She slipped through the darkness, silver-glinting knife clutched tightly in her fist. So far to go still, and she wasn't even entirely sure she was still on the right path – but stopping, stopping wasn't an option. Around her, shadows shifted and leered, blotches of sable on sable. Being hunted she was, by creatures neither human nor animal, and her defenses were feeble at best. She wasn't even sure if her stalkers were of flesh and blood, and didn't care to test her knife against something that may not even bleed.

Disembodied laughter, cruel laughter, evil snickers, drifted through the murk. The night was darker than it should have been, even the dead of night in the midst of the forest. Dread crawled along her every nerve, making her hair rise, giving her goosebumps, a sinister slither that urged her to collapse in a screaming heap as her fate swooped inexorably down on her. But she was stronger than that, stronger than the unnatural dread with its poisonous suggestions of defeat and surrender. So she clenched the knife tighter and forged ahead along a trail she could only trust was there.

She felt more than saw the shadow diving at her. She ducked, thrusting the knife blindly upwards – felt something catch, heard mocking laughter, but the shadow swooped up again. For a fleeting second, the idea to stay and try to kill it crossed her mind, but if she did that the rest would catch her up – instead she put on a burst of speed, trying to dash ahead of the foremost pursuer. Two red points of almost-light loomed in a tall shadow ahead of her. Startled, a scream ripped from her, and white teeth bared in a darkly amused grin. A silent snarl on her face, she swiped with the knife right at the red eyes gleaming teeth before dashing past. A hand caught at her arm as she fled, but another swipe of the knife and she was free.

Spicy smelling branches with sharp needles and sharp bark whipped at her face, cutting her arms, brambles catching her skirt and legs. She ignored the minor pains, knowing full well that what awaited her if she were to slow was far worse. The darkness made it impossible to see where she was going, and so she was totally unprepared to slam into what felt like a completely vertical mountain. She fell back a step, winded and gasping. A hand the size and weight and solidity of a boulder crashed onto her shoulder and she screamed again, realizing she had inadvertently crashed into a troll. The hand clenched her shoulder, and she felt the bones fracturing and crushing in the stony grip. A sharp stab upward with the knife in her other hand – blind, hoping, praying that troll anatomy was roughly equivalent to human and that some tender areas were tender for all creatures – a howl of utter pain and outrage greeted her attempt, the hand squeezed harder for a split second before letting go. She didn't hesitate, dashing around the troll and through the night.

It felt like forever she had been running, her broken shoulder in so much pain that she was blind now even to the darkness, a desperate nightmare, a futile attempt to escape the inescapable. She did not at first register the lanterns, the torches, the shouts, the responding hisses and shrieks slowly fading away. When the warm solid hands seized her sides, she fought back blindly, swinging wildly with her only weapon. She screamed again as it was wrested from her hands, smothering rough cloth wrapped about her shoulders as strong arms wrapped tightly about her body. Gruff voices could not pierce her constant, endless screaming, as she realized she had been caught at last. Her shrieks of terror and despair rose ever higher and more shrill as she was hustled away.