By Halli Powers
On one dark and stormy night, while the moon was high, a wolf howled over the sounds of rumbling thunder and cracking lightning. Through the branches of the trees, a man, soaking wet from the rain and bloodied, ran through the forest away from the sounds. His clothes were torn and he wore a menacing expression, one that would stop any passerby in their tracks. Deep scars covered his face and hands, reminders of his previous attempts at his current mission. He slowly approached the castle in the horizon, his excitement growing in anticipation of what he was about to do.
The castle, a Victorian-style tower of stone, was covered in thick moss and long, dark vines that swayed from the strength of the wind. Surrounding it was the dark forest, with a stream running along the tree line. The castle had plenty of windows that looked into a great ballroom, guests dancing around and mingling amongst themselves. Loud music could be heard from the outside, drawing the man toward it, further motivating him to get inside.
I just need to get through those doors and everything will be fine, he thought. No big deal, I just need to break into the castle, crash the party, and everything will be okay.
The lights surrounding the property glowed a warm yellow, welcoming guests and giving them solace from the storm. As the man reached the other edge of the forest and his foot hit the first castle step, the howling got louder and closer, until the wolf appeared at the top of the staircase, seemingly outrunning the man in their race to the castle. More howling could be heard approaching the castle, and more wolves were creeping up to the man, blocking his entrance into the castle.
With nowhere else to go, the man quickly turned around and sprinted back into the forest until he ran into a low-hanging branch. How am I going to finish the job now? With his progress slowed down, he feared that he would be attacked by the oncoming pack of wolves, completely destroying his plan. That was, until he heard the sound of metal being unsheathed, then a quiet yelping.
To his left, a petite woman in a black hood sliced through the wolves, slowly killing off the pack and making her way toward the man, rain pouring down on her. As the lightning cracked once more, she lowered her hood to reveal a face darkened with a serious and concentrated expression. When she approached the man, she extended her hand for him to grab with his own.
“Hang on tight and run,” she whispered.
The pair ran through the forest, hands intertwined, once again heading for the castle, her blade swinging through the air, hitting wolf after wolf. After a quick stumble on the steps, the new pair of partners stopped at the doors and took a second to collect themselves. Looking at each other, they both wondered the same thing aloud.
“Who are you?”
The man continued to glare at the stranger, wondering what she could possibly want inside the castle.
“Well, if you must know,” he began. “I was on a special mission, and I need to get inside of that castle to finish it.
“Oh, a mission? What kind?”
“Not one that concerns you.”
The pair ended the conversation there, instead deciding to just walk into the castle together, having no clue what the other is there for.
They reached the castle doors and swung them open, revealing a stunned crowd of party guests. Shocked faces welcomed the two into the hall, until the sight of them registered and their shocked faces turned into fear. Why were these two intruders in the hall? Are they here to hurt us? We have to protect the king and queen!
The guests began to feel a hatred toward the two strangers, as they ruined the prince’s homecoming party, which would have been perfect – if it weren’t for the fact that the prince had yet to make an appearance. Where was he, anyway? Gone for months doing who knows what, and now he can’t even appreciate his welcome home?
Shaking off their rain-soaked outerwear, the mystery guests slowly creeped through the room, staring back at onlookers with a nervous glance until they reached the other side. Against the wall, the king and queen sat in a pair of thrones, staring at their new visitors with blank facial expressions.
The group of guests waited for the royal couple to question the surprise visitors, hoping to find out why they broke into the castle. When the queen opened her mouth, the question was not what the partygoers expected.
“Welcome home, son. Did you complete the task?”
The featured image used is from “Bentham Forest- Haunted Dark Forest -” by ▓▒░ TORLEY ░▒▓ is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0. To view a copy of this license, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/