Branches cut her skin, their callous grips tearing her as she whipped past. blood flung behind her in a ribbon and she winced; it hurt, yes, but it also meant something for the dogs. She'd already lost a fingernail, her hair was in shambles, and her bare feet caught on every harsh thing that strewn the forested ground, but on she ran.

Sophie ran.

Her heart was pounding somewhere in the vicinity of her nose and mouth, summoning occasional nausea as her legs spun beneath her, carrying her further into the swathing darkness that tripped her as much as hid her from the pursuing sights of the hunters. Everything was beginning to ache -- not the least of which, her heart. Lila-- ! No. She forced the thought out of her mind with the sting of a couple of tears banished by the squeeze of her eyes. She felt her pace slow and she thrust off of a fallen trunk, toes curling with her push, and flicking dirt behind them. A triumphant howl meant they'd found the blood. They were finding her.

Tragedy blanked her mind until all that was left was the ring of strangeness -- emptiness. She only felt through the scream of her muscles as she tried fruitlessly to speed up. Trees flew by as she narrowly dodged past one, on the other side of another. Grasping bark to brake her turns broke it off in her hands and she'd flick the pieces out from under her remaining nails as she stumbled into the brush. A hill rose up and she fell nearly to her hands and knees to scramble up, then slid down again along her butt, pulling up the hem of her torn skirt around her hips as it caught on every rock, caking with mud from the previous day's rain.

It was clearer tonight.

The moon shone down like a traitor.

And further into the darkness she dove -- wrestled, fought, screamed with breath she didn't have because her muscles were breaking, and past breaking, and she was running with the grind of bone against bone as the terrifying pace of running men behind her edged ever closer. She wasn't-- she wasn't fast enough. She couldn't do this.

Not alone.

The first arrow whizzed past her head, taking several spare frizzy brown hairs. The second one caught her in the left side. Air spun out of her and she hacked out a strange "th" noise that echoed the impact of it piercing through skin. Her knee banged to the forest floor and she rebounded off of it, grasping a clump of dirt in her rocket up. Several more feet and the third arrow caught her in the back of the leg. It folded in and the pain stunned her too hard, the trip straight off the ground and then hitting it on that injured left side; she didn't even scream.

Blood… she thought… they'll find me because of the blood…

It soaked the soil, watering the nearest plants red as she pulled her knees close to her chest, stifling several soft whines as her leg blazed with painful fire. It hurt… everything hurt. Her vision was swimming in the sting of pain and tears and she buried her face into her knee with a wracking sob that shook her tiny body. The howls of the dogs had faded into the background as her consciousness grew hazy with a curtain of grey; the darkness impeding ever further in on her. It grew luscious nails on grasping fingers and the wind in the trees made cackling as it reached ever steadier for her, climbing up her pale skin to her hidden face, calling 'Sophie… Sophie…' and as she laid there, she thought of the terrible darkness that crept in: 'at least I'm not alone now…'


She awoke drenched in sweat like her entire body had cried.

Her heartbeat took long, treacherous seconds to slow its horrified beat but she didn't wait; she flew up from her sleeping furs and scrambled over to the other curled up body nearby the long-dead fire pit, blinking into the forested darkness.

And as Sophie's chest rose and fell in the slow reassurance of sleep, Lila finally let her own breath release. She fell back onto the dirt, momentarily burying her face into her knees before shaking it off. Her feet curled underneath her without reservation; she knew she wouldn't be going back to sleep, but that was okay.

Because she was never -- ever -- going to leave Sophie alone.

No matter what it took.