Fingers cupped tight around his mother’s life, Timas runs: bare feet scrambling as fast as he can move them over overgrown cobbles, then sharp-shorn stalks of wheat, then the roots and rocks of the forest floor. He stumbles, once, and falls; his arm is scraped from elbow to wrist, but there is moss beneath the brunt of him, and he keeps his hands locked tight.
His mother’s life is a white-hot pinprick of light dancing between his fingers, aching to be let free. Timas holds it so tight his fingers hurt, afraid it will slip away between them; if he loses it here, in the open forest, he’ll lose it forever. It will be gone before he has a chance to catch it.
But it is safe between his palms, and he pushes himself to his feet again without letting go. Careful, careful, he runs to where the forest is deepest: to the place where the earth opens itself like the gaping maw of a great beast with teeth of chiseled stone, dark and dank and home to nothing save what he has brought