Swift

byjusttheone©

This fantasy was inspired or suggested by a music video you might recognize along the way. It's a very loose adaptation. The video's imagery was only my starting point.

1.

She would scream if she could breathe. She would fall down on her face and weep like a child. Except no, she's too angry for that.

What she really wants is to fight. To turn and stand and fight, and kill these beasts. Slash them to pieces and burn the bits to ashes. Only she knows she can't do those things. It's simply not feasible. She's weaponless, and she's only a girl. Nothing now but a girl. Powerless. Prey.

She runs. She runs. She runs and runs and runs.

All she can do is keep running. Even this is a useless waste. She's wise enough to know it won't do her much good, not for much longer. It won't save her, not in this place. Yet she can think of no better plan, no other option. She can think of practically nothing at all, nothing useful, nothing coherent. There is only emotion left. Terror. Rage.

Surrender never occurs to her. That is probably for the best. Surrender won't save her skin.

She is alone. All alone now—except of course for her pursuers. There are many. So very many. And they are beasts. Monsters. As for people, none remain. None! They're all gone, everyone, her entire party. She is the last alive.

If the creatures catch her—or rather, when they will, she doesn't think they'll slay her like the rest. That's not what they want. That's not what they're after. She feels it, instinctively. They want more from her than her life, her blood. Much more, and much worse.

This happens to be the very first moment she can remember in the whole twenty one years of her life when she's been unaccompanied, unguarded. It's also damned rare for her to be outdoors. The only outside places she's usually permitted to visit are gardens and courtyards—and those are always enclosed with high walls or at the very least sturdy impenetrable hedges. Going out in them is not truly going outside.

Now she's in the Wood. Yet still she's not really by herself, not properly, thanks to the presence of the monsters. Which is almost amusing. Never a single solitary moment.

A princess is always carefully, continuously sheltered. Suspended inside two fixed fundamental concentric circles—first her handmaidens, and then beyond them, the ring of her soldiers. Every day, every night, every moment. When she sleeps she has the privacy of curtains 'round her bed. When she bathes, and changes her underthings, painted screens are enfolded around her to hide her from the rest of the room. But her women never actually leave those chambers; she never has less than two attendants within reach at any moment—more often eight or nine, and often several more than that. While soldiers stand outside every door and every window. Her whole life, this is how it's been. How it has to be, when you are royal.

Until this day, the end of it. The end of everything. Dusk. Her coach was attacked on the road as it was carrying her to the great ball to be held at midnight in the castle of her betrothed. There would be no dancing for her tonight. Furthermore, she would probably never see her betrothed again. And Princess Swift found she felt little disappointment at both those realizations. She was not very fond of dancing—not in the cumbersome, overelaborate gown she was required to wear, and with shoes that pinched her feet. Nor had she ever successfully developed any great affection or respect for the man she was meant to marry, in the coming summer. Not having to endure the tedious and indeed agonizing formalities of both those events—the ball and the marriage to follow—was a relief, in fact. A huge, nearly ecstatic relief. Yet she was ashamed of herself for accepting it so. The appalling cost of her escape—which in the end would be no real escape—all her soldiers, all her servants, all had lost their lives. All! Trying to protect her, and failing, falling. Mutilated and devoured. Her coach had been escorted by fifty armored horsemen. All those men and all their weapons—they proved useless.

Perhaps that was unjust. They had given her time to flee. Only moments, but enough for her to slip clear. They had managed that much.

To the right of the road were open fields. To the left, on the other side of a very deep ditch, was the Wood. The Shadowed Wood. Not an ordinary forest. Forbidden ground, enchanted, or else haunted, it was unclear which. Deadly, in any case, either way.

She could not go into the fields—it was from the wheat that the attack had come. The creatures had been crouched amidst the stalks, waiting for her coach and horsemen to pass. Princess Swift had to enter the Shadowed Wood, instead. She did not consider the implications, not until it was too late and she had already committed herself. She jumped the ditch and plunged into the trees with all the speed she could muster from her legs.

She is still running, deeper and deeper into the Wood, into its chill mist, its tangled roots, its hungry darkness.

