Chapter 41 - Withdraw
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
"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.
"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.
"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!
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.
"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.
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.
Or maybe she already knew.
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.
So, I can not take another step if we're going closer to the tip of it.
"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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
"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.
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