She ran through the dark forest as fast as she could. Her wrists were bound before her and somehow seemed to almost be in her way. She could hear shouting and men behind her. Novy jumped over large tree roots and pushed past whip-like tree branches that left her face red. She couldn't tell if the men were gaining on her or if she was losing them. Her breath thundered in her ears and her heart beat furiously in her chest. She risked a glance over her shoulder. She couldn't see anyone.
Her mind registered something had occurred before she even knew what had happened. When her right shoulder collided with the ground, it occurred to her that she had tripped over something, and when she rolled down a deep embankment, it occurred to her that she needed to gather her wits. She landed with a wet plop. A small run of water, no wider than two spans of her hand, was at the bottom of the embankment and she had landed completely lengthwise in it. She pushed herself up and ran along the water stream.
Novy managed to run out of the embankment area, finding a low spot. Spying a large boulder jutting up from the ground, she ran around it, allowing herself a moment to catch her breath. She looked at her wrists and the rope that bound them. She could move faster if the rope was off, or at least with more stability. The boulder was fairly well-worn by time. She looked around for a sharp rock, but nothing looked sharp enough.
Damn, Novy thought. A sudden distant yell made Novy's head snap up. She looked around and spied something she had not expected, a glittery tree, so blue it was nearly black. Farsneth trees in the region only grew in the Forbidden Forest. She was almost out of Abaton. She ran to the tree, then to the next farsneth tree and to the next.
Novy stopped when she came to a dilapidated wall that still stood at least twice her height. She couldn't hear any yells or any other sounds from the men who were after her. Looking left and looking right, she could simply see the wall and forest. She moved to her left and kept her hands on the wall. Somewhere there had to be a way over the wall. Her fingers were dirty and a little bloody, but they still felt the wall for some kind of clue. Novy followed the wall around a corner and found a farsneth tree that had branches extending over the wall.
Climbing a farsneth tree with hands bound before you is not easy, but luckily farsneth trees are known for having many nodules on their trunks. Novy crept along the thick branch that extended over the wall. Her body was draped over the branch so she wouldn't fall. Her lip was cut and her head ached from the growing knot on her forehead, signs of her climb up the tree. She crept along until she reached the top of the tall stone wall. She looked down and considered her new predicament. She was nearly four feet above the top of the wall and here she was straddling the branch as if she were lying along a flying broomstick. Simply falling was not a wise option and if she missed, one way or the other, it was a long fall to the ground.
"Don't you dare" A commanding voice said. Novy turned to look at the speaker. It was Callum, one of the men who had captured her. He had his bow drawn, but only half rose to his target.
"I cannot go back" Novy said. "Garmethon means to kill me."
"Breaking laws can have that sort of penalty" Callum said with a smirk. "Come down, Novy." Novy did the only thing she could think of as he raised his bow. She fell. She heard him call out to her as she disappeared behind the great wall. "You're not going to do any better over there!"
She hit the ground with a thump. Her eyes closed and she was lost to unconsciousness.
Novy woke up. Night had fallen and she could barely see, despite the moonlight. She got up on unsteady legs and tried to get her bearings. She was surrounded by more forest and the wall that she had fallen over. She staggered slowly through the trees. The roots were ferociously large.
She wasn't sure how long she had been walking, but the night seemed to get darker until she slid down a slight slope in the ground. She fell to her knees at the bottom. She looked up to see a small fire burning in the small clearing ahead of her. She slowly, carefully headed towards the fire. She didn't see anyone or anything. Quickly, she kicked a stick out of the fire. It lay burning on the ground and Novy took advantage of it. She knelt down and held her wrists over the flame. Her ropes slowly burned. The heat was painful. As soon as she could, she pulled back from the stick and shook the ropes from her wrists.
"AAAIIIIIIII!" A shrill voice shrieked. Novy stood and watched as a group of firey's emerged from the trees.
"Hey, what you doing with our fire lady?" One asked.
"That's our fire!" Another shrieked.
"I just needed to burn through some rope" Novy said. She watched as one of the strange bright creatures jumped over the fire to face her. Its head rose up off its neck, the ears flapping as wings, and the face peered at her with scheming dark eyes.
"You can't take our fire" The head said with a growl.
"I wasn't" Novy said. "I didn't mean to." She looked around at the creatures with bird-like beaky mouths. Their teeth seemed fierce in the fire light. "How about I make a trade?"
"What you give us?" One with a deep voice asked. Novy slowly bent over, keeping her eyes on the firey in front of her, and picked up the rope that held her hands.
"I have rope" Novy said. She gave it a firm tug to show that it was strong.
"We don't need rope" One chided. Novy had heard stories from travelers about the fireys. They would occasionally tear people apart, singing that they were only playing with them.
"Rope can be fun" Novy said. "Ever hear of the game Tug of War?"
"We always have a good time" The head said to her. Novy held out the rope.
"I'll give you the rope if you let me pass" Novy said as firmly as she could. The rope was promptly taken. She watched quietly as the group began to fight over the rope. Moving as quietly and slowly as she could, she soon found herself in knee deep brush. She turned and ran into the woods just as she heard the fireys ask where she had gone.
Novy ran until she came to the ruins of some sort of structure. Some pillars and the corner of a stone wall remained. A light whisper of music was heard from the plants. Novy recognized the flowers as Esus' Trumpets. They were white and seemed to glow in the darkness. Light music could be heard coming from them, as if a microscopic band was in each flower, all playing the same ethereal song.
A rush of wind rustled the trees and sent goosebumps down Novy's arms. She looked around and squinted when she glanced at the bright moon. She needed to keep moving and perhaps find some food.
A group of owls watched as she followed the old stone path towards a stone opening, leading straight to the maze beyond.