Stolen Heart 001: The Messenger’s Trap

Dawn was cold as a blanket of mist covered the land looking like a sea of white from the castle walls. The red dawn wore on and it reflected it’s light, fighting against the growing warmth inevitably losing the battle and revealing the rolling green hills beneath. Slowly the land awoke and an unremarkable day began just as the one before it, and the one before it. Yet it’s complacent normality was not to last.

Hooves thundered on the ground as a rider sped towards his prey. Face hidden by a hood and cape billowing behind him and an array of weapons on his waist he had no doubt as to where the princess would be, or more importantly how to bring her to him. As he approached the gate he slowed holding up seal taken from the the previous owner of the horse at the point of a sword. The seal of the princess’ beloved.

“Personal message from Lord Augustus Drogan to the princess.” he announced, even holding up the sealed letter yet as a guard approached he held it out of reach. “I was instructed to deliver it personally and I will not move until I have.”

Rosabel: Far on the other side of the castle, safe within the walls, there was a beautiful sprawling garden. Flowers of every sort, green leafy bushes, and a path of polished white pebbles made the gardens a beautiful sanctuary. It was the only place of the castle that Princess Rosabel Tatiana Knabolde felt like she had freedom. Amongst the foliage and dropping clipped flowers in to her basket, she could pretend that she wasn’t a bird in a gilded stone cage. Not that she disliked her life. Her parents were kind and generous people. The staff and servants always accommodating. She just wasn’t allowed to do anything!

Rosabel always looked back fondly on that one day of free she had years ago. In a moment of wild resistance, she snuck beyond the castle walls and ran away from her home. In the process she found herself lost in the forest, and worse surrounded by terrifying trolls! But like a shining savior that was how she met her prince. Courageous and handsome, he fight away the beasts and returned her home. Though she had not seen him since that day, they wrote letters to one another. Her Prince promised that the day she turned 18 he would send for her and they would be married! She’d be taken away from her cage and to his kingdom, where they would rule as King and Queen.

Three days ago was Rosabel’s 18th birthday. Every day since she had eagerly awaited the coming of her Prince! When he arrived, she was hoping her parents would be pleased with their Engagement announcement! It was a surprise she had been keeping to herself for far too long!

The guard at the gate looked dubious. Ordinarily, they would never let someone enter the castle on such a request, no matter what they wanted. But Princess Rosabel had personally asked many of the gate guardsmen for a special favor. Should anyone come with an urgent message to her, they were to be sent to her immediately.

He nodded and gruffed. “Come with me.” Another guard took his place, as he led the caped guests across the castle grounds.

When they arrived to the gardens, the guard pointed out to the distance where Princess Rosabel was clipping flowers. “There. No funny business…” he warned, motioning to the spot he would be standing watch.

Dagon: “This is the most guarded castle in the five kingdoms. Who would be fool enough to try something here?” he asked before moving towards the princess, stopping a short way away maintaining the guise as a messenger. “M’lady, message for you from my liege, Lord Augustus.” he bowed, the letter back in the bag forcing her to come closer as, on one knee his hand palmed a stone from the edge of the princess’ pond.

As soon as she was close enough he sprung into action. He spun arm whipping out and stone flying. There was a sharp metallic clang and the guard slumped over, his ring hand going to his belt and the glitter of a knife appearing in it before he pulled her closer the cold metal rested in his palm

“You’ve just had a demonstration of my throwing. This knife was made for it for more than that stone. Why don’t you try running or making a noise and see where that gets you? Now we’re going for a walk…”

Here was a tipping point. He could kill her and get the gold promised to him and his ‘friends’ or he could do what he came here to do and take her alive… “And you don’t try to run.. theres people going to try to kill you only they won’t be the fair type I am so its get killed by them or come with me…” He began leding her towards the castle’s North gate, the one that led into the city proper where hiding would be child play for those experienced in it.

