Miranda's curiosity was quickly trampled by her survival instinct. In that second came clarity. Move or die.
She dropped the branch and pushed off from the tree. Her first step faltered when she slipped on the leaves underfoot.
But then she was up again, propelling herself down the path. The sting of overgrown bushes slashed at her face and hands. Her shirt snagged branch after branch, but she didn't care if they tore the damn thing off. Just run.
No matter how fast she went, thought, that presence - that voice followed her. It streamed overhead, knocking leaves and lychen down to the forest floor. Was it after her, too? Was it helping her? What was happening?
The frigid air shredded her lungs and whipped her ears raw. Blood pounded against her temples. She knew she needed to figure out where to go, but fear robbed her of any strategy.
The path twisted up and around, marked by crumbling cobblestone. Most of it was hidden under moss and forest debris. Miranda's foot landed on a rock. She buckled under, feeling her ankle twist.
Adrenaline brought her back up, but when she used her injured foot, it gave way again. Hot pain flared, forcing a sob out of her sore throat.
Over and over, she tried to get up, but her ankle was useless. Frustrated tears blurred her eyes when she fell back down for the fourth time.
And then she heard it. Heard them.
Thunderous steps. Like an entire army was charging her way. That unseen presence felt close, too. Miranda used her hands and good foot to scurry back away from her pursuers.
"Trust him." The voice was in her left ear.
She jumped, successfully keeping herself from shrieking.
"Who?" she asked. "Trust who?"
The approaching threat was closer on the path now. She could see the pack disrupting the surrounding foliage. Hear their labored breathing. More than a few of them - maybe a dozen. There was a new quality in the air. Something foul. The smell of decay quickly saturated the atmosphere.
For a paralyzing second she couldn't move.
"Don't leave me now." Miranda whispered. She looked around, desperate to know what she should do. "Please, who do I trust?"
A branch snapped behind her. Before Miranda could react, a hand covered her mouth and someone grabbed her around the waist.
"That would be me." A very human male said into her ear.
In the next moment she was yanked back into the undergrowth. But not before she caught a glimpse of the pack she'd run from.