[Prompt from http://daily-writing.blogspot.com/ . Here’s a long one for you guys! Characters and situation from a novel idea: Alchemic Maiden.]
They shall never succeed if they cannot prove your death. You are our only hope, Belia.
I continued to run through the trees, anywhere far from the pristine courtyards of the palace would do. I found myself vehemently determined to escape the only home I ever knew and the people who had once treasured me.
All the rumors of me being an ice princess, rumors started by Arven during his first introduction to Court, suddenly made me more of a target than the blood rushing through my veins. Not only would the coup track me down until my head was on a platter, but I feared no one would risk their lives to help me. I was much despised by those once called allies.
The darkness was suffocating. I missed the dancing flames that would illuminate every step I took. A stable boy’s lantern or even a single candlestick would have been helpful in finding my way through the unfamiliar woods. But Arven was right, I was the only hope the kingdom had left.
My chest, burning with each breath that I took, soon became unbearable. I stopped, hunched over in the blackness, trying to regain enough air to continue. There were no sounds of horse hooves beating against the dry crumpled leaves or the barking of a hunting pack behind my heels. At least for the moment, I was safe. I took a few steps to test my aching legs, praying they were strong enough from my walks around the gardens to get me to a safe haven. If one existed for me.
I saw a needle point of light ahead of me. Sanctuary!
I took a few hasty steps in that direction. I had been running for some. This soul might have not yet heard of that was happening at the palace. And in my kitchen maid’s dress with my simple moleskin cloak, this soul would not know of my heritage or position.
I reached the door and pounded. “Help. I seek shelter. Please help me.”
When the door finally opened, standing before me was a bear of a man. The candle in his hand flickered across his bearded face, casting shadows over the black eyes that told of insatiable hunger. I had only seen that look before in the serving boy who was punished for spilling wine over Father’s lap; he wasn’t given food for three days.
“You need help, eh?”
I nodded softly. The inside of his hut—a small affair made out of wood and furs—was bare and modest. I could see an ax hanging on the wall behind him and a boar’s head mounted just to the side of it. I looked again and saw him flex his arms as he smiled darkly at me. The flickering flame made that smile more sinister.
“Well I can give you a warm bed if that is your wish.”
He came towards me, ever so slightly. I took a step away from him, feeling once again the tight grip of fear around my throat.
Before he could get any closer to me, I turned and ran back into the woods. His laughter broke through the insects and birds; another animal calling into the night. I did not stop until I could no longer breathe. Even then, my legs twitched to keep moving, to get as far away from the monsters hunting me, to reach that now mythical safety I prayed would be waiting for me at the end of this nightmare.
For the sake of Arven’s sacrifice. For the sake of my people. I had to stay alive. To survive long enough to reclaim my now rightful place on the throne, I had to survive the night.