Nyx dashed after Izzy, Livia close on her heels. Whether Livia was fleeing the approaching soldiers or pursuing her with further retribution in mind Nyx was unsure. Izzy was a fair distance ahead of them now, obscured by the trees. The howling wind drowned out any noise which might have been generated by her flight. Nyx hoped she was going in the right direction. She stumbled, tripping over a fallen log, catching herself hands braced on the ground, just before her face met the dirt. Livia tore past her. Well, that answered her previous question. She pulled herself to her feet wincing, she had a sinking feeling she had sprained her ankle but there was no time to worry about that right now. Despite the wind, she could now hear the drum of hoofbeats. She ran faster. Pain shot through her ankle with every step, but that would not deter her. It could not. She would not allow herself to be taken back to the palace.
The hoofbeats faded but the sound of shouting warned her the soldiers were still near. They must have decided it would be safer to continue on foot rather than forcing the horses to run through tightly clustered trees in the dark. Panting, Nyx glanced over her shoulder. Pinpricks of light blinked into sight in the distance. The guards had torches. Well, of course they did. Torches were a sensible thing to have when travelling through the woods at night, providing you had no reason to evade detection. Nyx cursed under her breath as her body slammed into a tree. She should have been paying more attention to where she was going. She refocused her attention on the woods ahead of her and prepared to start running again. That plan, however, was cut short as more specks of light appeared, in front of her this time. Panic rose in her chest. She glanced from side to side. More lights. They were surrounded and the soldiers were advancing swiftly.
The clash of steel against steel rang through the forest notifying her that Livia had encountered at least one of the soldiers. Nyx stood, motionless, weighing her options. Normally, she would climb up a tree but she wasn’t sure she could do that with a sprained ankle. Any direction in which she could run would inevitably lead to an encounter with soldiers. However staying here would likely have the same result. Fighting was not Nyx’s strong suit. She was more adept at stealth, hiding from her enemies and then sneaking up to stab them when they least expected it. It was unlikely she would be able to sneak up on the better part of an army. Nyx ducked under a nearby bush. It had worked the last time, right? That being said the last time the soldiers were unaware of their presence.
Nyx lay shivering, her ankle throbbed, her bottom ached, and twigs dug into her flesh. The clamour of the fight continued. Nyx flinched at the occasional strangled cries denoting Livia’s prowess in battle. Unfortunately, the other soldiers were also within hearing distance so the fight was short lived. Before long the clash of swords subsided. Nyx wondered whether Livia was captured or dead. She hoped for dead. She also wondered where Izzy was. Her unease intensified.
Suddenly rough hands were gripping her arm. She was unceremoniously yanked from her hiding spot. Her eyes flickered to her attacker falling on the royal crest which marked his breastplate. She struggled to free herself but he had a firm grip on both her arms and held her in place with ease. Nyx took a moment to survey her surroundings, heart sinking as noted her captor had onlooking friends. If she had been unable to escape Livia she certainly wouldn’t be escaping six of the Queen’s soldiers. She had to try though. With little thought, she thrashed in his grip thrusting her head in his general direction. She winced as her forehead collided with his steel breastplate. She cursed herself. Headbutting an armour clad solider in the chest? That had been stupid. The other soldiers burst into boisterous laughter. Nyx glared at them.
“Take her to the others.” One of the soldiers ordered. Nyx’s latest captor nodded and set off in the direction of the earlier fight. Nyx struggled the entire way but to no avail. Far too soon they reached a cluster of additional soldiers. Nyx was forced to her knees next to a fuming Livia. She noted the surrounding guards appeared similarly enraged. Nyx assumed the reason for this to be the half dozen soldiers laying lifeless on the ground.
“Where’s the other one?” A soldier growled.
“If you let me go I could find her for you.” Livia bargained. Although from the look on her face Nyx suspected she was just as likely to start killing them again. The soldiers clearly shared her suspicions as the only response Livia received was the fist of the closest guard colliding with her jaw. Livia spat out a mouthful of blood uttering a dangerous chuckle.
“We don’t need that one” the soldier who appeared to be in command sneered. Four soldiers began a menacing but cautious approach towards Livia, blades drawn. Well, at least one thing seemed like it was about to go right tonight Nyx thought to herself.
Abruptly, the soldiers halted their advance. They stood motionless for a few seconds as if they had forgotten what they were doing and why they were there. Then they spurred into action turning their aggression on each other. The clash of swords filled the forest once more. Nyx blinked several times remaining on her knees. Was she truly seeing this? How could this be happening? Livia beside her was similarly dumbfounded.
“We should leave now” Izzy emerged from the trees her voice snapping them out of their daze “it won’t last long.”
There was no time to think right now, no time for questions. The three bolted through the woods until the sounds of battle faded. Then they continued running just to be on the safe side. By the time they paused to catch their breath Nyx was exhausted. She had thought her ankle hurt before but now the pain was excruciating. As she sat down on a fallen log realisation dawned on her. Her eyes fell on Izzy in horror.
“You did that?” Livia panted staring at Izzy quizzically. “There’s a second non-royal mage running around?”
“No…” Nyx’s pulse quickened “It’s all been a trap. That’s… that’s Princess Isolyn!”