»» prologue ««

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❝ ʀᴜɴ ❞

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Silence filled the serene forest around the traveling host, the only sounds that filled the air being that of horses hooves gently walking on the soft earth. Pines and firs lined the treeline to the sides of the dirt path, darkness laying far beyond it.

A guard riding a dark horse stopped the train of horses and riders with a single motion of the hand, causing the riders to immediately pull up the reigns and the horses to come to a complete halt. The guard, a captian, nudged his horse forward to go scout the coming road, leaving the host behind in waiting for his return. A few snorts and neighs from the horses followed after the sudden stop, quiet whispers and grunts being exchanged between the men.

The princess sat comfortably in her saddle, her leather boots sitting firmly in the stirrups at the sides. Her brown eyes searched the guards ahead of her and then the forest on either side, searching for anything that would draw her attention. She had wondered what the captain had sensed that caused him to stop the company that she was riding within.

She had been traveling with the host of guards and servants for the past several days, traveling to the northern kingdom of Falenor from her home kingdom of Gisben. Her mother and father were the Queen and King of Gisben; her fathers sister was the Queen of Falenor. Unfortunately, the Queen of Falenor had suffered a fatal illness that claimed her life, leaving the kingdom without a ruler in place. The next living heir to either kingdom was the princess of Gisben.

Her oldest brother was in line to take the throne of Gisben, which meant that she would be married of to a prince of another land to become his Queen at the time of his reigning of the throne. Thankfully, there had not been any recent marriage requests for her, which meant that she was still free from the royal duties of being a Queen. But, upon the death of the Queen of Falenor, there was no living birthed heir of hers. The King of Gisben requested that his daughter, the princess, be taken as the next royal heir to the throne in Falenor. Given his power of the land, the council approved his request and ordered that the princess be taken their immediately to assume her royal duties.

What the princess least desired was to become a Queen over any land. But her desires did not matter, for it was her royal duty to assume the position; it was a privilege and an honor to be given such a role within her society.

It had been a week already since she left her home and family in Gisben to assume the throne in Falenor, and she had already begun to sense the piling stack of homesickness.

A sudden shriek ran out through the air, causing her to jump back into reality with shivers running down her spine. What in the four kingdoms was that?

An arrow flew directly passed her head and into the guard next to her.

She screamed and her horse became frightened.

Shouting sounded between the guards and she was suddenly ripped from the saddle by one of them and pulled off towards the woods as arrows began flying through the air. She bawled bits of her riding dress up in her hand in an effort to keep it from tripping her as she ran alongside the black-armored guard. Her heart began pounding inside of her chest as she jumped over twigs and branches, avoiding holes and roots that would cause her to stumble.

They stopped in a clearing, silence ringing between them for a moment as the guard spun around in search for any sign of the attackers.

Shouts of the men who were traveling in her company began to fade, soon after falling to silence. Surely they hadn't all been... been killed, right?

She bit her lip and closed her eyes, forcing herself not to shed a single tear. This was not the time to break down. The guards were fulfilling their duties to protect her, and they knew that it meant that they could die doing so.

But still... they were human, after all. And every person deserves to live.

The guard turned to her, wary and dread filling his dark eyes, "Princess, I need you to run."

"What?" She said, opening her eyes with surprise.

"I'm going to hold them off to give you more time. It's your only hope of escaping, my lady." He said as he pulled his sword from the sheath at his side, its metal scraping against the metal of the sheath being the only sound that lingered for the next moment.

"But... But you'll die..."

"I am prepared for death if it means protecting the crown, your highness. Now, please, go." He urged her as he turned to face the direction that they had just come from.

"I do not know the way to Falenor, and I... I..."

"My lady, cross the river of Tilgar and pass the lake of Oron. Follow the Fittith star until you reach Gauntlet's Ridge; there will be a host awaiting you there." He said. "Now go!"

Before she could stop herself she had turned to run, her boots slamming against the earth while breaking twigs and crunching the leaves of the ground. Her breath was heavy and it seemed as though the weight of every guard who had died to protect her fell on her shoulders in that moment, almost forcing her down.

But she couldn't stop.

She had to run.

And run.

And run.

And run.

And run...

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