"Tara" Willow cleared her throat, her neck touching the blade of the sword.
"Yes, Princess?" she asked, mockingly.
"Do you remember the first time we met?"
"Of course" she smiled warmly, much like her mother "You were scared of my horse, and I thought that you were a boy. By the way... you never took me to the lake, where that tree is. The willow tree you got your name from. Is it still there?"
"Yes, it is."
They fell silent for some moments, each lost in the remembrances of that first time they met. Tara pictured that little Willow, with dirt on her nose and cheeks, ruffled hair and ragged clothes. Then, she pictured little Willow again, on the second time she had seen her, not knowing that the redhead was doing the same thing.
Later that day, when little Willow had returned to her father's castle, five maids had dragged her to the washbasin and had scrubbed her clean until her skin had reddened. Her hair had been forcefully combed and braided, and her boyish clothes had burned in the courtyard, substituted by a white and pink dress that dragged on the floor.
A nightmare. Her father had organized some celebration on an unknown excuse and had invited all the neighboring kingdoms. It was a specially fatuous event, and she had to assist, as his only daughter and heiress of everything. How she had abhorred that dress and that cleanness... And her sword, where was her sword? Probably burning out in the courtyard too but, no matter how many times they burned her boyish stuff, she managed to acquire new clothes and a new wooden sword, even if she had to buy it from the poor town boys.
Sighing, she allowed herself to be led to the great hall, where her father an all the guests were already gorging on pigs, chickens, boars, geese, and all the greasy animals in the country. It looked like a food parade. And a drink parade too; the servants were rolling barrel after barrel into the room and braking them with axes.
Her mother spotted her in a corner, trying to make herself inconspicuous; she felt ridiculous with that dress. And her drunk father and the other lords and kings looked like monsters, roaring and hooting their laughter.
"Willow!" her mother hissed "Why are you there, hidden in a corner? Come, come to your table."
Her table ended up being the place where they had situated the daughters of all the lords and kings invited to the party. They were a bunch of stuck-up ladies no older than eighteen, fussing over their looks and stealing glances at the knights and young lords that sat in the nearest table. If I only had a sword now... A real one, not just wood, she thought, sitting on the end of the bench and glowering at the pathetic sight before her.
The younger girls were not very different either. They looked like miniature copies of their older friends and sisters. Their future was already written down in the lives of their grandmothers and mothers. Every one of them was trying to look well-bred and pretty. Every one... wait a moment. Willow frowned and stared at one of the girls, the one that was furthest from her. She looked like... She stood up suddenly, impulsively, and circled the table.
Tara was there, looking away from the scandal that the other girls were provoking. She was wearing a green dress, with yellow sleeves and yellow borders, and her hair was mostly free, except for two thin braids tied at the back of her head. It was Tara alright. The blonde frowned and turned to look at Willow. She could see her clearly, but she couldn't quite place her, Willow was sure of that.
"Tara, it's me. Willow."
"Willow?" the blonde pronounced the name as if it was an unknown word for her "Willow?"
"Yes, it's me. Willow, from the church, remember? I-I-I took your horse. Well, I didn't actually take it because I'm afraid of them, I told you, so you took it. Which is weird, because I've never seen a lady take her own horse to the stables. I'm also a lady, but you didn't know because of the clothes I was wearing, but I am. This is my father's castle. And you're here, so you must be the daughter of someone important. Not that I care, but one can't help wondering. And you took your horse yourself, wow..."
"Willow" the blonde repeated, cutting off the redhead's diatribe "I can't believe it, but it is you. I thought... I thought you were a boy."
She said those words softly, as if she was afraid of offending or shocking Willow. But that was not the case. The little redhead was too happy, and she didn't really mind being confused with a boy.
"Remember?" Tara asked, grinning and shifting a little her position on top of Willow.
"Yes" the redhead whispered "We talked and played all night. I remember."
"And our maids found us in the morning, curled up on your bed, sleeping" Tara closed her eyes for a second, recalling the feeling.
This was her chance. She had to throw Tara on the bed and punch her to keep her more or less still, and then roll on the floor, grab her sword and begin the fight again. And kill her. As soon as her mind formulated those thoughts she found them ridiculous, and she knew she wasn't going to do that. They were remembering their childhood, the day they had first met and become instant friends. It was a tragedy! They didn't see each other again until a month ago, nine years later! She couldn't kill Tara. Then why did I come?, she wondered, kicking herself for not being able.
"Tara, tonight I came to kill you."
"That's the impression I got when I saw you climbing the windowsill."
"I mean, I was determined to do it. It would have been a great moral victory for us. The... the idea, the concept was genius, but the actual doing it is getting in my way."
The blonde sighed and left her sword on the bed, beside her, where it slightly sunk the covers with its weight, and placed her hands on both sides of Willow's head. Her eyes were sparking an intermittent light of joy and sadness that was driving Willow crazy.
"Princess..." she breathed out again, on Willow's face "Killing you would be even more convenient for my family, for you are the heiress of your kingdom... I don't want to kill you either. You're going to fight at the battle, at your father's side, I know. Maybe you'll die then anyway, but I don't want to be the one that does it. Goodbye, Willow."
Goodbye? Willow frowned but, before she could ask anything, Tara had grabbed her by the shirt and half-lifted her. It was useless, asking what was she doing, Tara just smiled and dragged her towards the window. It was a good ten meters high. The redhead squirmed, begged and tried to free herself, but it was useless. Tara began pushing her out of the window.
"Goodbye, my Princess. I'll see you at the battle."
With that, she caressed Willow's face with her hand and released the grip on her shirt. The red-haired girl fell, cursing all the way, and finally landed on the deep pit that surrounded the castle, which was filled with water, so the only injury that she suffered was one in her pride. She was going to get Tara for this, oh yes.