It was quite a jump she made. An impossible jump. In fact the distance across was far wider than any human being should have been able to leap. The ditch had been dug as wide as it was for that very reason. Princess Swift had assistance, however. She wore an enchanted medallion, a gift from her grandmother.

The talisman had never demonstrated its power before that instant. In fact the princess had never fully believed it contained any. Her grandmother (a strange, moody woman, usually very quiet and shy despite the hawk-like fierceness of her face) had promised her it would deliver its magic at need, without being able to specify what or when that need would be, or might be. It had never granted the princess any of the wishes she had tried to make upon it, from time to time. And in fact she had not thought of it before she made her jump across the ditch. That was an act of pure desperation. She had fully suspected to land in the bottom of the ditch, and perish, her body shattered by the impact. Then, midair, she felt the little golden medallion tingle against her chest, and recognized that its mysterious power must have at last awoken to give her aid. Acting of its own accord.

What else could it do for her? Could it increase the speed of her running?

Sadly, that did not seem to be the case. Perhaps the extension of her jump—three times at least the distance she should have been able to accomplish with her own natural strength—had already exhausted the limits of its ability. If so, it seemed a wasted effort. A poor joke. Mere moments after she pulled off the stunt, the monsters copied it, every one of the beasts leaping the ditch without trouble. Furthermore they seemed to do it gleefully. The high-pitched yips they made as they jumped were like laughter. And now the whole ghastly pack remained hot upon her heels, panting and slavering. Drool dripped from their teeth, and made little puffs of steam whenever it struck the snow.

They were going to catch her! Her courage was evaporating; the armor of her anger. Left only with despair, a whimper escaped her lips. She had never learned to patiently endure the most minor discomforts, let alone real pain—there had never been the slightest need. Those jaws! Those teeth! Oh God! Oh God!

What would it feel like? How bad would it be? How loud would she shriek? Or perhaps she would have no time, or else the torment she experienced might turn out so utterly overwhelming, it would render her voiceless, incapable of uttering a final exclamation ... That had seemed to be the case for many of her handmaidens, and for her hapless soldiers, when she saw them brought down, one after the other. Watched them slaughtered. Only the horses had screamed, for the most part. Unless their screams, together with the hideous roars and cackling laughter from the monsters as they attacked, had covered other cries.

And beyond that, there was the other, darker possibility—that if or when they ran her down and pinned her, it would not be for the purpose of eating her, like they'd done to everyone else ... For her, the wicked vile beasts had another purpose in mind. Another darker form of hunger. How did she know? She just did. She could feel it in the depths of her being. And when she glanced over her bare shoulder at the creatures, though it was only for an instant, she had noticed something about them, something she hadn't seen before. Something that hadn't appeared or emerged until the creatures followed her into the Shadowed Wood. What she saw was their genitals, their penises. All of which were swollen and jutting, the arrogant testament of their nightmarish lust, each and every hairless, moist shaft very visible in contrast against the monsters' dark and shaggy bellies.

Oh God, it was unspeakable. This couldn't be happening. How could this be happening to her? Oh God, what if they caught her? What then?

The snow stung the bottoms of her bare feet, and with every single pounding step she also felt the sharp points and edges of frost-stiffened leaf-litter as they crackled and crumpled beneath her weight, for she had discarded her impractical, ill-fitting shoes, and neither hose nor stockings covered her legs. She had chosen not to wear them beneath her ball gown, knowing from experience how hot and itchy they became under such a ponderous and many-layered costume. How scandalized her maids had been at the idea! Such furious argument. In the end she had managed to have her way, with the rationalization that her great billowing ball gown would never allow the slightest glimpse of her legs or her ankles; no one besides her dressmaids would have known or could have guessed she had neglected that final pointless layer of close-clinging coverage for the skin of her legs.

