“Mi’lady, wake up! It’s time for your breakfast. I made your favorite today. Porridge with strawberries from the garden.”
The knight never misses to wake the Princess at the first breath of dawn, it always annoys her, But! The surge of annoyance fades as quick as it appears at mention of the word “strawberries”. She strings out of bed, readies and changes into her morning dress and quickly brushes her hair. The vanity of a princess is not quelled so easily. The princess is in such a rush she doesn’t bother grabbing one of her 7 pairs of slippers. The stone staircase down from her room to the dining hall is cold on her feet, but she pays no attention, too excited for strawberries
There is a slight cold breeze coming through the hall makes the steam from the hot bowl of porridge rise up hypnotically from its ceramic bowl. A fresh glass of juice sits on the large round table beside her breakfast. She’s too busy lusting after meal to realize she already sat down and grabbed the silver spoon next to her condensation covered glass.
“My word Princess! On a normal day it would take an invading army to wake you. Yet mention garden berries and you react like its your last meal.” The knight is her usual humorous self.
The princess is already several spoonful’s into her porridge, but clears her throat before responding.
“Well I would much rather sleep in for several hours then wake up EVERY day like an army is invading, you should try sleeping in some or at least go to bed earlier. I do believe your skin and hair would agree with me. You are barely 30 and have the complexion of an elder. Or is 30 considered elderly now?”
The knight’s face squints and clenches as she tries to formulate a clever retort. Finally, after a long pause she keeps her face clenched, stares into her with her warrior gaze and says. “Milady your porridge is getting cold. It would be best if you kept eating to enjoy it as its warm.”
This is the closest any knight has come to telling a princess to shut up without getting beheaded. It wasn’t a victory the knight’s part, and she knows that. But the princess smiles and laughs. The knight follows with a violent and pleasant chuckle. Most guards would never think of talking to royalty like this. However, being the only 2 humans in a mini castle tucked away and pressed against a never ending forest and towering mountain sides. It would get rather boring if they stuck with formalities. Between the very minimal duties and the nearest village being a two-day hike. They turn to the best form of entertainment, each other.
The knight watches her princess like a lion protecting her cub, only occasionally glancing out the window towards the tree line, keeping an eye out for any movement that can be deemed a threat. As secluded as they are she was charged with the task of keeping her safe. Though in the time the pair have been here the only thing the princess needed protection from was the bee that had flown into her chambers one evening. Hardly a glorious battle, seeing as the knight needed a bandage on the back of her head from falling off a bookcase shooing the little honey carrier out the window. For a fortnight the princess howled with laughter everyday and still snickers when she brings up the incident. In the end The knight always smiles, though technically a defeat, she likes how much joy it brought her. She has been through enough.
“Soooooo.” The princess glances at her protector with a heartwarming glow that could convince a crippled man to give her his walking stick.
“Can we train again today?”
“NO.” The knight knew this question was coming and replied without hesitation.
“oh come on!”
“Princess we’ve discussed this many times. You need to take a day to allow your muscles to heal. Instead we will- “
“We’ve swept the corridors yesterday, it hasn’t rained so the gutters don’t need clearing, You’ve obviously tended to the garden already, AND supper doesn’t need to be prepared since you made porridge today that means its chicken stew tonight which you already have simmering on the fire. Plus! We haven’t been to town in a month so there aren’t any new books yet”
The knight sighs. she had it right, down to the last detail. She never could win an argument with the young princess. Even if she didn’t have her heavenly beauty and charm she can out think and out talk her way out of any situation.
“If only she knew just how dangerous she was.” The knight thinks to herself.
“Alright Milady we can train, but onLY FOR HALF THE DAY!” the knight barely even started her sentence before the princess hopped out of her seat, threw her dishes into the sink and bolted up the stairs to change into her attire. Sometimes she feels more like a mother then a guardian.
As a knight, she has been given strict order not to train the princess in combat. But she was told nothing about training her to dodge attacks, evade pursuers, and lead attackers into traps. A loophole in her orders that the intelligent princess pointed out after a very, very, very long interrogation on the subject. It keeps them both occupied and in good health, so the knight did not mind the technicality. She looks out to the horizon and gently sniffs the air.
“Smells like a storm is coming.” It’s a good habit to get into, predicting the weather keeps her senses sharp.
