The deep brown stallion seemed to fly across the ground, swallowing the earth with his pounding hooves and long strides. Erik had his right arm wrapped protectively around the sleeping Charlotte-Elizabeth's waist and his left held the horse's reins. They rode at a steady gallop for hardly over an hour before the Palace of Doom appeared on the indigo horizon. The smile that had faded from Saffron's face slowly returned when he knew that the princess would not be found missing until morning; he had Charlotte all to himself.
He gently poked Charlotte's waist, drawing her from her dreamless sleep. The gag around her mouth had left red imprints of wrinkled fabric across her cheeks and pulled her lips slightly back. "Home at last, my dear," Erik whispered with a smile. Digging his heels harshly into the stallion's heaving sides, Lord Saffron and his captive raced forward.
When the palace walls grimly loomed above them, Charlotte-Elizabeth cowered and whimpered sadly. The dark shadows played tricks on her mind's eye, making her see laughing and dancing demons with fiery eyes and evil grins. After riding silently through the citadel walls and halting at the tower stables, Saffron reached for the princess's gag and quickly unknotted it without ripping too much of her hair out. "Nobody will help you anyways," he said in her ear.
Erik dismounted, then turned to help the princess of the horse.
"I can get down without your help!" she hissed
"I know you can, my beauty, but I do not recall asking for your opinion." Ignoring her outburst, he helped her reach the ground. She thanked him by slapping his face with her bound wrists.
"Do not ever touch me again, you Ravenhest pig! I will not let you use me like some pleasure toy!" she shouted with a wad of spit in her captor's face.
Saffron harshly grabbed her forearms and swung her into the air, letting her fall hard onto the ground. "You will learn not to disrespect me, young princess. I am the king of this land, not you."
Charlotte-Elizabeth jumped to her feet and fled, but she wasn't nearly fast enough. She had barely run six feet before two strong arms wrapped around her waist and hoisted her kicking and screaming into the air. "Release me! Put me down, you devil!"
Erik grabbed the back of her neck with his cold hand, sweeping the mangled hair away from her neck. "Do not waste your breath. I'd hate for you to lose such a pretty voice."
"Why would you care about my voice, my well-being?" Charlotte sneered. "You only want me as your trophy wife, to display me like some prize. It's disgusting!"
"And what do you know about that? You are too pathetic to rule your own country, too weak and simple-minded. You can't even handle the responsibility of being an effective ruler."
The princess ripped herself away from her rival's grasp, her eyes ice cold. "You would do well to remember that I am royalty as well. You shall speak to me in an appropriate tone for I will not tolerate disrespect."
Rubbing his thumb against her cheek, Saffron whispered just as fiercely, "You are in no position to demand respect, princess. You are my prisoner." Charlotte's hands flew up to slap the smirk off his face, but her grabbed her wrists and squeezed them harshly. His eyes ran up and down her face. "And an ungrateful one at that."
"Ungratefull? Why should I be grateful to you? You are my enemy, my most hated rival, and I have no respect for you."
"That is too bad, my beauty, for you will be my wife."
"You murdered my parents, you arrogant son-of-a-"
Erik's lips came down upon hers, his teeth colliding with the pearls in Charlotte's mouth. Mine, the dark lord thought, she is mine forever. His tongue ran roughly against the princess's closed lips, frightening her beyond measure. Blood pumping quickly through her head and adrenaline rushing through her body, Charlotte kicked her captor repeatedly in the shins. Grabbing her shoulders, Saffron shoved her none too gently to her knees. A smirk was plastered on his lips, a sneer on hers.
"I hate you," Charlotte muttered.
"You flatter me, Charlotte."
The princess gazed coldly at him. "Oh how clumsy of me. I meant to accuse you."
"That sadistic pig has captured my bride-to-be and could be torturing her this very moment! Yet you stand before me and ask me to stay calm?"
"Yes, Erie, I am. If you rush into Walraven this instant in a heroic attempt to save her life, you could be killed. You are useless to Charlotte dead."
Erie stared hopelessly at Keithen-Erdim, his emerald eyes flashing in the light of the rising sun. His hands opened into fists and closed frantically. The knight stood silently for a split second, contemplating his decision, before he suddenly ran for his golden-haired mare. Fury blinding him, Erie nearly ran into his horse, but he quickly recovered and jumped onto the saddle. With many fierce kicks to the stomach, the horse finally galloped in the direction of the Palace of Doom.
Looking at his friends, Keithen sighed and shook his head. Running swiftly for his own mount, the fairrie king rode off after Sir Erie. Galloping behind them were Cyrus, Amerenna, Anetto, Shanez, Luceline, and Laurence, grim expressions on their usually serene faces.