“Hostiles? What's happening?” Hataru’s leg slammed into the coffee table, knocking over her half-full teacup as she ran to the door, but the guard was already gone, she guessed, since she heard no reply. Her shin throbbed. Hearing more shouts in the hallway, the princess’ heart rate quickened. She didn’t need tea to stay awake now.
Bolting the door, Hataru ran back to her lady-in-waiting and shook her, “Gilda, I don’t know what’s going on, but I feel we ought to hide. Come on, into the closet!”
The frightened woman was as easy to lead as an impregnated, three-legged sow. “You were right… I thought you were just hearing things, but you were right.”
CRACK! Peeking over her shoulder, she saw the silver tip of an ax head sprouting from the center of the door.
“We’re going to die!”
“Hush, Gilda. Nobody’s going to die. Now get in the closet and stay quiet.” CRACK! The older woman whimpered; dresses decorated with bows and cloth flowers covered her like a child playing hide-and-go-seek behind expensive curtains. Before the princess could join her, however, a third and final CRACK signaled that the intruders had gained entry. Hataru spun around on the swift feet of a skilled dancer, clicking the wardrobe doors shut behind her as she dove to hide behind the green sofa.
The young woman’s pupils widened, nearly engulfing her cobalt blue irises, as she fought against the fears that threatened to team up with her anemic tendencies and steal away her consciousness. Blinking, she focused on the miniscule details of the wallpaper and steadied her breathing. When the haziness in her vision cleared, the princess tried to hear over the thundering of her heart. Five slow, cautious footsteps creaked the floorboards beneath the plush, wine-colored carpet. She sat deathly still. Silence. Emboldened either by courage or curiosity, the princess dared to peek around the corner of the couch.
“Hello, Princess.” Hataru came face to face with a grimy beak-nosed man baring his rotting, green teeth in an evil smile. He cackled as she crawled away and stood with her back against wall.
“Who are you?” The young woman scanned the room for any means of defense, cursing herself for choosing the flower-shaped wall-candle fixture over the regal crossed-swords ornament when she decorated the room for the journey. She had thought that the thick candle’s light would be more practical -- which it had been -- but it wasn’t doing her much good at the moment. Unless… A loud screech distracted her as scarlet macaw flapped into the room, landing on the back of her sofa, its beady eyes glaring at her devilishly.
Standing up, the man ─ nearly half a foot shorter than the princess due to his hunched posture ─ twittered, “It doesn’t matter who we are, but who our master is, and he seems quite keen on obtaining you. Come along quietly, now, and we’ll go easy on you.” He took a step towards her.
“St─stay back!” The princess reached for the burning, white candle.
He continued forward. “Don’t worry, Princess. We won’t hurt you. My master, you see, doesn’t like spoiled goods.”
“I said, stay back!” she screamed, swinging the candle so that the molten wax sloshed against the man’s face.
“Krraaa!” the hunchback retreated a few steps, clawing at his eyes.
Like a gazelle fleeing from a lion, Hataru galloped toward the door. If she could escape, she could find help. She just had to get out that door.