Rosabel: One moment Rosabel was thrilled to have news from her beloved. And the next… she wasn’t sure what to think! In a stunned and fearful compliance, she walked without fighting, not sure what she should do. In her mind she was trying to rationalize. Perhaps it was a trick concocted by her Prince to steal her away so they can elope? But he seemed so ready to tell her parents about their potential engagement! They only other option was that… that she was being kidnapped. Right out from under the noses of the Imperial Guard.

They were out of sight of everyone. The North Gate coming in to view. This side of the gardens didn’t have patrolling guards to watch the gate, as it was [i]supposed[/i] to be sealed shut. Barring any movement in and out of the castle grounds, as the section of the city it led to was not well known for it’s class or distinction. The main gate had been moved long ago towards the South Gate where the streets were broader and cleaner for guests to come through.

When they were almost at the gate, Princess Rosabel finally gathered up her courage. With a loud squeal she stomped on the man’s foot and shoved at him. Fully intending to start screaming and running as fast as she could!

Dagon: Even through the thick leather boot it hurt. But he had been read for her to try something. He could have easily killed her, the knife in his hand and his grip on her unbroken. But instead of the blade striking her it was the handle, hammering into her scalp and sending her reeling. Hi hand clamped over her mouth and cut off her scream. But there was something else,.. a rag pressed over her mouth and nose.

“Was really hoping it wouldn’t come to this princess.” he said quietly as he smell of the smell of the mixture on the rag became apparent. Enough to make her drowsy, helpless. Holding her in one ark he put the fingers of the other to his lips and whistled and with the clatter of hooves his horse, the one he owned not the stolen messenger’s horse came into view, summoned by its master. He mounted with little difficulty and held her in front of him turned the mount and began making good his escape.

Rosabel: Rosabel’s struggles were meek at best, despite the fact she was sure that she hit and swung with all her might. Getting hit was more than enough to stun her, but the sickly sweet smell coming off the rag firmly placed over her mouth was nauseating. Her head was spinning and her body was lax. Rosabel couldn’t even gather the wits to think, let alone put up a fight as they rode through the city streets.

There was no telling how far they went or even where. By the time Rosabel could shake that swimming feeling, she was groaning and rolling over on a dusty cot. Her vision still couldn’t adjust, everything still tilted dangerously from side to side. But the room was dim and there was little for her to see, anyway. Pushing herself up weakly on to an elbow, she strained to get an idea of her new surroundings.

“…I want my Papa…!” It was a silly childish phrase, almost blurted out in tears. Not hours ago she boasting of being an adult, and now all she wanted was her Father! The Princess was scared, and blast it all her head hurt!

Dagon: The house was large yet bare. Definitely in or close to the wealthy area around the castle.

“So you’re awake.” he said softly. The bed she lay on was the only furniture in the room and he sat on the windowsill looking out over the rooftops at the sunset. “Don’t bother trying the door its locked, but as I’m sure you’ve noticed you are unharmed. I’m sorry for the blow to the head but… you were struggling.” one smooth movement later his feet were on the bare wooden floor “You have to believe me though, getting you out of there quickly was for the best. You see I’m not alone.”

He paused, partly to let his words sink in and partly to test her reaction. “Now, are you hungry?”

Rosabel: What sort of kidnapper apologizes for hitting you! A crazy one for sure. Her vision was still fuzzy but her senses were coming back. Without responding to him, she rolled off the bed and stumbled in a drunken-like state towards the door where she furiously shook the knob trying to get it open. It was indeed locked. Rosabel spun around, pressing her back against the door as she stared wide-eyed and suspicious in his direction.

Her mouth was dry and her stomach was empty, but the Princess was not about to trust offerings of food from a villain. “Why did you take me…!” Her voice came out in a squeaky rush. “My Father is going to have a fit and my Betrothed won’t allow this a bit! There will be guards everywhere and you will probably be hanged or worse!”

Dagon: He remained at the window, perhaps to guard the only other exit, or perhaps to let her have her distance from him.

