Across the vast plains they rode, looking for a place they could halt, if only for a few hours. They needed a chance to get their breath back, a chance to look behind to see if the others were there, still, behind them. They had ridden for a long time, day after day, across the land that was empty of any human homes or habitation.
At first, she had glared at him, fought him in every way she could. She knew her people were behind them, maybe even catching up. So every delay she caused, every minute she wasted, would bring her tribesmen closer.
He, though, knew how to ride. He knew how to put distance between him and their pursuers. He worked on the assumption that the pursuers did not know who he was, where he was going or why he had taken her.
All the tribespeople knew was that their Princess, the daughter of their leader, had gone. She’d been stolen from them before she could be auctioned to another tribe, the one that could offer the most for her at the Gathering in two moon’s time.
He turned in his saddle and laughed when he saw the pursuers were far behind. He waited up on the ridge as his horse got its breath back. He watched the dust cloud heading off to the east while he and the Princess sat here on a hillside to the south.
He grinned at the Princess.
She snorted and looked back in despair at the way he had fooled her tribespeople. They prided themselves on their ability to track and to hunt.
She faced him. ‘When they catch you they will cut your cock off.’
He smiled and pointed to where her tribespeople were galloping off the wrong way. ‘They will not catch me.’
‘Then I will cut your cock off… one day. Cut it off and eat it in front of you, as you die.’ She spat on the ground between them.
‘No.’ He took the reins of her mount in his hand as he turned both horses towards the south. They started down the other side of the hill, as the dust cloud of their pursuers was lost from sight.
‘What do you mean by that?’ She was used to having her questions answered. She was a Princess, destined to be a Queen, Queen to a wealthy leader of a powerful tribe.
He did not answer for a few minutes, just sat watching her fume as they rode.
‘You will not cut my cock off,’ he said eventually, ‘because, in another day or two, I will have sold you and moved on. By the time you get anywhere near a knife sharp enough, I will be several days away and already looking for another Princess to sell.’