The Nightmare

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Chapter 41 - Withdraw

Copyright © DenGlemtePrinsesse, 2020

The breeze halted, but the motions across the field didn't cease.

More and more shadow fell on the ground as the purple night sky begins to lighten, and the movement in front of me started getting clearer.

We have to get away from here.

I have to.

Primarily because I'm certain that once the sun rises, it would take not a minute for our presence to be unveiled. Second, because I'm positive that my eyes are not quite ready for whatever colored picture the battlefield has to offer, especially that my existence was only built to adapt to my natural habitat, the Earth, and along with the normal things that comes with it.

Normal, as in nothing magical. In our land, this super strength, nor super speed or heightened senses, don't exist. Even death occurs in a normal way and peacefully like old age and sickness. Sure there're untoward incidents or death caused by criminal or terrorist that often lead to an extreme death, painful and inhumane even, but that doesn't happen often, and certainly didn't include being brutally cut in a half by long claws and lethal canines.

Through the night, Jermond remained to be closest one to my post. I released more arrows than the numer of lycans attacking him, because most of the ones I'd drawn didn't landed where they should. But even then, I did manage to distract them, and make them wonder where he arrows were coming from, giving Jermond enough time to breathe, and take on one lycan before the other.

He didn't notice me, despite him occasionally glancing around, looking for something, or probably also wondering where the arrows were coming from. My existence was perfectly hidden and safe from all the danger of the battlefield.

I wished I could help my other friends as well, but they remained out of my sight. And Eric, unlike his brother, I didn't see him again after he vanished deeper into the field. I'm worried, because the deeper he's in the clearing, the higher the number of the lycan that can attack him at once, and I couldn't offer assistance to him. But I'm holding on to his words, that he's going to walk out of this place alive tonight. And that soothes me a little.

"Owooooooo!" Out of nowhere, another long howling from a lycan aired.

It made my heart skip a beat, but unlike the howling that shook my spine earlier, this one ringed pain. It almost sounded like a whimper. It seemed like the lycan was hurt, and actually asking for help from his comrades.

The lycan's pain was obvious that despite not being in the same side, my heart ached at the cry. It makes me want to run to it and personally mend its pain.

"Owoooooo!" To my surprise, another lycan howled.

This time I'm positive it came from a lycan in the battlefield, for it sounded like a response to the first one, because the moment that second howling stops, all the other lycans in the battlefield dropped whatever is in their hands—axes, shield, broken tree trunks, bleeding bodies.

Even the weapons and other stuff that's been flying the entire night had stop. It's as if, someone had pushed the pause button, freezing their kind in the field, giving all the elves a chance to breathe.

Like myself, the soldiers just stood in their places, watching the lycans exchanged messages that we couldn't comprehend. The lycans could be ploying a surprise attack right in front of our faces, but we won't have the slightest idea.

It's silent for the following seconds.

I don't want to entertain the negative thought, but part of me has already concluded that maybe, the sudden silence is the calm before the storm. The prologue for something worse. And I don't think I'm ready for that, for something more life threatening than what's already happening right now. That's why, even though I don't want to be a pessimist at the moment, I understood why my heart is frantic again.

And while I'm curious at what's happening, I used that moment of stillness to search for the tiny gems I'd been meaning to find since we arrived here.

Suddenly, I felt the urge to find my friends sooner. I want to ran and hide next to them, the only place in this magical world I consider safe.

Instead, I took everyone's distraction as a chance to step out of my hideout and ran towards the princess and her escort. Back to the boulder where there's less danger.

She'd put her wand down. Her irises were back to their original color as she stared towards the field, oblivious of her own safe space.

"Your Highness..." She jumped at my presence, an almost human reaction from her magical existence, only that, even under the state of shock she still managed to react with finesse.

The princess'd thrown a glance to me, calming herself, before looking back to the soldiers.

"What are they saying, Your Highness? Why did everyone stops?" I lowered myself, settling behind the boulder, before glancing back to the clearing, waiting for her response. I wasn't sure if she could understand lycan's language, but since she's magical, maybe she has ways.

My ears were attentive. My eyes, busy.

And there in the middle of the clearing, I saw the gems, glowing. Each of them, although they're far from each other, and from me. It's impossible to see them clearly, but the fact that they're still standing, I took it as a good sign.

"Owoooooo!" It sent fright to my spine, especially not knowing what they're talking about.

The following seconds, everyone of their kind was howling too.

"What is happening, Your Highness?" My grip on the bow and arrow, tightened.

"Withdrawing." Her eyebrows furrowed, questioning her response even though it's evident she's right.

The lycans started moving towards the far side of the forest. The silhouette figures of them were fast to get away from the elves. Almost seemed to be in a hurry to get out of here, probably terrified that the elves won't let them leave that easy.

But the soldiers just remained firm in their post, watching the lycans leave.

"Is it really over, Your Highness?" And that's really good news!

"Come forth, mortal." The escort and the princess were already moving towards the path we'd walked through earlier. Back to the castle.

I gathered my dress to keep it out of the way, doubling my steps to matched their fast pace.