“There is a lot more going on than you realize. My neck is sought by more blades than those commanded by your father.. and I hate to be the bringer of bad news… yet.”

From his pocket he drew the letter and opening the already broken seal unfurled it.

[i]”My dearest Rosabel,

I’m afraid my worst fears have been realized and not three days ago the Rodrian army crossed the borders into out land and have already burned three hamlets to the ground. This very afternoon I take my knights and ride out to meet them in the field. I bare on my breast the favour you bestowed on me all those moons ago, and trust if more than the mail I wear beneath it…”[/i]

He stopped reading barely a third of the way into the letter. “The battle was a major victory for the Rodrians, Lord Stanley personally hailed it his best…”

He stopped his hand flying to his sword. “Get away from the door…”

Not a second later it flew open and there was a flash of steel and, boot still raised the front man doubled over, throwing knife sticking out of his gut. Still he wasn’t alone and her captor hadn’t the time to draw another before he was parrying blows left and right. Behind the door Rosabel went unnoticed.

Rosabel: For a moment, her heart sank. Her beloved Prince was forced to leave for war? Rosabel desperately wanted to read the rest of that letter! Yet, not a moment later he told her to move, and it was lucky that she did. It swung open with such a force it was nearly kicked down. A hail of steel against steel was heard.

Rosabel peered out from behind the timbers frightened and worried… but elated! This was her rescue! She wanted to shout to let them know she was there, but if the kidnapper spotted her… Rosabel quickly scooted out from behind the door. Her foot stepped over the fallen man on the ground making her cover her mouth to keep a squeal from escaping out. Now out in the hall, she was with her salvation! Another of her rescuers rushing forward.

“Oh thank goodness…! I was so scared I would be trapped with him all night!”

Dagon: Unfortunately for the princess the looks on the mens’ faces. An animal greed mixed with bloodlust with a hins of carnal desire was not the expression one would expect rescuers to bare. “Where you are princess, now come with us and he won’t have to hurt you… too much.”

That was it, there was no denying it now.

One reached out to grab her but there was a flash and he froze, the handle of a knife protruding from his chest. He looked at hear with surprise, then over her shoulder to the man standing in the door, covered in blood before tumbling forwards.

Angered the others simply pushed her out of the way and made to rush him but a solid kick from his boot sent the first tumbling back and the second fell soon after in a spray of blood.

Then it was just them, in a stairway full of bodies and discarded weapons.

Rosabel: Rosabel’s high pitched screaming could probably be heard three streets away. But once the last body fell it was just her and him. What transpired still hadn’t quite registered in her brain yet. She recognized those men weren’t there to save her, but surrounded by blood and bodies… It was too much to process at once!

With a sudden quick dart of movement, Rosabel snatched up a sword from the ground. There was a few drops of blood splashed across it, but she still pointed it at the stranger’s direction. It must have been the first time she had ever held a sword, she wasn’t holding the blade the right way and was barely able to keep it pointed.

“You just… just stay back there. Don’t you dare come any closer…!”

Dagon: He held his sword loosely, wrist relaxed, blade at a slight downward angle. “Rosabel..” his voice was calm laced with confidence. yet experience told him anyone desperate and holding a sword was not someone you took lightly, and a scar on his chest made sure he didn’t forget. “You’re going to get yourself hurt…”

Or rather he was going to have to get past her guard without her trying to hurt him. “Those men… they wanted to kill you. They were planning to infiltrate the palace but I got to you first. Now if you don’t want more showing up recommend we keep moving….”

His eyes pierced hers, searching for her soul. They were well trained and spoke of sincerity…. Then deftly he batted her blade with his and in one fluid motion wrested it from her awkward grip without even touching it with his other hand. Then he stepped forwards and took her arm, gently but firmly. If he was going to get his payday he would have to get her to follow with minimal resistance. “This way.. if you want to keep me between their blades and your neck.”

