He sprawled head-long into the carpet of wet mulch and immediately doubled up, gasping for breath like a fish out of water. His shin barked pain from where he’d caught it in his mad dash through the darkening woods, and he keened softly in pain and fear. He lay for a moment, frantically listening. His heart pounding and his blood roaring in his ears. He groaned, finally hearing the ululating voices of the blood hounds on his trail, and pulled himself up. His face streaked with mud and tears, and his hair scattering leaves like some forest devils confetti as he ran. Knees high and elbows pumping, puffing and blowing like a steam engine, until he ran out of ground and skidded to a teetering halt at the edge of a deep, narrow ravine. He turned to see, somehow, his pursuers step out of the trees. Their gleaming brass skulls half hidden under stiff hoods, and smoking, verdigris-stained blades in their hands. He let out an inarticulate scream of terror, and leapt blindly out into empty space.