They’d stayed in the forest for a long time after.
Probably longer than they should have, perhaps longer than was safe. But they’d had to. Eirwen had not realised just how severely her sister had been injured in the skirmish against yet another group of attackers earlier that night. Looking at her sister then, Eirwen knew that Rhosyn hadn’t realised either, but yet Eirwen felt such a great guilt for not having seen it, for having forced her twin to keep going. For having gotten her to run for their lives.
Her sister. Someone more dear to her than anyone else in the world, and Eirwen used her as a focus. A grounding, to stop her from drifting away into the pain of loss. To distract her from even thinking about what had just happened. Rhosyn could take all the time she needed to be ready again, to be as right as she could again, and all the while Eirwen had held her as she rested on the forest floor that had once been their frequent bed in their childhood. In those golden days when everything had been fine.
Eirwen whispered to her, small comforts she wouldn’t hear, and ran her trembling fingers through Rhosyn’s golden hair over and over again. And she waited, waited there until her sister was strong enough to get up and move again.
Even then, they couldn’t manage to go far, Eirwen had only had to take one look at her sister to realise that. So helping her every step of the way, they made their way back into the nearest village, Eirwen using their destination, their sequential goals to distract from the numbness that had settled into her heart, the dried tears which so easily would be pulled from her eyes again.
She knew her sister, she knew Rhos better than she knew anyone. She knew that she would be, at least in part, blaming herself for what happened. If only they had not been so slow getting to the forest, if only they had not had to stop to tend to her injuries, if only, if only. Eirwen cared little for those thoughts, they had been lucky to get away with their lives and their freedom from those two drunken gentlemen in the tavern they’d stayed at last night, which felt an entire lifetime ago now. No one was to blame for this, no one but the traders who had taken away yet another part of their family.
It wouldn’t happen again, that Eirwen was sure of. They would never split them up, Eir would never let them.
So it was that the two Hatton daughters found their way into an inn in the forest’s neighbouring village. Knowing that they would stay here only as long as it took for Rhosyn to recover enough strength to allow a longer journey. Who knew to where now, originally they were to head through the forest into a small town that lay at its other side, and continue from there.
But Elyan was no longer with them now. And Eirwen’s heart hurt at the thought of having to see that forest again, to pass by where he had been taken. She wished to hunt him down, to hunt those traders down. To free him again and slit that vile man’s throat for real this time. But she couldn’t, not yet, not without having any clue even what direction the traders had left in.
For now they were stranded. As lost as Eirwen refused to acknowledge she was.
Focus on the here and now. Focus on Rhosyn. It ran like a mantra through her head, and so it came that there was still strength in the encouraging smile she gave her twin across the tavern table, as she tried her best to get her sister to eat. Forcing food down her own throat despite feeling like she was imminently going to be sick.
Eirwen is closely studying her sister’s face, and so sees the sudden and slight surprise in her features. What was it? She almost whispered it across the table when a word from another table and another conversation gives her the answer she sought. And immediately didn’t want.
Her eyes flutter closed for a second before opening again. Not again, this couldn’t happen again. They couldn’t take another sprint, another fight, not today and not without rest. Rhosyn certainly couldn’t and there was no way Eirwen was leaving her alone here. If they went down, they’d go together.
Both twins train their ears to the conversation, eavesdropping to hear their family name spoken again in hushed words. Eirwen risks a glance over. Three people; two men and one woman. She moves her gaze before it becomes obvious, focusing her eyes on Rhosyn again. Slowly moving a hand under the table to find on of hers. A slight smile. “It can’t be us, they don’t know who we are.” If they had known who the two blonde girls sat beside them were, Eirwen very much doubted that either party would still be sat drinking and picking at food.
It couldn’t be then. Reality or a hope? Eirwen prayed it was the former. Their name was a death sentence, a bounty hanging over both their young heads. And if those people knew who they truly were, then they’d have moved already. Or else they wouldn’t be speaking of them so loudly beside them.
“It can’t be us, Cerys.” She repeats, for comfort more than anything, picking up her fork again and continuing to eat. Attempting to act natural, like her ears weren’t listening in on the conversation at the next table.