Content Warning: Violence, risk-taking
Those closest to her moved first, but since she had poised herself to respond, she avoided them with scarcely a thought. Leaping backward, she arched her back into a handspring and vaulted over the next two fools who attempted to lay hands on her. They crashed into each other, and then she did allow herself to laugh—a trill of pure, exulting merriment that pierced the growing clamor ringing throughout the hall as she ducked and darted to evade every would-be captor or killer between her and the door.
She never had any fear for her own escape; she had always been able to pass through even the most hostile and determined crowd without injury or incident. Her brain simply worked faster, and her muscles more rapidly, than those of her enemies, and she could see every move ahead—every possible permutation of the vast, complex chessboard—as if drawn out for her on a map. Laughing with ever-growing glee, she sprang from floor to table, threw herself against the wall and thrust away again over the heads of her assailants, dove and rolled between the legs of the outraged nobles, feinted this way and that to escape the glancing sword-blows that clanged futilely against the stone of wall and floor, and at last slipped through the doors that the more intelligent of the servants had finally thought to begin closing.
They slammed shut behind her, and those within scrambled to back away from the doors so they could be reopened. She seized the moment of peace to race across the courtyard and dash up the steps outside the keep. As she ran along the parapet behind the wall that overlooked the hills, she saw soldiers bursting forth from the hall, and she laughed again, knowing they would never reach her in time.
Leaping up to stand upon the wall itself, she gazed down one last time upon the surging mob, and she saw the king striding out from the hall. He glared up at her with such a mask of impotent rage that she knew it would remain seared into her memory for years to come. She whipped her bow from her back once again and sent an arrow streaking through the air to bury itself in the door inches from his head.
Thunderstruck, he gaped up at her, and those around him fell silent. Their shock spread rapidly, and even those closest to her, at the top of the stairs, faltered and looked back at the king, weapons limp in their hands.
“I needn’t miss if I don’t want to, Your Highness,” she called out. And with that, she leaped down from the wall.
Finding his tongue, the king bellowed after her, “LOCKSLEY!”
The soldiers nearby recovered themselves and raced to the wall, peering over at the ground beneath, to see where she might have fallen. But no sign of her, dead or alive, remained.
Thus concludes “She Chooses Death”! Look for the full story at the next update.