The knight had barely even glanced away when she felt a subtle wisp over her hair followed by roughly 115 pounds- No... 105 pounds of royalty on her shoulders. She seems to have lost some weight. But pays this no mind.
Impressed by her young student’s stealth the knight thinks she’s earned a little praise. “AH! You remembered to walk on the ball of your foot. I could barely hear you coming. I told you it works to hide your steps.” She waits for her princess’s usual quick witted remark but instead feels the 100-pound princess loosen her grip and fall to the floor. Wait… 100 pounds?... that can’t be right, she must be mistaken, the panic is causing her to misread her weight.
“…. I don’t… think… not right…” The princess feels her body twitch as she staggers her words out, she keeps wondering how she had fallen so ill. She doesn’t understand. the twitch quickly manifests into a solid hard throbbing. She moans in pain as her surroundings start to almost shift size, shape and color.
“Have the stones always been so blue?”. The princess is shocked at her last thought before her world fades and goes black.
“Princess?! PRINCESS!!” the knights own panic is in full swing but quickly fades once her training kicks in and breaks down the situation.
“She was fine last night, no abnormalities in breathing, skin tone, or eating habits, no complaints or aches or pains, it must have been something immediate-… something in the porridge? No I tested it myself otherwise I would be showing the same symptoms… NO! no time to second guess it must be the food. I need to purge her system now!” The knights thought process is almost instantaneous. She scoops up her princess and rushes her to the table knowing what she must do and is already planning her remedies and procedures in this situation, staying 4 steps ahead of herself. Unfortunately, this vale of control she felt is quickly shattered when she too falls to the floor, mere strides from where she was just moments ago laughing with her princess.
“… eighty… five...” The knight noticed it within half a step towards the table. She wasn’t mistaken, the princess had been getting lighter, almost like she’s shrinking. This isn’t poison. This is sorcery. But who? From where? The mighty knight was no match for her unseen foe and quickly follows her master in a state of unconsciousness.
Tall grass, low hanging branches, dense trees, rock and dirt trails, rivers, and steep mountain paths are hardly a deterrent to a woman with nothing in her heart but terror. A twig snaps under her foot and leaves her with a stinging gash. The pain only serves to remind her what lies in wait for the princess if she is too late. Had she looked down she would have noticed that she had only one shoe on. Lost it somewhere between the village and here and had no notice of the missing item. The village, a 5-hour hike from her post only took 15 minutes. Luckily a witch has many tricks to rely on. Even so, an endurance enhancing spell only serves to double the amount of strain her body can take, casting 2 of these can cause serious damage to herself in the days to come. Even knowing this, she did not waver to cast the spell 3 times.
The witch rounded an all too familiar corner along the mountain side. Normally the sight of her make shift home carved out of a cave would bring her comfort. Though her first glance wasn’t at her front door this time. But down the cliff side to the castle the valley below, where her pride and joy was trying to live what life she could. The witch collapsed on the ground in relief. She could see the knight the witch chose to stay beside her tending to the garden, as diligent as ever. The witch knew at this sight that they had not arrived yet. Yet this gave birth to another spike of terror within her. They aren’t here. But they are coming.
The last of the witch’s enhancement was used to break her own door down, no time to fumble with locks. She hurries to her books and tomes. Grabbing at them one by one and tossing the useless one aside despite their age and rarity.
“No, no, no no no no no no, NO!”
Where did she put it? That one book with the skills necessary to save her. She already had several abilities lined up for such an occasion. Yet this army had already bypassed all of the defences she had placed in the region. The fact that the had made it to the village only meant that erecting the other obstacles she had planned would be useless.
“How did they make it passed the shield? More importantly how did they open the gate?” she was asking the questions she knew she couldn’t answer. Simply mumbling frantic thoughts to keep her mind focused on her contingency plan. She is the previous empire’s most distinguished sorceress and yet the new order army, made up of simple thugs, managed to make it passed all of her charms and traps. Her questions will have to wait.
“There! Yes, there you are!” she yelled as if she expected her spell book to apologize and turn the clock backwards to give her the time she wasted searching for it. She flipped through the pages wildly to cast her cloaking spell on the castle. A simple spell mind you however it is effective when you are able to pair it with an illusionary spell. Bringing a fake castle to life over a cliff is nothing short of a cake walk for her. How satisfying would it be to watch an entire army plummet to their deaths on the other side of the mountain. Far away from her precious princess.
