It was a cold mid­win­ter night. The full moon shone high on the sky, and Car­o­line stared out over the moors. She heard the bells on the cows, and calls from shep­herds gath­er­ing their flocks. She remem­bered the warn­ing clear­ly: This was a dan­ger­ous night. No ani­mals must be out­side. If they where, they would become lost. The key in the door turned, and the old woman stepped in with a tray. Car­o­line gave her a gra­cious glance, but did not approach the table until the door was closed and locked again.

Then she stepped up and moved towards the table. The dark silk of the dress rus­tled, and the chain around her ankle clinked with each step. She knew that the ser­vants gos­siped, but she was above that. She, daugh­ter of queens, of kings, would nev­er allow the gos­sip to reach her.

Once she had eat­en her fill she pulled the cord to the bell, which chimed cheer­ful­ly despite her dark moods. Care­ful­ly she walked back to the win­dow, reach­ing for the embroi­dery on the table. The old woman came to bring the tray back to the kitchen, but Car­o­line refused to give her even a glance. She stared out through the win­dow and let her fin­gers work with the embroi­dery. She felt every stitch, every seam, and under her fin­gers an epic sto­ry grew.

The storm howled out­side, and noth­ing liv­ing was on the moor. Her win­dow was cov­ered with snowflakes, and with care she opened it to clear it from at least the worst of the snow. She heard class break­ing in anoth­er part of the cas­tle, and star­tled she turned away from the win­dow.

Sud­den­ly both her win­dows where torn open, and she could feel the cold bit­ing her into the bone. She turned around to close it, but froze when she saw him.

A man, dressed in furs, stood in the win­dow. He gave her a long look before he grabbed her wrist and pulled her to him. She fought him as much as she could, but with anoth­er tug she was on the white horse. He grunt­ed as he saw the chain around her ankle, pulling her skirt up in the most inde­cent man­ners before he tore the chain off as if it was thread.

She screamed, but his hand over her mouth silenced her, and she shiv­ered from the cold. Her beau­ti­ful gown of silk and lace was not suit­ed for the chill of a mid­win­ter night. He opened his heavy fur cloak and pulled her into it so that she sat with her back pressed against his. She shiv­ered and shook from chill and wor­ry, but could do noth­ing but hold on as the wild hunt con­tin­ued over the land­scape. She felt his rough hand around her slen­der waist and closed her eyes. His body was warm against hers, and all old sto­ries came to her mem­o­ry.

The ice-bar­bar­ians, the wild hunt that stole both peo­ple and ani­mals if they could. It was said that they can­ni­bals, and she knew that it was worse than death to be in their hands. She shiv­ered again and opened her eyes to fig­ure out where they were. As she looked down she saw that they’d left her king­dom behind. There was no res­cue now. At least not from any­one else. Of course, before she could fig­ure out how to get out of this they would have to land.

She felt his hand play­ing over her bodice and sup­pressed a shiv­er. She tried to pull away, but he pressed her against her clos­er. For now there was noth­ing she could do to escape his unwel­come advances.