End of the Line

By the time morning came again, Oriana was exhausted, starving, sore, and not at all appreciative of the wake-up call the birds were giving her. She felt horrible, and was quickly regretting her decision to run away.

Her first attempt to get to her feet failed miserably. A terrible pain was plaguing her stomach that couldn't be explained by hunger alone. Had she eaten something she shouldn't have while foraging in the underbrush yesterday? Her mind was too foggy to recall.

This wasn't good, and she knew it. There was no way she could make it home, now. And she certainly wasn't going to make it to the mountains in this shape. They were still easily a week away. She had barely lasted two days. Why did she ever think she could make such a long journey by herself!

Before she could stop herself, she was crying. She was going to die here, in the forest, alone. She could barely stand, let alone hike, and there was a town full of people hunting her between her and the only person who would help.

She lay on her back, staring at the sky through the leaves and the tears in her eyes, and was reminded of happier times. Before she even knew what a Cynic was, before she'd ever gone to that stupid village. Days spent exploring more familiar forest, singing to her mother across the woods so that she wouldn't worry.

She could almost hear it now, drifting across the breeze. Unfamiliar in her state of delusion, but beautiful nonetheless. She closed her eyes. If she had to die here, she wanted it to be like this, with the sun on her face and the memory of singing running through her head.



It was coming from the road! She wasn't imagining it, and she wasn't dying. Not yet, anyway. Not without a fight.

Her eyes snapped open and she willed herself to her feet, dragging her pack behind her. The road was fairly far away, but she had to make it. Even if she passed out. Even if the people she ran into were the same ones trying to hunt her down.

She followed the singing for what seemed like years, and more than once panicked when she lost the trail as the singing stopped for a moment. It always picked back up before long, but Oriana was beginning to worry. Maybe the road was further away than she thought... The forest could carry sound in strange ways, sometimes.

Just when she had reached the edge of the forest, panting and out of breach, dizzy, and barely able to see any longer, her legs gave out. She fell to her knees and looked around wildly, trying to find the source of the singing.

Down the road, she could see a brightly-coloured caravan surrounded by a few people dressed in clothes she had never seen before. The singing seemed to be coming from them. Surely they would see her here, and help her. She could have sang back to them from pure relief, had her throat not become hoarse and parched from the hardship she had endured and all of the running.

But it wasn't long before her joy began slipping away. The caravan, still a good distance away, was not travelling toward her. It was travelling away, in the opposite direction of Owvry village. She might have been relieved by this, except for the fact she would never be able to catch up, and her throat wouldn't form a sound louder than a whisper.

So close, and yet, so far.

She watched salvation slowly roll away, dropping her things in front of her. What could she possibly do now? She had some supplies left, but what could she do with string? Nothing. Her fire-starting tools would help if they could instantly create a signal fire, but only if they looked in this direction. And her bow?

Well, there was an idea. But would she be able to manage it, in her current condition?

Still on her knees, she drew an arrow from her quiver and nocked it. Just as she was about to fire, though, her heavily shaking hands knocked everything out of place, and she snapped her bowstring against her arm as the arrow fell to the ground beside her.

Angry at her body's betrayal, and quickly losing her grip on consciousness, she nocked another arrow and tried to steady her ragged breathing. She drew the string back, aimed, and let go just as blackness began to creep across her eyes.

She passed out before the arrow even landed.

The End

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