Oh, yes, she was going to get her for this. She had mounted her horse in a rage, and they galloped down the hills and into the valley where her father's castle was. The poor horse was begging for a rest, but she didn't give him one until she had crossed the gigantic castle doors, when she had handed him to a servant. Someone had to pay for her sullen pride, and the only one there had been her horse.
Never mind, she had work to do. She had to conceive a plan of revenge before the big battle. This had nothing to do with the war between Tara's kingdom and her own. This was revenge for having been thrown out the window like a useless scrap. No one had ever humiliated her that much, not even when she was a little girl begging her father for a real sword. Furthermore, Tara had kept her sword and armor; what an offense! Okay, Tara, you want to play rough? Prepare yourself.
She marched into her chamber and pulled off the bedcover, which she used to dry her hair, and then enveloped herself with it. God, she was freezing, that water had been icy cold! Frowning, she sat on her chair and stared at the bed; the last thing she wanted was to lay down there. Her mind wandered; she still felt as if she was on Tara's bed; her back neatly nestled on the soft mattress, her abdomen pressed down by Tara's weight. Comfortable but... with her neck imprisoned between two sword blades.
Her neck! She stood up and placed herself in front of the mirror, pulled down the collar of her shirt, and examined her exposed neck. It wasn't cut, but it exhibited two long, red lines caused by the pressure of the swords. The marks hadn't bled, they would go away; away from her skin, but never from her pride.
After pulling up the shirt-collar, she went back to the chair and dragged it in front of her table. Its surface was covered with maps, most of which she had drawn herself. Placing the most recent one in front of her, she examined it. The Lowlands, where her father reigned, his kingdom; it was a deep valley. And the Highlands, the kingdom of Tara's father, which was set on the hills above the valley. Apart from the different geographical disposition, both kingdoms were very similar: their people, their wealth... They were so close that there was - or used to be - frequent trade between the kingdoms, and marriages between people of both kingdoms were common. Their military strengths were also alike, or so it seemed. Willow was worried that, on the day of the battle, the Highlands would surprise them with some kind of weapon, or even something scarier... Willow was wigged, and she felt she had a right to be wigged. Her father would never listen to her but she had a feeling that there would be some magic stuff going on. Knowing Tara, that wouldn't be too surprising.
Knowing Tara... she didn't know her that much, she just thought it was very possible. Her index finger began tracing circles on the map, around the location of Tara's castle.
Tara heaved a sigh and got back into bed, trying to get some much-needed sleep. But she was somehow sure that she wouldn't fall sleep, that her mind would wander and think about Willow's visit. Okay, it hadn't been a "visit", it had been a murder-attempt. At least the redhead hadn't been successful, she thought, smiling and remembering their fight. Poor Willow, she had been so surprised... And then, when they had hit the bed... they had suddenly become best friends again; she had felt it, and Willow too. It would've been too perfect to ignore their families' struggle and rekindle their friendship.
Willow had forgotten, she had been the first one to say that she didn't want to fight (that she didn't want to kill Tara). And Tara had been very, very close to forgetting. So she had thrown Willow out the window to fight the temptation. A risky action, she knew. Knowing Willow - knowing the little she knew about Willow - she knew that for her it had been the worst kind of humiliation. If Princess Willow was as offended as she imagined her to be... (Tara looked out the window) she would soon have her back, climbing into her room again.
The redhead had spent the whole day in fury, kicking at chairs and old armor-suits, waiting for the night. She had barely paid attention during her father's meeting with his knights. All she desired was that the sky would darken; all she could think about were plans to make Tara pay for what she had done, not plans to win the battle.
Finally, the sky did turn dark-blue, and it was all she needed. She stormed out of the castle, jumped on her horse, borrowed a sword from the armory, and sped off. Tara's castle was near, she only had to mount one of the hills that surrounded her valley and there was Tara's kingdom.
However, she still didn't know what to do to her. Kill her at last? Torture her? Tara had certainly earned a beating; whether the punishment should be serious or playful, she didn't know.
Willow left her horse tied to a tree, in a little forest near the castle, and ran the rest of the way. To fool the guards was dead easy; she was only one, all she had to do was to confound herself with the shadows. To the guards she was just another shadow, and so she crawled until she reached the castle-walls. Then, repeating last night's procedure, she hurled a rope with a hook tied on its end. The hook connected with Tara's windowsill, and all she had to do was climb. Dead easy.
In a few minutes, she got to Tara's window and jumped inside the room as silently as a cat. She had been trained in strength, agility, sword-handling... she was going to-
Willow almost jumped out of her skin at the sound of Tara's voice. She saw her sitting up on her bed, with her arms around her upright knees and her hair falling all over her shoulders. There were two swords lying on the bed beside her - one of them was Willow's - the armor was on the floor, against the wall.
"Hello..." the redhead sighed "Were you expecting me?"
"I figured you would be coming back. You forgot your sword and armor."
"You know damn well I didn't 'forget' them" Willow lowered her voice, but it came out almost like a whine.
"I know, I'm sorry, I should've thrown them out the window after you" Tara smiled, jokingly.
"Give them back."
"That's all you came back for?"
"No" Willow unsheathed the sword she had brought "You deserve a punishment for what you did. I also came to give it to you."
The blonde rose her eyebrows and laughed, showing an amusement that carved another wound on Willow's pride. Everyone respected her. Everyone. She had worked hard to make it that way, fighting against her father's own knights and winning. Only this girl, only Tara had the power to irritate her; it was disturbing.
"Willow" Tara kicked off the bed covers and suddenly had a serious face "Do you know why I won you yesterday, and why I'll win you today if you insist on fighting? Because you felt and feel vulnerable with me. If you hadn't felt vulnerable, I wouldn't have been able to throw you out the window. I'm strong, but I'm not much stronger than you. You were powerless, like a kitten. If I fought you know, you would still be a kitten."
"Do you really think so?"
Willow rose her sword and brought it down, heavily, towards Tara's shoulder. This time she was going to get it. But Tara was quick, she rolled out of the blade's way and grabbed her sword, clashing it against the one Willow was holding. No, not again!, Willow mentally cried, once more inferior to Tara in a sword-fight.
"Why don't we stop?" Tara said, as if she was talking to a small child "We don't have to fight."
"We do. You're a Highland, I'm a Lowland. Our fathers'-"
"Willow, please, I know the story as well as you. And we'll fight soon enough, the day of the battle is nearing. What I mean is... right now, here, I'm just Tara and you're just Willow. We'll have to fight soon enough" she repeated.
"I guess you're right. Right now you're my friend."
The redhead dropped her sword and sat on the bed, beside Tara, who also dropped her sword. They looked at each other for a while, enjoying the silence, empty of the clattering of swords they were to listen too soon, in the battle, surrounding them. Willow's eyes brightened with the thought of the battle, her first real one, but then remembered that Tara would be there too. Was it possible to forget the upcoming war and just be friends now?
"What do you want to do, friend?" Willow asked, sarcastically.
"I was hoping you would ask me, friend," Tara laughed, acknowledging the joke "I've actually thought of something."