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THE QUEEN WITH A SHADOW CROWN – 8

April 27, 2019

She watched until the prince and his horse rode into the horizon and vanished. His horse’s hoofbeats had faded into a dusky silence. All that was left now was the stars blinking in the sky far above, and the stupid unveiled witch standing below, amidst the trees, watching till the last of her prince disappeared.

My prince, she thought. And you dare try to steal him from me.  She is beautiful though, she observed, wrothed.

Her brother’s breathe was hot on her neck.

Eira turned to him. “What, are you admiring that sorceress? Now!”

He nodded and raised his bow, pulling the string to his ear. A vibration, the swish of air being cut, then a gasp. In a second, the unveiled princess was on the ground, blood gushing out from the side of her stomach. She gasped again and yanked the arrow out. In the pale moonlight, Eira could see her hands glinting, slick with blood. A smug smile crept onto her face.

“Go,” she ordered her brother, Daman.

He nodded and clambered down the tree where they were perched, a dagger held in his hands.

Eira’s breath quickened. The unveiled princess had managed to pull out the arrow, but blood still streamed down her side. A shadow advanced towards her as her brother creeped up from behind. The girl saw it then. Suddenly she spun around, drawing her own dagger from beneath her sleeves, and cut Daman in the arm. He winced and swung his dagger towards her face, but she parried the attack.

“Damn it,” Eira cursed, biting her lips.

Daman rushed towards her again, dagger held diagonally across his head, ready to slash. But then she ducked, spun and caught him at the small of his back. He howled into the night.

From deep inside the forest, something else answered her brother with its own howl. Sweat coursed down Eira’s back and her head begun to feel light. She held onto her branch tightly. Below her, the fight wasn’t going well. Daman was loosing, although Miraea was mortally wounded and cloaked in blood as well. Panting, she still swiped at him and he persisted, ripped here and cut there. At last, a shriek echoed through the woods and Daman fell to the ground, a torrent of blood cascading down his neck. The silhouette dance was over now. Snakes of dark gleaming blood slithered into the soil around Daman. At the same time, the sorceress collapsed as well. Holding her stomach she sunk to the ground, gasping heavily.

Silence woke in the absence of the duo’s gasps and screams and footsteps. The sort of heavy and foreboding silence that only a forest possessed. For a long time, Eira sat gripping the branch in fear. She was the only being alive that she could see. All else was stillness. Including the breeze. Then slowly, she made her way down, shivering. Thrice she almost lost her grip, threatening to tumble down to death. But then, after what seemed like an entire night, she was down on the ground, solid Earth beneath her.

Cautiously she edged to where they had fought. If the witch were to wake now all of a sudden, she was gone. But then she did not. She lay undisturbed on the ground, her stomach bulging and falling, her breath raspy and heavy. Daman lay on the other side, sleeping motionlessly. Sleeping forever. A sob escaped the young princess. “Daman,” she whispered through tears and stretched out a hand to stroke her dead brother’s corpse.

Just then she noticed Miraea’s dagger, a foot away from her. Wrath seized her and she seized the dagger, ready to drive it into the girl’s body and draw out whatever little breath she had left.

But as she lifted the weapon, Miraea stirred slightly, her eyes opening a little. A groan escaped her. Eira’s couraged failed her. Letting the dagger drop to the ground with a clang, she fled without looking back.

Her footsteps cried through the forest. Then all was quiet, and all was dark.

Come morning, the first woodcutter passing by would shriek in alarm at finding two corpses and a pool of dried blood.

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To be continued…

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© 2019 Sahana Narendran

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