Chapter 3     


She ran as she never had before, each step sending her leaping through the rock-strewn snow. It was the closest she had ever been to flying since her transformation, so long ago, yet somehow far more difficult and tiresome than flying ever could have been. She searched madly for a cave or crevasse in which she could hide until the snow supplying such an occurrence was gone, but to little avail, until a steep, snowbound cliff came into sight far to her right, a small pile of boulders at its base. Thought escaped her, replaced by a primal fear of the intense rumbling that lay behind her, where she dared not look. Taking a deep breath, she wormed her way in between rocks large enough to crush her without more than a shove, and, finding a hollow protected enough to shelter in, she braced for impact. In seconds, it came, first as terrifying tremors, each one sending shivers through the rocks, to the final explosion of force, tearing the pile asunder and hurling her past the outcropping and into the very edge of the forest, a vast plane of drifting snow. Unconsciousness hit her like an angry stallion.

“Gods above, what happened to you...”

Seraph blinked. Her surroundings were flooded with harsh sunlight, but she seemed to be in the same forest. It had clearly been many hours. In waves, her wounds caught up with her, until she was near-delirious with pain. How was she still alive? That seemed to be what her rescuer wanted to know as well.

“Do you hear me?”
 She managed the most feeble of nods. He did not notice.

“D-Do you hear me?”
 He was still a child, pale brown hair and blue-violet eyes telling her he had been raised here, and had clearly not seen his share of the severely wounded. She nodded, more vigorously this time, simultaneously trying to pinpoint her injuries. She suspected both legs were broken, and several ribs as well. She thought she could feel frozen blood on her back.

“ satchel…”

 It came out as the faintest of whispers, whisked away in a gust of mild wind. Gasping, she slowly sat up.
“I...I need my sa-...satchel.”  She stared down a bluff a bit above where she lay, praying the youth followed her gaze. “There.”

He nodded, standing. “I’ll get it. Stay...stay here, understand?” Seraph almost laughed.

“Will...will you be able to carry me?”

He looked at her for a long moment, sizing her up. He was barely a teenager, but was likely accustomed to strenuous labor. She thanked the gods for her small frame.
“I hope so.”

In fits, her voice came back to her, and the two of them worked to use branches from fallen trees to construct a passable sleigh, one sturdy enough to support them both if the time arose, and tightly spaced enough to keep Seraph from making a trail of blood, attracting animals she was in no state to fend off. She learned the boy was an orphan, raised by his uncle in a tiny village a few miles up into the mountains. He had heard the telltale noise of an avalanche, though it was below him, and climbed down once it was safe to do so to investigate. It was then that he noticed very recent bloodstains in the snow, leading to her unconscious form. She began to haul herself aboard the makeshift sleigh as he spoke, wincing and stopping for air every few seconds, when she felt wiry arms around her middle.  “Let me lift you. Moving will only worsen your injuries."

 Sighing softly, she consented to being lifted, and tied in with torn strips of cloth. He held on to her sleigh with one arm, clearing away snow-weighted branches with the other. Soon, the motion of his stride rocked her blissfully back into unconsciousness.