Fierce wind whipped us as we plunged through the storm. The blood on my coat was frozen. The arm around me never loosened its grip. The run of the horse was not smooth, but jarring and I felt sick. Only the sting of wind and ice kept me in the moment. I could hear the cries of the tormented horse, crying from it’s mind to mine, asking me to please, please let it rest. I tried to answer it, to tell it that all would be well, but I did not know how without the man hearing me too. And so I sat in silence.
At last the man slowed the poor beast, and though the wind still thrashed around us, the snow lightened, and far above the clouds were starting to drift apart. I threw up, covering the man’s arm, my front, and the horse’s neck. The man swore and pulled the horse to a stop. He pushed me to the ground and for a moment I felt the sickening sensation of snakes in my stomach and then hit the ground, air whooshing out of me. I rolled as he dismounted. He shook the sick off of his arm and glared at me. Anger rolled off of him. I scrambled away backwards, fearing his rage. He snatched me and told me that I was not to try to run away, because if I did then I would die. I wondered: would he kill me or the storm? I did not ask it though.
He wiped down the horse, who was effusing gratitude for the rest and little weight on her back, and then he turned to me. He told me I should try to clean myself with the snow because he wasn’t going to do it for me. I scrambled to obey and as I did, I watched him from the corner of my eye. I did not like the look of him. He was graceful in the way a hunting cat i graceful – watchful, lithe, and ready to strike. I knew he was a killer, and I knew he’d taken me – for what purpose I could not fathom, but he had not hurt me. He had pushed me off the horse though, and that made me just as wary as as that he’d killed. And he was big, so much bigger than Auntie, bigger than Shuri, Naha, and Abrisin.
When I was as clean as I could make myself, he lifted me back onto the horse and we were off again, but this time it was a steady trot instead of an all-out gallop. I was grateful for that, and did not feel sick that time. It had been a long time since I’d slept, and I started nodding off, only to be jarred awake each time by my falling head. I shook myself and sat up straighter. I did not want to fall asleep in the man’s grasp, if for no other reason than my fear that he would push me from the horse to wake me. He was not a gentle soul.
Eventually the night was clear, though still windy, and the moonlight shone down on us. I did not recognize the landscape, and felt sick for home. We stopped by a road shelter – three walls and roof with a dirt floor that had been sheltered from the snow. The man dismounted and took me with him. The horse joined us in the shelter and the man gave us both food – some sort of meal for the horse and bread with dry cheese for me. He ate as well, eyes never leaving me.
I asked him what his name us. He told me that I could call him Soliri, but I didn’t believe that that was his real name. I asked him what he had taken me for, and he said I was a Whisper, and people bought Whispers. Then he told me to be quiet, and go to sleep, because he was tired and if he was tired then so must I be.
I watched him lay down, no pillow or blanket, thoughts whirling in my head. I had been called a Whisper before, and it was time I learned what it meant.