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Hardly a Damsel in Distress
A light appeared in the darkness. I squinted and shielded my eyes from it. A long time ago, I would have been happy to see the light, but now I had adjusted to living in darkness; it meant I was safe. Now whenever there was light, there was also pain. That’s what being a prisoner of war was. All pain. They gave me just enough rations to keep me alive, just enough clothing that I wouldn’t freeze to death at night, just enough everything so that I wouldn’t die. I was important to their operation after all, seeing as my father was the leader of their enemy.
The conflict started when I was young, maybe six or seven. At first, it had just been tension between our two societies, but by the time I had turned sixteen, they had broken into all-out war. The year I turned seventeen, I was captured on my way to our summer home, which ironically, was where I supposed to stay safe. I had been brought here and questioned about everything having to do with my home and my father. I refused to answer their questions, and so I was thrown into the dungeon and locked away. I had been surprised they didn’t kill me, as if I escaped I could and would tell my father everything I had learned in my time here. Instead, I had been turned into a damsel in distress. I hated to even think that; I wasn’t some helpless girl who needed saving. I could live here as long as I had just enough to keep me alive; not that I liked having that. I was used to the finer things, after all.
The person who had come to retrieve me was familiar; he was the same man who came to get me every time I was brought out of the dungeon. He led me down the same stone hallway and into the same throne room that I had seen at least once a month for the past two years. The king of the Alzonian court sat in his chair gazing down at me with a bored expression.
“You know how this works, Zanna.” He said slowly. It was always the same. Human torture seemed to be a favorite, but today they went for my wings. They pulled them to their full span. An evil glint was in the king’s eyes. Suddenly I knew why they were doing this; I knew exactly what they were planning to do.
The first cold tip of the clippers touched my wing. They were going to cut off my wings; without them, I would be a misshapen faerie, an outcast. They began to close and the sharp edges were cutting through the membrane with ease. The pain was excruciating, my eyes were watering and my vision was going dark around the edges. It was a good thing I was being forcibly help up; otherwise I would have fallen. I could feel the blood running down my back from the base of my wings.
“Don’t worry. They’ll grow back.” The king said with calm amusement. I barely heard him over the pain I felt. I glared at him.
“Go fall off a cliff.” I snarled. His eyebrows raised and he smirked. With a single flick of his wrist; the two men who had just chopped off my wings grabbed me under the arms and half lead, half dragged me back to my dungeon.
Upon arrival, they pushed me in before locking the door behind me. I didn’t care about that. I cared about the fact that I had landed on my back when they pushed me. I wanted to scream in pain; I had never felt such pain in my life. I doubted I ever would again, unless of course I got clipped again. For the rest of the day, I sat in the dark, trying to be as still as possible. The less I moved, the less it hurt.
A few days later, the door opened again. I shifted away from the light that filtered in. This time the usual guy wasn’t there. This person was significantly younger. He had jet black hair that was gelled up into a side swept fauxhawk. From what I could see, his face was fairly angular, with high cheek bones and a wide jaw. He was very tall, at least six feet, and his shoulders were very broad, definitely more from muscle than anything. He stepped into the room and looked around it until his eyes landed on me.
“Come with me.” His voice was deep and gravelly. I knew resisting was pointless, so I stood with some effort and followed him out of the room. He didn’t say where we were going, but this way was unfamiliar to me. He was going through the halls stealthily as if what he was doing was something to be forbidden. Soon we had reached what appeared to be the front door, and when they opene,d we were outside. I blinked at the harsh light. I hadn’t seen the outside in so long, seeing it now it was like seeing it for the first time. I had never appreciated it before being captured. We continued out of the doors.
“Where are we going?” I asked, unable to keep my curiosity at bay any longer. He looked back at me and now I could see that his eyes were a deep green that seemed to see through my soul.
“I’m helping you escape. We have to be careful.” He replied beginning to move again. I followed; I was in no position to deny help.
“Why are you helping me? We don’t even know each other.” He looked back at me with a slight grin.
“Call me a Good Samaritan.”
“Do Good Samaritans usually sneak around like spies?”
“Probably not, but I heard about what happened the other day. I don’t think anyone should have to go through that, plus I think you’ve been here for too long to be anything other than a toy for their own amusement.” I couldn’t agree more, and was very glad to know everyone here wasn’t bad.
