Kyla was laughing so hard she could barely breathe. Jumping behind a large pine tree, she leaned against the trunk and pulled in a few quick breaths. A large growl too close-by for comfort made her jump. Giggles rippled through her stomach again as she took off towards home.
Weaving through the thick forest, she adjusted the bow over her shoulder and risked a glance behind her. The giant of a man was closing in fast and he did not look happy. He was trying to wipe mud from his hairy face with one hand while clutching his trousers with the other. His run was disrupted by a tree root. He stumbled to the ground and bellowed at his retreating prey. Kyla laughed even harder.
Her foot turned as it hit a dimple in the earth and she tumbled forward. Jumping up with cat-like speed, she hurtled over the fallen log in her path. The most dangerous part of this escape would be the open field before she hit the dense foliage around Taramon’s eastern wall. Putting on an extra burst of speed, she accelerated into the grassy openness and refused to look back. If the guard was aiming an arrow at her, she didn’t want to know about it.
Her laughter evaporated as her need to survive took precedence. As the safety of trees came within reach, she glanced over her shoulder. The puffing behemoth was slowing down, but his long strides still made him a threat.
Ducking into the forest, Kyla wove through a tight clump of trees and made a beeline for her secret escape route. Stepping onto the gnarled roots, she scrambled down a vine ladder, which had been growing with her tree for centuries, and landed with soft feet in the ditch. Leaning against the cool stone of the city wall, she crept along its edge until she reached the hidden tunnel. She pulled back a manhole sized grate and winced at the sound of metal scraping against stone. With her breath on hold, she crawled inside and landed with a splash in the shallow water.
Quiet titters began to assault her once more as she peered back out through the grate. She heard the guard breathing like a wild animal as he bashed his way through the bush, hoping to take down the little imp who dared to stand up to him.
Gripping the metal, Kyla forced her body to stop quivering with glee until his crashing footsteps turned east. A slow smile spread across her lips…and a hand landed on her shoulder.
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