This is the first page for an old story I’m playing around with. Reworking. I’m not sure if it’ll go anywhere, but I kind of like what I’ve got so far, even if it is a rough draft.
(I suspect I shall be plagued by writing the “unlikable heroine” my whole life. I just don’t do soft and sweet…)
The Plain Princess
Lita had accomplished a good day’s poaching. There would be meat on the table tonight. Bow slung over her shoulder, her quiver dangled from one hand, and two rabbits from the other. She tripped through the forest, her feet quick and quiet across the dry foliage of the woods. When one is poaching in the forest of the Empress, one can’t afford to be too quiet.
Weaving through the thick trees, moss-covered and knobby-trunked, she waded through the lush green world, fern leaves from the low foliage brushing at her arms and thighs. The rainy season was nigh, she could smell it in the wind, feel it in the dry scorch of the air that made her lungs feel rung-out and parched. Her hunting clothes were pinned to her body now with sweat, a long stripe down her back; her feet were sticky in her sandals, and she thought longingly of a cold soak in the lake.
A branch snapped behind her, and another. Heavy feet trod through the dry brush, aiming for stealth and missing. Lita spun on her heel, and raised her bow, arrow nocked and ready.
The man attempting to sneak up on her stopped of a sudden and lifted his hands. He was horridly dirty, even for being in the woods, and despite the several feet separating them, she could smell his unwashed body. A layer of grime coated his face and hands, and his clothes were little better than rags, parchment-thin and torn. He looked rangy and too skinny, dark hallows under his cheekbones, his pale eyes sunk into his face.
For all that he looked piss-poor and famished, she didn’t lower her bow. Starving dogs are the most vicious, after all. “Can I help you with something?”
Hands still stretched skyward, he gave a small shrug, then he grinned at her, and his whole face underwent a transformation so he almost looked human. If he hadn’t been malnourished and filthy he’d probably be a very pretty man. “I was going to snatch that nice brace of conies off you and run. I haven’t eaten in days, you see.” He bobbed his head apologetically. “I wasn’t going to hurt you.”
“You’re welcome to try.” She lowered her bow. A heavy hunting knife hung ready at her thigh and another lay nestled in her boot. He was unarmed, and probably weak as a cat.
He eyed her up and down, and she felt her face heat at his leisurely perusal of her body. He grinned again. “I think I’ll save it for later.”
She frowned at him and started to raise her bow again, but a much louder crash echoed through the woods. Horses. And men yelling.
With an oath, Lita slung her bow and stowed her quiver over her shoulder, high-tailing it for the nearest tree. She had one hand hooked around a low branch and was just starting to climb when she felt a grip on her ankle, impeding her progress but not pulling her down. Impatience fired her blood as she glared down at the dirty stranger.
“What?” she gritted through her teeth. The riders could be a pleasure party or a unit of town guards; either way Lita had no wish to come to their attention, and by the sound of it they were headed in her direction.
The dirty man smirked as he looked up at her, his fingers wrapped around her bare ankle. “Save me, pretty lady?”
“Save yourself.” With a sharp tug, she broke his hold, then kicked him hard in the face.
Is it bad that I really like the part where she kicks him in the face? ;P