Except now that unthinkable exposure had come to pass. Her bare legs were entirely revealed to the chill night; it was not her fancy shoes alone she had left behind. Her ball gown was gone, too. Torn completely from her body, half by the wind when she made her impossible leap over the ditch, and the rest of it bit by bit and layer by layer, due to the branches of the trees and the thick tangled undergrowth as she shoved through them, heedless of their clawed grip. The Shadowed Wood would only permit her entry at the price of her garments. Not quite all of them, thankfully, but most. Her gown had contained an elaborate wickerwork scaffolding to support its broad sweeping shape. A hateful cage strapped to her waist and shoulders—the grasping limbs of the Wood made short work of it. Like her shoes, she was not sorry to have it ruined, pulled apart to countless pieces. A delightful, encouraging sensation, in fact, to feel herself free of its confinement and weight. Allowing her to increase the speed of her flight. Allowing her to take deeper breaths. It was like her lungs could inflate twice as much as before. It made her giddy.

She'd had a jeweled tiara—the trees also snatched that from her, and loosened the snug coils of her hair in the process, allowing it stream full length behind her head. Her hair had not been let loose to blow wild in the wind like that since she was a small child. It was only unbraided when it was time to be washed and brushed, then immediately and diligently rewoven as fast as possible by the nimble fingers of her servants.

She was a princess no more. Just a girl, just ordinary. No tiara, no ballgown. Nothing to set her apart from a peasant. Well, nearly nothing.

All she had left on was a pale blue shift. And the gold medallion on a slim chain round her throat. The shift was sleeveless and loose-fitting, thin as tissue paper. It hung past her ankles, and might have hampered her movements, but in the frenzy of her run, delicate as it was made, the lower half had already torn from the bottom hem all the way to her hip on one side.

Then that flapping hem was caught behind her in the teeth of her pursuers. She was too startled—too petrified—to scream. She nearly fell on her face, but didn't. Somehow, arms flailing, she kept her footing. Just stumbled and continued forward without so much as slowing, as a large chunk of the shift—most of the bottom portion—ripped completely away from her legs and was left adangle in the mouth of the creature that had almost brought her down ...

Now what remained of the shift barely hung below her waist, more like a tattered blouse than a dress. Barely covering the parts of her it still covered—her breasts kept bouncing out from the cups in front that were meant to support them, but not unassisted. This shift had only been intended to slightly cushion her flesh from its contact with the rigid wooden skeleton of her ball gown. Alone it was good for little or nothing, too insubstantial. A mere wisp of a garment. Useless. Absurd.

She hugged it against her torso, tight as she could. Knowing it was pointless and ridiculous and not being able to stop, regardless. Not when it was all she had left. If she lost this, she would be naked. The princess of this land, stark naked in the night, utterly unprotected in the Shadowed Wood. Shamefully naked! Disgraced! And chased by monsters, her nakedness no doubt further inflaming their horrid lust. It was a bad dream made real. All her rank and privilege literally stripped away from her, piece by piece, torn away by the clawed limbs of the trees. All her serenity and dignity, torn away at the same time. No more privileged or protected than the lowest landless peasant now, reduced to a hunted animal.

Oh God! God help me! God!

God gave her no answer ...

Now her stomach churned with dishonor and humiliation, as much as with dread. Her shame was for her country's sake, more than for herself—at least she wanted to believe it was. Her private parts, scarcely shielded anymore, tingled when the night blew against them—it felt oddly similar to the magic of the medallion, when it had come alive for that single blazing instant between her breasts. How strange, that the sensations should seem to match. How eerie. What could that mean, if it meant anything?

And then she tripped, or slipped, or something. Whatever the cause, she dropped to her hands and knees. Too horrified to scream, she cringed in reflex but in the same moment looked over her shoulder at the monster that was about to leap upon her back. Like a wolf but not a wolf. Too large. Too much malicious intelligence in its eyes—and too much glee.

It sprang. It would have her. It would pin her beneath it, and then ... oh God ... then it would ... it would mount her!

If that happened, she would go mad! MAD!

Oh no! Dear God! The creature's huge dark body hung in the air directly above her. It seemed to hang suspended, as if time was frozen as the snow beneath her hands and knees. She braced herself with a strangled gasp and shut her eyes. No, please, not like this!

The medallion tingled. She felt the air swirling around her. Shifting.

