Foal’s Hide darted between trees, reaching out when she could to propel herself forward by pulling at a trunk, because every second counted. Jump over the roots. Her hair whipped over her quiver, miraculously avoiding any tangling branches. If she survived, she would braid it like her aunt always begged. A branch – duck under. If she survived.
Without looking back – why would she ever look back? – she knew the creature still pursued. Sweep the branches out of the way. Why would it chase her this long? Go to the river nearby, to the right. How long had she been running? It could have been miles by now, and Foal would start to feel it soon. More branches to dodge. But she couldn’t let that happen. No rest until the beast was dead.
How to kill it? The smaller ones were easy. Too many roots – go around. The smaller ones were quick, but arrows were quicker. Foal’s Hide guessed, if she shot one thousand arrows into the reptile behind, that it wouldn’t slow down one bit. The river, just ahead. Maybe what she needed wasn’t one thousand arrows. Just one.
She dove into the chill mountain water, moving like salmon to fight the current. A rock – push off that. Foal stayed under the surface till her cheeks were purple and her insides imploding. Most of the way across, she darted up her head. Grab air, don’t linger. On the other side, there was a tall tree. Tall enough?
With every bit of fire she could pour into her legs, Foal’s Hide pummeled the ground with her steps, crossing to the tree and rocketing up through its branches. Finally, the canopy. She allowed herself to look.
Bursting out of the woods across the river, the feathered serpent appeared. It sprang across the river without hesitation – she had barely hoped – and up toward her.
The arrow was already at her cheek, and then it was gone. A horrible sound. The beast fell, the arrow feathers-deep in its eye.
It seemed only right, as Foal climbed down, that she take some feathers in exchange. She slipped one into her hair. Perhaps she would not braid it, after all.