A/N: This is my response to the 100 Theme Challenge by spookisapuppy u/2235918/spookisapuppy# on . It's based on mine and my friend's roleplay, Eagla (V2 is still a work in progress, otherwise I would link it), and is mostly just a writing exercise to get me back into it.
It was just her luck that she would return on a market day. In fact, Riana had forgotten about the markets all together; three days, she had been in the woods, where time could slip through your fingers without you even noticing it. She already missed being surrounded by trees rather than people, the entire world almost silent except for the quiet sounds of nature. It was an entirely different world to Cruinne, where the streets were crowded and easy to get lost in, and the bubbling racket of hundreds of conversations all being had at once filled the air.
It was slow going through the streets that morning, what with the extra people there for the market and the stalls that seemed to have popped up everywhere, but somehow, she managed to shove her way through the crowds without losing any of her belongings to some child who fancied himself a pick-pocket. People turned to complain at her impolite method of navigating the busy streets, but Riana ignored them - she had somewhere to be.
The castle of Cruinne towered above her before long, its gates open to admit visitors. The guards on either side of the gate - who were supposed to be keeping an eye on the crowds passing through the gates, but were doing a lousy job of it - let her through without a second thought, calling out greetings and good-natured jibes as she passed. As with most hunters, she and most of the guards were old friends, having worked together at least once in the past few years. With tensions rising between Cruinne and Saol Fior, there was a lot more work for the hunters of Cruinne then there had been in the past, most of it being for military purposes.
In the main courtyard, Riana stopped for a moment at the edge of a training ring that had appeared during her absence. Inside, several knight apprentices were sparring, showing off their skills to the people who visited the castle. She wasn't particularly interested in their sparring - in truth, she saw no point to the sword when she could just as easily pick enemies off one by one with the bow slung over her shoulder - but their technique was something any good hunter had memorised, if only to be able to launch successful attacks while on a mission. Besides, if it ever came to close quarters, her bow was rather useless and so a little sword technique would never go astray.
As Riana turned away from the ring to continue on to the castle, she heard a voice behind her. "Interested in swords are you, hunter?" someone asked in a slightly mocking tone.
"Not particularly," she answered calmly, turning back to face one of the apprentices she had just observed sparring, face covered in sweat. Bright blue eyes framed by runaway strands of long black hair danced as he laughed lightly, a grin lighting up his face. He was about her age, she could easily tell, though significantly taller than her. He stood at the edge of the ring, leaning on a wooden stick that served as a sword for his practice today as if he had no training to go back to, and nothing at all to worry about, studying her just as she did him. Mentally, Riana pictured how she would look to him; long, dark hair falling over her shoulders and down her back in a tangle of light curls, face and clothes streaked with dirt, bow and quiver of arrows slung over her shoulder, with the brilliantly coloured green eyes and slightly pointed ears of an elf painted onto a human face. All in all, not very impressive.
"I suppose I should have guessed that," he admitted after a moment, rubbing the back of his neck. "You hunters never are. I'm Cael, by the way." He held out a hand that didn't look half as dirty as her own.
"Riana," she replied, shaking his hand. "Don't you have training to be doing?"
Cael glanced back at the centre of the ring. "Probably," he said resignedly, straightening and lifting the end of his makeshift sword off the ground. "It was nice meeting you Riana." He flashed her a grin, before turning and wandering back to the centre of the sparring ring.
Shaking her head, Riana shifted her bow to a more comfortable position, and continued on into the castle to report on the hunt.