It was raining heavily as I ran for the barn. William was getting on a large chestnut horse, Angel struggling in his grip and my jaw dropped when he slapped her. She just struggled more, her green eyes blazing in anger. I looked around and found a bow and five arrows on the ground. Barely taking time to wonder why they were there, I snatched them and mounted another horse.
Behind me, Hugo had taken a sword and was getting on a horse, too. We were both used to riding bareback. There were times in the summers where we would have to ride on the horses for plowing. It wasn't comfortable but there wasn't any time to saddle the horses.
I dug my heels into the side of the horse and chased after William in the rain. It was coming down hard and Angel's golden hair was the only thing that helped me keep an eye on them. The guards had finally reacted and were trying to raise the drawbridge over the moat. William's horse just jumped over it and I held on tightly to my horse's mane as it did the same.
Gripping with my knees, I docked an arrow and pointed it at William's back. The horse's movements, though, was making it hard to get a solid target. If I wasn't careful, I could hit the princess. William had a decent head start, too, and I urged the horse on with my voice. I could hear Hugo shouting to the guards about lowering the drawbridge. Apparently he hadn't made it over in time which meant it was just me.
Luckily, William's horse had to slow down as it rounded the corner. I took my chance and let my arrow loose. He yelled in pain as it pierced his right leg. He and Angel both fell off. The horse, startled by the sudden noise and light burden, reared on its hind legs and ran off. William wasn't giving in, though. He got up and dragged Angel by her gown and hair. She was still struggling and I sent another arrow through his other leg.
He fell face first into the mud and I threw my weapons to the side. I ran as fast as I could an untied the handkerchief William had used to gag her. She was very pale and gripping her right thigh.
"My ankle," she moaned and I moved her gown carefully.
It was swelling and I touched it. She whimpered but I didn't feel a break.
"It's probably just sprained or twisted," I said.
The rain came down harder and Hugo and five guards caught up.
"I'll take her back to the palace," I offered, mounting my horse again, and Hugo picked her up carefully, apologizing when she whimpered again. "Get him back up there, too."
Hugo nodded, glaring at the back of William's head. I could hear him groaning in pain from the two arrows lodged into his legs.
I held Princess Angel carefully and dug my heels into the horse's sides. Her face was getting paler and I started to get concerned. Was I wrong about her ankle? Perhaps it really was broken.
Then I felt something warm on my arm and I looked. She had deep gouges on the back of her neck and I dug my heels in more. She was bleeding. A lot.
The king and queen were waiting at the entrance and I slid off the horse smoothly. They looked frantically at her but I shook my head.
"Where do I take her? She's got a sprained ankle but she's also bleeding quite a bit."
"I'm bleeding?" she asked, her voice weak.
The king led me into the palace and down a set of stone stairs. They came out to a large room where I saw medical supplies. A woman that looked around her mid 30's was mixing something and gasped when she saw the marks on her neck.
"How did this happen?" she asked as we carefully put Angel on her stomach.
I brushed my wet bangs off my face, my stomach flipping as I thought.
"I've-I've seen marks like these but just in books," I muttered. "When they fell off the horse, he grabbed the back of her gown and-"
The queen gasped, covering her mouth as the woman soaked up the blood. Angel had already fainted from the pain and blood loss and now the queen fainted. I looked sadly at the marks on Angel's neck. The king lifted his wife and took her upstairs. I ran my hand through my hair.
I was pacing my room, unable to stop even to pain Angel's portrait. The king had sent me to my room and told me to wait to hear from him. It had been three hours since the attempted kidnapping and I was getting impatient. Finally, he walked in.
"Thank you," he said. "Hugo told me how you were the one to get to them first."
I shook my head. "If that bow and the arrows hadn't been in the barn...."
"Do you really think he's a werewolf?" the king whispered.
I just shrugged. "Like I said, I've only seen things like those in books." I bit my lip. "Just in case, when is the next full moon?"
I nodded and looked at him. His eyes were sad.
"Don't worry," I said and he looked at me, confused. "If he is, she won't be turned into one. It can only happen through a bite."
He nodded then sighed. "I just wanted to come in and thank you."
"How is Queen Miranda?"
"She's fine. She's in bed and recovering."
"And Princess Angel?"
"Safe in bed as well. We cleaned her wounds and they've been appropriately bandaged." He saw the painting the queen had given me. "My wife told me what you told her." I looked away, waiting for the words of sympathy I hated. "Would you like me to take action?"
I looked up, surprised. "What?"
"Would you like me to place him under arrest?" he clarified.
I hadn't been expecting that.
"Thank you but I'm afraid it's too late for that. When I'm done here, he's already kicked me out," I added when he didn't look convinced.
"What do you mean, when you're done here?"
I smiled sadly. "I'm sure she'll choose Hugo over me. But that's okay," I said quickly. "I'm glad for the time I'm spending here and it will be an enormous honor to spend time with her."
The king surveyed me for a long time. I was starting to get uncomfortable and he picked up on it.
"Thank you again for saving my daughter," he said, holding his hand out.
I shook it. "Of course. Good night, Your Majesty."
The time William would have spent with Princess Angel was replaced with her recovering. On the final day, she sent for me and Hugo.
"I wanted to thank you two," she said.
She was in her bed, propped up against many pillows. Her room continued to carry the green, gold, and white theme.
"It was our pleasure," Hugo said earnestly. "I am just very sorry you were injured."
"I am completely healed. My mother is just worried for me." Her lips curled in a wry smile. "She thinks I'll turn into a werewolf."
"Regardless, the kingdom is lucky to have you," I said. "Please excuse me. I have an appointment with your mother."
I bowed out and went to the throne room. The queen sat on her throne but the king was at the window, frowning.
"I must speak with you about the other night," she said as I got on my knee in respect.
"I don't know why you told him," the king interrupted, turning to us.
The queen glared at him and he fell silent.
"You told my husband you were lucky to find a bow and some arrows," she began and I nodded. "Several days before, I had caught a stable boy playing with them behind the barn. I chastised him and took them. I was about to take them to the castle but something in me said to leave them there in the barn."
"It was your gift," I said slowly and she nodded.
"I thought you had the right to know."
I bowed my head. "Thank you for telling me."
"How goes your painting?" she inquired.
"I haven't had the time to work on it," I answered, standing back to my feet. "With everything that has been going on.... What has become of William?"
"He is in the dungeons," the king answered, cringing as the queen straightened his crown meticulously. "We healed his legs and he's being interrogated as we speak. He is stubborn, though, and refuses to talk."
I nodded, unsure of what to say.
"Well, now is as good a time as any to return to your painting," the queen said finally and I took that as my cue to leave.
As I walked back to my room, I passed by Hugo who looked incredibly nervous.
"What's wrong?" I asked.
"Tomorrow starts my week with her," he breathed and I smiled.
"You'll do fine," I said.
He tried to smile back and went to his own room. I wondered what it was going to be like. The king, in light of recent events, had cut the time down to 5 days but I knew she would have a better time with Hugo than with William.
I walked into my room and my face turned red. On my bed lay the sketch of the princess I had hidden.
It is beautiful. Do not stop. - Queen Miranda
I groaned and put my hands over my face. No wonder she was so curious about my painting. I could only hope she hadn't told Angel.