Chapter 7: Episode 27-"Through the Mountain Pass"
“I admit defeat. You win this time, Cora.” Ferron said, bound and shuffling behind the three others as the walked down the path leading from the East gate into the mountains. Ferron’s head hung low in defeat. He had not anticipated the presence of Venatrix at the gate, or seen her jump from above him from where she had been seated on the gate waiting for the group to pass. Ferron was blinded by his own success and now was as much a failure as if he’d never captured Kaylie and Cora in the first place. He fumed, his hands and arms bound by separate cords of finely woven steel under a spell from Cora. If he moved his wrists too much the cords would tighten; this made escape highly unlikely.
Ferron knew he’d been bested and could do nothing more than congratulate the better strategist, Cora. This was not the first time Ferron Errocath had said such words to Cora. She’d heard them once before on a battlefield far away. Still, that made hearing them once again no less sweet. For the great, conceited Ferron Errocath, beloved Imperial General to congratulate an opposing general on a victory was high praise, as there was just enough humility in the man to make such a statement once. Cora was nearly dumbfounded that she’d heard it twice. How special she must be. The Imperial General’s own special nemesis: Cora liked the sound of that. The war was back on, and she lived for this.
“How far until we reach allied lines, V?” Cora turned from the head of the group, Kaylie clinging hard to her mother’s wrist, and looked past Ferron’s drudging feet to see Venatrix a short distance behind the prisoner keeping watch over their flank.
“Hard to say exact.” Venatrix called up to the leader of the troop of four. The huntress looked around carefully for prying eyes before continuing her thought. “There’s friendlies nearby and neutral territories along the route to Lumeria… But I’m not to bring you to Lumeria. Our path lies along a more treacherous strait. We’ll have to keep sharp eyes on this one.” Venatrix pointed at Ferron.
“Yours are the sharpest eyes in the war.” Cora complimented, turning about to focus on the path.
“Maybe need to gag him as well. Wouldn’t do for him to try and yell for help.” Venatrix warned from the back of the pack.
“He won’t yell for help.” Cora said confidently, halting the march and turning to look Ferron in his deep brown eyes. It almost seemed like a special moment for an instant, but Cora looked away before Ferron had the chance to delve into her soul. “He’s far too prideful to stoop to that kind of humiliation.”
Ferron hated that Cora had figured him out so quickly. He would try to escape himself, break free and prove dominance over his captors, but he would never yell for help: as if he needed to be saved. Ferron Errocath would die before admitting weakness and being humiliated in front of his men and enemies.
“You’ll behave yourself. Right, general?” Cora playfully mocked the shamed general. The tables had turned and Ferron growled in frustration, he hated being bested by a woman. That burned him more than the steely cords biting his wrists.
“So, you intend to, what? Hand me over to that pathetic weakling Elias as a prisoner of war?” Ferron scoffed at the thought. “Elias, who sold you out for another woman no less.” That last remark cut Cora deep. She bit her lip to keep from lashing back, tension suddenly grew as Ferron had touched on a subject not many people knew about. What happened between Cora and Elias was painful for her, but until know she thought only the two of them knew anything about it. Cora said nothing. Her silence was more telling than words ever could be.
“Then it is true.” Ferron’s eyes lit up. He had found his point of leverage: the weakness in the impenetrable armor of Cora Savoor. “I had heard rumors that there was something between the two of you, but-”
“There was nothing between us!” Cora snapped back, cutting Ferron off. The Imperial General smiled.
“I seem to have hit a nerve.” Ferron mused. “I apologize.” He said courteously plotting away the perfect way to exploit this in the future. He may have just found his upper hand. It was interesting to see such a cold general, a leader of men like Cora was, be weak and defensive at the mention of this one. There was something between the two of them; as the stories tell it, Elias and Cora were an item before he took the position of Leader of the Revolution. Evidently things had not worked out between Cora and Elias. The man’s heart lay with another woman, that must’ve burned Cora.
To be with a man and desirous of him, yet to know his heart was with another whom he could not have… And then to choose his true love over Cora and dispose of her as if she was nothing to him at all. Those wounds cut deeper than any sword or dagger ever could. Ferron had never known love, so he could only image what was going on in Cora’s mind right now.
Cora’s vision blurred as her eyes brimmed with salty tears, feelings she thought she’d buried found their way to the surface again. Emotions she’d felt for Elias, his betrayal of her, being sold to the Imperial lord: the father of her beloved daughter. Hate upon hate and hate upon love swelled within her chest. Her breath came out hot in the cold air of the mountain pass. She hated being weak in the presence of Ferron, but the one thing that set her apart from the ruthless Imperial General was that she was not ashamed to feel what she felt.
She turned, tears spilling down the sides of her face, her soft lips quivering, unable to hold firm against the swell of emotion inside her. Her eyes were red and her cheeks warm as she stared Ferron straight in the eyes, vulnerable and without fear of what he would think or what he would say. Ferron broke off contact first, an instant after there eyes met, ashamed of what he’d said and the pain he’d caused this woman. Cora turned and walked on, weeping silently. Ferron just looked at the ground befuddled as he shuffled his feet forward.
How could he inflict torturous pain on a helpless and innocent wretch in times of war: stab, flog, beat, bludgeon men without the hint of emotion or guilt, yet crumble before this woman? It must’ve been the eyes. He’d stared into the eyes of men he’d killed before and seen their fear and their hate, their desperation and false hope. But in Cora’s eyes he saw nothing but pity for himself and a deep loss she did not try to cover up or hide: the honesty of her deep, blue eyes shamed him. She was open and vulnerable and in that time he had attacked her on a personal level. For some reason their was an inhumanity about it that cause Ferron to shrink inside his soul ashamed and humbled.
Cora’s lips shook, her grip on her daughter’s hand tightened slightly, she tried to keep it together. She was not weak, but these thoughts and emotions were too painful to ponder on for long. It was to distracting to linger here in imaginations of what could have been and memories of the horrors that had been. Her heartbeat quickened as did her footsteps; every chilling breath of the cool air sparked fresh, warm pain in her heart even as it brought a tingling feeling running over her uncovered arms. They had been rushed out of the palace so hurriedly that Ferron had not stopped for Cora to grab her coat. Kaylie looked up to see her mother shivering and offered her the scarf that she wore.
“Here, mommy.” Kaylie said, holding the scarf up to her mother. “I have my coat, so you can have this. Then we’ll both be warm.” The toothy smile of the little girl was Cora’s joy. Even in the tumult of emotions she felt, this single act of innocence was enough to bring Cora down to her senses. She accepted the gift of her little girl, not telling Kaylie that a coat provided considerable more warmth than a scarf: just thankful for the meager warmth the cloth provided.
“I’d offer you my coat, but my hands are tied.” Ferron said, attempting an offer of kindness, something to show Cora he was not simply a monster completely devoid of feeling. He knew should never accept it from him anyway, but for some reason he felt the need to offer. Cora ignored him, still not sure her feelings were in check enough to not lash out at the man. She hated him more and more by the second; which was strange, because the more time passed when he was with her, the more Ferron felt himself regarding the woman more and more.