Rosabel: The sword was out of her hands before she could even blink! She had such a forlorn look of despair, it almost seemed as if she were about to break down in to tears. The princess swallowed those feelings, however. There was no way she could let him see her upset. If people were trying to harm her and he was the only thing keeping her safe, she could deal with that for now. Rosabel took a deep breath and steeled her nerves.

“It doesn’t mean I trust you.” she muttered with a shaky voice. The princess conceded, but it would be on her terms. “Don’t tie me up or do anything strange, and I will come with you. I just… don’t see why I can’t go [i]home[/i]..” The last statement she hadn’t meant to slip out. But there it was almost in a whisper when she turned her face to avoid looking at the bloodied bodies on the floor.

Dagon: “I wouldn’t trust me either.” he conceded. “But you have mt word that as long as you are with me I will not harm you.” [i]So long as she was with him…[/i] He led her onto the street and into the night eyes darting up and down the street as he looked out for more of his former accomplices. “I’m afraid you castle is not as safe as you think it is.. and there you wouldn’t last a day. I’m afraid to say I know the men who are after you by reputation. They are not the kind to be stopped by such trivial walls and guards. You’re safer where they don’t know where you are.”

He turned to her suddenly and his hands on her shoulders. “Whose men back here.. they are dead, they wanted to do the same to you. This is not something you can hide from.” he almost shook her but instead let her go and stepped into a narrow alleyway where the dark outline of his horse waited.

Rosabel: Rosabel almost thought he was about to strangle her, but was surprised when he didn’t. They were out in the streets now. It would be easy for her to pick up her skirts and start running. Get lost somewhere in the city and hide. …but… If there were truly people out there hunting for her to do nefarious things, how would she know who was a trick and who wasn’t? How would she know who could be trust worthy?

With reluctance, she followed him to the ally where his horse was waiting. The night was getting chilly, and she wondered if they were meant to travel during it. Clearly the place they -were- hiding was no longer safe. Rosabel was still having trouble getting those imagines out of her mind.

“You say I can’t hide, but we’re doing just that… Will I have to run forever? What about my father? He can do something can’t he?” A king ruled over the entire country, he surely could figure out why someone would want to hurt his only daughter and put a stop to it!

Dagon: He turned and looked at her his hand of the reigns as he led the horse to where they could mount. “There are some situations where a fast horse will keep you alive surer than an army. You are not without allies Princess, people who would give their lives to to defend you. But what good is a dead defender?”

He mounted and extended his hand for her to help her up. “If you need a reason to trust me, I have something that may go some way towards that. I could have bargained you for my life back there… or at least tried, and they seemed to want me dead even more than you…”

The horse began to trot and he directed it towards the city gates. With who was after them they were safer outside the city, far away and ready to meet with his other contacts. It had been a big risk turning his back on the contract for her life, and he planned on living to enjoy the rewards.

Rosabel: The Princess was struck to a thoughtful silence. She didn’t have any wish to trust the man, but… it did seem like those other men were there to attack him too. And outside of dragging her from the castle in the most terrifying way possible, he hadn’t hurt her at all. For the time being she sat behind him, her hands clinging to the fabric of his cloak in worry that she would lose her balance and go tumbling off the horse at the first sharp turn. There were so many thing the Princess never had the chance to do, things as simple as riding a horse, yet here she was fleeing for her life with a stranger.

In the cover of darkness, there was very little of the city she could see. Countless of times she stared out of castle windows at the buildings beyond the walls, but her opportunities to really see the city were few and far between. Now as they were reaching the city gates, Rosabel wondering if it would be the last time she’d ever see the city again.

It was a sad thought. She immediately tried to focus her mind in a new direction. “I don’t believe you gave me your name…”

Dagon: “Because I would be safer if you didn’t know it. If you were to return home your father would send his best after me, and unlike now they would know who I was.” He stopped realizing he had just said he didn’t trust her either, then bowing his head and shaking it slowly he mode the move he could only regret. “Dagon is what most call me, those who do.”

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