Ellorie was alone... again.
She stared blankly at the roof of her tent, listening to the sound of thunder and rain splattering against the trees surrounding her camp. It was cold, and water from the flooded clearing was starting to seep in and dampen her blankets. But she stayed there, arms tucked uncomfortably at her sides, hair wild and loose across her pallet. She lay and wondered, not for the first time, what had happened. She lifted her hand, bringing her palm in front of her face in the darkness and stretching the fingers she couldn't really see. Something was missing. Every nerve ending in her body, every fiber in her being reverberated with the loss of it, this thing. But she couldn't place what it was - what had been ripped from her so ferociously, what had been so large that even now she bled, fragmented in the wake of its loss?
Solaris. Her eyes narrowed and her hand fell. He had long gone, but what had he taken with him?
For hours she lay there in the dark, hollow and restless, as the storm came and went, soaking the edges of her blankets and finally lulling her to the edge of sleep. But the distressed sounds of her horse, Foa, snorting and stomping in the trees nearby, had her jolting awake, abandoning her things and all thoughts of sleep, and sprinting towards the treeline.
Ellorie had never been one for tree climbing, often preferring the saftey of the forest floor and the cover of tree roots to perilous branches high above the ground. But, in the passing months, it had become a neccessity. Once far enough within the cover of the forest, she launched herself at the the first tree she saw at shimmied her way up, ignoring the scratches that appeared along her forearms and focusing instead on the sound of careful footsteps that approached from the east, her missing horse, and her increasing distance from the ground.
There was once a time where being hunted didn't faze her. When she could gather her things almost lazily and escape, calm in knowing she was being watched over. But now, as Ellorie hid in the swaying treetops, clinging to the slippery tree bark for dear life, she was alone. Alone and petrified.
And then a man, with heavy steps and stiff posture, emerged from the thick. Ellorie tensed where she was, sucking in a deep breath and holding it, hoping, praying, that he didn't look up. The man released a long husky sigh, breathing in and out like an angry bull, but maintaining his slow movement. Left, Right. He looked around, but not to the trees. Not at Ellorie. And then slowly, he stepped away.
She stayed still until he was far out of sight. Until she could no longer hear his heavy footsteps breaking twigs and leaves on the forest floor, and then she let out a sigh of relief.
"Hunted and weak." The sound of his voice, one she had failed to noticed, made her mouth go dry, and before she could even turn to see him the sound of an arrow cutting through the air and its subsequent collision with the section of the tree just to the right of her ear made her flinch. She lost her footing and couldn't right herself. Not with her heart thumping in her throat. Nearly missing the sound of the second arrow nocking, she made the split decision to let go – to let her sweaty fingers slip and send herself careening towards the ground.
Ellorie landed awkwardly just as the arrow hit its mark. This one, had she stayed in place, would have hit her for sure. She stiffened her muscles – feeling her body revert to a recently all too familiar fight or flight mode, until his next arrow was nocked, and then dipped into the treeline. "Die" She heard, as the third was shot, missing her altogether. But she didn't stop to see where it landed. The Crow had found her, again, and if she was going to leave alive, she needed Foa!
Against her better judgement, not that it had been spot-on these last few weeks, Ellorie let out a loud, high-pitched whistle and ran towards toward the area where the trees began to thin. Her time was almost up now, she pumped her legs as hard as she could towards the familiar whinnying of the waiting mare twisting and dodging low swinging branches and upturned roots, and there was no time for mistakes. When the thickest of the trees finally broke, she was relieved to see Foa waiting and ready. Unable to stop for gentle appreciation, she lifted herself up and onto the saddle and urged her on, riding hard, skirting the thicker forest and heading out to open plains. She had made it. Ellorie cried out, relieved, once they broke from the forest, and into the cool of dawn.
And then it ripped into her left arm, shredding her skin as it passed by. She hadn't counted in the forest, hadn't bothered to wonder why she had only seen two. This clumsiness, she gasped, gripping the gash on her arm and watching two men, soaked to the bone from the rain, step from the trees, it couldn't happen anymore.
The crow couldn't find her again... at least, not yet.
A/N- It's short! And like the rest its not like I want it to be exactly, but the beginning of the scene came to me last night and I needed to get it written out before I lost it. More is coming. Possibly longer. (I've got about 17 pages in Word at the moment. But that was my third draft, and this is my fourth). I just needed to introduce our key players, and after that- ish is gonna go down.
Thanks for the support!