Running. Running. More running.
Everything blurred. Time, thought and hope. It was impossible to separate the reality of it. Light merged with night and everything became dark. I was running through the forest, but my senses had dulled. I couldn’t recall a single landmark.
I couldn’t hear leaves or sticks crunching beneath my feet, I couldn’t see the outlines or shadows of things lurking in the corners, I only felt the icy coldness of rain and the throbbing hiccup in my chest.
I refused to understand.
The ambush was sudden.
I understood helplessness in the moment Eldelrok threw me from the saddle. I saw the arrow pierce his left shoulder and blood stream down his face. I tasted fear, anger and hate. I felt the ground beneath my feet, the only unmoving thing as chaos swirled before me in the form of clashing swords and wild horses.
“Run, Princess!” Eldelrok whispered with his last breath, his grip on my wrist went slack. “Betrayed…”
Because he was my bodyguard, because I trusted his word, because I trusted him most, I ran.
There was no way to tell the right direction, but I only knew that I couldn’t stop running. Surely I would be followed.
Eldelrok’s touch lingered on my left wrist. My cold, wet, aching wrist. The wrist that would wield Kuroshan. The hand that could taste betrayal with a mere touch.
I ran until my legs gave out.
Then I crawled to the faintest sliver of something light. A cliff, in the middle of nowhere. I sat a few feet from the edge and waited.
Someone would come.
Someone always came.
The ambush replayed in my head and I remembered the words whispered at court. There was a leak, somewhere, but it excluded me. I was no one important. I had no authority, no power, nothing worth stealing away.
Someone had attempted to control my fate.
The magical rain was cold.
It made the disguise harder to bear. The rough fabrics of commoners’ clothes were strange and unfamiliar. The cheap accessories were worse. I missed my healing diamonds and heirloom comforts. Now, everything of me is unreal and illusory.
My ears ached.
The crashing footsteps drew nearer.
“Milady!” The guard collapsed to the ground beside me, clutching my body close to his.
I let him, unable to resist. He was stronger. He was bigger. He knew me too well. I couldn’t breathe, but I tried. My hand touched him. I almost died. The truth was plainly told with my gift.
The scent of betrayal was heavy around him and his touch was the most telling of all. The hands around my neck and stomach were not shaking, cold or shy. They were strong, deliberate, and burning hot.
I felt every finger on my cold skin. His hands tightened as his lips touched my ear, a private word between us. “Princess?”
“Galen.” I gasped. “You came.” I pretended to cry. “G-galen!”
I could not escape his arms. From the folds of my commoners’ skirt, from the pocket on this mud-stained apron, my small, cold hands clenched tight around the icy hilt of the black-bladed knife.
Kuroshan. It would claim him tonight.
“Yes, your highness. It’s over.” He nuzzled my neck.
The touch of his lips was hotter than his hands. I felt the poison gathered within him. A touch that could kill. I should have noticed earlier.
If I was half the fool he though, then I would die.
But the for the sake of my country, my crown and my own foolish pride, I refused to die.
The knife cradled so carefully was pulled from the soaked fabric and thrust through his side with all my might. His betrayal was returned.
The magical backlash threw us apart.
His fingers loosened, his breath faded and his body fell to the ground.
I lay, captivated by fear and despair, inches away from the cliffside.
His sorcerer’s garb was plainly visible as the magic drained away from his body. The royal knife pinned him to the ground, draining away the power he used for evil. He would never crush our country with his darkness.
The rain stopped.
His dastardly deeds undone.
Another friend—no—enemy is gone.
His voice I will never hear. His scent I will forget. His burning touch gave him away.
I almost laughed.
My father will be happy.
Another betrayer of the crown died, while his princess lived on.
Perhaps it was necessary.
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