This is the Prologue to Weave of Love, set sometime before Strand of Faith (as you'll work out when you read it!).
This part of the ride was pleasant enough. He was on their own land, the afternoon sun was warm despite the time of year, and, although the route was narrow and twisted, his horse was surefooted and he could relax, riding with a loose rein. His thoughts, as always when he rode this way, were of his brother. They had been together since the womb, sharing everything, rarely apart for more than a few hours. Their sudden and total separation still tore at him like an open wound, unable to heal. How many times had he ridden this route now, since the first time he’d come alone, to grieve, the loss fresh in his soul?
His destination on that day, all those years ago, had been the rock formation on the very boundary of their lands. It had been a special place to the pair of them, him and his brother, a secret place, somewhere they’d come to escape, to adventure, to explore. Somewhere they’d toyed with challenge, excitement and danger. It had been the natural place for him to try to make sense of his loss.
Years ago, she’d been there too. Grieving like he was, and hoping in a way that he couldn’t, caught in uncertainty. They had met there again over the next months. Not often, for it wasn’t easy for either of them to get away unnoticed and the consequences of being followed were unthinkable. And then, once, she hadn’t been there. It had become much harder for her, in her condition and she was near her time so he hadn’t been altogether surprised.
Still he’d gone back again as they’d agreed, knowing that this could happen. He’d seen a figure moving near the rocks and his heart had leapt with anticipation. He’d thought it was her, cloaked and hooded, until the figure had heard his arrival and turned towards him, pushing back her hood. Then he’d seen the loss and sadness in her eyes and known the girl he had expected to meet was dead. He’d slid from his horse and sunk to the ground, burying his head in his hands at this fresh loss.
The girl had waited until he was ready to look up. She was sitting with her back to a rock, hunched over, as though she was sheltering something in her arms. It looked like a bundle of clothes, rags even, and then it made a small sound.
“The child?” he asked hoarsely, barely able to breathe with the additional grief she’d brought him.
“Show me!” he commanded.
Why, he didn’t know. What interest could he have in this bastard?