From above, she can see the obstacles I cannot. I dodge trees and leap ravines, using her vision. She sees the gap widening. My pursuers are slowly losing me. I am running until…suddenly, I am not.
She is guiding me. How else could I stop in this ring of pines, with soft needles to cushion my falling and underbrush in which to hide? She is watching my body collapsing to the ground. Our eyes close. We see nothing.
Awakening in the grey light of early morning, I am aware of a strange warmth along one side of my body. A harsh chill numbs my other side. I am afraid of moving as the terror of the night floods my mind. Yet, strangely, I feel at peace. A rough tongue licks my forehead. A voice fills my head without flowing through my ears.
Awaken, my child; the huntsmen come.
My eyes fly open. I clutch at the body of the stag with whom I am lying in the pine bed, seeking comfort. I do not wonder all the things I will wonder later: Why is he protecting me? How can I hear him speaking? I cling to him in terror. I barely notice when he stands, pulling me upright as well.
Suddenly, six bows are strung. Six arrows point at my Stag. He does not move. I am splitting myself, again. My body freezes while my mind spins upward, seating itself in the high bough of a pine.
An order is given in a language I do not understand. The men lower their bows. I wince at the leader’s commanding voice, closing my eyes. When I open them, my mind and body are together on the ground with my Stag. The man with the commanding voice hands me his cloak, my Stag is still between us. The Stag seems to be speaking to the captain of the huntsmen, but words are not filling my head or my ears. The Stag turns to look full into my eyes.
They mean you no harm, Small One. The leader wants to take you to their women. I cling still more closely to the Stag.
Look into his eyes, the Stag commands me.
I cannot disobey. Turning slightly, I face a man who is tall, at least eighteen hands high. His shoulders are broad; his hands are large. His nose is prominent and straight. His chin is firm beneath sensitive lips. His eyes are somewhere between blue and grey. Concern and a strange kind of pain live in the blueness. He is speaking words I cannot understand and indicating the cloak, which he is still holding out in front of him.