“You stupid sorceress! You can’t even keep her safe! Damn it you… you-” the witch yelling at herself doesn’t make her feel better. The contingency plan took several hours to prepare. Would have been much shorter but the enhancement spells from earlier made moving around near torture at the best of times. Finishing only to find out that she had used nearly all of her energy getting back, and additional energy trying to recover from the journey. Even casting the cloak alone would end up causing her death from the exhaustion. She would be more then willing to do it to protect her, but what then? The new order army will simply keep searching until the castle is found. But what can she do?
She looks out her window and sees her princess trotting to the table and sits down, all the while the clear distinctive movement of the knight’s and princess’s lips was visible to the witch, even from this distance. Then watching them laugh. It fills her with a sense of dread, which shows itself as anger.
“Why can’t you just grow wings and fly away!” She yells as she grits her teeth and tosses her spell book across the room.
That’s when it came across the witch, on her desk below the spell book was an experimental parchment she was working on.
Shapeshifting. She’s been working on a way to keep a closer eye on the princess without exposing herself. A simple spell, needs very little energy. It’s the most she can do for her right now. Let the princess hide in plain sight.
The witch perches herself on her window sill over looking the castle. The princess had just gone to her room; she will return momentarily. This is the moment, There’s no time. She’s scribbling her incantation so fast on the scroll that her shaking, weak, numb hands don’t even realize that they aren’t supposed to be moving correctly. Always thinking ahead, the witch prepares a second scroll in case she misses the first. Still perched in front of the overlooking window, she focuses her eyes on the staircase. Through concentration she is able to pick out details and images at a distance that even a hawk can’t, a basic skill for an advanced sorceress, but no time for that now.
A shoe appears on the staircase, not enough, she needs a spot of bare skin for the spell to work. A hand appears next, gloved, but there’s skin appearing just below the cuff of her shirt from her movements.
This is it! The key to this spell isn’t picturing another creature as a whole in her mind. But imagining the traits in which she wants the shapeshifted to have, after, the transformation. With the witches focus and the addition of the adrenaline pouring into her veins, time essentially stops.
“Speed, evasiveness, detection, stealth.” Those four words were the ones she thought to herself the instant she fired her spell. An unseen bolt shot towards the princess at a speed no human, sorcerer, warlock or demon can even comprehend. She didn’t even feel it hit her exposed wrist.
Success. Though no time to relax, or even recover. The witch stumbles over and nearly faints from the spell. She was weaker then she anticipated. Now her legs can’t even move. This shouldn’t be happening! Not yet! It was at that moment the witch remembered her second prepared incantation. Through her experiments she managed to figure out that even on a very base level, animals of different species can communicate with each other. She can’t leave the princess alone. Not in that state.
She prepares the scroll and points it at herself. She can only think of one word that would be suitable to be at the princess’s side.
“Protector.” She thinks to herself as she prepares to fire.
She can’t do it. Her hands and mind won’t let her transform herself. She doesn’t have that right. It is the only time in hours that she hesitated. She can’t be with the princess, even in an altered form. The Shame is too much to bear. She can’t allow herself to privilege at being by her side. Even in this dire situation. Being in the company of her royalty would bring her a barely measurable amount of joy. Even that is too much. The witch can’t give herself even that little bit of bliss. Not after what she has done. However, there is someone who is worthy to be with her.
The witch can barely lift her arms; her hands feel non-existent. Yet she is able to pull herself up just enough to her the princess’s loyal knight kneeling down to help the now collapsed princess.
Parchment in hand the witch aims one more time down the cliff face into the castle window. Focus on the knight, hoping there is somewhere for her to hit. The nap of her neck is exposed. An easy mark compared to her last shot.
“Protector.” The word she engraved into her mind from just a second ago. She focuses on the taught skin on the knight’s neck and fires her final bolt. This last effort to assist uses up her last bit of strength. Without a thought the witch collapses onto her window sill, then on to the cold floor.
“Hey! I found something!”
The raspy, gruff voice would have been enough to wake even the princess. The knight slowly comes too with the mental anguish that can only be described as, The hangover of a thousand kegs. She hears heavy strong foot steps coming up the stairs from across the kitchen. The steps stop near where the other voice was originating from.
“Who cares about a dead animal, we have a job to do.”
“But look at that fur, could make a decent pelt.”
“Yeah? Well you will have plenty of time taking care of your fashion while tied to a post for being a slacker.”
