Her breath came in ragged gasps as her light satin shoes slapped the granite flagstones. Behind her, the leisurely footsteps of her implacable pursuer lent panic to her flight as she randomly turned down another narrow aisle between the evergreen hedges. She knew it would all be over if he caught her, and while her determination to escape such a fate rivaled his determination to catch her, his endless training had increased his stamina whereas her maidenly activities had never increased her staying power.
As the sound of his footsteps grew more distant, she slowed to try and relax the stitch in her side and regain her breath. Creeping along the narrow path, she cringed against the hedge on her left. If only she could remember the way to the heart of the maze...he, a visitor, would not know, and she could slip out undetected and to the safety of the castle. But somewhere she had taken a wrong turn and was now lost, trapped, and desperate.
The maiden paused, one hand to her lower abdomen as she fought to breathe silently, straining her ears for any indication her stalker may have found her trail again. A soft breeze ruffled the branches of the dark labyrinth and the firs around its edge, birds chirped overhead, unconcerned with the drama enacted in the garden below them. Overhead, the lead-grey skies promised rain before too long, and the hunted girl shivered in nervous apprehension.
A bone-chilling laugh came, nearly on top of her – her unfortunately bright turquoise-and-gold dress had given away her location to her adept stalker. She could hear his boots clicking as he broke into a run, rushing in for the final confrontation. With a shriek of terror and dismay, she took off again, dashing down the path as quickly as her burning, aching legs would carry her, fueled on adrenaline. He laughed again, sure of imminent victory – his victim was tiring, it would not be long before she tripped or was forced to stop again, and then he would have her.
Sobbing for breath and the slim chance of escape, she kept going, she had no choice. Then a flash of white glimpsed through the maze wall lifted her pounding heart into her throat with hope – the marble sundial, marking the middle of the labyrinth. Somehow she'd returned to the right path, for there was only one way into the heart of the maze from the entrance, and one way out. Once she was there, once she reached the alabaster pillar, she could give him the slip. For she had grown up playing in this maze, and her disorientation came from long absence. Her feet would remember the route to freedom of their own accord, and she would be safe...
She did not realize, in her relief at the prospect of liberty, that she had unconsciously slowed her steps from a full sprint to a wearied jog. The blood pounding in her ears, carrying life to her oxygen-starved brain, blocked out sound until too late. She was nearly to the pedestal when a rush of footsteps behind her warned her of her impending doom, scarcely a split second before her pursuer let out a shout of triumph. She screamed again, rushing forward, but he was upon her now and his strong arms caught around her waist with all the strength of the hunter's iron trap.
She screamed again, struggling for a moment, but in vain. Laughing, he turned her inexorably around, bright blue eyes meeting bright blue eyes as she looked up into his face. "So, you can evade me in the maze?" he teased, fondly tucking a stray curl behind her ear. "Shall we go in before it rains?"
Wrinkling her nose merrily at him, the maiden took her lover's arm and led him surely along the path to the exit.