NO ONE SAID MUCH for the remainder of their journey. Everyone seemed lost in their own thoughts. As for Carling, her heart felt heavy. Working their way through the Forest of Rumors was, thankfully, uneventful. Carling barely noticed a coven of crows as they swirled and played in a deep snow drift, sending puffs of flakes, no heavier than a cloud, into the air. For once, the sinister trees and bushes kept their distance, though Carling knew the gnarly plants were aware of their presence. She sensed them watching her, and she saw how they drew back when she approached. The scent of shadowy pines surrounded her while dark thoughts filled her mind. She worried about the Duende in the village of Duenton. Were they safe? She thought about the Minsheen herd. Were they prepared for a war? Would they even be willing to fight for her? Dare she ask them? And Vidente. He said he would help her. What form would that help take?
She looked over at Higson and Tandum from where she sat on Tibbals’s back. Her eyes stung, and her throat tightened. Silently she let the tears escape her eyes and flow down her cheeks. As they moved through the forest, drawing ever closer to the city of Minsheen with each hoof fall, Carling continued to mull over the situation. By the time they left the Forest of Rumors, a seed of an idea had sprouted inside Carling’s head.
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