“Yes, yes.” Kernow said to the crow impatiently circling above his head. He clicked his tongue and urged Thaede, his horse, onward. The forest was dense here, old and unfriendly. Bare trees loomed dark against the silvery grey sky, everything in shades of black or white. No green to mark the coming of spring and nothing moved.
The only sounds came from the horse and rider, the metal bit of the bridle, the creaking of leather from the saddle, and the sound of a crow, its cries echoing through the woods without end. No one came here as a rule but today something, someone that did not belong had found their way into this forbidden, lost and long forgotten place.

Kernow stared at the pathway which led to the river, down the hill, steep and difficult for a horse, even the most sure footed. Stones and wet leaves from last autumn’s shed made the path slippery and treacherous. Dirty snow half eaten from the most recent thaw clung to the ground. He had to duck his head to avoid the branches of the trees that seemed intent of poking out an eye or snagging his hair, almost as if the forest did not want him here, did not want him to find its latest prize or victim.

“Behave.” He whispered to the woods, but the whispers did nothing except echo about him, not even the trees listened to him any longer. Thaede skidded on wet stones and shied, expressing his displeasure. Kernow nudged his knee into the horse’s side, urging him onward, they were almost there.

She was by the river, lying face down, her clothes soaked with water and blood. Kernow sighed as he dismounted, sliding gracefully from the saddle, his heavy black boots sinking into the muck and dirty snow with a sick squelch. The horse tossed his beautiful head and snorted loudly, white mist of his breath floating in the cold, early spring air. Kernow patted the animal’s neck, whispering words to ease the fear. The last thing they needed here was a mortal, especially a dead mortal.

He knelt down by her side, the wet and cold of the ground soaking through the cloth of his breeches to his knees. His hands grazed over her body, she had been terribly wounded and he wondered if that had been what had killed her. She had been a pretty young thing, unusually so, her black hair, long and spider silk fine, must have once been beautiful but was now matted with mud and blood. Her hands were covered in cuts and scraped and her nails were broken and bloody. She had fought something hard but hadn’t won. The crow that had led him to her landed near and hopped about her in agitation.

Kernow looked at the bird with a flicker of annoyance. “Be still Tadwyr!” he commanded. The crow bobbed its head and stepped away from the body of the girl making soft gurgling sounds.

Kernow stroked some of her hair away from her face, and carefully turning her about and cradling her shoulders in his arms he began to lift her but almost dropped her in surprise when she moaned softly in pain. Kernow looked at Tadwyr, suddenly angry.

“She lives!” he hissed, taking off his full, frocked coat and wrapping it about her frozen body. The crow cawed back at him loudly.

Kernow shook his head, “Impudent bird, you did not say she lived.”

Tadwyr flapped his wings in annoyance and hopped away, sulking. Kernow lifted the girl as gently as he could up onto the Thaede’s back, and mounted behind her holding on to her with one arm wrapped about her waist.

“Home.” He said and the great black horse turned back the way they had come, his sure footed hooves fringed with long hair found the treacherous path hidden in the snow and mud.

“Tadwyr!” called Kernow. The crow flew to the man’s shoulder and settled there. Kernow whispered instructions in the bird’s ear, repeating them until Tadwyr nipped Kernow’s ear to let him know the instructions were understood. “Go then.” Kernow said and the bird flew up, a flurry of black feathers into the wintery sky. “Do not deviate!” He called out.

He was not sure how much longer this young woman would live and while his powers were great he did not have the skills needed to heal such hurts. He was grateful it was not far to the House.
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