His lungs heave against the tightness of his bodice. The material of his skirt twists around his legs. He can smell nothing but the sweat of his own body; hear nothing but the pounding of his feet on the uneven ground.
He risks looking back over his shoulder. Long hair tangles around his neck, it feels like it’ll choke him. He can’t breathe.
They are closing in on him. The field between them is naught. They have horses. He has nothing but his tired, bruised body.
No. He’s not completely alone.
His feet stumble on a hard clod of dirt and the hobgoblin appears, steadying his body with its small, powerful hands.
Thank you. If he could smile he would, but the muscles of his face are as strained and tense as the rest of him.
Still the faerie remains with him for a while longer, bobbing around in the air, smoothing his skirts so they don’t trip him, wiping away the tears stinging his cheeks, lightly brushing against his fingers to reassure him.
But there is only so much a house sprite can do. And an almost infinite list of things it can’t.
It can’t stop his limbs feeling like they are worn to threads.
It can’t ease the ripping of his heart at the constant images of his family flickering unbidden through his mind.
And it can’t prevent the beating of horse hooves getting louder and closer, closer and louder, with each passing second.
His breath too gone to speak, he begs to the faerie folk with his mind. Please. You’ve always been kind, please take pity now. Please protect me.
The air remains empty and cold.
He keeps running. What else can he do? His legs cramp, the earth beneath him vibrates with the thump of his pursuers. He twists around a sharp bend in the path, his heart lurches, the breath freezes painfully in his throat. He is falling. He’s aware of his hands flailing in the air, but his body feels suddenly boneless and beyond his control.
What tripped him? He doesn’t know and it doesn’t matter. One moment he had hope. He truly believed he could escape, despite the pain, despite all his fear, he thought he could get away.
Now, he is face first on the ground, a sharp stone less than an inch away from his head. If he’d hit that…it’d have been the end of him.
Would that be better? To die quickly rather than be caught?
No—he is still alive. He won’t give up. He will survive. He will make it to London and finally be free.