Trkasu glanced out from behind the tree he’d settled under. The sound of hooves were echoing. Whoever was coming was running fast and the horse was panicking. He could hear the mare’s echoing breath and very pitiful cries. They’d been running for a very long time. Not that it really mattered as the hooves thundered right past him. Other people had problems and other animals as well.
It didn’t matter until the hooves came to grinding and stumbling halt a few yards from his hiding place. A soft thud, followed by sobs, came after the horse stopped. A quick glance towards the panting animal told Trkasu she needed water. The bottle he’d managed to fashion was half-empty. But he crawled closer to the animal, doing his best to avoid whatever person was there.
“I’m so scared!” The voice was a shriek to Trkasu’s ears, grating and loud. When he looked up, his heart fell. Inches from his side was a tiny girl sobbing hysterically on the ground. She wasn’t looking at him. With another breath he continued on his path to the horse. “Help me!” Another wince-inducing shriek emitted from the tiny girl.
The horse whinnied at him, shaking her mane out. The water offered was quickly slurped up over the sounds of the wailing weeping girl. Trkasu covered one ear with his hand. It was a struggle to ignore the sounds that echoed through the forest.
A hand on his shoulder and Trkasu jerked away, skittering across the forest floor. Leaves flew into the air and dirt covered his clothing, though that didn’t make the gray and brown cloth change color. Her eyes were beet red and swollen, bony fingers pressed into sickly looking little fists.
“Why won’t you help me?” With each word her voice rose higher and higher, tears streaming down her cheeks. Trkasu just kept backing away until his brace stuck on a tree root. A few jerks on his leg and there was blood on the pant leg when he looked down. “I’m just so scared!”
“Perhaps it would be best for you if you chose to find a small house nearby.” He motioned towards the forest. “The birds had said there is a cottage a few yards inside these woods. A robin could… perhaps…”
She interrupted him shrilly, scrubbing at her eyes with her rapidly reddening hand. “Please help me! They want to hurt me!” She reached for him as he winced away, gripping his hand tightly in hers. “I have to escape. They’re trying to get me!”
Trkasu was trembling. Her hand was cold and clammy against his skin. She tried to pull him closer, scraping the brace along his leg. “Please, I cannot help you.” He couldn’t jerk away from her.
“I need you!” She was weeping again, clinging to his hand and pulling on his extended arm. “Someone has to save me!”
“Let go!” Trkasu shook harder, jerking his hand away from hers is a wrenching movement. “There are others who are better suited to this.” It was a struggle to calm down. She was close enough to let Trkasu see the pores on her skin and the oil in her hair.
“They hurt me!” The tears went flying off her face as she shook her head. “They raped me and hurt me and please save me!” Against she thrust herself at him, wrapping her stick-thin arms around his neck. “Save me!”
That was the final straw for what was left of Trkasu’s nerves. With a partially strangled and entirely panicked gasp, he lolled limply in her arms. She glanced down at him confusedly for a moment, releasing her arms and watching him fall.
“Stupid little bastard.” She whined and uttered as she grabbed her horse, pulling the mare back onto the path. “Can’t even pay any attention to me. Sending me off somewhere else. And fainting!” A sigh as she nudged his side, pushing him off the road. “Hope there aren’t too many like him. This was much easier at school.”
Ellie mounted the horse more easily than she had dismounted, swinging onto her. “Let’s go, Brownie. There’s bound to be that cottage he said something about.” It was a quick turn into the forest and they were off, galloping through the thinly set trees and across the muddy ground.
Trkasu awoke hours later after darkness had fallen. The moon was shining over the trees and the stars were glimmering. But Trkasu barely even noticed the sun had gone down. He managed somehow to pull himself out of his brace, wrapping his body around his knees. There was blood on his ankle but he didn’t care. Every breath took all his effort, body trembling violently. He could feel her hands on his skin, colder than his brothers and just as impersonal.