“To take care of.”
“You said, “Taking care of” you meant to say, “to take care of”, it’s proper grammar.”
The knight was able to figure out that they were soldiers. With the sound of the armor clanging together in between their ludicrous conversation it was easy to tell. She takes the opportunity to get on her feet and confront them.
Blood doesn’t taste very good, yet for some reason the knight can’t get enough of it. Rather then standing upright and reaching for her sword she felt an uncontrollable urge to lunge at the foes before her. They were easy prey, distracted by each other, she was able to blindside one and gripped her teeth in back of his neck. Before she and him even fell to the floor she could feel the crunch and snap of his spine under her powerful jaws.
The second was just as simple, these foot soldiers have always had poor reflexes. He only managed to grip his hilt by the time her still blood soaked teeth found their way into his fresh pulsating throat. Once more she was disgusted by it. Yet could not stop tasting it. In the midst of her feast she was reminded of something. Some she should not have forgotten.
“Where is the princess?” She thought to herself. She tries to call for her but no words come out.
“What did I just do?!” The howl was unexpected. She tried to grab her throat but quickly lost her balance and fell over. She was still on all 4 limbs. On the floor she looked down and noticed a set of paws, her paws. She has paws. The knight’s memory is still foggy. But the realization that she and her royal highness were hit by a spell that knocked them out.
That’s when it appears. A beautiful creature popped its little head out from behind the broom closet near the stair entrance. A little pure white rabbit. It looks so, tasty.
A vicious animalistic lunge was halted a hairs width between the wolf knight’s dagger teeth and the rabbits plump supple body from the sight of its eyes. The brightest green she has ever seen.
“Princess?” the young lady she had sworn an oath to protect by her father was nearly made into her dinner. But it couldn’t be. Looking behind her past the near headless men on the floor she could she her armour she had some how slipped out of beside that not a foot away was the cloaked outfit the princess had made specially for training, and like the armour, it was just laying on the floor like it had been clumsily placed there. No body near it. She had been turned into an animal. It is safe to say her darling princess shared the same fate. Looking back to the edge of the broom closet the rabbit had seemed to have taken the opportunity to run from the distracted predator and fled down the stairs into the foyer.
“Milady!” She calls after her and gives pursuit down the stairs.
“I’m sorry!” All her attempts to call out to her only make vicious howls and cries.
The princess knows the wolf is her cherished protector. She woke up out of her forced nap a while before the knight did. Even tried to wake her up. But her tiny body was not able to rouse her now wolf-y companion. She hid when she heard the sound of footsteps up the stairs. She wanted to go investigate but her instinct drove her to the corner behind the closet. Hearing the knight attack and kill the soldiers was frightening. But she forced herself to peek out and look at her. The terror that came afterwards was indescribable, it was then that she noticed her wolfed friend was cast in a cloak of black fur. This was now an animal, it was not her knight anymore. The lunge the wolf made that nearly took her life was more then enough for her to attempt an escape.
Her legs were small, but strong, she is very nimble and was able to get herself out of the stair well and across the painting covered foyer before the wolf made it done the stairs. There’s a path she knows of south of the castle and up the mountains, she will go for that. It isn’t accessible to humans, but as a small nimble rabbit. Should be easy. Rounding the corner, she was stopped, crushed would be more accurate, By a cold, wet, and gritty hand.
“Oi oi gentlemen, look what tried to get passed me.” The human who in her current form seemed like a giant, smelt awful. The moss he jammed into the joints in his armor was old and moldy, started to actually house some bugs. How was she able to know this? It seems becoming an animal has heightened her senses.
“Wha is that ya got dere?” A friend of her giant capture was 20 feet away, equally smelly but even more intolerable from his unpleasant commoner accent.
“I got us some nice supper.” The two men cheered in glee at their accidental success for some food.
“The princess was struck with another dose of fear and terror. Not at her becoming nourishment for these insufferable men. But at the sight behind them.
Hundreds, no, thousands of men were in the grassy field between her castle and the forest. Every one of them clad in Blue and black cloth and armor, she has not seen it for a great number of years. The New order colors have always been a trigger for dread and terror for the princess. Now here they are, she did everything she could to get away from them until the time was right. She was taken back by the sheer size of the force that she didn’t notice her black furred pursuer coming from the castle entrance, teeth bare.
