An hour later Palos found himself tiptoeing around the palace halls, continuously checking his pocket, feeling for the letter the old man had asked him to deliver. He had been given very specific directions, and in order to hold up his end of the bargain, Palos was unwilling to tempt fate by doing anything else than adhering to ever bit of instruction. The old man had something Palos was willing to die for, and he had something to offer in exchange. It was just a business arrangement, or so Palos told himself.
“Right, left, down the hall, up some stairs, check.” He stopped at the top of a short flight of marble stairs, reviewing his instructions. “And then,” he paused, horror-stricken as he realized he couldn’t remember the rest of the directions. Palos cursed, wondering how he could have been so stupid. The peasant looked back and forth across the halls, searching for anything to jar his memory. At the end of the hall, behind a suit of third-century armor, a door was barely cracked open.
Palos weighed his odds, frozen on the spot by indecision; the sound of voices coming up the stairs he had just crossed concluded his internal debate. Panicking, he rushed to the room, praying it was empty. He entered abruptly, quietly closing the door lest it make a noise. Breathing a sigh of relief, he turned, resting his back against the door, and for a moment closing his eyes. Relief soaked through his soul as Palos contemplated staying in this position forever.
“Ahem,” At the sound of another human being Palos’ eyes popped open. Spotting a girl wearing fabulously expensive clothing and jewelry, a sure sign of royalty, he sank to his knees, desperate to placate her, knowing full well his life was in a delicate position, reeling from the unexpected shock.
“M’Lady, please have mercy; I had no idea you were in here!” He kept his head determinedly fixed on the ground; he expected a scream any instant, and then, he would be hung for attempted murder of a member of the royal family, and with his death, the death of his family and village would follow. Instead, he heard something else entirely, a slight, mirthful laugh. Such a joyous noise that sounded so sweet to his terror-ridden mind, it could have been the echo of an angel plucking a holy tune on a harp.
The laughing continued for a moment, before abruptly stopping. A very annoyed voice spoke, replacing the angelic sound only seconds earlier, “Oh, do look up! Don’t you think I would have realized by now that you aren’t going to try and kidnap me? Although, now that I mention it,” the feminine voice adopted a more conspiratorial nature, “that would really be quite fun, and it would give me a perfectly legitimate excuse to get out of the castle!”