• “Who made you peeping-tom?” he grumbled, wrapping his blanket around her shivering body. Her nightgown was hung over the fire to be dried so right now, she was practically naked.

    He had his helm on him again before she could even manage a glance.

    She sighed and warmed her hands by the fire; “I was curious, besides, I’m sensitive to the slightest noise I hear,”

    “Hmph,” the knight snorted and added more firewood to fuel the fire.

    Again, the dreadful silence filled in between them. She could not take it anymore, someone has to say something lest she turns insane. But when she was about to open her mouth to say something, he interrupted.

    “We got off with a bad start earlier today, I’m sorry,” he looked into the fire, and slowly turned to look at her, “Shall we start anew?”

    The princess smiled, “That would be nice,”

    The black knight threw in another piece of wood into the fire; “My name is Kalathor, son of Barathor,”

    She smiled even more when she heard his name. It fits him, she thought. “I am…” she paused for a moment, wondering whether she should include her official title or not. But she decided otherwise. That name is only when I’m within the castle walls. Outside, I am not the pampered princess that everyone thinks me as.


    Kalathor cocked his head to one side; “That’s rather…short for a name, especially from someone like you,”

    “Well, you captured me in my nightgown,” she retorted jokingly, “Everyone is the same in a nightgown; don’t you think so?”

    “What does that got to do with anything?”

    Ellie scratched her head, wondering how to explain to him; “What I meant is that...no matter how high and mighty you are, a nightgown or pyjamas still counts you as just another person. It’s n-not that I have any special title or whatsoever, but this is my name, and how I wanted to be called,” from you, especially.

    He paused for a moment, trying to understand what she had just explained, but eventually gave up and decided not to argue on it anymore. “As you wish,” he smiled at her, even though he knew she wouldn’t see it, “Ellie,”

    The princess shivered even with the blanket around her body. Drowning in a lake at this hour of the night proved to be quite an experience, a chilled experience to be precise. She wrapped it tighter, taking in deep breaths as she edged closer to the fire.

    “Why do you hide your face?” she asked out of the blue, her eyes slowly turning to look at him.

    From what Ellie noticed, he turned away from her and looked elsewhere. There seemed to be no response to her question, so she quickly turned back to the flames and continued to warm herself. It was the wrong question to ask, she thought, she might have touched something sensitive there.

    Brilliant, now we’re going back to the silent state again.

    She looked back at him as he tossed another wood into the fire. Say something, Ellie! Just say something!

    “It’s almost dawn, you should get some rest before we continue our journey later,” he told her.

    The princess nodded slowly, “But…but how can I be so sure to sleep in…in just-”

    “You think of me as that?” he quickly asked, his tone changing from serious to surprise. It sounded rather high-pitched and funny, coming from him.

    She gave him a look, “I’m a woman, and you’re a man. Anything…” she looked away, blushing slightly, “Anything can happen,”

    Kalathor sighed and shook his head, but he could feel his cheeks heating up from her words. He was trying his best to not show it to her, “I-I’m not that kind of person,”

    Ellie shrugged, “My maid told me anyway,” her eyebrows furrowed, “The one whom you killed yesterday,”

    The funny situation turned serious once more, and again, the questions came back to him. He unfastened his sword from his belt and slammed it on the ground frustratingly; “I did not kill her,”

    She cast him a glare, “How am I suppose to know?! You all look…the same! All of you in that…that hideous armour!” it was getting to her, the whole war thing and the killings. She was finally receiving the shock treatment from the whole scene she saw yesterday, “All of you are the same! Killing mercilessly and rampaging campfires!”

    Even he couldn’t take it. But a part of him wanted to retort, wanted to protect his rights and his beliefs. He stood up and glared at her from above, his hideous black helm aiding him in trying to threaten her; “You have no right to say that,” he hissed, “I didn’t kill anyone,”

    “I don’t care! I don’t care anymore!” Ellie yelled at him, “Is war suppose to make people feel better!? Is it?! You’re just the same like them, no- YOU ARE THEM!”

    “Enough!” Kalathor drew his sword and pushed her down, threatening her with his sword near her throat, “I’m not like them! I’m different!”

    “You dress like them, you act like them, yet you say you’re not like them,” her eyes rested on his from behind the helm, looking directly into it, “How convincing is that?”

    He neared the sword to her throat a little more, “I’m not them,”

    There was no longer anger in her eyes, nor was there fear. There was only confusion; “If you’re not…” Ellie’s hand slowly reached for his hand that held the hilt of his sword, “Then who are you?”

    He blinked at her question. For once, he could not find the words to reply to her question. It was a simple question, but to come up with the proper answer proved to be difficult, especially in his state of mind right now.

    Kalathor pulled back and released her, turning away.

    The princess only looked at him with her terrified eyes.

    - - -

    At the break of dawn, they left their campsite and continued their search for an exit. And as usual, silence filled the air. Conversations were brisk and short, nothing more than a curt ‘yes’ or ‘no’. Often, Ellie showed him the path, but at times, even he was somewhat doubtful of her guide. And it was odd; she said the forest had strange creatures in it, yet he never encountered any for the past few days except for those whom he deemed as non-hostile.

    But still, it was strange.

    “Stop,” she said, but Kalathor didn’t seem to have heard her.

    Ellie quickly grabbed his hands on the reign and pulled it hard, “STOP!”

    “What the-”

    The horse neighed painfully and kicked the both of them off it, speeding off into the forest as though something frightening was chasing it from behind. Kalathor blinked for a moment, and then he turned to Ellie, only to see her serious face staring back at him.

    “You just frightened my horse!” he yelled.

    “I told you to stop!”

    “You could’ve at least told me louder, you-”

    She put one hand up in the air to hush him, her eyes appearing to be more aware of her surrounding than before. Kalathor was about to retort when he too noticed something odd around them and joined her search as well.


    “Ssh! Speak softer,” she hissed.

    There was a momentary pause; “What is it that you see?”

    Ellie frowned, it was not something that she did see, but she was positive that she could feel its presence. “Leopards,”

    He raised an eyebrow, “Aren’t they just…big cats with spots on their bodies?”

    “Not just any leopards,” she moved a few steps closer to him, keeping her body steady;

    “These are malachi leopards. They prey on creatures like us,”

    “Well, if that’s the case,” he drew his sword from its sheath, “Then this should do the trick,”

    Her eyes remain watchful of the surroundings, “I’m not so sure if that can-”

    There was a sudden crack of a branch nearby, followed by the sound of rustling leaves caused by an unnatural breeze. Of course, it wasn’t a breeze at all.

    Slowly, three shapes begin to form around them. Shapes that appear in the form of those big cats they call leopards. These creatures were similar to the leopards, but the only thing that separated them from the original ones were their skin. It was green, and it blended with the background of the forest, making it seem as though the spots on their bodies were the one moving. Their eyes gleamed gold under the rays of the sun that shone between the leaves. However solid they may appear, these creatures are not entirely as they seem.

    “Are these the malachi leopards you mentioned of?” he asked.

    “No, they’re rabbits in disguise,” she replied sarcastically, “Who else could I have meant?!"

    He ignored her sarcasm and brought the sword to his face. They both stood closer to the each other till the felt their backs touch and remained in that position, occasionally spinning around to keep their guard up against the three malachi leopards.

    “How big of a threat are they compared to the other denizens in this forest?” asked Kalathor, his intent eyes not leaving the second leopard.

    Ellie frowned, averting her eyes fearfully away from one of them, “They’re not as bad as the others, but they’re dangerous, nonetheless, if you don’t know how to defeat them.”

    “What the-?!”