Sacred Mountain

Chapter 4: On The Road

‘I spy with my little eye something beginning with S.’

The carriage bumped along, each jolt worsening Annifer’s already sour mood. Outside the window a blizzard raged, obscuring everything with thick white flakes. The princess scowled and pulled the cloak tighter round her shivering body.

‘Oh let me see . . .’ Annifer said through gritted teeth. She couldn’t keep the sarcasm out of her tone. ‘Is it the seaside?’

‘Nope!’ Poppy grinned an I-know-you-don’t-know grin and gave her head an exaggerated shake.

‘What about sunshine? Is it sunshine?’

‘Wrong again!’

‘Maybe it’s songbirds? Songbirds twittering merrily in the blossoming apple trees?’

‘No, no, no! You’ll never get it. It’s snow, Silly! I mean, Princess.’

Annifer groaned and let her head fall against the window. They’d been on the road for three days now and Poppy’s relentless attempts to keep her cheerful were beginning to grate.

‘Okay, let’s play another one. I’ll start. I went to market and bought an apple.’ Experience had taught Annifer to play along, otherwise any silences would be filled with Poppy’s forlorn attempts to persuade her that her new life in Crosstain would be anything other than horrible.

‘I went to market and bought an apple and a bludgeon.’

‘Oh, that’s a good one,’ Poppy enthused. ‘I went to market and bought an apple, a bludgeon and a cauliflower.’

‘I went to market and bought and apple, a bludgeon, a cauliflower and a dagger.’

The carriage jolted, pitched forwards and came to an abrupt stop, throwing Poppy into Annifer’s lap. Moments later a mop of blond hair beneath a snow covered hood appeared at their window.

‘What’s happened, Petros?’ Poppy asked their driver.

‘The carriage wheels keep getting stuck in the snow and our Frailing horses aren’t used to this weather. We’ll need to stop at the next waystation and see if we can swap the carriage for a sled. The sign says there’s a station a mile ahead. I suggest we stop there for the night and start up again in the morning.

‘Great idea,’ Annifer replied. ‘You look frozen. Get inside, I’ll drive us the rest of the way.’

Petros barely protested as Annifer jumped out and landed knee deep in snow, happy to escape any further word game torture.

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