She heard the hoofbeats coming long before the rider came into view. She could see by the livery that he was one of the king's men.

The king had been on the throne for as long as the girl could remember. The villagers spoke well of him when she had chance to hear them. This wasn't often, especially now that her grandfather had fallen ill. His needs kept her at the cottage most of the time. She only had time to head to the village to get supplies and then head straight back, without hearing the latest news and gossip of what went on in the kingdom.

So when she saw the man riding down the path, she was a bit surprised that he would be there, but not afraid. After all, if the king was good, then so too should be his men.

She had moved to the side of the road, out of the path of the horse, and slowed, watching his approach. She was startled as he reined up, not far from where she stood and waited for him to pass.

"Come closer, girl." His voice was strong, matching his body, and he spoke as one who was used to being obeyed.

Wondering at what he could want from her, she moved closer, smelling the sweat of the horse as it sidled a step away from her.

She looked up at the man who waited for her and asked, "What is it you want of me, sir?" She didn't know how she was supposed to address the man and chose to err on the side of caution, not wishing to anger him.

"I want you to die, you silly wench." His words startled her less than the feeling of the sword as it pierced her breast.

She had not seen him draw it, and her eyes went wide as the pain burned through her, almost enough to overwhelm her completely. But shock settled in quickly, followed by a numbness and a strange serenity that came with the knowledge that he had killed her, and there was nothing else anyone could do to her ever again.

Her mouth formed around the question why, but it burbled out of her mouth in a wash of blood. He knew what it was she asked and only laughed in reply. It was a cold and cruel sound, well-suited to the man.

He watched her die; watched as her soul left her with her last breath and she crumpled to the ground, the basket she had been carrying spilling it's contents to the ground where the nervous horse trod upon them.

His sport finished, he turned the faithful beast back the way he had come, heading back to the castle where his duty lie. He did not worry about his deed being discovered. She was not the first and would not be the last. Nobody should ever suspect him. After, all, he was the king's man.

original work, (c) Andara Bledin

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