Something I wrote ages ago. Minor lesbian content.

The princess rode in silence.

Dusk was fast approaching, the evening breeze carrying the heady scent of late blooms as the soft earth muffled the ambling gait of her white palfrey. Leaves of the tall oaks rustled only slightly as she passed by, ignorant of the toiling occurring in Skye's conscience. One fell from its branch, hurtling gently into her hand and she gave a queer little look before allowing it to descend to the damp forest floor. It became just one more stitch in Mother Nature's mythic quilt.

A pang of jealousy rose up inside the young princess, who had never known such precious anonymity whilst absorbed into the opulent splendour of the royal court, but it was quickly dismissed by other concerns possessing her mind. A lock of black hair fell to brush her cheek. She curled her tongue around it and brought it into her mouth to chew upon. The nervous throbbing of her anxious heart echoed in her ears, making it difficult to interpret the shifting sounds of the path behind; desperate as she was not to hear at all while wondering if the castle had been alerted to her disappearance yet. She indulged the insecure child in her, caressing the immaculate cream riding dress in a search for the smallest transgression of dirt and wondering if she should have brought the matching hat with it after all.

So preoccupied with the trail behind her, Skye came into a small glade in which she instantly felt trapped. A panic rose up inside her: she was lost! Whirling around in the saddle, the forest suddenly drained of its colours as the sun faded into the horizon and all bearings were snatched away from sight. Webs confined the princess within a snare of discomfort and her imagination gave life to all her nightmares.

Skye tried to coax the now timid horse forwards with a gentle tap of a crop, but a sudden screech from her left spooked the mount. It reared, snorting indignantly at being unsettled, before bolting and dissolving into the dark shroud that circled the glade. The princess was laid spluttering on the mossy embankment, tears threatening to overwhelm her. Clamping her eyes shut, she demanded that this be a dream, that she had never indulged in her fantasies of escape. After a gulp of air, Skye heard her father in the back of her weary head remonstrating her for the weakness she had fallen victim to.

Not to be overcome by the phantoms haunting her, the princess steeled herself and got to her feet. A cursory glance down told her that she may come to regret choosing the soft brown riding boots that would surely turn her feet into sore, blister-ridden lumps. Shaking her head, Skye looked to what she believed was her west and set out in that direction, fists clenched as if that action alone would keep trouble at bay. After all, what's the worst that could happen?

Skye was cold and this made her grumpy. Bits of foliage kept leaping from the trees, deliberately falling down her cleavage. She felt dirty in the cloying heat of the still night. Climbing over yet another mound of mushy and decaying leaves, the disgruntled princess wished she had a guide, or at least a map, not for the first time that night. She had been following a random wagon trail, but with no particular place to go and an endless time to get there, Skye could see no end to her aimless trek.

A streak of dull red caught the edge of her sight. Crossing her arms against her bosom for comfort, Skye stumbled in to a fatigued run, now painfully aware that her dress was torn and heavy with the forest's debris. A low growl vibrated along her spine. The princess reached the crest of a hill, daring a glance backwards into the gloom descending on her. Then terror crystallised into a solid shape dogging her heels. Darker blackness against the black, with eyes of simmering red-coals: a troll.

Skye was unprepared for the sight of it as it stepped into a shaft of moonlight, somehow looking like a comical parody of an ape: short and broad, hunched shoulders and thick arms brushing the ground. Its mossy, grey hide smelt of damp rot. As she was frozen to the spot in disbelief, the creature drew its lips back, baring huge canines, and snarled. Skye vaguely remembered talk back at the castle that trolls rarely roamed this far from their caves and would only attack lone travellers, information that made the princess bitterly curse her luck.

She attempted a stealthy retreating step but the harsh snap of a twig shook her resolve. Pivoting about, Skye fled through the silhouetted trees. A thin branch whipped her face. Raising a hand, she felt something moist and warm trickling down her cheek. The branch had split her skin. Snarls behind her told her she couldn't falter though, desperation mixing in with her blood to make her a vulnerable beacon for the predators the forest hosted.

Suddenly, a skeletal bush grabbed her dress and she tumbled to the ground in a messy, sobbing heap. A daring peek saw the troll tearing up the ground with jagged foreclaws in its chase to reach her. With the beast close to crashing down upon her, the princess huddled into a tight ball. Her mind drifted to thoughts of her luxurious four-poster bed and the smell of Cook's just prepared platter of sausages.

An odd whistling sound snatched her attention. She was acutely aware of a presence behind her before the thudding corpse of the troll somersaulted to the ground beside her, an arrow protruding from between its evil eyes. It almost seemed to glare at her accusingly as the life seeped from those sinister orbs. Skye's relief was held at bay by the unknown identity of her...saviour? She could have fallen into even worse hands; images of fearsome bandits, rogue mages and dark elves sprang into her head. Fright gripped its gnarled claws around each silent second, dragging time to a screeching halt.

A hand clutched at her shoulder and all Skye could think to do was scream. So she did. Garbled oaths were muttered by the stranger who proceeded to cover their ears, before clamping a hand over the princess' mouth. Who promptly bit it. Hard.

The dark figure jerked away, using some of the curses Skye had only heard uncouth sailors on the merchant ships use. Then it suddenly dawned on her; she knew that voice. Although it was usually rough and quiet, soothing.

"Daria?" the stuttering voice of the princess made the shadow freeze. Some scrambling amongst the dirty blanket of the soggy floor signified the making of a small fire and soon the flickers of a feeble flame were lighting the clearing, casting the pair in a warm bubble protecting them from the oppressive nothingness.

Skye could see her rescuer clearly now. The Duke's Huntmaster sat quietly inspecting her longbow intently for any defects. She was a tall woman, dressed in leather clothing that had been dyed forest green, with a sheathed hunter's knife tucked in her belt. Her green cloak was now firmly wrapped around the princess, still in shock from her ordeal. She reflected that the colour matched the merry twinkle in the ranger's dark eyes.

"Are you going to keep staring at me?" Skye started. The older woman had not even looked up at her. A blush spread across her cheeks and she was reminded of the cut she had sustained earlier during her flight from the troll, the corpse of which had been dragged out of her sight. The blood had crusted, a pink tear rolling down over it as everything just caught up with her: her escape from the castle, from her father, and the whole reason she'd left had been the one to save her!

The crushing warmth of Daria's arms enveloped her and she realised she was crying uncontrollably. Great racking sobs juddering her body, she buried her head into the other woman's chest, only vaguely aware of the swell of her chest tensing awkwardly. A finger traced the stinging wound before a damp cloth dabbed at the cracked, dried blood. When it was clean, the Huntmaster finally looked directly into Skye's eyes and smiled. As if sinking into a daydream, the princess mumbled "Thank you."

Her reward was a kiss. Nervous and faltering, but nonetheless the lean ranger planted a sweet kiss on her unbelieving lips "It's my duty to protect you, Your Highness. A my heart."

Skye was extremely aware of the woman cradling her stiff body, shielding her from the cold dawn approaching. Already the first layer of a new frost coated the green cloak they were huddled under and she ran a gentle pattern in it, creating dirty water out of the virgin ice. The light breaths rippling down her neck kept a smile on her face as she mulled over the events of the previous night. That tender kiss had confirmed in the princess' heart that her feelings, and reason for fleeing the prejudice of her father, were justified.

"Dreaming again, my princess?" Daria seemed to chuckle, as Skye wondered at what point they had come to name each other so fondly.

"No. For the first time, I have no need for dreams."

The End.

Reviews would be appreciated.

~ Nib.