Bolton Rising (AU, RP, 18+) Flashback Part 2: Melly & Ramsay

She ran, barefoot, through the twisting passages of the house, keeping to the servants’ quarters, the dead Guard's key ring held tightly in her fist to keep the keys from jingling. In her cut right hand, a shard of glass, smaller than the one in the Guard's neck, but the biggest she'd been able to find. She could hear men's voices in the main part of the house, so she kept her footsteps light and stopped often to be sure that no one was ahead of her. When she reached the servants’ staircase leading to the kitchen, she proceeded down very slowly. Melly could hear soft noises resonating from the kitchen below. Upon reaching the bottom of the staircase she stopped and took several deep breaths. Peering around the corner, she could see the Cook standing beside the stove with his back to her. He held a large chef's knife and was chopping vegetables, then dropping them into a large pot on the stove beside him. To his left was the kitchen door leading out into the yard.

Withdrawing into the stairwell, back pressed against the wall, heart pounding, she stopped to think. She had no time, she knew. Every precious second ticked away in her mind. The body of the guard she'd killed could be discovered at any second. Had she shut the door to the bedroom suite? Had she left a trail of blood? Footprints? She'd never looked back to find out. There was nothing to be done about it now. She needed to get to that door. She had to concentrate on one step at a time. Get past the Cook. Unlock the door. Cross the lawn. Through the gardens. Into the woods... Then what?
Worry about that when you get there.

The Cook's back was to her; she could come up behind him, slit his throat. 
I'll go in thirty seconds. She counted to thirty. I must go! She took a deep breath, then counted to thirty again. The Cook. He's never hurt me. Melly knew she could delay no longer. I'll go on the count of ten. She was afraid. She held her breath and began to count. She'd counted as far as eight, when the cook laid his knife on the counter and dipped a tasting spoon into the pot. She froze as she watched him taste a sauce that was simmering on a back burner, then turn away from the stove. He strode across the kitchen, past the kitchen door, disappearing into the small pantry on the left wall of the room.

She bolted across the kitchen, tried the handle to the back door and found it locked. Fumbling with the keys, she was careful to keep them quiet as she chose one to try. The first key didn't work, so she tried a second. Her hands were still slippery with blood, both hers and the Guard's, and the keys slipped from her fingers and fell jangling to the floor, skittering away from her. Her heart flipped in her chest and she crouched to grab them just as the Cook stepped back into the room. Frozen, naked, covered in blood, crouching there like an animal caught in the cross-hairs of a hunter's rifle, she stared at the Cook. Melly watched his eyes widen in surprise, watched him take in her appearance, watched him crouch to pick up the keys. He was a small man, grey haired and weathered, and when he looked up at her again, his blue eyes looked soft. He flipped through the keys, chose one, then held it out to her.

"It's this one," he said in a low voice. She hesitated, then reached out and accepted it with a shaking hand. Not taking her eyes off of him, she partially turned and tried the key in the lock. It fit.

"Thank you..." The door swung open and she looked out into the darkness. The great expanse of lawn spread before her. She could see the shadows of the gardens, and the towering forest beyond.

He nodded. "Go."

Melly looked to her left and right, then she began to run. Sprinting across the lawn, she expected to hear a shout or Ramsay's dogs barking at any moment. Even if she had heard them, she knew she'd have kept running. It was the only thing now. Reaching the shadows of the garden, she felt safer. The little stones of the paths crunched under her feet and she prayed no one was near enough to hear. Every corner she turned, she expected to run into the arms of a guard, but there was no one. This was very strange. She wondered where everyone could be.

Pausing to catch her breath at the edge of the garden, she crouched in the shelter of a topiary carved into the shape of a gargoyle, looking over another shorter, open stretch of lawn ahead of her. Melly looked back at the house. A strange glow emanated from the kitchen windows. It took her a moment to realize that the kitchen was on fire.
The Cook! Her heart swelled and she set off running again, crossing the lawn and plunging into the forest with a surge of renewed hope. The fire would draw the Guards’ attention to the kitchens. This might buy her a few extra moments, but she mustn't take it for granted. She was nowhere near the path that ran through these woods, but that was best. She'd be harder to track if she kept far from the main path or trails.