We moved along the side of the castle until we reached the edge of a forest. Then we ducked under the trees. The foliage was thick; the low hanging branches of trees scratched at my arms and legs. We moved easily through the trees at a relaxed pace. I supposed he figured we were far enough away that we didn’t need to hurry; that or he knew or assumed no one would notice I was gone for a while.
“So I never got your name.” I said; wanting to know who me rescuer was.
“Tristan.” He replied not looking back.
“Nice to make your acquaintance, Tristan.”I heard his chuckle before he replied in similar fashion.
Before very long, I heard what sounded like sirens going off. Tristan stopped and tensed; something was obviously going wrong in his plan. I barely heard him say anything before he began moving toward an even more dense area of the forest. He was in a hurry now. His movements were more graceful than expected, but then again he was a faerie. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was a warrior; in that case, he would have trained for these kinds of situations his whole life. I was grateful that he was doing this for me against his own people.
“They’ll see you as a traitor if we get caught.” I told him breathlessly. His legs were so long it was hard to keep up with his long strides.
“I know. That’s why we won’t get caught.” He sounded so self-assured it was impossible not to believe him.
“Why don’t you care about them?” I asked curiously.
“I haven’t agreed with what they’ve been doing for a while now.”
The sirens were still going behind us, but now the sounds of running feet were added to it. We were being chased down, hunted. I knew without looking up that they were above us too. What good would having wings be if they weren’t used to get an advantage over someone? And since I couldn’t fly, they thought they would find me easily from an aerial view. I was glad that Tristan was there. He surely knew the terrain well enough that there was little chance that we would be seen. I would never have escaped on my own. We were getting away until the trees came to an end and ahead there was just a long stretch of empty space. Tristan was looking around for another route. He sighed irritably.
“We have to fly.”
“I can’t fly. In case you haven’t noticed, my wings have been hacked up.” I replied. He didn’t say anything; just wrapped an arm around my waist and pushed off the ground. We ascended high into the air, taking cover in the clouds. Flight was much faster than being on foot. We covered miles in a matter of minutes. It appeared we were safe, until an arrow went flying past my head. Tristan dove. We cut through the air so fast I felt like my stomach was in my throat. Then we stopped and were suspended in the air. We were surrounded. Warriors were all around us, their eyes trained on our every movement.
“Tristan, I would never have imagined you would turn on us.” A large man with hard black eyes said from the front line. Tristan’s face hardened and his glare turned icy.
“Why? Should I be like you instead?” He snapped.
“You would have been a great leader. However, turning on your people is unforgivable. For it you will die along with the girl.” I detected a hint of sorrow in his voice.
“You would kill your own son?” Tristan’s tone didn’t reflect surprise. I was surprised though. He was the son of whom I assumed was the leader of the army.
“It is necessary; you are a traitor to your own race.”
His father sounded disgusted.
“My race is a disgrace. I’m ashamed to come from it, and I’ll fight against all of you to the death.”
“How do you propose to do that while holding up a girl who can’t fly?” The rest of the men laughed. Tristan’s jaw clenched. His eyes flicked around looking for an escape route where there wasn’t one.
Suddenly like a pulse moved the air, everyone was pushed away from us. They all looked around for the culprit. Tristan looked confused as well. No one knew what had just happened. They obviously thought it was one of us, so they swarmed, closing in around us leaving no way to escape. Tristan’s grip on me tightened. He braced to fight, even though it would be a challenge to fight while holding me up.
I can’t remember clearly what happened next, but when they tried to attack, they were repulsed again. Then I realized it was me. Every time my fear mounted, they were pushed away. It wasn’t unheard of for faeries to have powers, but this one didn’t make sense. It was cowardly to push them away when I was afraid.
“That little stunt can’t keep our weapons away, little girl.” Tristan’s father laughed. He commanded everyone to launch fire, and they did. I tightened my grip on Tristan, but otherwise didn’t cower. If I was going to die, I was going to do it bravely, not like a damsel being protected by someone else. My back began to tingle. It felt like when one of my appendages fell asleep and began to wake up. It was getting so intense that I could hardly keep my hands closed around Tristan. Then, by some miracle, my wings unfurled to full width. I could see them from the corner of my eye. They were really there; this was impossible. Clipped wings could take years to grow back. It was unheard of for them to come back in days, especially not fully. I tested them. They were even fully functional. I let go of Tristan to hover on my own. I felt stronger being able to hold myself up, and now we could both fight to our full ability.