"Are we not going to congratulate them?" I can almost feel the happiness radiating off me. And for the first time tonight, I think, I finally breathe.

"Lives have been lost tonight, mortal. Nothing there is to rejoice." He seemed offended.

The smile on my face vanished.

I thought every victory is automatically followed by a celebration. Like what they showed in movies with dancing, hard liquor, and music. I'd totally forgotten about that part.

My fault.

"I'm sorry, Sir. I didn't mean anything bad by that." We walked faster, the twigs on the ground were sticking to my dress, whereas the princess seemed to be effortlessly floating through the dark foggy path.

"What about the other kingdom, Sir? Did they survive the attack?" My thoughts were on Ali's kingdom. I hope, they won that attack just like the elves did.

"We have no knowledge. None has gone out of Helmithio the moment every kingdom locked their own territories against the chaos brought by the inhabitants of the Underworld."

"How about communication, Sir? Do you have any sort of that here?" Like sending ravens carrying messages on their feet? I wanted to add, but hesitated.

"For awhile we did. Despite the borders being heavily guarded on the outside, the ataria in all kingdom remained open, offering ingress to the people of all territory, whenever one wills. For awhile." He gestured the princess to make a turn to the path that isn't familiar to me.

"Alas, some kingdom chose to be ignorant of the warnings from the fallen ones. They took pride in their defenses, being unchallenged for millenia, and refused to outdo their fortresses." He laughed bitterly.

"These proud kingdom realized their mistake, but it was too late, for their doom had arrived. Their castles were brought down, warriors, defeated. The people rushed to the ataria for escape, only to be followed by the inhabitants of the Underworld, damning the kingdom they stepped onto with them, for the perimeters were set on the borders. No one expected the attack coming from the inside. It didn't take long for the downfall of other kindom, one by one."

"But, do we know for sure which kingdom survived or not?" Because I remember the Grand Duke looking sad when Eric inquired about his kingdom.

"I'm afraid not. The remaining ones dashed to close the passages in their territory, shutting the rest of the Utovaj behind, halting all connections, keeping their people safe, until it's no longer."

"The inhabitants of the Underworld..." I'm aware that we weren't just talking about lycans anymore, but other creatures that's equally or even more terrifying than them.

"Why are they doing it? Why are they harming the people of this land?"

"They're locked up in the Underworld for a reason, mortal. Reasons, that're absolutely fatal to thy kind." I suddenly remembered what Ali told me before. That some were born with the purpose of endless killing, insatiable hunger and eternal damnation. It's like some sort of curse or punishment for their bad deeds. Those from the Underworld are probably one of them.

That's just... sad.

We managed to arrived at the castle. Faster than we did towards the chaos earlier.

The hallways remained empty and silent. The women and children were probably still clueless that the threat has ended.

Only our quick footsteps and the warterfall from the entrance can be heard. It only emphasized the beauty of the nature castle we're in.

I couldn't imagine this castle being brought down to the ground if the events tonight turned out the otherwise. And again, I hope that Ali's kingdom is still safe, and managed to survive the attack like the elves did.

My friends will be heading out for them. I hope his people can still hold out until then.

"The princes are safe, Your Highess. I saw them." Her face remained blank, I thought she would be elated to hear that, especially because, that's the reason why we were out there in the first place. She wanted to secure their safety. His safety.

Or maybe she already knew.

Regardless, I just wanted to hear her speak. She hasn't said a word since we left the battlefield, and I'm afraid that our friendship will be over once we get back to normal.

I hope not.

The three of us headed to the part of the castle where the poisoned pond was located. And I think I wasn't the only one who glanced towards it as we get closer to the cliff. I'm only hoping that the incident will never be brought up. Ever.

To my surprise, we're heading straight to the edge of the cliff. I had to stop walking because they didn't.

Why are they not stopping?

I'm petrified of heights. I only survived the trip through the narrow bridge earlier because of my friends. Heights makes my stomach twist. It makes me want to vomit.

Even just the sight of the Moon Princess earlier today, when she's standing at the very edge of this cliff had my knees shaking.

So, I can not take another step if we're going closer to the tip of it.

Why are they heading there in the first place? There's nothing there, but infinite space for free fall. I see no stairs, nor bridge. Just a penthouse point of view of what lies below us. So, why?

"What bothers thou, mortal?" He and the princess finally stop—an inch away from the danger—waiting for my response.

"Excuse me, Sir, but are we going to rappel down the cliff?" My fingers were crossed behind me.

If he answers yes, that will be the end of me. I'd rather face the disappointment of my friends when they learned that I didn't go to the refuge, than going down there.

I can't go anywhere near the cliff. One step closer and I'm sure to faint. I don't know, but there's something terrifying about cliffs, bridges, towers, or any other high places for that matter. They don't just make my knees tremble, they shook me to the core.

Or maybe, my nightmares are too vivid that they managed to bring the fright I feel in my dreams up to my waking state, everytime I fall from one.

How did the elf children went down from here to begin with? Is this even the original path? Or are we only taking a shortcut? Because I wouldn't mind going through the longer route.

