Warrior of the Damned

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1

Northern Europe - 1150 A.D.

"Adaleen!"

I burst through the door and out to the courtyard, leaving Gerta's voice a distant echo. The weather was warm and the bright clouds against the deep blue sky made it a pristine day.

"Princess! Get back here at once!"

Her wretched squeals just made me run that much faster. My feet, bare on the soft grass. I took just a split second to dig my toes in and enjoy the heat the ground was emitting.

"Adaleen! The Queen will have my head! Please!"

Enough grass. I propelled my little body into high gear, bound for the river. It was the first nice day of spring and I was not about to waste it in the Castle. I dashed into the forest, twigs and weeds piercing my feet. I winced but continued on, my dress furiously hitting against my ankles with every step. The river wasnt far now and Gerta would spend most the afternoon looking for me as this was my secret place.

Being raised by royalty wasnt much of being raised at all. Atleast, not in the literary sense. I saw more of the maids, cooks and servants than I did my parents. The castle was dark and stuffy. It suffocated me--tortured me like a bird in a cage. I needed the sun. I needed to feel the light on my face. I needed warmth in a life that lacked such.

The river was calming, always steady and predictable and but more importantly, welcoming. It never told me it was busy or had better things to do. It never gave me a cold shoulder or told me to go play with my dolls. It just accepted me.

I jumped over the big boulder I had carved my name into last year, thinking about the difference a year makes. I was six years old then and the world seemed a bright and beautiful place. But the land war had changed that. In an instant I saw the ugliness of people. The savagery of men.

I depised human nature, as it was greedy and self absorbed. Mother nature, on the other hand, was much easier to appease and she gave back greatly to my admiration of her.

I finally made it to the shore, surprised at how quickly the trip became while I was lost in thought. Vowing not to think anymore, I waded in her cool ebb and flow, not caring that I forgot to lift my dress. Being a "proper lady" was not high on the list of things I came here to do.

I looked up at the tree branches, the sun peaking through their limbs. The birds were singing harmoniously and the squirrels were playing feverishly in the underbrush. This was my happy place. I felt home. That is, if there was such a feeling.

Stepping out of the water and on the sandy bank, I walked lazily down the bend, taking in the soothing sound of the rushing water. Here in a few months, I would learn to swim it. And I would do it by myself, I was determined.

I picked up a black rock, rolling the rough stone around in my hand. It wasnt flat enough to skip. I frowned. Frick had taught me to skip rocks. My father, the King, was too busy to be bothered by such childish nonsense.

Frick was a sturdy old coot, rough hands but a soft and gentle touch. He gave me the bond I craved so deperately from my father. He taught me to take pride in everything I do and love everything I touch. Sure, he was a servant but often the servants were my sitters. And Frick, well Frick was my favorite. Gerta was just a loud, boisterous, crass woman. If her breasts werent bigger than her belly, one could easily mistake her for a man. After Frick was murdered protecting me in the war, Gerta was nominated as my keeper. I disliked her. She wasnt fun. I chucked the rock, frustrated. I missed Frick.

Greedy men had turned my world upside down and I wasnt going to forgive that. I couldnt. They took more than just the people I loved from me. They took my innocence. And that, was unforgivable.

One day, when the kingdom was willed to me, I would have revenge. I was saving my rage, letting it build inside me until the moment I could unleash it with lethal fury. They would be sorry they ever chose to cross into my once beautiful land, my once beautiful life.

The bend turned from a soft sandy shore to a rocky outpost. This was my spot. I climbed the rocks, slowly and carefully. I hadnt learn to swim yet and falling into the river with no soul knowing my current whereabouts was certain death. I sat on the one and only flat boulder, looking out over the peaceful flowing water. My eyes coming to rest on a small black patch of fur, laid waste on a rock.

I squinted and shaded my eyes from the sun, knowing how dangerous it was to attempt to check that particular area out. I had just started to disregard the thought of exploring it, when a heart wrenching, pitiful howl came erupting from the small black patch. It slowly faded into a whine.

A canine?

I scurried down the rocks, slipping and sliding, nearly falling into the swirling current until I was meer feet from the soggy little creature. Its face was turned toward me, eyes closed, looking quite lifeless. "Oh no," I whined. I felt the pain of loss for something I hadnt even met and tears started to well up from my eyes. I always had a soft spot for animals and couldnt bare to see them hurt, better yet dead.

I stared at the tiny thing, wondering how it got into this position when it slowly opened its eyes. Bright blue eyes, like blue ice, found me, searching deep into my soul. It lifted its head and whined, begging me for mercy. Its eyes suddenly rolled back into its head. Its skull no longer supported by consciousness, made a splash against the small pool of water, hitting the rock. I scooped him up, hoping beyond hope, there was still life somewhere in the black, matted, stinky pup. "If you promise me you'll hold on, I promise you I will do everything I can to save you," I whispered.

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