Palos sat on the rim of a fountain, surrounded by a rose garden, on a cold fall night. Behind him, he heard the gurgle of water gushing up and circulating into the pool. Before him, he saw a vast forest of evergreen and pine pushing out hundreds of feet below the cliff. His shoulders drooped and his eyes narrowed as he realized his plan had failed. He looked up at the moon, clear and full in the cloudless night sky. “I had but one task. One task I was entrusted with to complete and I could not even do that.” For given the hour, he was now sure his plan had failed. The princess had mocked him, playing him for a fool, and she had been right. I am a fool, the boy thought tragically.
The young boy of fourteen allowed his thoughts to continue down a dangerous, spiraling staircase, looming ever nearer to the edge of a nasty precipice until he was jerked out of his inner torments by a sudden crunch of gravel behind him. Whirling around and quickly drawing his knife he poised at the ready, prepared for anything to come his way after the trials he had overcome getting into the palace.
“Oh my,” The self-asserting princess Talis cooed with a voice intoned by humor, “Whatever shall I do? Should I call the guards?”
Palos quickly sheathed his knife as his cheeks matched the rose garden, embarrassed to have been startled by the princess, “M’Lady, forgive me. I did not know it was you.”
“Oh, heavens. You mustn’t call me that anymore! Simply, Talis will do while we are alone, although you may not want to call me that when others are around as you may get your tongue cut out.” The princess spoke this with an air of bemusement as if she would enjoy seeing the great commotion his doing so could cause.
“M’La—” Palos stopped himself at a terrifying look from Talis, “I mean, Talis, forgive me, but I thought you weren’t coming. Were you successful? Did the king listen?”
She smiled, and with the way the moonlight reflected off her skin Palos found it necessary to remind himself of his station in life, “He did more than listen, Palos. He is mounting a full-scale invasion, intent on annihilating the Raksha.” she finished smugly.
Palos’ mouth dropped, stunned by her words. “H-how?” he uttered after finally managing to loosen his tongue.
“Really? Who do you even think I am?” she gave him a smile, batting her eyelashes as she did so, causing his heart to skip a beat.
“When do they leave?” Palos asked nervously.
“Ha-ha, why Palos, they already left! They will be three hours on the road by now, riding hard through the night.”
“Oh no.” words escaped him as he realized what he had done.
“What?” The princess looked taken aback.
Palos gulped, “What did you tell the king, to convince him, I mean?”
“What you told me, silly! Whatever else would I say?”
Palos gulped again, this time unable to free the lump in his throat, “I-I—”
“I, grow tired of your stuttering!”
“I made it up.” Palos clamped a hand over his mouth as the princess’s eyes opened in shock.
“You did what?!” shock turned to terror-inspiring fury.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t think it through!?” Palos turned, fleeing the garden, an irate princess, and a castle full of fools.