The majority of the continent now lay behind them, seven months after they’d set out on their travels. Their voyage had brought them from sandy coastlines to treacherous jungles. From the rugged mountains that now watched them from a distance to the barren plain that separated them from their destination.
Hjalmar did not look forward to reaching the ocean. The voyage had made him weary, edgy and he was a cantankerous person at the best of times anyway. He would not remember the gorgeous landscapes or the strange fauna. He’d remember the hardships, the pain, the isolation.
If there was one thing he would recall fondly however, it would be his horse Predbjorn. His companionship had gotten Hjalmar though the worst patches of the voyage. Each time he had wanted to throw in the towel – and those had been numerous – Predbjorn had spurred him on with a friendly nod of the nose against his back or a well-time neigh. Hjalmar, who’d grown up on a vast farm, was as fond of Predbjorn as he had been of any animal he’d encountered in his lifetime.
Perhaps it was because they had suffered together. Weathered blizzards side by side. Cheated death when eye to eye with a poisonous snake. They had protected one another from peril without hesitation, without reservations. From the start they both knew they would have to be able to rely blindly on each other. They still did.
The refracted sunlight on the ocean waves was now greeting them. As they approached the waterline, the backlit silhouette of the woman with the check came into focus and Hjalmar begrudgingly got off his horse. He was about to commit the worst betrayal of his life.
Hjalmar would never forgive himself.
But the worst thing was that Predbjorn probably would.
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