The ammunition that had been coming toward us had stopped. It was falling toward the earth below us instead. Tristan’s father looked livid now; his stare fell on me with what I could only describe as hate. He let out an angry sound and unleashed his own fire. This time I knew I could deflect it. I didn’t move, just imagined it would fall short, and it did just that. I wondered if I could attack as easily as I could defend. As I thought this, one of the guards began to descend, fast, too fast to be doing it on his own. He was trying to flap his wings to stop himself, but to no avail. He fell to the ground with his legs and arms at odd angles. I winced. I hadn’t meant to kill him; only harm him or scare him. I didn’t have much control of this new power.
“I suggest you leave us alone unless you want that to happen to you, too.” Tristan said from my side. The other guards looked terrified. They had clearly never seen anything like this. They didn’t listen to their leader, who was telling them to stand their ground, leaving him to face us alone.
“I don’t want to hurt you.” I said to him with more confidence than I expected to have.
“I don’t fear you. I am not as much of a coward as my subordinates.”
“But two against one? Especially when one has powers none of us have ever seen.” Tristan asked with clear victory in his eyes.
“Then I will fight to death, but I will not be a coward to children.”
“So be it.” Tristan replied. His father attacked first wielding a dagger. Tristan deflected him easily. I wondered how many times they had done this as part of his training. His father lunged and was deflected again, but his arm was nicked and blood began to well in the open wound. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to get into this fight. It seemed more personal than I knew it to be, so I could only wait and watch until Tristan couldn’t move fast enough. The dagger slipped into his stomach. Red began to bloom on his shirt and he began to fall. I screamed as he fell and started to go help him, but his father stopped me. He grabbed my elbow; I wrenched it away before he could harm me. Then our fight began. It seemed with these new powers came new attuned reflexes. I could see the weapon coming at me and dodge it before it reached me. I knew he wouldn’t stop until one of us was dead. So I began the offensive fight. I started attacking him, kicking and punching making contact wherever I could.
He seemed to be getting weaker. I advanced my attacks; this was a matter of life and death and I refused to die this way. It felt like a long time before he was too weak to continue flying and fighting. He slowly descended and stopped on the ground. I followed; Tristan was down there and injured. I couldn’t let the person who had gotten me out of prison die because of me. Fighting on the ground was easier. I could better plant myself to stop from being pushed back and use my elbows and knees as well as my hands and feet. Finally, with a last elbow to the nose, Tristan’s father fell to the ground. He wasn’t dead, but unconscious. I wasn’t going to kill him unless absolutely necessary, which at this moment, it wasn’t. I went to Tristan who was still bleeding. I had to get him some help. I somehow managed to lift him and get airborne. It was easier to carry him then. I flew at top speed toward home. I knew my way now that I could see the landscape. We weren’t far off. When home came into view I descended; landing in the courtyard. Guards swarmed as soon as we landed. They brought us to my father who would determine what to do with us.
He recognized me instantly. I was pulled into his arms, which felt frail. When he pulled away, I saw tears in his eyes and a sad smile on his face. When he looked behind me, his expression darkened.
“What is he doing here? Alzonians are forbidden from our land.” His tone was harsh yet it also seemed tired and old. How much he had aged since I last saw him.
“Father, please. He saved my life. I would still be a prisoner if it weren’t for him.”
“You saved her? Why?”
“I denounced the place of my birth. They are a corrupt society, I decided to leave and I had heard what they were doing to your daughter. I couldn’t live with myself if I left her there knowing I could have at least tried to help.” His words came out in strangled gasps, but my father seemed to like that answer. He nodded appreciatively and waved the guards away. They went to step away but Tristan couldn’t support himself so two of them came back to hold him up.
“We fought his father to get away. He got stabbed and needs medical attention.” I implored.
“Very well. Take him to the infirmary.” The guard bowed and led him away.
“Do you care for him, daughter?” My father asked with a hint of amusement. I laughed.
“I hardly know him. But I know he is a good fighter. I have a request.” He simply stared waiting to hear it.
“I want him to stay here to be my personal body guard. If he wishes to, of course.” Father grinned and nodded.
“I will grant you your request. He may stay if he wishes.”
“Thank you. Now if I may, I think I’ll go to my chambers.”