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She should have stayed where she was, in the stable. She should have trusted him, and stayed hidden. He said that he would be back soon. He had always returned when he said he would. Why, by all the Divines, had she not listened to him?

The stable had felt suffocating, as if the walls were closing in on her, as if everything was about to fall down upon her. She had felt certain that he had abandoned her at last. It had seemed like such a good idea. Just run out, run into the woods, start moving. They couldn’t catch her if she kept moving.

She had barely reached the edge of the trees when she saw them coming. She had left the path and thrown herself into a ditch, hoping beyond all hope that they hadn’t seen her.

She pressed herself deeper into the hollow, trying to make herself smaller. Had they seen her? Were they already creeping up on her? She clenched her fists, resisting the urge to raise her head and look.

A twig snapped and she almost gasped; almost but not quite. It had sounded so close. They could be almost on top of her and she wouldn’t know. Couldn’t know – if she moved, they would hear and she would be found without a doubt.

Cold started to seep through her clothes, deepening her misery. She bit her lip and tried not to shiver. Had they passed by? Was she safe? Or were they even now watching the undergrowth for movement, listening for the sound of her breath?

She closed her eyes. She was so scared that she wanted to cry. Her heart was beating so hard she could swear they would hear it, her breath so shallow that her head was spinning.

A soft sound split the silence; the sharp metal of a drawn sword. There was a flurry of sounds, a strangled, cut-off cry, then silence once more.

She opened her eyes and stared up into the leaves as a quiet voice spoke nearby.

“You can come out now, Princess. It’s safe.”

© Kari Fay

(Author’s Note: This is now a scene in my second NaNoWriMo for this year! Not completely sure where it fits in yet but I’ll work it out… Courtesy of the Three Word Wednesday prompt – Hollow, Misery, Shallow.)