At first everything that moved in the forest caused Lucy to jump, worried that it was soldiers coming for her. However, it turned out that the forest was a very good place to hide… or perhaps they weren’t looking for her in the right place. Trying to get horses had been… unsuccessful. Of course there had been a soldier guarding them, and there was nothing two tired young women would be able to do to get the horses without also causing an alarm. Perhaps if they had proper rest and a chance to memorize any spells they wanted… which would of course require many things they didn’t have.
With horses out of the question, they had to rely on stealth… and the fact that the soldiers hadn’t brought any tracking dogs with them. The other young woman- Sarina- split off to the west, towards home. Lucy hoped she wasn’t stupid enough to actually go back to her house, but instead find some relatives or something to stay with. However, Lucy had gone north to make it more likely that one of them got away. She hoped Sarina had made it to safety, but she couldn’t be sure.
Everything that Lucy did was just geared towards staying alive. That included moving deeper into the forest to the north, far enough that she was probably in Othius now. It was possible that she had made a poor decision- the forests of Othius were said to be dangerous, filled with wild beasts… and elves. Her history books had confirmed that elves indeed had lived in the forests at one time… but they couldn’t agree on whether they still did.
It didn’t matter if they existed though- Lucy preferred taking the chance of being killed by elves or mauled by wild animals to being taken to Scoubar. As it was… the forest wasn’t so bad. There were many berries and root vegetable to scavenge… and most of them were good. A few of them Lucy would never touch again, but at least they hadn’t been bad enough to kill her.
Now that she was into the forest, she realized she needed to actually get to somewhere more permanent. She wouldn’t always be lucky with what berries she ate- turning her guts inside out wasn’t the worst thing the wrong kind of berry could do. When winter came, her clothes wouldn’t be warm enough- if they even lasted that long with all the times they snagged on branches. She didn’t want to risk going back through Dalgare- Scoubar had mostly been in control there, and they might be watching for her in particular. Even if she got to the very western end that hadn’t been conquered yet… there was no guarantee of her safety or that it would remain unconquered by the time she got there. Instead, she planned to go west and then through the mountains back into Bryria or Vospia… where she would probably die. In the mountains, that was. If she made it back to either country in a timely fashion, she could probably survive. She didn’t know where any passes were… but at least she would be making her own choices up until she died.
Travelling westward was easy enough in theory, but Lucy had no idea how far north she was. Would she be able to see the mountains when she got to them? When should she cross them? Those questions crossed her mind about half as often as thoughts about food. She wasn’t finding enough to keep up her energy to walk all day. Occasionally she got lucky and stumbled across a half-eaten body of some animal. If it wasn’t rotting, she could cook part of it over a fire and have something to eat… but she couldn’t carry much with her and she never really found much. At least magic let her start a fire… though she had to be careful not to set the leaves around on fire as well. Digging out a fire pit every time and finding the wood almost made it not worth the effort, but she really needed every bit of squirrel or rabbit she could get. It was never cooked properly but at least burned meat was better than going hungry.
Then she spotted some mushrooms growing together. She was hesitant to eat mushrooms unless she was starving- which she usually was now. She’d gotten lucky enough to find a few that were edible and easily recognizable. The mushroom patch had many kinds that looked far too colorful to be safe- that was what she thought she knew about mushrooms, anyway. However, there were a few that might-
Lucy almost fell over as she heard someone speak to her. She looked around for the source of the voice… then heard it again. She looked down, seeing a tiny man standing among the mushrooms. How had she not seen him before? He was at least a foot tall, much taller than the mushrooms… but perhaps she had just been focused on them. When he spoke for a third time, she vaguely recognized some of the sounds. Was it the language of Dalgare or…
Runes of magic swirled around the tiny man as he spoke. Lucy almost thought to attack him- she could certainly squash someone of his size- but she couldn’t recognize any of the runes. All she could think to do was stagger backwards, searching her memory for any magical words she knew. It was so much easier when sitting in a nice library with a dictionary nearby… but her mind came upon one word that meant ‘to stop’ or ‘to cease’ that often came at the end of spells, or was used to cancel others. With no other words along with it, she merely said it with no magic involved… but the tiny man tilted his head. Then he spoke again, runes of magic drifting out from him… but doing nothing but suffuse into the air. The tiny man gestured towards Lucy, and he turned to walk away. Did he want her to follow? That was what she thought, anyway. Surprisingly, she found it hard to keep up with him- she had a much larger stride but he practically sprinted along the forest floor, kicking up leaves and dirt and the occasional twig. All she was capable of was slowly trudging behind. At least she would probably get to see something interesting before she was killed and eaten by pixies or gnomes or whatever the tiny man was.