Long Night, Starlight

Keller's a princess, and Zenx is a castle warrior, errand-runner for the king. But when the princess goes missing, why was Zenx the one appointed to retrieving her? And why has the king sent for her now after several months of her absence?

She stood before me, bathed in the shimmering moonlight. She was wilder now, a snarling animal reduced to insanity; I could see it in her eyes. The quiet princess who objected to nothing and did what she was told - a serene soul - was now non-existent, this creature in her place. Her appearance was what shocked me most; her hair, once a shimmering mass of silky raven-black locks, now matted and unruly, twigs and bits of grass ensnared in its knots. Her eyes that had always been calm were wild and wide, shining silver-blue, a most unusual colour. Keller's skin was pale and smeared with dirt, and then, as a gust of cold winter wind blew about, I saw the cloth of her torn tunic waffle aside to reveal a large and rather deep gash on her thigh that was still leaking. Her face though, was priceless; a look between confusion and ferocity. 

''Who are you?'' her voice, once so melodic and musical was harsh and snipped, encased in ice. She didn't sound too pleased to see me. I was suddenly much more wary of the bow and quiver of arrows around her torso because she looked like she might actually be quite skilled in the field of archery. ''My name is Zenx, your highness,'' I replied softly, as though coaxing. ''I've come to bring you home.'' 

She snorted. ''Oh, have you now?'' her tone was mocking, the sneer on her face matching it. I felt obliged to answer, but something told me she didn't really care; and she didn't. She clasped her hands around a low-hanging branch and pulled herself up with so much ease and grace, it seemed in-human, then she rested herself in the nook of the tree, her legs drifting lazily. ''Well, after several months of my absence, it's hard to imagine I'm missed. And what kind of a name is Zenx, anyway? I've never seen you in the castle before.'' 

''I'm the castle's errand-runner,'' I said quickly. ''I don't reside there much.'' 

She shrugged as though it wasn't relevant to her - which it probably wasn't. I stood there, unsure of myself and of her. What was she thinking about in that warped mind of hers? Was she thinking to kill me? I wouldn't question it if she attempted to, after all, I was here to bring her home to her prison and for some unknown reason, too. I'd be suspicious if I were her. Then, I heard a ruffle of leaves and looked up.

''Don't move,'' said Keller's voice softly, almost a whisper. ''Stay right where you are.''

And I did, terror suddenly running over my skin in cold, sickening waves. She was perched in a predatory position on the branch, her bow set with a deadly looking arrow, and she drew it back in a motion so fast I almost didn't catch it; she let the arrow fly and it skimmed over my shoulder, and it must have pierced something deeply from the horrific cry that wailed through the surrounding area. My eyes shot back as I swiveled on spot to see a pale figure lying lifeless on the ground behind me. I turned to Keller again with widened eyes. She blinked.

''Run,'' she rasped.

The End

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