The night was cool and clear, and Quin made good time through the forest. He was walking quickly, hoping to get back to Isadora as soon as possible. He had stopped scanning to forest for any hint of Ros's trail, but soon he came across an unmistakable path, carved through the brush by someone not experienced with walking through forests. He sighed. As much as he wanted to go back to the warm house and see Isadora again, he knew he should follow this trail. It had to be the one he was looking for.
Quin turned onto the new path, and picked his way carefully through the trampled underbrush. This trail was obviously not new, but still fairly easy to follow. He was about to go around a large tree when he heard muffled voices ahead. He stopped dead. He couldn't make out words, but there were definitely people. Listening harder, Quin realized that they were gagged. He hurried forward cautiously to see who it was.
He found a boy and a girl expertly tied up next to one another and gagged. They were both extremely dirty and skinny, and it seemed they'd been trampling thorough the forest for some time. Their wrists and ankles were red where the bindings had rubbed against them. It seemed they had been trying to untie one another, without any success.
Quin stepped into the clearing slowly and raised his hands, so as not to startle the couple.
"I don't know who you are, but I'm not here to hurt you," he said. The boy nodded, and the girl turned around and offered Quin her tied wrists. She tried to say something through the gag, but Quin couldn't understand what it was.
"If I untie you, will you promise not to hurt me?" Quin asked warily.
She responded with an emphatic "Mmph!" and nodded her head. Quin took out his pocket knife and cut the cloth binding her wrists. She immediately reached up to untie her gag, but he said,
"If you stop moving, I'll cut it off. I don't want to cut you by accident." She immediately stood stock-still, and when the gag fell from her face, she couldn't seem to speak but simply pointed at the boy.
Quin cut his bindings as well, and the boy wiped his mouth, then his forehead, and finally spoke in a surprisingly refined accent - from the Capital, Quin recognized, like Isadora.
"Thank you so much." He put an arm around the girl and stuck out his other hand to shake Quin's. "My name is Rudolph, and this is Alisen. I think you've just saved our lives."
Note: This was no coincidence. The Politick and I had planned for a few weeks to do something special for our fiftieth part of Rudolph and Isadora, and the opportunity was just too perfect not to take. Congrats, Politick - We made it to 50!