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Catalinetta

The Huntress and the Knight

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Catalinetta    35

Once upon a time there lived a huntress.

Born to a rich elven family, she grew up longing for adventure. She was as difficult to break as a wild stallion, and as beautiful as one too. Lustrous ebony hair reflected the sharp glow of her fel green eyes, and it was difficult for anyone to look away from her perfect mischievous smile.

When war came, the huntress went. Trained in the shadows of the forest, she learned how to kill and how to hide. She fought valiantly for her people, and though she saw many suffer and perish, her heart remained intact by carefully locking it away. Even through war she had many lovers, and easy as it was for her to find comfort in someone’s arms, she was content to keep them from drawing any closer.

That is, until she met the knight.

He was much younger than the huntress, and not very bright. The knight was still in training, with the hope of proving himself to his people and fighting in the wars himself. Like the huntress, he too had black hair and fel green eyes, but that was where the similarities ended. He was scrawny, still attempting to fill out the armor provided to him, and there was no confidence in his expression.

One night, the huntress spotted the knight in a tavern. The knight was having a good time with his friends when the huntress spotted him, and for a single perfect moment their eyes met. The knight didn’t know exactly what love felt like, but he thought it seemed as if a jolt of electricity ran through his veins, and an invisible hand reached through his chest to clutch his heart in an icy grip. It felt like death and it was wonderful.

“By the Light,” he said as she approached him. “You’re beautiful.”

The huntress smirked playfully at him. “The Light has nothing to do with it, sweetheart.”

The knight seemed very confused by this. “Oh, but you’re wrong. The Light has everything to do with it.”

The huntress and the knight spoke a little, and after a few drinks they went for a walk. The knight felt as if his hands and feet were numb, but still he walked beside the most beautiful person, he imagined, in the entire world. When the huntress took him in her arms, the wars disappeared. So long as the moon cast its light on them both, nothing else mattered.

Morning came and the knight awoke in his bunk, never having slept. He trained with his brothers in arms, part of his mind always on the huntress and her beautiful eyes.

But the huntress worried for her heart. The knight was kind, but even his innocence could not convince her to unlock the chains that bound her inside. Before the sun rose, she left the city without a word.

The knight knew nothing of the huntress’ departure. He continued to train until calamity struck. The city was under attack by the enemy, and the knights were dispatched. The young knight went with his brothers and fought valiantly, but there was no hope for him among the throngs of enemies who swarmed them.

“By the Light we will triumph!” He shouted into the air, giving heart to his friends.

As he bravely cut through their forces, the thought of the beautiful huntress was always in his mind. Hopeful that he might see her again, the knight guarded himself with a shield, fending off blows that might end him once and for all. So distracted was he by this task that he did not notice when an enormous black knight rose behind him, and drove his sword into the young knight’s back.

The pain was minimal. The knight felt a numbness in his hands and feet, electricity through his veins, and an invisible hand clutching his heart. This was love and this was death, and soon the Light in him was gone.

Many miles away, the huntress found peace among the trees. She befriended the druids and the naturalists who tended their grounds, and when war came to them, she fought by their side. In this beautiful place, the huntress finally found that the chains around her heart could be loosened. Eventually, someone managed to find the key that would unlock the bindings within. He was strong and confident in his love, forcing the huntress to understand that life was worth living if only she allowed it. For a while, she was free.

Until calamity struck once more. War would not forget the forest, and ever druid defended their home. The huntress fought like a demon, tearing through the enemy in an effort to keep the peace she had found. Chaos consumed the forest, and the huntress fired arrows so quickly that they could not be seen with the naked eye. She swore to defend these people, especially the one who opened her heart to the world.

But when the body of her love lay before her, she felt a pain like no other. Her heart, which she kept safe for so long, cracked right down the middle. In an effort to keep it safe and whole, the huntress sealed it away once more and left the forest.

Years passed. The huntress wandered the world, finding work and busying herself. One night, lost in the monotony of drinking in a tavern, she heard the cry for battle. Grabbing her bow and arrows, she ran outside to find that the enemy army was attacking. Except this was no ordinary enemy, this was the army of the dead.

Mindless undead swarmed the village, and the huntress joined the villagers to defend their home. Arrows flew into faces gray with death, and indiscriminate as she was against the enemy, the huntress couldn’t tell one undead from another… until a familiar face appeared. He was young. Far younger and less experienced than most of the other dead seemed to have been when they perished. His green eyes blue, his skin gray, he had a strangely calm expression as he attacked the villagers.

The huntress felt a pang of regret where her heart was hidden. It was a simple choice to put him down, this undead monster who once shared a night in her arms. Why then was it so difficult to loose her arrow into his skull? Should she not simply let him rest in peace?

