Rowena’s heart pounded as she ran through the trees. She knew she had to keep running, as she had no idea when Narcissa would discover she had disappeared and come after her so she needed as big a head start as possible. She wasn’t carrying much, only a small bag containing the food she had saved from the night before and her unusually large breakfast and a few of her most precious possessions. The matching necklace and earrings her mother had given to her before she died, a little bit of money to buy food when her supplies ran out, a blanket to sleep under at night and the diary she had so painstakingly written over the last two years, covered in a large piece of cloth and hiding at the bottom of the bag. She was wearing her plainest cotton dress, but even that had embroidery on the bodice, which would make her stand out as not just any old girl. Unless she found a new dress, there was no way she would be able to pass through the countryside undetected.
She ran for hours, the only thing keeping her going was the fear of getting caught and dragged back to the tower by Narcissa, where she would probably have to suffer some evil punishment for trying to run away. But by the time the sun was at its highest, the Princess was exhausted, her legs were trembling and she could hardly breathe. She managed to find somewhere to stop and collapse on the ground, her chest rising and falling heavily as she tried to get her breath back and calm herself down. She jumped at the snap of every twig and every time the leaves rustled in the wind. She couldn’t believe she had done it. She had escaped her prison.
Sitting up and pulling her bag over to her, Rowena looked inside to see what she had and how long it would last her. She had quite a few bread rolls, one of the few things Vincent could steal easily without being noticed, a large square of hard cheese, some ham wrapped up in a small cloth bag and a flask of water. She knew the bread wouldn’t last long, and would go hard and moldy very quickly. So would the cheese, but she could always scrape the moldy bits off. She had no idea how long ham lasted for, and after taking a large swig from the flask, she doubted that the water would last very long either.
She took out a bread roll, broke it in half and began to eat it. She didn’t want to stay still for very long, even if Narcissa had lost her trail, there would be plenty of other people who would want to harm the princess of a foreign country.
She knew she was in the Wild Lands, so called because of its rough landscape full of rolling hills, deep valleys and miles upon miles of dark, dense forest. No one knew who was hiding out in the forest, as there was no established monarchy to take control and manage the people who lived there. Everyone knew that if you were running away from something, you should head for the Wild Lands. No one would be able to find you there.
But even though she knew which area of the world she was in, Rowena had no idea how she was going to get home. She knew that Fersere was to the north of these woods, but she had no way of telling which way north was. She had no compass and the sun was obscured by the dense foliage above her head. So she decided to use her instincts, not knowing what other way she could use to get home, and walked off in the general direction she had been walking in to start with. Fersere’s a big country, she told herself. I’ll have to hit the border at some point.
She didn’t stop walking until night fell and she had to stop to sleep. Finding some dry wood, she tried to light a fire but failed miserably without matches. Instead she found a large tree with a hole in its trunk just about big enough for Rowena to squeeze into. She climbed in and wrapped the blanket around her.
The euphoria she was feeling after finally escaping had not worn off yet, but Rowena was tired. Her muscles ached and she could hardly keep her eyes open. When she closed her eyes she was asleep in moments. It didn’t matter to her that she was in a strange land, totally lost and alone. At least she was free.