It wasn’t too long after that her giant fell to the ground with a hard thud and not with any grace, brought her down with him. The clamoring of metal running toward her was deafening. Managing to keep upright she glanced over to the giant. The Wolf was now on top of the giant with its teeth imbedded into the back of his neck. The sound she became familiar with but a sight she will never get used to. The wolf looks around and sees her. The princess wants to run. But the presence of the New Order men was crusher her very soul. Unable to breath or think let alone move. She stares and the wolf now advancing toward her. She was ready to accept her fate if it wasn’t for the wind rushing past her head. The wolf had leaped over her and faced the soldiers that were rushing over to aid their now fallen comrade. The wolf let out a vicious growl towards the coming attackers that made then stop in their tracks.
the princess heard something right then, not in spoken words, or even a voice in her head. It was a feeling of words; her instincts were speaking to her. Her instincts were able to hear the intent of the wolf. It was only one word directed at the soldiers.
Her wolf ran over but a moment after the soldiers had stopped. Sprinted to where the princess was stuck in time. The powerful jaws that had just ended 3 lives were oddly comforting when they gripped the nap of her neck. The wolf had grabbed hold of the princess and had started sprinting towards the narrow gap she had just seconds earlier failed to reach.
It was a very short sprint for the wolf it seemed. Maybe the adrenaline pumping through the rabbit was slowing time, or the shock of the new order colors was causing her mind to run in overdrive, perhaps she was just not paying attention. It was hard to say.
Reaching the trail was easy. Getting up the narrow slippery rocky face was strangely enough even easier. How the knight knew that the princess was going for this spot, that’s one of the questions for a later time. There are more pressing questions now. Why is the army here? Why are they animals? Who made us this way. After reaching the top of the mountain trail the strong nose of the wolf smelled something. Something familiar. Still gently clasping the rabbit princess in her jaws she sniffed the air and ground looking for the source. She trotted past several rocks when she saw an oddly built looking stone hut that overhangs the valley their castle stands. The sight made the scent all the clearer.
A witch, not just any witch. The witch, the one responsible for everything that has happened. She is there, right in front of her. Anger swells in the knight’s chest. She bares her teeth once more today and creeps forward towards the hut. Snarls and growls fill the space between the enraged wolf and the huts door. She drops the rabbit that up until now was only concerned with saving her. Now all she wants is the taste of sorcerer blood. Her oath, her friendship, her believes. They are all gone. The only thing left is bloodlust and the want for death.
“It was you! you did this to her! You’re the reason this country fell apart! You’re the reason they are all dead! You’re the reason she was hurt!” The knight screams in her mind at the now within reach hut door. Though her thoughts are broken by the same sensation she felt from the princess earlier. The same one that told her to go to this trail.
“We need to go!”
Turning around the knight saw that the previously stunned princess was head butting her leg. Then noticed what she was so worried about. The storm was here. How could she have forgotten. The knight smelled it earlier when she was still a human, now the smell is everywhere. Storms don’t gather here often but when they do they are ruthless and deadly.
Even more worrying the foot soldiers below were traversing the treacherous trail they had easily climbed. The princess knew it and the knight finally knew it too. They cannot stay here.
The princess runs towards the opposite side of the cliff face they had just climbed. The knight pursues once more, the rain now starting to come down from the overcast clouds above, but now once again she gives chase. Not out of killer instinct like before. But of her promise, her oath. She hopes the princess with forgive her for her mistakes today.
“She should! I mean look at us!” She jokingly says to herself and tried to imagine the princess’s response. It brought her a little joy.
No issues getting down the cliff. The princess, though small, easily managed the cliff side. The princess was now in an open sprint in the valley below and the knight was right behind her. She doesn’t need to see her wolf behind her. She can hear her, feel her, smell her. For the first time since she had her strawberries this morning, she was safe.
The knight was pleased with how things ended up after she became aware of this transformation. The rain was in full downpour; a strong crack of lightening breaks the sky above them. They need shelter. The knight knows this and yet can’t get her mind off that hut at the top of the mountain. The witch was there, right in front of her. Why was she there? That hut was old. She had to have been there for some time. It does not matter. Justice will find her. The knight looks at her rabbit just as they enter the forest.
“One more oath I’ll make to you milady.” The knight thinks to herself in the full sprint still behind the girl she cares for more then the land they stand on. “If I see her again. I will kill the women who betrayed you and your family. I will kill her.”