When she opened her eyes, she was no longer in the Shadowed Wood. She was no longer crouched and cringing on all fours, either. Instead she stood upon a high cliff in bright sunlight, with her toes clutching at the edge, and a shining silvery sea stretched ahead of her from the feet of the cliff, far, far below. While behind her, when she turned that direction, towered mountains. A range she'd never laid eyes on before. These were nowhere near her country.

Magic had transported her, but where? And what was she to do now?

And then, just as she asked herself that question, a figure appeared in front of her, but at some considerable distance. Striding towards her from the mountain range. A long haired figure with a regal bearing. And not alone.

Wolves accompanied her. The same pack as from the Wood? But these weren't running. They paced in steady, measured rhythm with the woman leading them.

A slim girl with blonde hair blowing wild behind her in the wind from the sea. She wore a ragged blue shift. It left her arms bare, and her legs. Most of her cleavage, too. Her breasts, mostly unsupported, bounced dramatically in time with her bold strides. She wore no shoes or stockings, striding barefoot over jagged icy rocks with no visible sign of discomfort. Instead she looked confident and proud and serene. Regal. She was smiling as she approached. It did not have the look of a friendly smile, though. It looked fierce. It was a smile of mockery, and of challenge.

She looked exactly like Princess Swift herself, in every detail save one. She wore no matching gold medallion.

And she wanted it. She was stretching out her hand for it. She wanted Princess Swift to take it off and give it to her.

And now, at last and all at once, she knew what this was about. She knew why these things were happening to her. Why she had been attacked and why she was being chased. Why all her people had been murdered.

Her grandmother's medallion. The magic it contained. The power.

2.

She dived off the cliff into the sea. It should have killed her, far too great a fall to be survivable. But with no better choice, she trusted the medallion to protect her again, and it did. Thank Heaven!

The water, when it embraced her and enveloped her, was warm and soothing, like a bath, and the exact same color as her shift. It had no waves or currents like there should have been. Cute and colorful little fish circled her with curious gazes. A few swam close enough to nibble at her knees and tiptoes. Their mouths tickled slightly.

When she looked up at the surface of the sea, it was perfectly smooth, like glass. She saw no ripples or bubbles, though she had only plunged through it seconds ago.

She reached toward it, and found it was much further away than she first thought, and that startled her. Frightened her. She kicked herself upward. She would need air. But even as she thought that, she realized she felt no urgency, no pressure in her chest.

Then she noticed a funny fluttering sensation on the sides of her neck. When she touched herself there, she felt soft ridges, small flaps in her skin which flexed rhythmically. She had no control of their pulsing motion—just like her heartbeat. The flaps opened and closed by themselves. Gills, she realized. Gills like a fish had magically appeared on her neck. This was very startling, of course. It was marvelous and it was disturbing at the exact same time. Convenient as it was at present, most assuredly, she hoped the transformation wouldn't prove permanent.

Perhaps she could have stayed submerged indefinitely—perhaps she might have been forced to, not knowing what else to do—except in the blink of her eye, all the water vanished. The entire sea was erased, and Swift found herself face down in a desert. Her body was still dripping wet, and formed a dark patch of moisture around her on the pale pebble-strewn sand. It was a harsh, unforgiving surface to lie against. She coughed and sputtered. One hand still clutched her throat; she could feel that the gills had vanished at the same instant as the ocean. Well then ... She pulled herself upright as quick as she could, groaning, sniveling. Her shift clung to her skin, rendered almost entirely transparent and exposing every detail of her slender, trembling body, but the princess was too stunned to take notice and be embarrassed by this fact. She was dizzy and wobbled on her feet. The heat was scorching, and in only seconds it was sweat that soaked through the clinging shift and dribbled off her body and spattered the dirt, in place of the sea water.

She couldn't see properly. There was a film or haze, blurring everything, shimmering. She had to wipe her eyes and blink several times. When she lowered her hands from her face, the wolves were back. They were all around her, crouched and snarling. Drooling, too. The way they were all posed, readying themselves to pounce with their heads low, she couldn't see their cocks. Didn't make them any less fearsome, alas.

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