Editor's Note: If you have not yet read the previous chapters to this story, please go to the Fantasy Archive and read those, first. Thank you, TDS.
Barker led them away from the dead soldier’s camp and continued to head north. As they moved father away from the Green River, the forest became more dense and occasional streams and tributaries which would eventually flow into the large river were crossed. Every now and again Barker would turn into one of these rivulets and they would travel upstream for some time, to help throw off any possible pursuit. The day soon became overcast and a cold wind whistled through the trees as rain once again threatened.
Isabelle was quiet—almost withdrawn—as her thoughts returned to the confrontation with the soldier she had killed. She was not especially bothered by the fact that she had killed the man, as the need to kill enemies was simply a fact of life, but rather by the now definitive knowledge that there were those out there who sought to harm her; to possibly even see her dead. At first she was somewhat saddened by this knowledge. During all of her young life Isabelle assumed that the people of the Westerlands admired and perhaps even loved her father, and likewise wished no harm to come to either him or the rest of the royal family. Now, in the short span of a few days her father was slain, her mother was missing and she herself was the object of a hunt by someone who would apparently not be adverse to see her also dead. Isabelle’s initial sadness over the situation slowly grew into a sense of anger at those responsible for the attacks—not only upon her family, but against the people of the Westerlands. For whoever was behind the invasion of her land and the death of her father also obviously intended to do some harm to the population of the Westerlands. And this possibility—that her people might lose their freedom if she were actually killed and someone else took over leadership of this land—angered her more than even her father’s death or the attempts on her own life. Isabelle fingered the hilt of her new dagger and decided she would always keep this weapon close to her as a reminder of what may befall those who are not constantly vigilant.
Bruce was still concerned about what Isabelle experienced while they were battling with the soldiers, but knew better than to press the young queen about what happened to her in the woods. On the other hand, Humphrey noticed the blood on her hands when she and Bruce returned with the horses and he also immediately spied the new dagger which hung from her belt. Since the missing soldier from the scouting party was never accounted for, Humphrey was able to fill in the missing pieces of the puzzle and realized that Isabelle had somehow run into this soldier, and since her old dagger was missing and she now sported a new one, he knew she must have killed him. He did not question her about it, however, but felt she would bring the subject up when she was ready to do so. All he did was offer her a grim smile and a slight nod of encouragement when see finally met his eyes, to let her know he was aware of what had transpired. Humphrey was furious with himself, however, for allowing Isabelle to be placed in a position which endangered her life to that extent, and vowed to never leave her alone again until she safely sat upon the throne of her forefathers.