In all the commotion of her escape with this tall brute named Lukas, she hadn’t noticed that he was not at all afraid of her. He willingly held out his hand multiple times to her to help her along. He sprinted through the forest, making an easy pathway for the princess to follow. He was silent now and was focusing on getting further away from her home. Vera would occasionally glance back to view her castle getting tinier and tinier in the distance. Night was falling and the sun set at a rapid pace it seemed. She had no idea where she was going and the air was getting colder by the second. Vera was wearing her tropical colored gown and she did have undergarments on, but they were not helping the icy wind cutting through to her legs. They had been walking briskly for a few hours now in dead silence. Vera was afraid to ask anything, the air was dense with an emotion of fear for some reason. “Uhm, sir?” Lukas quickly stopped and turned in her direction. Without any hesitation he responded.
“Yes, Milady? Something the matter?” Vera was taken aback not knowing he would answer so quickly.
“Uhm, where are we going?” Vera tugged at her gown, almost nervous to even speak. She didn’t even know this man and now she was trudging along in the dark to who knows where with him. How did she trust so willingly?
“To the Woodland Elves, of course. Didn’t your mother tell you that was where you needed to go?” Lukas said with a smirk.
“Well yes, but, I don’t even know you and you haven’t said a word since we heading into the forest.” Vera said haughtily.
“Well excuse me, your highness. Is there anything else? We need to get to the cottage before it’s completely black out.” He started walking again and Vera grabbed her satchel she had laid down and hurriedly followed. The tall elf took large steps.
“You need to mind how you speak to me, and a cottage? I thought we were going to the elves.” Lukas sighed and continued on his way.
“It’s a few days journey to them; I figured you’d like to rest for a night.” He patted down a dead fern to walk through so it wouldn’t touch Vera as she headed behind him. She had to admit he was making it easier to walk through the dense forest. The princess had never been outside her little kingdom and this scenery was so foreign to her. All the plant life was brittle and dead. The winter had taken its toll. Vera didn’t care for the winter, didn’t like the way it made everything colorless like herself.
“Oh ok, how much further?” She asked politely, hoping he wouldn’t come back with a snide comment.
“You are like a child, are we there yet? I kinda liked the silent treatment.” Lukas replied and Vera sighed.
“Whatever, I’m just along for the ride I suppose.” The princess brushed a dead leaf off her shoulder as they headed onward.
Vera gave Lukas the silence he asked for and he glanced back a few times to make sure she was still there. Up ahead was a structure covered in moss, tree bark and a slight dusting of snow. That couldn’t be the cottage he was speaking of Vera thought to herself. The elf went towards the camouflaged door and opened it. “Here we are.”
“This is not a cottage, this is a dank, dark, smelly cave.” Vera complained as Lukas gathered as much dry wood as he could to start a small fire. Once the fire was kindled Lukas unrolled a cloth on the ground and motioned Vera to sit. She sat with no hesitation, her legs were like jelly and collapsed underneath her. They had been walking for hours. The elf then pulled out a pouch and offered Vera some dried meat and a flat biscuit.
“Sorry, this is the only food I have and I have to ration it. We can go into a town an hour away tomorrow to get a warm meal. These woods can be rough in the cold night, so it’s best we stopped here.” He could be nice and then he could be a jerk. Vera took the food and tried to make it last more than a minute.
“Thank you.” She said quietly, taking a dainty bite. “So, where are you from and how did you meet my mom?” Vera started up the conversation.
“My, aren’t you the curious one.” He grinned.
“Well I just kinda up and left my home of seventeen years with a man I don’t even know and one who isn’t afraid of me.” Vera said and continued to chew on the jerky.
“Ok. Where to start? I’m an orphan. Have no idea if my parents are alive or dead because like you I was abandoned, but at the age of seven. I’m nineteen myself. We were living in a little shack sort of like this outside a town and one morning I woke up and they were gone. No reasoning behind it, they just packed everything quietly as I slept and left. They were never loving to me anyways.” Vera was shocked; what an awful thing to do to your child. “I went into town, hungry and I was begging for food. People paid no mind to me as I wandered around. Everyone except your mother. She took me in. I never asked why until one day she told me why. I had just turned seventeen and she told me she was ill and there was no cure. She told me of her plan to find you and then she said she needed my help. Who was I to refuse? She had clothed me and fed me all those years; it was the least I could do.” Lukas shrugged and continued eating.
“Wow. And I thought I had it rough. At least my parents had a reason for leaving me behind. They were frightened of me.” Vera place her gloved hands closer to the fire, rubbing them together for warmth. She would be warmer if she could put on her pants and layers of long sleeved tops. “I need to change into something warmer.” She reached for her satchel and pulled out her teal pants that were lined for warmth as well as a long magenta tunic that was made of a heavy canvas like material.
“Ok.” Lukas said as he turned around. Vera stood there in shock.
“You need to go outside, please.”
“And freeze my ass off? No, way. I won’t look, promise.” Lukas said, still turned around. Vera knew he was smiling even though she couldn’t see his face. Without anymore hesitation, she started removing the layers and shivered when the air hit her ivory skin. Even though he said he would look, Lukas peeked a glance at the unearthly beauty of Vera. Her skin was the color of the snow and it shimmered as the flame’s light hit it. Her white and black wavy hair swayed against her back and she pulled it up exposing her slender neck and long ears. She turned back around and Lukas had to quickly look back at the wall.
“Ok I’m done.” She sat back down and pulled her cloak around her, unaware that her protector had been watching her undress. He turned around, his cheeks pink. “Are you blushing? You didn’t peek did you, you dirty little-“ Her own cheeks turned a shade of grey at the thought of this peeping Tom.
“Hey now! It’s cold outside, my cheeks are going to be red. As is my nose.” He pointed. “Uh, but yours cheeks are, grey? Are you blushing? Is that how you blush?” He got up to look closer and she turned away quickly, even more embarrassed.
“Stop it, I am not!” Lukas laughed and it was too funny Vera had to laugh too. They laughed for a minute or so, until Lukas started speaking.
“You have a nice laugh and smile too. You should do that more often.” Vera stopped smiling and was shocked by his comment. She sheepishly turned away and said thank you quietly. “So you were in that castle your whole life?”
“Yes. Well, I went out into the village a couple times, but I was well disguised. The villagers were my help. They grew the crops that fed me and made the soaps that bathed me, but they never really knew me. Otherwise my reputation of killing people would scare them away.”
“How many?” Lukas said slowly.
“How many what?” Vera asked confused.
“How many have you killed?” Vera was startled. He must have heard the rumors too. She sighed and held her finger up. “Only one?”
“When I was born no one knew what would happen. One of the nursemaids let me touch her finger with the palm of my hand. She died instantly. The dwarves said they tested my abilities when I was little against animals and plants, but I’m pretty sure now that Trima had told them what my abilities were.” Vera clenched her hands into fists. “So many lies. I’m exhausted.”
“I’m sorry.” Lukas said.
“For what, you had nothing to do with this.” Vera said, confusion taking over again. Suddenly, a dark figure appeared at the doorway.
“For making you trust so easily again and shattering your heart.”