Content Warning: Graphic violence
She relaxed ever so slightly and, mentally shrugging off the slow-witted mien in which she had enshrouded herself, allowed her brain to speed up again. Time slowed, and in the heartbeat between Danny’s first and second steps, she realized he would have to die. With luck, though, he would be the only one.
Easing open the sluice gates of her bloodlust just enough for her instincts to take control, she spun her right shoulder up and across to the left. The head of the mighty stag on her back whipped upward, and before the man in front of her had even begun to blink in response, its right antler pierced deep into his eye. He fell to the ground, clutching his face. She cast the deer’s carcass down on his abdomen, driving the breath from his body and cutting off his howl of agony.
The leader, proving himself worthy of the advancement he was undoubtedly going to forfeit by the next day, spared only a brief instant for shock and horror before drawing his sword. She was faster. A quick jab to the exposed inch of throat between jaw and jerkin sufficed to disable him another half-second, and in that time she whipped the knife from her boot and hamstrung his left leg. He fell to one knee, still gasping from the blow to the neck, but he managed to maintain his grip on his weapon. She ended that with a savage gash across the knuckles. Then she pulled the leather cap from his head and smashed the heel of her left hand onto the back of his neck, just where the weak point at the base of the skull left consciousness the most vulnerable.
Not even waiting for his limp frame to collapse, she reached back to retrieve her longbow. Her fourth and fifth fingers snaked into the quiver in the same movement, pulling out an arrow as she brought her hand forward. She twitched the nock into position as she spun around, then sighted along the arrow toward the castle gate.
Danny had not, as she had hoped, returned to aid his brothers, but had broken into a run at the first sound of violence behind. He was still passing through the tunnel that led under the wall and into the castle courtyard, but she knew that only seconds remained before he would alert all within to her presence. Sparing only the briefest flash of regret for his fate, she loosed the arrow and watched as he sank to the ground with the point through his eye.
She had approached from such an angle as to be invisible to any watchers on the walls, and she had managed to keep the fray almost silent. No outcry came from above or within, so she paused to kneel and examine the bleeding eye socket of the sharp-eyed guard who had ruined her near-bloodless invasion. He would live, she decided, although he would certainly never see again from that eye, and possibly the other. Just as well, she thought. We don’t need intelligent men among our enemies.
Sighing, she placed a hand over his mouth and bashed him on the head with the leader’s sword. Then she dragged all three bodies into the darkest part of the tunnel. Finally she fetched the deer, and bent over it, drawing her knife again.