The forest floor was rough and uneven. She could feel the soles of her feet being cut and bruised by rocks, sticks and roots. Many times she stumbled over hidden obstacles, the light of the moon not permeating the leafy green covering of the trees. She ran more slowly now, with an arm out in front to feel her way. Branches cut into her flesh like whips, and she tried to protect her eyes as best she could. Now and then her feet slipped on the muddy ground and she went to her knees. Melly had no idea where she was going, no idea even where, precisely, Ramsay's estate was located. He'd always managed to keep that from her, although she knew it seemed to take them close to an hour to drive into the city. For all she knew, it could have been a circuitous route, designed to throw her off of their location. She could only focus on getting away. Even if she died out here, it would be a better death than what he'd give her if she was captured. She shivered as she ran. He'd torture her. He'd take her skin. And he'd make sure she lived to feel it.

Melly didn't know how long she'd run when she finally heard the dogs.
No, no, no, no! Her brain screamed in rhythm with her footfalls. The baying sounded to be very distant, but Ramsay's bitches could cover ground faster than she could, by far. Her heart pounded so that she thought it would burst; her lungs screamed in agony. Every inch of her burned. The pain of her beating intensified in her back, buttocks and legs with every step she took. She limped, the soles of her feet ravaged by the forest floor. Finally a stitch in her side caught her and she could do nothing but stop and wait for it to pass. She leaned her forehead against a tree trunk, gasping for breath, clutching her side. Her vision blurred as tears poured down her cheeks. What must I look like? Naked, muddy, covered in blood, still clutching a shard of broken glass, she must be a sight, she thought, and closing her eyes, she actually smiled for a second. That was when she heard something that made her hold her breath and stand quite still. Somewhere, not far from where she stood, she heard the sound of running water.

Slowly, then faster, she began to run again, pausing every hundred yards or so to listen for the sound of the stream. The dogs’ baying grew louder, but so did the sound of the running water. Soon she saw it, a glimmer of silver moonlight sparkling on the water, just visible through the trees. She was nearly there. She began to run full out now, forgetting the pain, her energy restored for a moment by a rush of adrenaline. She kept her eyes fixed on that glimmering light, that flicker of silver, ever growing as she closed the distance.
If I can wade downstream, I could come out on the other side... throw them off my scent. It was then that the ground went out from under her and everything turned black.

She lay on her stomach, coming to her senses only to find that she couldn't breathe. Melly struggled to regain her breath, realizing she'd fallen and had the wind knocked out of her. White hot pain radiated from her right ankle and her injured hand throbbed intensely. Breathing slowly and deeply, she tried to get her bearings. She'd been so focused on what lay ahead, that she'd missed seeing a small ledge and had gone tumbling down.
Stupid! Cursing herself, she realized that in her fall, she must have let go of the shard of glass. Frantically, she scrabbled around in the mud and dry leaves, soon understanding that it was hopeless. She'd never find it in the dark. The dogs were louder, still. Move on, I must move on! Go!

Crawling painfully to a nearby tree, she used it to pull herself into a standing position. However, when she tried to put weight on her injured ankle, she collapsed to her knees. Sobbing, she tried again, but her ankle refused to bear weight. On all fours, she crawled then, dragging herself forward as the baying of the hounds became deafening. Pulling herself further, she could see the stream. Under her hands and knees she could feel the thudding of the dogs’ feet as they pounded the forest floor.
They're coming.

As the dogs circled around her, she stopped and let her body rest.
I can't run any more. She couldn't even crawl. Growing up, she’d always had an affinity for dogs. These bitches were different she knew, but she wouldn't try to flee from them. They surrounded her, taking turns running in at her, testing their prey. She lay still and smiled. "There now, you won't get any argument from me," she whispered.

Confused, the hounds milled around her.
Quarry always runs, always screams and squeals. Prey. This is not prey. Still and quiet. One of the bitches whined and lay down near her. Another wandered to the stream to drink. This is not prey. What to do with it? Wait and see. 

And Melly waited. She curled up and closed her eyes. Her flight was done.


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