She waited but could not hear one sound.
There was no turning back now. She had to keep moving further into the woods.
If they found what she was holding, they would steal it.
She had been entrusted with it from a young age and now she had to move it.
There was no time to rethink her steps or look back at other actions she could have taken.
The knowledge that this book held had to be protected at all costs.
Before she had fled her home, she had wrapped it in a tanned cowhide and then put it inside of a cow stomach. Sewing it up as best she could, she put it inside of a small metal chest; the same chest that she had been given by her mother before she had died.
Her mother had told her to read the book when she turned 15 and then to hide it away. That there were people after the secrets in the book and it had been kept safe for over 500 years by the women of her family; her ancestors.
They were called the Guardians.
It was not until she was 18 that she had finally understood it. They were the Guardians of the Grail. Otherworldly powers and gifts had activated within her once she had read the book. The book had given extreme detail into the initiations and activations to these powers. She was able to use the powers for good and for helping people.
She understood that if in the wrong hands, the book would become a weapon of dreadful destruction.
Although she was 25 now, she had not shown the book to anyone. She had kept it hidden since she was 19. But somehow someone had found out.
The wind had whispered to her that they were coming for it. Or maybe it was her ancestors, the other dead guardians warning her.
The book had to be put into a safe place while she ran. She would come back for it at a later date but there was no time now.
As the wind howled through the trees and the snow became deeper, she knew that she would have to make a decision soon. Burying it would cause it to be exposed when the snow melted, and digging in the snow at this precise moment would not be easy to hide.
There was nothing else she could do.
The wind was biting at her face and her skin. Her hair whipped against her and it felt as if an angry spirit was blowing her body forcefully about the snow.
Looking behind her, she could see that her tracks were covered by the wrathful wind and said a quick thank you.
Continuing her forward march, she heard a distant shout. They must have found her tracks. She jolted forward as quickly as she could go, knowing she had to reach it.
Coming into the clearing in the middle of the woods, she saw the pond. Its beautiful waters were still shining and blue despite the cold. How she loved swimming in this pond during the summer.
She held the chest in both hands and whispered, “I will come back for you. Stay safe, my friend.” She closed her eyes and said the spell out loud that would ensure no water got inside the chest.
Opening her eyes, she hurled the chest as far as she could into the pond while the wind howled and moaned. It plopped further in the depths than she had thought it would go, most likely aided by her powers.
Then she knelt down, placed her hand on top of the water, and cast another spell with the old language. The pond immediately froze below her hand and spread rapidly through the water to all sides of its shores.
A frozen pond, she thought. They would never suspect it was there.
The spell would keep it frozen for two months.
She would be back by then. Or perhaps a bit after since it would still be cold and she did not fancy a dip in icy waters to retrieve the chest.
Starting her trek back into the woods, she rapidly flanked to the other side of the pond and then disappeared into the wailing wind and snow.
The men broke through the trees on the north side of the pond a few moments later.
“It is frozen. She must have crossed it to get to the other side of the forest faster. She does not weigh much so she would not break through the ice. We must catch her before she reaches the city. Once there, she can get lost in the tunnels,” the husky voice of the leader rang out.
“We will split up and take both sides of the forest. My crew will find her trail. She cannot have gone far in this snow,” the paid tracker replied. He nodded his head to his dangerously feral men.
The winter had been slow for trackers and they were not about to miss the opportunity to triple their money by finding the girl and bringing her in alive.
Ten armed and menacing men silently spread out on either side of the pond.
It was only a matter of time, thought the leader. They would have the book and all of the power soon. The Grail would be his.