The air was thick with blood and curses as Branwen hurried onwards. Her eyes stung with sweat but she couldn’t let go of her bundle to wipe it away. Her sodden cloak stuck to her shoulders and her legs as she struggled to stay upright, slipping and stumbling down the mountain in all but pitch black. The weight of what was happening was heavy upon her though she had no time to sob, so ragged was her breathing. Her child in her arms mewed and wriggled in discomfort, but was quiet for the most part - a blessing for Branwen. If she were discovered then both her and her baby would be lost; she was far too fraught with worry to be able to defend herself.
  At the bottom of a steep slope Branwen couldn’t help but to pause for a moment -her chest heaving as her lungs searched for oxygen. She was fit but it had been an extraordinary night; one that no one had been prepared for and the terror of what she had unwillingly left behind caused a burning sensation in her stomach. There was no way she could go back though, not until she had taken Seren to safety. A cold fist clenched round Branwen’s heart as she thought about leaving her daughter in someone else’s care, and the knowledge that this may be the last time she ever saw her made her draw in her breath sharply at the pain. Nevertheless, she knew she must carry on, no matter how much it hurt her. As she wrapped the baby more snugly inside it’s blanket, a noise from somewhere behind her made her freeze. She cocked her head and listened keenly to the silence and then moved off with frightening speed. This was it, she knew. This was all or nothing now and she was damned if she was going to let them spoil her plans.
   Knowing that she had been spotted spurred her on; it was as if she was drawing strength from those fighting behind her. At the bottom of the mountain she reached the heavier cover of the forest and although she should have been gladdened by this, she knew that carrying Seren put her at a disadvantage. Taking extra measures to protect them both were beyond her because of her exhaustion, and any spell she performed would, however briefly, pinpoint their exact position for whoever was following them. With this last thought in her head Branwen shut out all distractions and concentrated hard on the words she was saying while clumsily tracing figures in the air with her left hand. “Achlesa hon blentyn...” she muttered, feeling the incantation build up, like a pressure cooker, inside her throat. On the last breath a flash of gold flew from her lips and cloaked Seren in a web of silken threads and Branwens body sagged as she hurried onwards, both with the relief that comes from a mother knowing she had done all she could to keep her child safe and with the release that comes from performing such a powerful spell.
   In a last ditch attempt to save her child, Branwen had all but sealed her own fate. With a blinding surge of light a man appeared from nowhere and smiled grimly while muttering words under his breath. Branwen put Seren on the floor behind her and tried to cast her own spells, watching in despair as the man’s hands wove in and out of each other, so fast they were a blur. In the darkness, Branwen knew she had failed her family and her daughter.


The End

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