King of the Black Horizon (Prologue) This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

October 6, 2012
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Metal clashed roughly and the twang echoed through the empty morning air. Annabelle dodged the swift flick of her opponent's blade and dove forward on her right foot, jutting the tip of her sword at him. It clanged against his chest plate and pushed her back onto her left foot. Side-stepping a few paces, the queen spun on her heel and jutted out gain, this time aiming for her opponent's hand. The metal stabbed his hand harshly and he jerked it backwards, his fingers uncurling from the hilt of his sword.

Queen Annabelle stood triumphantly over her soldier, breathing hard and sweat beading down her forehead and cheeks. "Excellent sparring, Sir Rogers," she complimented, kneeling down to help the armored soldier to his feet. He pulled the helmet from his head, revealing his sweat drenched chestnut locks and stunning blue eyes.

"Thank you, my liege," he replied, crossing his right fist over his heart and bowing to his queen. Annabelle smiled and clasped his shoulder plating.

"Go and wrap that hand of yours. We wouldn't want it becoming infected," she dismissed him. He nodded gratefully and made his way back to the castle infirmary through the gardens. Annabelle smiled and sheathed her sword in the casing at her hip. Spinning on her heel, she faced the ominous mountains that obscured her view of the Black Horizon.

Annabelle had heard many rumors of the Black Horizon and it's wicked king. Stories had told her to believe that the kingdom was nothing but a ruined city and it's people left to die while the king was bent on nothing but war. The stories had made the mysterious man sound like the villain in fairy tales. Rumors had made him seem like his heart was made of coal.

"My darling, why are you futzing about out in this chilling morning air?" called the king from the garden entrance. Annabelle did not reply. Her mind was lost on the Black Horizon, it's mysteries and rumors drawing her towards it. "Annabelle? What is the matter my love?" Dainty hands placed themselves on the woman's waist and turned her to face the large brown eyes of the king.

A false smile crept it's way onto Annabelle's lips. "It is nothing," she finally replied. The king thought nothing of her lie, did not even recognize what it was. He simply wrapped his lanky arms about the woman and bestowed a gentle kiss upon her forehead.

"Come then, my queen. I'll have the servants draw you a bath," he cheered. With a pressed palm against her back, he lead her through the garden to the castle gates. The queen's golden eyes glanced back at mountains and their snow crested peaks. An internal sigh assured her she would never see what lay beyond them as she followed the king into the castle confines.









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Long, black strands of hair trailed over fair skinned shoulders as the golden eyes gazed into the mirror. One of the servants had brushed and braided the queen's hair, making sure she looked presentable for the king if she ever left her chambers. The two serving girls bowed and left silently through the large wooden door. Silence blanketed the large empty room as Annabelle stared disdainfully into the mirror.

She heaved a heavy sigh and pushed herself from the seat before the vanity. The queen's mind could draw no other thoughts aside from the Black Horizon. A sight she had been aching to unveil for five years now was just burrowing deeper into her heart. It hurt worse than any scar or scratch she had received from her own share of wars and battles. This pain was unlike any wound she had ever been gifted with and nobody could understand that pain, not even her husband.

Another sigh escaped her parted lips and she drifted towards the bed. "All of these myths and stories are getting to my head," she murmured, pulling back the heavy bedding. Just as she was to clamber into her warm soft and dreamless slumber, a hand clasped itself about her mouth.

Thinking quickly, Annabelle raised her hand behind her and felt at the person's hip the hilt of a sword. She grasped it tightly and tore it from the casing, swinging it about and getting her footing straight to face the intruder. Before she could even catch a glimpse of him, a heavy blow was struck against the back of her neck. Shadows and darkness began to swarm in her vision as the queen felt her knees buckle beneath her.

I mustn't give in. I mustn't give up! She struggled to shake the hands trying to grab at her and she clumsily whipped the sword at the first intruder, his black armor making it hard for her to make out his shape. As the second figure tried to unsheathe his own blade, Annabelle dove for the discarded weapon and rolled onto her feet. Her vision was still blurred from the blow, but the dizziness had faded quite nicely.

She made careful movements and stepped foreword onto her left foot, jabbing the tip of the blade out at her opponent as she had done in the wee hours of that morning. She could feel the sweat beginning to bead upon the back of her neck once more. The tip made contact with the thick armor and bounced off harshly. It threw the queen backwards into the fumbling intruder's arms.

He swiftly clasped his arms about the queen's struggling form and held her there until the second man came over and grabbed her other arm. Fatigue began to mask Annabelle's limbs and body as she was dragged across the floor of her chambers. Before the darkness completely over took her, a voice muttered in the distance.

"Black Horizon."





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