Over emerald fields the golden maid flew, driving her silver mare with reckless desperation. It foamed and frothed and she screamed in its ear kicking her heels into its sides. Behind them flowed her long blonde hair and the mare’s silver tail, the last banners of a defeated army.
The barbarian was gaining. Merciless, he whipped his stallion with base cruelty. With one hand he clutched the horse’s mane while he fished behind his back for an arrow. She would be dead soon and she was the last.
Before her at the wood line, she spied the stone archway. It sat nestled between massive trunks of trees that stood seven hundred feet tall. The forest, they said, was twelve hundred years old and it was there that she would find her only living allies.
If she could make it.
She pulled hard on the left rein turning her mare’s head and it stumbled before regaining its footing, altering its course. An arrow flashed by her right ear. Moments later, another struck the horse in the hindquarters and it screamed, its legs folding beneath it. The girl was pitched and she sailed. Then she met the earth with violent impact losing her breath and rolling to a heap. Behind her, the mare lay screaming, wild with terror and fighting to regain its footing. She laid on her face gasping for air.
The barbarian cantered up triumphant. Savoring the moment, he notched an arrow and lazily loosed it into the silver mare’s head. It fell heavy to the ground where it it kicked and twitched. Then it moved no more.
He smiled. This one was beautiful. It was a shame to put an arrow through such a delicate creature. He decided to take her before he killed her and he dismounted, walking to where she lay. It pleased him to find her trembling.
She laid with her back to him concealing the charm in her hands. Whether she was close enough to the forest for it to work, she didn’t know. Quietly now, she said the words. She could hear his footsteps stop. He was standing over her.
“Look to me, wench!” he commanded her. “Behold your conqueror and the one who has vanquished your people from the earth!”
She sat and turned, a bright white light in her hands. With a yell, she thrust it into his face.
He was momentarily blinded and staggered backwards a step. Whatever she had thrown was hot, it scorched his face. Livid, he drew his sword and roared. There would be no pleasure with this one. She would die now.
From the trees the arrows sang. One. Two more. Then another. They struck him in legs, the chest, the shoulders. He slumped to his knees, wide eyes staring blankly at her face.
“Behold your conqueror,” she whispered as he fell face first to the ground. “And I am not the last.”
Now she could see them, the Dwellers of the Forest. There were hundreds, perhaps thousands, scattered in the branches of the trees, longbows in hand.
“Welcome to The Emerald Glen, my princess!” cried a voice. “It is nice to have you home.”
“Please take my horse to the Healing Pool before it is too late, my brother,” said the Golden Princess. “War is upon us.”