In the Name of Love

They tore through the dark across the uneven ground, not daring to look back, their breaths ragged and restrained, their footsteps as quiet as possible. Thorns and branches ripped at them. Rocks bit into their feet. Moonlight filtered weakly through the dense overgrowth.

They kept on running.

At one point, she fell, but scrambled to her feet and struggled ahead, ignoring the gash on her knee.

Suddenly, the branches cleared and a barren, gray expanse of moonlit, rocky ground opened up. Hearts soaring, they pounded across — only to brake at the very edge of a cliff overlooking a tumultuous dark sea.

Fighting vertigo and nausea, they backed away slowly — but then their backs were kissed by cold, razor-sharp blades. They stiffened at once.

“One false move, and you’re dead,” a deep, gruff voice growled, barely audible over the crash of the waves.

Their trembling fingers found each other and intertwined.

“Oh, you two lovebirds,” the rough voice sang in sarcastic falsetto, “on the verge of dying and you’re still holding hands. How touching!”

“Shut your yaps,” a woman’s suave voice cut in.

“Should we take both?” the man switched to a low, menacing tone.

“No, get rid of one here. You, my dear girl” — she felt a chill creep down her spine — “are a danger to the Royal House.” She cringed a little, but she knew it was true. “Will you restore order and balance?”

For a split second, the woman’s strangely persuasive voice almost coaxed her into doing just that, but his voice cut in, sharp and determined. “No!” She jerked back to reality, her heart thumping in her chest. Just one second, one second later and she’d have —

“Oh, but you know what defiance means.” There was a subtle but deadly edge to her tone.

“We’ll die together!” he snarled, his hand gripping hers like a vise.

A soft, pitying sigh.

“Do you really think you can get away with this?” A gentle question, but one that they both knew had only one answer.

Suddenly she wrenched her hand from his grasp. He gasped, but she had already held him back and turned to face their captors.

“I will restore order and balance to the world.”

By the stark moonlight, she saw the woman’s lips curve into a satisfied smile. “Good.”

She turned and whispered to him, a smile on her face, tears in her eyes, as she stroked his ashen cheek, “Promise that you’ll stay alive.”

Then, before he could even register what she had just said, she had jumped into the darkness below. The wind screamed and whipped at her hair and clothes.

Her body hit the churning water.

She heard him scream in anguish as the waves pulled her under.

She reached out, but she saw nothing but shafts of cold moonlight. And she could no longer tell if the minuscule bubbles around her were of tears or of seawater.

She closed her eyes and smiled.


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