The boy ran.
There was nothing else he could do. He ran as fast as he could whilst still taking care not to catch his feet on the branches littering the forest floor or slip on the wet leaves. He had to get as far from this place as possible before the alarm was raised, as it surely would be.
He reckoned he had a few hours and had to make the most of those hours. They would be the difference between freedom, or a form of it, and capture. He didn’t want to think about what capture would mean so used the fear those thoughts brought to his mind to force himself onwards.
Assuming there were no more patrols through the castle this night, the alarm wouldn’t be raised till first light as the rest of the residents of the castle went for breakfast. Then the roll call would reveal the company to be a member short. A recount would take place and then names would be called. He would be identified as the missing member soon enough. They would check his room first and then the castle itself would be searched. The possibility would be considered that he had had an accident and may be incapacitated somewhere in the castle, in those parts of the castle he was permitted to access. When no trace was found, the worst would be thought and the hunters would be sent out to track him down. The instruction would be given that all means necessary were permitted to find and bring him back.
Of course, he knew in his heart that they may not get further than searching his room before the alarm was raised. It would not be unusual for one of the wardens to check on his room, for such checks happened regularly. Neither would a warden think it unusual for him to be absent from his room. What would raise the alarm and cause hunters to be sent on his trail, was not to find his room unoccupied but to find it unoccupied and the window open. That didn’t happen, was never allowed to happen. Even in the summer months when the sun was in the sky the windows would still not be opened. That would risk too much, would plant the thought in the minds of the residents that there was a world outside which could be accessed. A closed window, one which was not permitted to be opened and which could not in fact be opened without the aid of a warden, was a safeguard against the evils of the outside world, was closed for a good reason, for their protection.
Or so the residents were told.
The boy ran on…