Varen’ka slipped and slammed into the base of a tree. His breathing was rough and sweat poured over his lashes. He could barely see. Without pausing to see if his assailants followed him, he limply picked himself up and started to run again. That was all he could do.
For now, he thought bitterly. There was little time left and the hours were waning as the moon dipped lower below the tree line. Dawn was about to rise with her cheeriness to great the new day, as if life were made of sweet candies and soft words. Varen’ka knew better.
A sharp shout chased him further into the woods. They were closing in on him, much faster than they should be. He would not risk even one glance behind his shoulder, not one peek that might reassure him that they were further behind. No, not now. It was treacherous enough walking through these woods let alone running break neck speed through throngs of thick trunks. He couldn’t risk.
Something crunched leaves and thrashed through the bushes behind him and he pushed himself further. While he wasn’t entirely sure what it was, he had a few solid guesses. There were few creatures in this world that could outrun him or any of his kind. His chasers were well equipped, a fact he naively overlooked. They would not be pleased with him.
Cold, sticky liquid dripped down his side. He tried not to notice it even as he winced at the pain. His feet pounded hard against the rough soil and his joints screamed with outrage. His body was wearing down fast. He truly wondered if he would make it.
Just as he heard a low snarl behind his back, the trees began to open yet again. The sound of cascading water drew near. The glint returned to his almost luminescent eyes, the stars themselves seeming to alight in his pupils. He would make it. He was almost there. He pumped his legs harder than ever before, zooming past trees at an unimaginable speed. The snarl began to fade just as he reached the cliff edge. Or so he imagined.
As he was about to put forth the effort to leap over, an excruciating pain flooded his body as chilly, stone hard teeth clamped down on his leg. He let out an inhuman scream that pierced the night like a needle. He fell over the edge with the creature that clung avidly to his surely shattered leg. The water churned and rushed below them as if it anticipated the taste of blood. Varen’ka’s vision swam before him, wavering in and out of black splotches to white waves that drew uncomfortably close. No one thought came to his mind. Not one parcel of reason reached him. He could only feel death’s fingers digging into his skin.
Above, he vaguely caught flickers of light that seemed to tease him. His head slowly rotated to find two, purple orbs staring him down. Then he hit the water.