5. Sorry

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Footsteps approached, loud and purposeful, and a man appeared from behind a tree.

Dressed in similar garb to Wolfe, he removed a mask covering the lower half of his face. His skin was pale, with piercing blue eyes that made his complexion almost translucent. In the sunlight and snow, it appeared to sparkle. He smirked, stepping towards Wolfe.

"You found the healer I see."

Wolfe relaxed his guard, offering a slight bow. "Yes, your highness."

Highness?His eyes travelled over her, indifferent but calculating and she shivered. There was a coldness to him that felt sharper than the air she breathed. Nothing in his demeanor caused her to shiver, but his mere presence had her skin prickled and even Wolfe's cloak wasn't keeping the coldness at bay.

Holding out his hand, she stared at it awkwardly, wondering if she had to kiss it because he was royalty, or he just wanted a handshake. Hoping it was the latter she took his hand gingerly and nearly gasped out loud. Where Wolfe's skin was warm and comforting, this man's skin was like a burning frost.

"We have waited a long time for your arrival..."

"Elspeth." He released her hand and she tried to mask her relief, her fingers stinging form the cold. "But most people just call me Elle."

"Elle it is then. I am Tristan, High Prince of the Winter Court." Sweeping his arm out, he motioned for her to walk with him and she cautiously stepped beside him, glancing over her shoulder. Wolfe followed, a few feet away and she saw his expression had turned blank. Seeing her curious gaze however, he offered her an encouraging smile and motioned for her to continue.

"I am sure Wolfe has informed you of our current situation." Tristan stated.

"Yeah, he did," she glanced back again. "I'm sorry about your mother."

The Prince's expression faltered, causing the wind to blow bitterly and she wrapped Wolfe's cloak closer. "Thank you for your concern. It pains me that I am unable to reach her and ease her suffering. Though harsh, my mother loved her land and her people. If she knew of the suffering the poison was causing it would break her heart."

He spoke earnestly, the wind blowing more sharply and she shivered. Tristan noticed her discomfort. "Apologies, Elle. My emotions affect the world around me. I had yet to master the extent of the powers I will inherit before the curse occurred. I don't often realize I am causing discomfort to others."

"It's okay, your highness. I 'd be pretty frosty too if someone messed with my family like that."

They reached a small stream, frozen over. Four horses as white as the snow beneath their feet stood waiting. Two horses were occupied by soldiers, who sat taller in their seats as the Prince approached. The other two stood silently, ears flicking as they drew closer.

Tristan swung up onto the closest one. Elle bit her lip. She'd never ridden a horse before. Before she could figure out what she was meant to do, hands grabbed her waist and lifted her onto the empty horse. Wolfe swung up behind her, arms reaching around her to grab the reins.

"We should reach the outpost by twilight," Tristan informed her. "Let's move out."

They fell into formation; the two soldiers positioned themselves at the front and end of the line, with Tristan second and Wolfe and Elle third. Rather than walk on the snow, the horses stepped onto the frozen river and started walking upstream.

Tristan spoke with the soldier in front about the path ahead, the horses' hooves chinking against the ice in a broken rhythm.

Elle's thighs tightened in panic. "Won't they slip on the ice?" she whispered frantically to Wolfe.

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