With speed he didn't knew he possessed, he raced through the forest, dodging tree trunks and low hung branches hidden by the black night with pure instinct.
He did not need to pause to note that his pursuers were still behind him, for the night wind effectively carried their bellows to him. They are not actually gaining, judging from the distant echo, but they were not falling behind like he had hoped. If only he could fly, but he was just an adolescent boy hose strength can not hope to match that of a full grown adult in prime.
A slight shift of wind brought the scent of rotting leaves and water plants to him, he could taste the water in his tongue. Taking a small curve he splashed into devils brook where he pause a few heart beats before taking a mouthful of the clear water, knowing he dare not take more than that mouthful or risk his strength being sapped.
In that brief moment the wind altered course and blew from the east, bringing a new sound, one that made the hairs on his back raise to their full height. Initially he thought it was his imagination playing tricks on his tired mind again, but a slight cock of his ears assured him it was there and getting stronger.
Struggling against raising panic, he changed direction to compensate for the fresh treat. Racing down the stream, he knew his journey would be twice long and trice as hard.
He tried his best to keep to the middle as far away from the banks as possible praying the water pushes his scent further down the stream before the dogs get to the brook.
He belted himself for not taking the dogs into consideration. How can one hope to escape from men when they are aided by dogs? He was experienced enough to know that a wrap of ground pepper would have sufficed here. A little quantity spread behind him would have assaulted their olfactory nerves, disorientating them long enough for him to get further away.
He moved as fast as he could without making too much splashy noises. Though the drag of the water on his legs reduced his phase to the semblance of a brisk walk, he still hoped to gain from the coming confusion as to which direction he took.
Above his head, vines coiled around each other like great serpents in mating, real serpents could be glimpsed in their midst if one takes the odd closer look. Thankfully, the night hides other less and more dangerous vermin that would have lent fear to his young mind.
After trudging for a few minutes, he got to the deeper part of the stream, where tributaries of three other streams added their own water to increase the volume of water enough to reach his chest. He found it is easier to swim especially with the current being feed by the extra water from the more tributaries that were created by the heavy down-pour of yesterday.
Placing his few prized possessions in the hopefully water-tight leather bag given to him by his late benefactor, he slide into the cool but murky water and swam in a strong but steady thrust down stream.
Thirty minutes later he came to the first of the rapids, largely remembered by the roar that had frightened him the first time he had visited the area with Mister Smith. Now a different fear drives him and he was more willing to face the rapid than to go back to that house of bondage.
He moved to the side of stream where he remembered the Master saying that the currents were a little bit slower. That "little bit" turned out to be a fierce force that pulled him under in a churn of white spray, dragging him winded to the very center he was trying to avoid.
Now all he could do was ride the current and try to conserve his waning strength to battle the coming rocks. this is hard work for a boat crew and will be disastrous for a swimmer, but he was determined to take this one chance to freedom.
He knew that if he could some how hold back panic and cross the first rapids safely, he could manage to push himself into one of the eddies he could spy up ahead and hopefully grasp one of the overhanging branches that hung over the rocks, then he can reach the Dead man's pass, which is the only outlet before the giant water fall whose bellow he could now hear clearly.
He was almost swept across the last of the over-hangs before instinct and desperation gave him the final push that was needed to reach out and grab the fast receding branch.
Clambering the rocky outcrop, he collapsed in an exhausted heap, his chest heaving in a bid to catch as much oxygen as possible.
After a few minutes rest he headed for the well trodden deer path. Though he was sure that by now the search party would have known he didn't head upstream, he was still sure that he has a few hours ahead of them.
This victory he knew, was brief, because while he had to contend with the slow pace of travel in the water, they would come on land, running parallel
to the river, they high banks giving them an eagle's eye view of the river bed.
Now the moon, which was hidden behind dark clouds earlier, has now come out to shower its luminance over the river, lending it silver like glimmer. Even the faintest pebble was highlighted.
Stepping across knee length water unto the rocky part, he paused to check his bag. Sighing with relief that his precious possessions were okay, he turned briefly at the ragging rapids that almost became his death place. Suppressing a cold shudder he ran up the path towards the distant hills that he hoped would be freedom for him.
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