He slowly made his way, ever upward, through the thick forest undergrowth. The wanderer touched the silver amulet, which rested heavily on his chest and he remembered the cool October evening when she had given it to him. They had stood in the highest portion of the castle keep.
“Don’t be angry with me,” she had said. She embraced his strong frame, hoping that the feel of her body against him would change his mood.
With both hands, he pulled her from him and held her at arm’s length. “It’s not you, dearest but your father who I am upset with. I must leave or he will surely send his guardsmen for my head.”
She broke free of his firm grasp and ran to a nearby jewelry box that rested on a nearby table. He watched the movement of her body as she then walked back to him. She could feel his eyes on and she strode just a bit slower, adding a bit more twist to her hips. She brought back with her what appeared to be a weighty chain from which an even heavier amulet hung. As she gently placed it over his head, faint voices could be heard approaching from the distant spiraled stairway.
He placed his gloved hands on either side of her pale face and gazed deeply into her hazel eyes as he spoke. “I will return, I swear. I will come back for you.”
She was about to respond but it was obvious that the voices would soon fall on just the other side of the door. After quickly giving her a tender kiss, he then made his way through the welcoming window and down the long rope, which aided him in his escape from the kingdom.
Three long years of torturous war had altered many things about him but the regretful ache in his heart remained. He once again spied the beauty of the castle garden. It paled in comparison to the grandeur of the stone complex before him. Much had changed during the passage of this time. Word had reached him that he would now be welcomed at the castle. His instincts told him to fight this urge to return but he then remembered the promise he had made.
The drawbridge had already been lowered but the massive structure of the gate had not yet been lifted. He stood patiently as two brawny hulks strongly turned the rigid wheel and pulley system that brought the bottom of the fanged door to a level that he could safely pass.
Once he walked through the protective gatehouse area, the mile-high keep, majestically stood before him. The king’s guard paid him no notice as he walked through the dirt covered stone streets. He chose to ignore the uneasy feeling in the pit of his stomach. In spite of unknown dangers he knew that he must face, he would head to the top of that darkened keep.
The force moving him forward was the memory of the grace of the princess' walk, the gentle curve of her cheek as she forced back a dimpled smile and the tender kiss which he wished that he experience one last time but he knew that he could not. He’d heard that less than a month ago, that his lady had died a violent death in that very tower whose stairs he sought to climb. There would never again be a chance to see her. At least he hoped that he would not. Not under these circumstances.
Each step that the wanderer took felt heavier than the previous one. Though he was a seasoned warrior, he could feel droplets crawling down his brow. There was a vague smell of fear surrounding him unlike anything he had experience before. As he reached what had to be the top step of the keep, the stark darkness fastened him to the floor. He dared not move because he feared that his next step would be his last. A howling scream forced him from his fixed position and his only chance for refuse would be through the door, which he spied immediately before him. As he was about to touch the cold wood, creeping fingers of fear moved across his neck and its jagged tips dragged across his cheekbones and towards his throat. He prayed that the grip of the unseen beast would not strangle him before he could make it to the possible safety that the now half opened door seemed to offer him.
Just as the wanderer could feel the coolness of the air from the window, the room became deadly silent and he was released from his grappling fear. Perhaps the spirit had decided to heed his internal cry for mercy. Fighting the insistent need to plunge himself into the safety of the doorway, the valiant knight coolly turned and surveyed the half-light that had been spawned by the oil lamps carefully place on either side of the room. There was nothing and no one there for him to see. Except for the window-framed moon that gently nudged the interfering clouds from its path, there was no movement in the room or the entirety of the despondent castle. His fear seemed only a delusion of his own unquiet spirit. With this newfound bravery, he then placed himself at the edge of the windowsill and then plunged forward into the darkness. He had finally kept his promise to his lady.
I enjoy the mystery that writing a good story offers. Effective writing has occurred when the reader is forced to quickly look over their shoulder.