But a strange tug at the chains around her broken heart forced the huntress into a different action. She ran to the knight and kicked his sword away, leaving him temporarily stunned and defenseless. The knight stared at her, confused.

“Stop it, don’t you recognize me?” She shouted past the cries of battle booming around them.

The knight reached for his sword but found nothing. He looked down toward his hand, then back up at the huntress. A strange realization came over his face. “…who?”

“It’s me!” She shouted again, though there was little else to do besides fight back when the knight found an extra knife in his boot.

“Who are you?” He asked, swinging the knife, skillful in spite of his undeath.

The huntress dodged his attacks, ducking and weaving through them easily. “I am the huntress you met in the tavern! Don’t you remember?”

The knight continued to attack. “I don’t remember,” he said easily, swinging faster.

The knife came close to her belly, prompting the huntress to kick it out of his hand. “You have to remember! We were friends!”

Again, he seemed confused. The knight shook his head and looked around for another weapon. Finding none, he simply swung his fists toward the huntress. “I don’t remember a friend.”

Much more skilled with his fists than the knife, the huntress took a surprise hit to the jaw and went down to the ground. “I’m sorry,” she said past the pain in her mouth.

“What are you sorry for?” The knight asked curiously, looming over the huntress. “Why are you sorry?”

“Because...” she muttered, feeling very stupid. Why was she allowing this to happen? Guilt? She was stronger than this. Her heart, broken as it was, could survive many more years in the chains she created for it. Why did this one stupid young knight even matter in the grand scheme of things? He was nothing.

“Because you left?” He asked, as if answering for her.

The huntress stared at him, dumbfounded.

The knight seemed at odds with himself. Grabbing his head, he stumbled back in a daze. “..I… I don’t remember a friend… I remember… I remember you, and… pain. The pain of death.”

She knew that feeling all too well. Struggling back to her feet, she attempted to approach the knight. The battle around them was dying, and her people were winning. Soon he would have to die, or… “I’m sorry,” she said again, grabbing the knight’s empty hand. “I’m sorry I left. I’m sorry you died.”

Again, he looked confused. A strange realization came to the knight’s face, and even as he stared at the huntress’ familiar eyes, his own seemed lost. “I died?”

The innocence of the question broke one of her chains. The huntress grit her teeth, feeling both stupid and vulnerable at the same time. “Yes,” she managed to say at last. “Yes, you died.”

The knight’s face calmed a little, as if this truth changed everything. “But,” he said finally, taking a step closer to the huntress, his blue dead eyes focused on her own. “..you make me feel so alive.”

Another chain fell away. Even as the fight ebbed away, there seemed to be no other sound then that of his voice. How was it possible that this stupid boy could make her feel so much in the midst of such violence? He seemed oblivious to his undead allies falling around them, and as the last one fell, one of the living knights approached him and the huntress.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got him,” the living knight said with a sword aimed for his back.

“No!” the huntress shouted, pulling her knight’s body toward her own. Both arms wrapped around his waist, protecting him, even as the living stared them down. “No, you will not hurt him!”

Soon a crowd of the living began to surround them. The undead knight pulled reluctantly from the huntress and looked, confused, as the living pointed their swords at him.

“He is dead,” they said. “An enemy to the living. It will be a mercy to put him down.”

“No!” The huntress said again. “He is not like them, he will not harm you!”

“Only one way to find out,” one of the knights grumbled, stumbling forward to slash with his sword at the unarmed knight.

The huntress leaped into action and deflected his sword with her bow. She kicked the living knight down, which displeased his friends. Another living knight ran toward her and thrust his sword at the huntress’ back, but it never touched her. The undead knight had grabbed the sword itself, cutting into his own fingers rather than let her be harmed.

The crowd gasped. What undead creature would sacrifice himself for the living?

The fighting stopped. As his fingers bled black coagulated blood on to the ground, the living stepped away from the dead. The huntress stood, unhindered, and looked sadly at this young knight who continued to sacrifice himself for others.

“You didn’t have to do that,” she said quietly.

“I know,” he said easily, attempting to smile. “By the Light, I couldn’t see you hurt.”

“The Light has nothing to do with it,” the huntress said bitterly, grabbing the undead knight’s good hand and pulling his body toward her.

To the disgust of all those around them, she kissed him. A living huntress and an undead knight, beauty and death incarnate. Though he was frigid, her heart felt warm and at last the final chain fell away. Raw, bleeding and still cracked, he seemed to take it in his grasp and hold it together with his cold grip.

Pulling away from her lips, the knight finally managed to smile. “The Light has everything to do with it,” he said, and as she returned his smile with one of her own, never did the knight feel more blessed.

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