Jalin had heard a horse scream before -- it had been a haunting sound, wrenched from the throat of a beast whose mangled leg jammed the gears of a tiller. Like a ghost, that noise had returned to her days afterward, and she remembered having likened it to the screech of a demon in the furnace.
This, then, must be the cry of hell itself.
Jalin went rigid. She flung her eyes back toward the darkness where the road must be, toward the death screams that echoed in the black. She thought of Golter, and she was so sorry she'd ever met him, that she'd have to see that gentle horse's face in association with those horrid screams. She thought of what invisible horror it was that could possibly have done this to him; her blood ran cold, and she shivered, and gripped Harmony Fell's cloak; she stumbled ahead over invisible stone and bramble, sure that something would soon grab her from behind and snatch her into the chill shadows.
So it was that when two bright lights blinked into existence above their heads, Jalin at once yanked her dagger from the sheath at her back and shoved Harmony Fell in front of her as a shield. Which was all right, she would think to herself later, as Miss Fell had been taking the front line anyway. She crouched near the ground, coiled like a cat and breathing hard, waiting for the thing or its inevitable horde of demons to attack the physic, so she could take the opportunity to run by the light of her attacker's eyes. The thing was speaking -- but only when she felt Harmony Fell's muscles relax under her hand did she realize what it might mean.
"Is this a friend of yours?" Jalin spoke accusingly, her grip still tight on the dagger -- and once it was clear that these lights meant no harm, she marched out from behind Miss Fell's cloak and waved the blade angrily at them. Perhaps if she'd been listening instead of planning her cool-hearted escape, she might have realized that Golter had not in fact been a horse, and that he yet lived before them. But Jalin wasn't quite the type to infer such ridiculous things from mere turns of speech. Not when there was some invisible horde of demons devouring horses in their wake.
She peered at the lights, to see whether there was a body behind those glowing eyes. She swung the knife again. "So lead the way, then, and get us out of here!"
For a moment she looked back again, wondering that the cat's skull, her notes and rations were all left behind, perhaps spilled on the road in their flight. But none of it was worth her life to retrieve -- she would only have to lay her trust in Harmony Fell when it came to the true cure. The thought left a bad taste in her mouth.