Four days and three nights she’d been running. Almost non-stop, it seemed; they’d found evidence here and there that she’d lain down, presumably catching a brief but precious few minutes of sleep when she thought she’d drawn ahead enough.

Food, it seemed, was a lower priority – they’d seen no sign that she had stopped to cook anything. She must be surviving on air, some of the men said. More likely on fruit that she could rip from the bushes as she passed, he thought.

As the sun sank below the horizon they could see her ahead of them; still running.

Still running, but in sight now. Like hounds baying after the fox, they kicked their heels and spurred their steeds on faster. This time they would catch her.

He frowned. They would catch her indeed. At the edge of the forest she had stopped, bent over, hands on knees. Finally worn out.

He cried out in exuberant glee and sped ahead of his men, leaping from his horse to confront her. Just a few yards separated them now.

“Are you done running, slave girl,” he shouted. “Are you ready to return?”

She straightened up and turned to face him. He was somewhat disconcerted by her smile.

“I am done running,” she said. “But I will not return.”

He drew his axe. “Then you will die.”

Her smile grew wider, her teeth glinting dangerously in the dying light.

“I think not,” she said. “I know something you don’t know.”

There was something in the way she said it that gave him pause; just for a moment. “What’s that, slave girl?”

She laughed. It was an odd sound; almost like creaking.

“I know who lives in this forest,” she said as the trees began to move. “And we do not like axes.”

© Kari Fay

(Author’s Note: Struggled somewhat this evening; largely because I had many half-formed ideas that I couldn’t quite battle into shape. Maybe I’ll be able to tame some more of them over the weekend!)