"Not bad," Prince Calibor muttered to his Captain of the Guard.
Reed remained expressionless. He was a man of few emotions. Most knew him as the cold captain who became a fire when angry.
"She was never going to get far," Reed replied through gritted teeth.
The prince knew the captain was a proud man, and most proud of his work within the castle. He took his responsibilities organising the guards very seriously. So the fact that she had escaped from his watch was bothering him immensely. Hence why over half the entire castle guard were here now, ready to kill on his command.
But Cal couldn't help himself as he said "Still, it would be a feat for anyone to get this far, let alone someone of her stature?”
Reed dismissed the prince's wonder with a snort. "She's going no where now.”
Cal had the highest faith in his captain. However, something was telling him otherwise about this girl. That something he couldn’t explain exactly. It was still confusing seeing her after their closely-ought contest in the forest. The shock revelation of her female face had characterised several of his thoughts before he slept for the first few nights after they had arrived back at the castle.
Reed approached the girl with disgust in his face.
To her credit the girl met his disgust. Even though her face was grey, her lips blue and her skin wet with sweat, she regarded him like a cat would a mouse. A predator, with all the power, despite her situation.
Her eyes were an unremarkable brown, but there was something interesting in the way the light exploded then retracted. He'd never really seen anyone with eyes like that and realised he was staring, and stopped. Then he reminded himself that he had a right to look, so as to observe her behaviour for protective purposes. So he slipped himself into solider mode.
"Stand down," Reed told her.
Her body stiffened. She kept her hold on the spear at her side.
Reed maintained his distance as he stepped into the circle of guards with her.
She smiled at him maniacally.
"Are you deaf as well as dumb? I said stand down," Reed threatened.
The girl winced. But it wasn't at Reed’s words. There was pain in her wince and the prince noted how she shuffled her shoulders and pushed her back forward.
"I'd rather die than go back down there with your sadistic lackies," she growled, throwing her distaste at Captain Braun. The brutish guard, whom Cal had never liked, had to be restrained by Reed.
Cal marvelled at the very broken nose he had. It was good work. A precise hit for maximum damage. Not a hit that could ever be accidental. Again hee thought back to their dual two weeks ago and how he'd surprised him with her refined fighting skills and raw power. She was most definitely dangerous and whilst he thought the number of guards to be highly unnecessary and a waste of castle resources, he respected the captain's decision to ensure there was back up to handle her.
"Let me finish my job" Braun snarled.
The girl glared at him, her eyes a challenge. "I think that broken nose is going to be an improvement on your ugly mug."
Dangerous but mad, Cal thought.
That was it. All of Reed’s strength was nothing compared to the anger that drove Braun to barrel past him and have his huge hands around her very thin neck, squeezing the life out of her like she were nothing but an orange.
Cal rushed forward to help Reed try and stop him. Though they hadn't discussed this, they both knew that they needed to get the brute off of her. It was this ability to communicate without speaking that had saved them in battle many times before. But holding Braun back was a struggle, despite their double-strength. Braun was as wide as a wall and as tall as a tree and had taken roots to help him strangle the girl.
The girl had her nails dug into Brauns arms though, scratching scars in them. Braun he did not loosen his hold. And her eyes grew wider, the light in them slowly dimming and her lips turning an even darker shade of blue.
Then Reed did something that surprised Cal.
He punched his guard hard in the gut.
The girl dropped and Braun swayed, stunned.
In the ensuing silence all Cal could hear was the girl’s lungs desperately dragging in air to inflate themselves.
Braun had recovered and stormed up to Reed. Cal took a step closer to the captain. He knew Braun wouldn't harm Reed but he felt better being there backing him up.
"What did you do that for?"
"My orders were not to kill her," Reed remained calm despite the beast spitting in his face.
Cal watched as the girl recovered herself. She spun as she rose, the rush of oxygen dizzying for her. That was when he saw her back for the first time.
Was that skin? If it was, it was a mess. Her white tunic was stained dark red and beneath that there were three criss crossing wounds, all open and all oozing.
His stomach twisted into a thousand knots. To stop the embarrassment of throwing up his lunch, he switched his attention back to Reed.
"Remember your rank, soldier," the captain said coldly.
Just when Cal thought a fight would break out between Reed and Braun, there was a break in the circle of guards that made everyone, even the two of them, halt.
"Captain Reed," the soldier said. Cal recognised him as part of the same contingency that closely protected his father where ever he went in the castle.
"What is it?" Reed asked tersely.
"The king has summoned the prisoner to his chambers."
Everyone stared at him dumbly.
“Which prisoner?” Reed replied.
"That prisoner," he pointed.
"Me?" the girls jaw dropped. She'd recovered her breathing and was standing upright. But at the mention of the king wanting to see her, she looked like the wind had been knocked right out of her. Suddenly she looked as young as she likely was.
Though she was right to be worried. This couldn't be good news if his father had been told about it and now wanted her before him.