"Be afraid not, mortal. The summit is nothing but an illusion. It's the elven doing, fortifying what needs to be." My eyes twinkled.

"Meaning, Sir, there's no way for me to fall there?" He shook his head in response.

That's a relief then.

An absolutely relief.

"Shall we?" He asked.

I nodded, but I let them walk first.

I watched the princess took the last step on the edge of the cliff, my palms sweating. Then she vanished into the thin air. I didn't see her fall, just vanished. That's a good sign, right? It reminded me of the wall to the mirrored room at the other castle.

The escort offered his hand for me to take and I wasted no second and held it.

I closed my eyes, walking off the cliff, with him, as I took not one step, but tons of them. I walked straight ahead with my eyes closed, without the intention to stop.

"Mortal." It was the exaggerated cough that made me stop.

I stomp my feet several time on the ground, making sure there really is a ground before I opened my eyes.

And wow!

It's like we're inside the castle again. Or maybe it's an utterly different one. The walls are spotless, covered by tiny lavander flowers, making it more colorful than where our chambers are. Or perhaps, this side of the castle were abandoned, that's why all the walls and the stairs were covered with veins and flowers. Like all the plants were actually a product of not having anyone to maintain the castle. Either way, it's still outstanding.

It's silent too. The women and the children are probably sleeping by now, especially at this time of the night. And just by the thought of that, I can already feel weariness starting to take over me. It has been building up for ages.

"Mortal." The escort brought my attention to his hand that I was still gripping.

"Ooops. Sorry, Sir." I grimaced, glancing at the long face he had, but still understanding.

He nodded and gestured me to follow the princess.

I lost count at how many yawn I did, as we passed through a long massive hallway.

Both sides of the hall are made of brick walls that has a row of random open arches, giving us the scenerie of the forest outside, and also allowing the wind and the pink fallen petals inside.

And just by looking at the princess, being careful with her footsteps even though they're already lighter than a feather, I assumed that we're actually sneaking in. It wouldn't surprise me if this path we're in right now is actually a backdoor.

I understand, why she wouldn't gamble being seen coming so late to the refuge. My friends wouldn't be happy to learn that we didn't follow their instruction.

It's just comical to see the princess acting like a human in that small gesture.

At the end of the hallway, we were greeted by gigantic and infinite doors. But she headed for the nearest one.

"Thou will speak none of this, mortal. Tell no one." She brought her wand up to my face, the crescent moon hanging inches to my cheek, but I know she's just emphasizing the point. There's no way she would use that to me. I know that now.

"Yes, Your Highness. I understand." I didn't want to tell my friends either. I don't want them to know that we we're out there in the battlefield when we're suppose to be in the refuge where it's safe. They'll going to be upset with me for not sticking up to the plan, and endangering the life of the Moon Princess.

"No one will find out, Your Highness." Then she vanished into the room.

"Thank you, Your Highness. For tonight." I'm not sure if she heard that, I just blurted it out before the door closed.

The escort pointed the next door for me to fill in. Then he stood steadfast in front of the princess' door, guarding.

"Aren't you going to sleep, Sir?" He paid me no attention. His focus remained straight ahead.

I'm guessing it's because he's back on guarding duties now? Or maybe he's conserving energy? Or maybe that's how they actually sleep on this land? After all they're out of the ordinary.

"Thank you for tonight, Sir. Good night."

I entered the next room, smiling, because I'm alive and nothing bad happened to me and to the princess. I'm glad that my friends are alive. I'm happy because the lycans withdrew, because the chaos in this castle is over. I'm happy because the cliff was fake, and that we managed to arrived here safely. And because the princess and I became closer—I think.

Jumping into the massive bed, I tried to calm my sore body. I tried to ignore the darkness of room and just give in to the heaviness of my eyelids. It felt like forever has passed since I last fell asleep.

My mind is drained, my feet ached, and my body's just done with everything, yet somehow my senses won't bring itself at ease. Part of me is bothered at the darkness of the room. There's no candle. And while the moonlight is perfectly penerating through the massive window next to the bed, it's way too luminous that it's actually looking like a spotlight on me while I laid on the mattress.

To be honest, with that moonlight highlighting my presence in the middle of the dark room, while blinding me at the same time of my environment, it almost seemed like I'm being offered.

Paranoia maybe, but I couldn't blame myself. After all the magical deadly things I encountered here, I think my being skeptical to close my eyes, and make myself vulnerable to the threat that isn't coming, is just.

So I implemented a precaution, the only thing that will going to put my mind and body at ease.

I gathered the lightest sheets the bed offered, and a pillow, and settled at the far corner of the room, next to the gigantic wardrobe, away from the spotlight, away from the door.

I settled to the the corner, where one has to step into the middle of the room first before my spot can be seen. I also transferred the table and chairs next to the floor I'm laying, so they can contribute in hidding me, while I sleep behind them.

Calm now, I pulled the sheets over me, satisfied at my makeshift sanctuary.

Finally I closed my eyes, certain that nothing bad will happened to me for I'd listened to my instincts this time.
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