Remembering her lessons in Elsweyr, Fria had stalked the rabbit more carefully, thinking of the Khajiit and their measured, silent paces through rocks and underbrush. They could move so slowly it looked as if they would never catch up with their prey, only to spring forwards just as it thought itself safe.
Without their whiskers and sense of hearing, however, Fria had never been able to sense what was ahead. It meant that she missed the bandits until Aquila had already appeared in front of them. If it wasn’t for a shout from the leader she probably would have crept up into the middle of them alongside her friend.
As it was, self-preservation kicked in first. Fria slipped sideways into the bushes to buy herself some time. Usually that time would be spent getting as far away as possible, but to her own surprise she found herself breathing quickly, shaking, just as she had the time Marisa wandered off alone in the market of Riverhold. Bandits were even worse than alleys full of skooma-addled Khajiit, and she didn’t have her mother beside her. How were they supposed to save themselves from this?
All this nonsense for a stupid, filthy rabbit. Fria cursed it, because that took her mind off what was happening around her, as she pushed her way forward through the underbrush. Rickety platforms and wooden struts had been set up around the ruins, which she used for cover while she tried to work her way around to the back of the camp unseen. If only Aquila could hold her ground for a few minutes - just a few minutes - they might be all right.
Six men. Only six, yet it felt like an enormous crowd of angry eyes and loud voices, all coming towards her. If not for the shrill scratch of weapons being unsheathed, Aquila might have just stood there staring right back, feet planted firmly as roots. Instead, she turned and scrambled down the steps in a flurry, letting her armful of apples fall to thud and tumble on the ground behind her.
And the bandits followed close behind as well. An archer fired several arrows after the her as she ran, but gave up his bow to join in with his brothers and the heavy weapons they towed in hand.
Her head whipped around as she ran in the direction of her cave, seeking out her friend and hoping she was somewhere safe. Maybe Fria had gone to the cave already?
No! She couldn’t lead the bandits there then! And what safety did a cave provide when being chased?
Her foot slipped in the slick grass as she made the sharp turn towards the mountains, half falling and pushing herself off with her hands. The rabble was still behind her!
She needed to get somewhere high. Somewhere high and hidden.
With that panicked solution in mind, she dashed towards the nearest rocky bank and leapt at it. Her fingers dug and clawed into half-frozen dirt, her toes clenching through the thin leather of her boots to grip the mountainside - and all the while she heard the crew of brigands below, shouting and sending stones whipping at her back. And to make matters worse, she looked down to see a nimble few climbing after her. And that archer taking up his bow once more.