the head and unhorsing him.
Sucat laid on the ground, unconscious and breathing shallowly. The boys, being young and wrapped up in the great dislike of Sucat, were very tempted to leave him, hoping he would die but of course, Hyd, the conscience of them all, had Stephan get Sucat's horse, then they loaded Sucat on the horse's back and took him home. The damage was not as great as they had at first thought and once he regained consciousness Sucat tried to blame his fall on Eadward saying Eadward had prodded Sucat's horse but since that was not true the others were witnesses to what really happened and told everyone it was because Sucat could not control his horse.
That was the year when the visits between the cousins became fewer and shorter and Sucat's father, Franck, insisted that Eadward not be allowed around his son, which was fine with everyone. Hyd did his duty on the visits, spending time with Sucat alone so his brother and his friends did not have to put up with Sucat's bad behavior.
That was the first time Hyd wished that he could not always do the right thing but his father had taught him that as difficult as it seemed to make things, doing the right thing really was the best choice. Hyd had to go by what his father had taught him. Even though Allan had tragedy in his life like the loss of his beloved wife and not being able to marry the second woman he found to love, he had died a very happy man, with two fine sons that he was very proud of, so Hyd always did his best to do what his father would do.
Because to his father's teaching, Hyd believed that even this situation would work out some how for the best but in order for that to happen he had to keep moving and find a way to hide and regroup with the others.
Ranee, as well as she had done on their escape, was looking very tired. She tried to keep up but she would not be able to hold out much longer. Hyd could not believe how she had helped him take out the huntsman and his dog when they were attacked in the clearing. Heinric, the huntsman, had sent the dog after Hyd first. Hyd was wrestling with the killer animal when Ranee grabbed the dog by its crest, pulling back its neck so Hyd was able to cut its throat. Heinric screamed in anger and pain and pulled Ranee off of the dog and punched her in the face, trying to attack her further. Hyd pushed the dead dog off of himself and rose to get Heinric off of Ranee. The fought but it did not take Hyd long to stab Heinric and kill him. That is when Sucat, Captain Kennard, Gregor and Konard entered the clearing and Sucat got off his lucky shot.
Hyd stumbled in the creek, encouraging Ranee to move on. Hyd knew there was an escape route not far away if only they could get to it before Sucat and his men caught up to them. Hyd needed to pay attention and concentrate just a little while longer. He stumbled again, this time from exhaustion and pain and hunger and desperation. He was not sure if he could keep going. He struggled to rise, looking up to see where Ranee was. She had turned when he had fallen this second time. She looked at him with such sadness and resignation that it almost broke his heart. She smiled, a cute little dimple showing in her right cheek. He noticed she had bright green eyes. He never really had a chance to look at her before.
Amazingly, they had never met before. Her father, the Margrave, had kept her hidden well, saving her for some profitable sale. Hyd did not think the Margrave would find he had made a good deal this time. Hyd was sure Sucat would have some surprises for his father-in-law that the Margrave would not like.
Ranee sat down in the water facing Hyd. He sat down in the water too. Ranee splashed water up on her head, hung her head briefly, than lay back in to the water. Hyd stared at her wondering if she had finally given up, but she sat back up, her long hair the color of mink wet and tangled all around her. She pulled it all together and threw the twisted chord of hair over her shoulder. She looked at Hyd, her bruised left eye crinkling up and she laughed, one bark of hysteria escaping her lips. She covered her mouth then burst out laughing in earnest. Hyd could not help joining in. He fell over backwards into the water splashing until he was completely wet.
"We did pretty could together," said Hyd.
Ranee nodded and sighed.
"This is all my fault," said Ranee. "If I had just accepted my duty and obeyed my father, none of this would have happened."
"This was not your fault. You should not have been forced to marry Sucat. You were right to try to get away. This was your father's fault and Sucat's fault. They are in the wrong, not you, not me."
Ranee shook her head, her shoulders slumping.
Hyd took a deep breath.
"This is not over," he said.
"You two are caught."