I felt the tension in the bow as I drew the string back to touch my nose. Keeping both eyes open I focused on the target, aiming for the centre. The muscles in my arms began to ache as I held the string, refusing to loose the arrow so it would hit its target. I had to be strong.
My fingers loosened and the arrow flew through the air, hitting the target right in the centre. There was a smattering of applause from the gathered crowd. I smiled cautiously at the elves around me. I liked being at court but I felt uneasy with so many people watching me. Normally the princess was the centre of attention and I was happy living in her shadow, but now I had to endure the spotlight until the princess returned from one of her many disappearances into the woods.
As the next archer took their position at the target I slung my bow over my shoulder and crept away into the safety of the trees. When I was far enough away from the gathering I ran, my skirt flying out behind me, the slits up the side revealing my legs as they pounded the ground.
Then there was a sound and I stopped. I wasn't sure what it was but I knew everyone else was at the palace. Or so I thought. I slowly crept towards the sound, the whinnying of a horse and heavy footsteps. Whoever it was wasn't trying to hide their presence.
I took an arrow from the quiver at my side and put it, waiting, on the string of my bow. I looked through the foliage and saw a man. Not an elf but a human. I hadn't seen a human in many years and the presence of this solitary man both scared and intrigued me. But his closeness to the palace made my protective instinct kick in and I acted.
Silently I lept from the bushes, drawing my bow and aiming it at the man's head. 'Don't move.' I whispered. 'What is your purpose here?'
'I am just passing through, I mean you no harm.' The man looked tired and messy but there was something about him that made my heart soften and I brought down my bow.
'What is your name traveller?' I asked.
'I must take you to the King, Ramin. Give me your horse.' Reluctantly he handed me the reins and I led both him and his horse towards the palace. We got strange looks from elves who were wandering around the palace gardens but I ignored them, focusing on taking this man to the King.
I gave the horse to a boy waiting at the stables. 'Treat him well.'
'Actually it's a she.' Ramin corrected me.
'Pardon me.' I led Ramin to the main hall where the King received his guests. I knelt before his chair and presented the man to him. 'I found this man wandering in the woods near the palace your Majesty.'
The King waved me aside and I took my place at the side of the hall, watching all that went on. The King was a generous man and it did not suprise me he gave Ramin some of our weapons. It was my job to take him to the armoury and help him choose a weapon.