FantasyJunkie's entry into the Summer Prose Competition 2010.
It was a cold night. The waxing crescent stood bright against a starry sky, looking down upon the earth to meet the accusing gaze of eighteen year old Damien as he lay on soft grassy ground beside a crackling fire. The boy was staring at the moon visible above the hilltops of the Haroun mountain range, from which cold winds swept down to the valley and kept the villagers inside their homes, huddled around fireplaces or asleep in their warm beds. Damien had an Elven sword beside him, the azure blade’s glow pulsating in perfect rhythm with his heartbeat like it always did.
What are you smiling at? He thought as he imagined the moon grinning at him while he tried hard not to shiver.
For the past three days, somebody had been sneaking into his farm and milking the cows before sunrise. Damien was surprised why the cows never made any noise, because they never let anybody milk them except Damien or his mother Josephine, and mooed a lot if someone else tried to approach them. Tonight he had decided to brave the cold wind and catch the thief; hence on a cold December night he was outside his warm house near the barn where the cows had been put to protect them from the cold. He added new twigs to the fire and crossed his arms over his chest, closing his eyes and trying to concentrate on his hearing, expecting footsteps any moment.
Damien had been born and raised in the village called Javidan in the valley below the perpetually snowcapped Haroun Mountains, where he lived with his mother and younger brother Arthur. The village was small and picturesque, like those in the make-believe fairy tales grandparents told their grandchildren, filled with pretty huts and cheerful people. Most of the houses had sloping, tiled roofs and brick walls, while some people had also built them out of wood. The valley sloped gently from the foothills towards the Great Plain land, where the King and the Queen lived in their Royal Palace and ruled the North Kingdom. When the sun rose in the morning, the lush green valley would get bathed in its crimson rays, which gradually turned yellow while smoke from chimneys in the village houses ascended steadily towards the brightening sky. Damien’s two storey wooden house was situated at the eastern edge of the village, so as a child he used to tell everybody that he was the first person the sun greeted in the world when it rose. Even now, he liked to wake up before dawn and sit in the balcony adjoining his room to wait for the glowing orb to slowly peek above the mountain range before climbing high and occupying its rightful place in the sky to watch over the earth, reflected in the perennial Senya flowing down from the mountains.
A dense forest surrounded the village on three sides, giving way only towards the plains. In the nervous silence of the night interrupted only by the insignificant singing of crickets and occasional hoots of owls, Damien began thinking about the huge, monstrous animals that were supposed to roam in the forest at night, and that they might cross the river and head straight for him. Merely thinking so made his heart beat faster and his sword’s glow pulsate more swiftly. The sudden increase in blood circulation caused a slight warming of the body, and Damien was grinning at his imagination when he heard the rustling of hay inside the barn. He was on his feet in the blink of an eye, in a defensive stance with his sword gripped tightly in his right hand.
The cold wind kept blowing, producing an eerie whistling sound as it passed through the trees growing in the forest beyond the river Senya, flowing barely two hundred feet from where Damien stood right now- his senses heightened in anticipation of what was about to happen. Approaching the wooden door quietly, he slipped inside the barn without trying to open it-he knew the hinges creaked. A dark silhouette was bending down beside Dairy, the cow with brown and white patches. He crept behind the intruder silently, clutched the sword's hilt with both hands and spoke.
“Who are y-?” His voice died into silence as his eyes widened in astonishment. The intermittent azure glow in the dark had blown his stealth, and the person had turned around quickly to face the point of his sword just inches away from the face. Golden hair framed an angular face with deep set eyes and well formed lips. Damien held his sword, but he couldn’t have moved it even if a lion had roared behind his back. He hyperactive mind had imagined a thief with big eyes and a wicked face looking to steal milk to sell in the market.
Lighting up and darkening in rapid succession with the sword’s throbbing glow right now was a girl.
Her lips trembled, making Damien quickly pull the sword back.
“Who are you?” He spoke softly.
In an ordinary village nestled in the foothills of the world’s longest mountain range, while the stars twinkled and the moon shone in silence; the merciless cold wind bent the grass growing on the mountain slopes as it blew steadily towards the valley, a boy looked into the eyes of a princess and knew her not.