Richard squinted as he looked up into the sky, eyes following the flock of birds that were flying overhead. He sighed as he leaned down and picked up his pack, slinging it over his shoulder as he continued to trek through the woods. Zedd had sent him out to pick herbs, but Richard couldn't seem to focus. The old man was persistent, claiming he needed them for elixirs. When Richard asked which herbs he needed, Zedd shrugged and told him to bring back as many as he could find. So far, he only had a handful - and he had been out since mid-morning.
The Hartland woods were quiet, the only sound penetrating through the silence was the slight rustling of Richard walking through brush. He could not focus on the task at hand. He walked for awhile before resigning and dropping his pack, slumping against the nearest tree and sliding down to the ground. Richard leaned his head back and pinched the bridge of his nose. His mind was in such a fog and he couldn't understand why.
Richard dozed off for a bit, awakened by the pounding of footsteps from afar. He blinked a few times to regain focus, his eyes coming into contact with four men that were covered in armor. Richard looked warily between the four, slowing bringing himself back onto his feet. The effects of sleep were still heavily present, but at least his mind was clear enough to form a coherent thought.
The men waited for Richard to get to his feet before they pulled out their swords, causing Richard to instinctively back up against the tree.
"Have you seen a woman in white?" A bulky man took a step forward, holding the sword gingerly in his hand as he pointed it at Richard's forehead. Richard shook his head, unable to form a word. The man cocked his head and gestured to the three behind him. The men walked forward, forming a semi circle around Richard.
"Are you lying to us, boy?" One of the older soldiers asked, his sword at his side. Richard clenched his eyes and tried to wrack his brain. A woman in white.
"No," He started shaking his head, running his hand through his hair. "I-"
"You musn't lie to us," another stepped forward, causing Richard to stiffen. "We are from D'Hara, sent by Lord Rahl. No matter what this woman has threatened," the man stepped even closer, "we can do much worse."
Richard swallowed the lump in his throat as his head attempted to clear. A woman in white was such a vague description. It didn't matter, most of the women in Hartland wore more earthy colors - brown, gold, occasionally blue. He'd never seen a woman in pure white before.
"I'm not lying." He managed to stammer out as the man who had originally pointed the sword at his head stepped forward, closing the distance and resting the tip on his shoulder, right by his neck. Richard swallowed as the circle around him tightened, leaving him completely surrounded.
A slow murmur ran through the four, the men quietly asking each other if he was possibly confessed. Richard had no idea what they were talking about, and when one would cast an uneasy glance at him, Richard would shake his head as much as he could without nicking his neck with the blade that resided on his shoulder.
The men did not look convinced.
"You have been the only one we've seen in the woods all day, boy. The woman we are searching for is lurking in these woods. I doubt you haven't seen her." The man repositioned the blade, placing it right below his chin and pushing upwards, causing Richard to lift his head at an uncomfortable angle.
Richard felt the steel start to bite into the soft flesh under his chin and he prayed to the spirits. He clenched his eyes, expecting to feel the blade glide deeper into his skin, only to hear a grunt. Richard opened his eyes and saw the man before him crumple to the ground. The other three's eyes grew in shock as Richard's gaze settled on the figure standing behind the freshly killed man.
The woman in white.
She spent no time with introductions, and barely allowed the shock to register in the soldier's systems before she began striking with fierce intent with her daggers. She sliced the throat of the man who was standing closest to her with no thought, not even waiting for his lifeless body to hit the soil before she was fighting off the other two men.
Richard's back was still held firm to the tree. He wasn't aware what was going on, his mind still swimming in a pool of confused thoughts. He watched as her dress trailed along the ground, how her sleeves flowed in the air when she lifted her arm to strike.
She fought off the two at once, dancing along the earth and striking with little effort, keeping her energy high. The two men were getting exhausted, hastily plunging their swords into the air, always missing her. Richard watched in horror as her foot caught under a root and she fell, her body cracking against the roots that were protruding from the soil.
Yet, he still couldn't move.
The two remaining soldiers loomed over her, snickering as they glared at her. Richard was certain she was going to die, and he felt utterly useless. He was about to turn his head from the sight when he saw her swipe her foot to trip one of the men, causing him to tumble backwards and hit his head on a group of rocks when his fall to the ground completed. She jumped back to her feet, stepping over the man who had fallen and was steadily fighting daggers to sword with the last soldier. When his sword came whistling through the air, she lifted her left hand and blocked him with her dagger, using her right hand to take the opposing weapon and slice it into his underbelly, causing him to fall to his knees. She spent no time slitting his throat and walking over to the man who had met contact with the rocks. She kicked him and heard him whimper before she plunged her dagger into his body, causing his body to cease squirming.
Richard let out a breath as he watched her tuck her daggers back into her boots, slightly brushing at her dress, which now had red splatters adorning it. He should have been scared of her, but he wasn't.
He felt safe.
Her piercingly blue eyes turned to him and Richard felt his heart stop in his chest. He hadn't gotten a very good glimpse at her face, her body twirling and maneuvering as she fought. Her skin was fair, her eyes the most brilliant shade of blue he had ever seen. Her dark locks framed her face, cascading down her back. He held his breath as she walked towards him.
Richard hadn't noticed that he had slumped to the ground, his mind so captivated by watching her fight. He looked up at her as she offered him her hand, which had the residue of the soldier's blood dripping off her fingers. She didn't seem to notice and he didn't mind. He wrapped his large hand in her small one as she pulled him off the ground with incredible strength. All too quickly she let go of his limb, eying him up and down before walking off and wandering through the woods.
Richard watched until he saw her white dress disappear completely.