"Time to go," Emily shouted as she rushed into the house. To her relief, it was already bare, the furniture all that remained, the table and chairs empty bones that had already been picked over. She took a moment to peek her head into the bedroom the three of them had shared and noted that there was nothing left in their either. When she popped back into the autumn sunset light behind the house, she saw her husband loading a crate into the already tightly-packed wagon. "You're the best," she told him, stopping to tuck her parcel careful into an open space below the oilcloth. "I love you too," he said, stopping to cough before he finished tying down the sides of the cover. "Rosie! Time to go!" A small girl about six ran out of the woods, a doll dangling from her hand. "Mama! You're back!" She dove into her mother's arms. Emily lifted her daughter into a hug and smoothly tucked her into a carefully lined corner of the wagon. "Do you have everything, Ambrosia?" The girl nodded. "Papa helped me put all my rocks in a bag and I put acorns and my ribbons in my pockets and I have Polly here." "Good. We have a long way to go tonight, okay? Go ahead and sleep when you're tired." "Yes, Mama." Emily kissed her head and climbed up into the seat at the front of the wagon. "Ready?" "Ready as we ever are," Oliver answered. She nodded and reached down to the front of the wagon, where a paid of horseshoes were mounted. Murmuring, she brushed her fingers over the runes carved around them into the surface of the wood, and purple light shimmered. In the distance, Oliver was pretty sure he heard shouting. Rosie was up on her knees in the back, trying to catch a glimpse; she loved the ponies. After a minute, the ground shivered and bones started to burst forth, quickly coalescing into the form of two large horses.
"Ponies!" Rosie called cheerfully from the bed of the wagon.
"Sit down, Rosie," Oliver chided. "We're going to be going fast in a minute."
The horses nickered, or seemed to do so, though the only sound was a bit of clacking from the glowing bones.
"I definitely hear trouble" Oliver was looking behind them. "I don't like that."
"You don't like anything." Emily smiled." Do you?"
"I like you and Rosie," he answered, and she pulled on glowing purple reins that hadn't been there a minute ago, and then they were crashing through the growth alongside the small house and bursting onto the road. Sure enough there were a dozen or more people from town coming down the road toward their little house, carrying a few lanterns and torches and even, Emily noted, a few pitchforks.
"How traditional," she said with a shake of hear head.
The first person caught sight of the horses and screamed, and then two more of the townsfolk did the same.
"Well I don't know what they were expecting," Oliver rolled his eyes.
"Perhaps they're just sad we're leaving " Emily said as she directed the horses onto the road away from the crowd, and the town.
"I don't think so. I think they wanted a show." Oliver muttered.
"BYE!" Rosie called, waving over the side of the wagon.
"Rosie, sit down," Oliver instructed, but he didn't feel too worried. She had a good sense of balance for a young thing.
There was always a hint of tension when they were fleeing a town, before they were sure everyone was going to stop at the outskirts somewhere. "I didn't see any horses," Oliver noted as they rushed along the road through the deepening darkness. "Probably they're not even following."
"Doesn't mean they didn't tie them up down the road. I saw Father James there and I don't believe for a minute that he walked from town."
"I also can't imagine Father James trying to chase us down on horseback," Oliver noted, and they rode in silence for a few minutes.
After an hour or so the trees thinned and the road they were on joined a larger road. Oliver watched behind until the road finally turned away, but no one burst out of the tree cover.
"If they were following, they've given up," he said decisively.
Emily nodded. "Still, I think it'd be best if we headed west for a bit. Besides, winter's coming on, I worry about you when it gets so cold out."
"I don't think we've been to the coast since..." Oliver started, and then stopped.
"Since Rosie was born," Emily supplied, skirting the issue.
He nodded. "She'd like it out there."
They were both quiet again. Overhead the moon was full and faintly red, like it was flush with warm blood. The road curved into the shadow of a tall ridge, momentarily drawing Oliver's attention back to the purple spell-lines from his wife to the horses. The white bones were no longer visible, so the glow seemed to fade into nothing ahead of the wagon. When they rode out into the moonlight again, he could see that the horses has solidified into black, furred forms that he knew would easily pass for normal horses to most people.
He was far more fond of Tybalt and Mercutio than any of the living horses he'd known in his life; even when other animals still liked him, horses always seemed a bit much. He was skittish; they were skittish. It was a bad combination. Tybalt and Mercutio, on the other hand, were calm and unflappable.
Oliver found himself wishing he was more like them sometimes.
He looked into the wagon, assuring himself that Rosie was curled up under her quilt, her head pillowed on the roll of his wool coat, her short brown braids lying dark as shadows against the light blue and white quilt's near-glow.
"So what was it you needed to pick up?" he asked Emily as they approached the next town.
"Turned out a few 'dangerous' books had found their way into Father James' hands for safekeeping," she grinned. "I have relieved him of the burden of them."
"Well how kind of you," he snickered. "Why don't we stop here and get some rest?"
The gates of the town were closed and presumably locked as they pulled up, but the meadow outside left plenty of space to stop until dawn. Another cart and a wagon were parked, their owners presumably sleeping.
"Go ahead," Oliver gestured sweepingly toward the wagon bed. Emily gave him a quick kiss and climbed into the small soft space where Rosie was sleeping, laying next to the girl. By the time Oliver had tied up the reins on the horses to keep them corporeal into the daylight and let them rest, she was softly snoring.
Oliver laid down on the seat of the wagon, staring at the clear sky above. The bright moon had moved toward the horizon, but there were still hours before dawn. The stars were cold and far, but he smiled to watch them anyway. As much as he hated packing, he did like a good fresh start, and he'd loved the coast last time they were there. Maybe it was what they needed.
He waited for sleep to take him.
Eventually she did.