Damsel Knight Part 1: Chapter Seven

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"I don't climb ropes," princess Alice says, her green eyes wide.

Bonnie rolls her eyes. "Oh for the love of - get on my back!"

The princess does as she's told, which is about the only positive thing about her. Bonnie's starting to think that whoever would have won her for a wife would've gotten a very bad deal. She tries to imagine herself spending the rest of her life with this pretty little creature who can't even pull her own weight up. She'd be terrible at sword fighting, even more terrible at a good old fashioned fist fight. No, she'd be no fun at all.

The weight on her back and shoulders is a little less than her own weight, despite the princess's extra head of height. She's carried Neven on her back before to re-enact stories of warriors gaining great strength from strapping sows to their shoulders - a comparison that Neven didn't care for. So the princess's weight doesn't tax her legs much, but swinging herself onto the rope with the tower crumbling around her, it drags down her arms enough to make them burn white hot. Not even winding her legs a little tighter around the rope does much to alleviate the strain. Neven is right above her, and it's a long way to the ground. She has to move fast to get them all to the ground in time. Gripping too much with her thighs or shoes would slow down her progress.

Instead she slides down hand over hand, fast enough to know her hands and legs will be raw with rope burn by the time she reaches the grass. The tower wavers, swaying from side to side. The rough bricks in front of her face break apart from each other and fall downward. She hears the thump as each one hits the ground, knowing that could easily be her fate.

A roar echoes from below, making the tower shudder. And a horrible thought hits her all at once. The spells in the tower broke once Neven entered. What if the spell over the dragon broke too?

The tower leans sharply to the right, taking their rope with it. Princess Alice squeaks like a startled kitten, and grips Bonnie's throat so tight she can't breathe. It's all Bonnie can do to keep going, one hand over the other, wishing she'd thought to wrap her palms in cloth so she could slide down the rope as easily as if it'd been polished metal.

The rope whips from side to side, then around and around like a pin wheel. Her elbow thumps against stone, and tingling pain spikes all the way to her fingers. Even when her entire arm flashes numb she keeps moving, faster and faster. Rubble rains all around her. The rope digs into the flesh of her hands, and she fancies she can smell her skin start to burn.

The tower teeters above her, for one mad moment looking like it's going to topple forward on top of them. forty feet to the ground, and a tower falling on top of them. It's not the way Bonnie imagined her end to be.

Then the tower collapses inward instead. The result is no less deadly. All the walls she can see fold in on themselves as quickly as if some giant invisible fist had closed around them and crumbled them like paper. A crack, and the rope is slack in her hands

She catches a glimpse of Neven spinning through the air above her. The iron railing she'd tied the rope to chases them, spinning, and spinning. Behind it comes a hailstorm of stone, each chunk bigger than the last. Wind buffets every inch of her, slapping cold hands at her face. Princess Alice's arms remain locked around her neck, and a high pitched sound next to her ear tells her the girl is screaming. It takes longer than it should to get it, but then she understands. They're falling.

The world twists and turns. Sky, grass, sky, grass. Each time the grass spins into view it's a bit closer, a little harder looking.

The impact would've pushed the air from her lungs if princess Alice's arms weren't firmly locked around her windpipe. Blackness, and warmth. Only when her thoughts repeat themselves enough to be heard over her racing heart, she realises the black is not complete blackness. There's a soft red glow to it that grows sharper and gains more colours.

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