Micheál went as fast as he could but the road was rough and full of potholes and he had to decide whether speed or gentleness was his best method.

He would stop every now and then to check on Inanna and try to give her some water. He would hold her gently, tilting her head and opening her mouth just enough to get a little in.

When she managed a cough he was elated.

She was alive and conscious, finally.

He had no idea how much damage Beircheart had caused in that short amount of time.

Physical damage was one thing, emotional damage another. He was certain Inanna would carry the scars of this abuse for the rest of her life, perhaps even lifetimes from now.

He travelled a long way that day but was determined to make it to the next village.

He lit a small oil lamp that he strung up on an old branch tied to his seat so he could at least see the path a few feet in front of him.

His speed was severely hampered in the dark and he was getting frustrated, but he took some comfort in the fact he knew Beircheart would not be following behind.

He reached the next village a few hours after dark. He himself was tired and hungry.

The villagers made their way out to greet him.

Micheál jumped off the seat, sore, his body painful and aching, the adrenalin from this morning well and truly worn off.

Fergus jumped onto the back of the tray, careful of his every move. He looked at Inanna gravely.

He took her in his arms, she was the weight of a small child. Her features barely noticeable, her face covered in yellowing bruises and scars. Even if she wanted to open her eyes he feared she couldn’t, the swelling keeping them glued shut for now.

Ailis had a bed made by the fire and was determined to look after this young lady all through the night if she had to.

She was an old friend of Micháel’s and would do anything for him – she knew this girl was important to him, she didn’t need any clarification on that.

She laid her out and decided it was too risky to bathe her now. Her body was weak and would take a long time to recover.

As Fergus and Micheál ate their broth and downed a well-deserved ale, Ailis would tend to Inanna.

She sat close by her all night, keeping her warm, and patting her forehead when the sweat would appear.

She was running a high fever now and this worried Ailis.

Perhaps it would be better to keep her here for the next few days, instead of taking her from one extreme temperature to the other, but it was agreed at first light, getting her to the healer was far more important.