The hot midday sun cast dappled patterns of light and shadow on the forest floor as a small brook babbled away, sunlight glinting off its rippling surface. A moorhen strutted along the bank, stabbing occasionally at the ground in search of food, uttering its soft plaintive cries to the surrounding woodland. The leaves of an overhanging willow tree trailed in the water, and a fat brown trout swam lazily through the weeds, coming to the surface to snap idly at passing mayflies.
The tranquility was broken by the sound of running feet. The moorhen took off in a clatter of wings as a ragged man came crashing through the trees and splashed through the stream, trying to rid himself of the ropes that bound his wrists cruelly together. Casting a terrified glance over his shoulder, he ran onwards, staggering slightly with fatigue. Crimson as he was with the effort of running, the sound of his pursuers behind him drained the colour from his face. Sobbing with fear and gasping for breath, dodging round trees and bushes, he blundered desperately on.
Finally reaching the edge of the forest, he paused for a moment, listening intently. A slow smile of relief suffused his face as he could hear no sound of the hunters. He had escaped! Glancing swiftly around to take his bearings, he took off across the grassland.
All of a sudden his stride was broken. He gazed in horror at the point of the arrow which appeared to have grown out of his chest and a trickle of blood escaped from the corner of his mouth. His knees buckled, and without a sound he fell. He didn't hear the heavy footsteps approach him, or the mirthless laugh as the arrow was forcibly wrenched from his body and thrust back into its quiver, still dripping. His body, unceremoniously dragged, was abandoned at the fringes of the wood, leaving his sightless eyes to stare up through the lacework of branches, hands still bound as if in prayer. As the sounds of the assassins receded into the distance, the outskirts of the forest became peaceful again, with only a spatter of cooling blood on the lush grass to show that death had visited the woodlands.