She had spent her entire life in Gunnerkrigg from the time she was twelve, never leaving for longer than a few hours at a time, and Reynardine knew that he was the one to blame for that. True, eventually there'd been other things keeping her there--teaching first, then nearly forty years as Headmistress, chosen mainly because by then she'd already spent more time total in the Court and learned more of its secrets in the process than any other single human--but she would have been free to find her own way in life outside of the school if it hadn't been for the contract binding him to her. He couldn't leave the school, and she couldn't abandon the doll he inhabited there to live elsewhere without breaking her bonds of ownership to it, and so it became their shared prison.
But not for much longer. With every day it became more clear that she, at least, would soon be freed from the chains that bound her at last. They didn't even need to pay attention to signs that her body was failing to know it; it was obvious in the way that more of her other-worldly comrades were 'just happening' to be in the area and deciding to stop by every day as they sought to make their last good-byes with the medium they'd known the longest out of all those still left in the increasingly technology-driven world.
Reynardine could feel it when her final day arrived, an unexpected and unpleasant knowledge. He'd never been owned by anyone before her, to have realized he'd be able to feel the bond between them fading with her life. He would have rejoiced at the feeling back when she'd still been a child, back when being someone's possession had been strange and new and chafed at him with every moment, but now he found that he'd have rather not been able to tell.
She took the information well when he told her, which was only to be expected. She'd already had a grace to her when she was only a twelve-year-old girl, and that had only grown with time; she wasn't the type to lose all composure and rage against her fate. The only showing of sorrow she gave was a pensive look on her face as she looked out of her window, across the great far-stretching expanse of Gunnerkrigg, and said to him, "I supposed I should count myself lucky. Not many people finish their lives with only one regret."
He didn't need to ask to know what that regret was--of course he knew what a woman who'd spent her entire life in three places would wish for--but he asked anyway in case she wanted to talk about.
She smiled at him faintly, and gave him a small shake of her head. "It's terribly cliche, my dear, but I do wish I'd had a chance to see more of the world than just the hospital, the forest, the Court. But, so far as regrets go, it's a small one. I've been happy here."
He stared at her thoughtfully, considering. She was telling him the truth; it wasn't the type of regret which would pull at her, keep her from going to her rest. If he'd ever known a mortal who would die contented, it was her.
It would mean his death to leave Gunnerkrigg Court.
It would mean a long and lonely eternity of imprisonment to stay.
He shifted easily to his wolf-form, and knelt down before her. "Get on," he ordered (so much as he could order someone whose will his entire life bent around). When she just stared at him he tossed his head and snapped, "What is it, Girl, have you forgotten how to ride?"
"I'm no longer a child, Reynardine, will you be strong enough to--"
He cut her off with a barking laugh. "You weighed more at twelve. Just worry about holding on."
As soon as she was firmly settled on his back he took off, bounding through her rooms, through the halls, through the entire Court to the gates and the bridge to Gillitie Wood. From there he didn't allow himself even a moment to stop and doubt, his feet eating the distance across the gap with a speed that he'd never before let Antimony see from him. He turned sharply at the end of the bridge, keeping himself right at the edge of the forest in the hopes that he'd draw as little attention as possible if he didn't go in too deeply.
It was luck that Ysengrin was still playing Coyote's lapdog. The wolf would be the one who'd be most glad to tear Reynardine down the moment he discovered that he'd fled his prison, but he thought Coyote was fond enough of Antimony to not let her final day be ruined by bloodshed.
He ran until they'd left the woods behind them, pushing faster every time he thought he'd found his limits, glad for once of his ridiculous toy body and the untiring metal and fluff it had in the place of muscles and bone. He had no destination in mind, just forward until at last he felt the grip she had on his neck begin to weaken and stopped before she could fall.
They found themselves on a road cutting through a field, wheat waving in the breeze all around them. In the far distance he could see a blotch of a town against the horizon and thought of asking if she wanting him to walk her to it, but before he could she was sliding from his back.
She was breathing heavily and stumbled when she tried to walk, catching herself on his back before she could fall, but she was smiling as she looked around them. "Oh," she said. "Oh. I think this is the most lovely place I've seen in my life. Will you please help me to that tree, my dear?"
Off the road the field was mucky, mud and manure clinging to both their feet and making him wrinkle his nose at the smell too faint for her to notice, but he made no comment. If she wanted to be in the shade, she would have it.
Her breathing was still harsh by the time she slowly sat beneath the tree, not seeming to care at all about the mess she was making of her skirt, but it was only when he noticed a faint tremor in her body that he began to fear that an unnaturally fast ride across Britain might not have been the best thing for a woman whose death was fast approaching.
"Reynardine," she said, leaning back against the tree to stare at the sky stretching clear and blue above them, "there's something I must say before I go. I should have done it sooner."
He settled down by her side. "Bah, don't tell me you're the sort to make death bed confessions," he said dismissively, though he couldn't hide the way his ears perked up.
"Not quite," she said, reaching out to stroke his head. "In my will it states that all my possessions will go to Headmaster Grose, apart from gift from Kat which I'm leaving to her great-granddaughter. Before that happens, there's something I must do." Her hand stilled, she took a deep breath, and she met his eyes. "I renounce my ownership on the doll you're possessing and set you free, my dear."
He went completely rigid as he felt the bond which had held him to her for nearly a century suddenly snap, and his will become his own again. He knew that if he were wise he would flee then and there, switching bodies every chance he got to try confusing anyone pursuing him. He would run as far and as fast as he could without her, try to find somewhere that he could hide safely. He would do whatever it took to survive.
Instead he found himself resting his head in her lap as the life slowly seeped from her body, whimpering like a whelp.