“Oh, dear,” Daena said, speaking around the biscuit in her mouth. “Blood on my jacket. I hope that poor man is okay.”
The former queen of Castle ________ was currently powering her way up the side of a small mountain, somewhere in the west of the Imperium. She’d been on the constant run for the last five months (give or take a month), her legs utterly incapable of ceasing their movement. Daena had seen more of the countryside than she’d believed possible, and the tour alone made her feel blessed.
Being separated from her friends and family… particularly after they’d been captured by dragons… not so blessed. But she tended to take the good with the bad.
Kicking up huge clouds of snow as she ran, Daena cast a quick look over her shoulder at the village she’d just fled. It looked no less peaceful than it had upon her approach, but she knew that it was, in fact, currently in an uproar. She’d powered through two houses and a swollen marketplace, grabbing any food and supplies she could on her way while attempting to avoid the villagers. She knew she’d blindsided one poor man, and she hoped he’d heard her apology.
Not much choice, Daena thought, chewing. The rest of the biscuits were bouncing about in a covered basket beneath her right arm. I need to keep eating. If I don’t… well, we know what will happen if I don’t. I wonder if my corpse would continue running, though…?
Life had not been kind for Daena since she’d ‘escaped’ from her tree, released by the rats. After smashing through one of the Dauphine’s walls with a hearty kick she’d fled into the desert, unable to stop herself. The rats on their dragons had pursued her for several miles, but they proved too slow and unwieldy to catch up with the sprinting queen. Even the desert hadn’t been hot enough or large enough to get Daena down, and within a day and a half she was galloping across the countryside. Since then existence consisted of attempts to stop running, though they were entirely fruitless.
Scooping to grab at the landscape kicked up by her relentless feet, Daena sucked on a hunk of snow to wash down her too-dry biscuit. Unlike most people she’d taken the coming of winter three weeks prior as a blessing, as the snowfall provided her with ample water. During the autumn she’d been forced to simply hope that water would be forthcoming, and the days without encountering a pond or a village were long and hard. Daena wondered how many water sources she’d simply run right past thanks to her inability to stop and search for a few minutes.
Her meal finished for the moment, Daena pulled the remaining biscuits from the basket, dumped them into her backpack, threw the basket away, and focused on the road. She was up and over the mountain now, her semi-autopilot legs driving Daena towards a long stretch of farmland. Wheat fields covered in snow rose and fell in gentle curves, separated by thin, rough roadways that were probably deserted at this time of year.
Or maybe time of year has nothing to do with it, Daena thought grimly. The Non may be partially to blame. Oh, I hope the Imperium has kept them at bay… everyone I’ve seen while travelling looks so grim, but that may be my fault, so I really can’t be sure…
Hurtling over a sizeable rock and landing nimbly almost ten meters away, Daena made her way down the mountain and onto the roads. She willed her legs to change direction, so as not to ruin the farmers’ fields, but only succeeded in trampling a fence for a quarter mile. Her powerful kicks sent wooden posts flying in all directions, and Daena’s cheeks glowed red with embarrassment and frustration.
“Dammit all,” she bellowed, raising her arms and shaking her fists at the sky, “can’t you give me a break for just five minutes? Just five?!”
The universe did not reply, and Daena had to work hard to orient herself with the road between fields. Brushing bits of wood out of her hair, she tried to focus her body along a straight line, imagining it as a track that determined her direction. Daena had attempted similar exercises hundreds of times, though they seldom worked to her satisfaction.
As the road rose to a crest and brought Daena over a hill she spotted a sizeable farmhouse on her left. She considered giving it a look, but, thinking of the fence she’d just ruined, she decided not to bring any further woe to its inhabitants. She was about to turn away and look for an adjoining road that would continue carrying her west, hopefully, eventually, to Pubton -
- but a flash of familiar brown fur darting out of the farmhouse, distant though it was, forced Daena to reappraise the building.
And its inhabitant.
Its very wolfish inhabitant.
The same inhabitant that was, currently, watching her, limbs tensed, claws opening and closing.
“Oh, dear,” Daena said, biting her lip. “I do believe that is some form of non-kangaroo.”