All I see is the red. The red fans out into the water. It swirls back on itself. It floats over the foam made by the tiny rapids around the rocks. The slit in her throat gurgles with the stream. The red and the water and the throat combine, overlapping in my vision with the pinpricks of sunlight bouncing off of the brook.
Pain doubles me over, guilt and grief bringing me to my knees. The shards along the creek edge slice through my breaches creating wounds that add more stain to the water. I press my mouth against hers. I anoint myself with the life draining from her neck. I lie down beside her, my black hair dampening as it twines with her blanched tresses. I want to follow her where she is going. I want to follow her as I have always followed her. I take my dagger from her throat and place it against my own. I close my eyes.
The distant clink of metal on metal rattles our communion. I rise up on my elbow and turn my ear in the direction of the sound. I pause, waiting for a repeat of the disturbance. Braying hounds and grumbling men float to me. My horse whinnies over by the huckleberry bush he is tied to. I open my eyes, blink and shake my head. Droplets fall onto my tunic. I drag my hands through my hair. I ball my eyes, scratching my brow with the ring on my right hand. I push myself to my feet and look back down at her.
"I am sorry."
Her eyes stare back at me, all trust vacant.
"I vow to finish this for you."
My horse stomps and paws the moss. He stretches his neck and pulls back his shoulders, releasing his reins from the bush. The ferns around him crush and dye blue from the berries.
I pull her body out of the water. I reach down, unfold her fingers from the crucifix she clutches. I stuff the crucifix in my pouch, wipe the blood from my knife in the dirt and return it to its sheath. I arrange her arms across her chest and pull the hem of her gown down to her ankles. I stroke my fallen tear from her cheek, then stand.
Dogs crash in the brush. Men yell to the dogs and each other, cheering and cursing and encouraging each other on. I make out the words, "catch," and "burn," and "hang." Arrows spit from the mouths of men.
I grab my horse's bridle, haul myself into the saddle and head him into the water. Hooves on rocks clap and thunder. The water splashes up our sides, we shiver and tremble. We pause where the stream branches off in two directions. We pick one and do not look back.