Saving Everbright

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    Once upon a time, in the city of Everbright where our story begins, there lived a king and queen who were much beloved by their people. Under their generous reign the kingdom prospered, poverty was limited, crime rates were low and the people smiled. Everbright was given two more reasons to rejoice as the years went on--the birth of Prince Laire, and a few years later, the Princess Lyren. Everbright was the poster country of peace and progress for the rest of the world and remained that way for many years, and countless countries attempted to follow along in it's shadow.

    But of course, with all goodness in the world there must also be an evil. On the day of the annual Peace Week, a celebration where every man and woman in the kingdom is free from work for seven days to spend time with their families and celebrate Everbright, a grown Prince Laire plotted his coup. He violently overthrew his beloved parents and sentenced them to die, along with his young sister come the morning after Peace Week's end.

    Yet hope remained. On the day she was doomed to die, the princess Lyren mysteriously disappeared from her dungeon cell. Upon great rewards and riches beyond imagination, King Laire decreed that any man who found her and returned her to her punishment would be fully pardoned and increased to the social status of high nobility. He ordered any who dared to search each corner of Everbright until the princess was discovered and brought to face her sentence.

    Our story begins as many do, with the fate of a kingdom hanging in the balance.

    Princess Lyren de Highlier, pink Wind whistled past her ears and through dark, dirty hair with each force of her legs, each forward push that threw her into a run. She had been escaping for hours without end, and no matter which direction she went the men of her brother's guard had never ceased to continue their chase. In the distance she heard the barking of ruthless hounds, the shouts of soldiers promised glorious rewards for the return of their princess to the capital city of Brighton. She would not let them have their gold of their glory so long as her muscles still had energy to keep life a hopeful risk. There was too much at stake to falter now. The fate of her father's kingdom hung by a thread, and it would end the second a noose tightened around her neck under the sights of gods and men. Dashing through a thrush of tall bushes, she gave a small curse as branches clung and tore at her skin, drawing blood that dripped down her arms and legs. There was no time to stop.

    I will not die today.

    "I see her!" a soldier shouted from much closer than she remembered them hailing. "There, up there!"

    Lyren was running out of options. In a desperate attempt to thwart those who grew closer to their goal by the second, she gave a sudden leap and grabbed on to a hanging branch of the nearest tree. Swinging her legs, she managed to grip her feet against the side of the trunk and make as quick an ascent as any princess was capable of. She had never climbed a tree in her life, never had the desire to, but in such a moment she was convinced that was a terrible mistake. As the soldiers emerged one by one from the bushes surrounding her temporary safety, Lyren had just barely climbed out of range from the hungry grasps of greedy, murderous men.

    "Go away!" she shouted helplessly, clinging to the trunk of the tree as if her life depended on it. Chances were, it did. "You don't have to do this, you can let me go and return to my traitor brother empty-handed. Perhaps that might save you from the damnation you're doomed to for this act of treachery, but I highly doubt it."

    "Princess Lyren," cooed the captain of the guard, a man she had spent most of her life growing to know, a man who had laid down his life for her father only to forsake every oath he took. "As spirited as ever, you are. I'm sorry. It's over. Come down and swear your fealty to your brother when we reach Brighton once more, and we can put this silly mess behind us."

    "Never." Lyren spat down at them.

    "Now now, that's no way for a princess to behave." The captain gave a heavy groan before waving a dismissive hand, and Lyren watched in helpless horror as the men under his command drew their arrows aimed at the trapped girl in a short tree. "You have two options. Come down from there, or we shoot you down."

    "You can't. You can't do that, the people would revolt if they haven't already, and if I pledged fealty you would be charged with attempted murder on the crowned princess of Everbright."

    "All true," he admitted with a dark chuckle, "but since you just stated that you would never pledge fealty, I've nothing to worry about." He waved his hand a second time. "Shoot her down, lads."
    #1 moffnat, Nov 7, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 17, 2014
  2. Gavin Laforet de Mevius, seagreen

    The soft grinding of wood against stone made him grit his teeth slightly as he watched the armored men push open the large, wooden gate in front of him; a sight that he has seen plenty of times over the past four months since he arrived here with nothing to his name with only rags on his body. The man nodded to the guard who stopped him before, Captain Reinhold if he remembered correctly, next to him.

    "Move along now," the guard ordered, returning his nod.​

    With the gesture returned and with the approval to enter, he reached down and gripped the rough wooden handles, lifting them up off the ground. Taking a deep breath, the man once known as Gavin Laforet de Mevius, or what many know him as Dexicos, strode through the now open gatehouse, heading down the large cobblestone road to his destination as always: the marketplace.

    The early morning sun had finally peaked over the large mountains when Gavin had arrived at the edge of the marketplace, where only a few small and rickety stalls were built, plenty of them only barely being held up by the uneven, rotten wood. Many of these stalls were for the poor residents of the city, or to the unintelligent and greedy noble looking for cheep prices on goods, only to find out later they were awfully made or fake. Gavin nodded in greeting to the few faces that he has talked to in the past; pleasantries weren't exchanged, as he had learned that many don't care about false politeness. Gavin returned his attention to ahead of him and continued down the worn road, looking about at the bright white stone buildings that glowed in the morning sun. The buildings themselves were old, though Gavin was unsure of how they had kept their bright and welcoming shine to them. There was no doubt that the city was beautiful. However, he wasn't naive. He knew it was a front, an illusion to what really happens here. The corruption of not only the nobles, but the people themselves that have been enslaved by the rich.

    Ever since the kingdom fell to Prince-... King Laire's rule, the nobles have grew in power, while the common man was reduced to nothing. Yet, everyone seemed to loved him, something that he had no idea why or how, only that it seemed that only he and the few others, like the poor and jobless, could see through it. The slow decline of peace and prosperity that once held the kingdom in a warm blanket was disappearing, while cunning and violence seemed to be replacing it. Gavin could only imagine what Brighton, the large city that he hailed from, was like now.

    Gavin continued forward, until reaching a small gap between two oddly looking stalls. Steering his cart, he pulled over to a small section of free space between them. Gavin knew both of the owners, one being a well known conman, who sells whatever he can get his hands on that is more than likely either counterfeit, or stolen. The other being older man who sold ironware, which seemed to be either ingots themselves or dinnerware, to make his living. Letting the thoughts come to an end, he slowly and carefully set the rough wooden handles down on the worn stone, not wanting his cargo tip over. Gavin stepped around the cart, grabbing the rough and thick rope that held down a dirty and ripped cloth. Untying it, Gavin threw the cloth over, folding the cloth to the other side of the cart, now displaying the large pile of freshly cut timber stacked neatly in a pile.

    Gavin looked over the semi-large pile of freshly cut wood in the back of the cart, taking a quick count to see if any have been stolen or maybe had fallen out during the trip. He nodded to himself as he counted the same number of timber when he did back at his small cottage. Gavin grinned, thankful that nothing had happened on his trip to the city and in the shady streets. As the sun began to raise itself, so did the people of the city. Soon, the roads were cramped with men, women and children alike, all there to buy and exchange goods. So is the life of a city.

    ~A few hours later...~

    Frowning in disappointment, Gavin retied the old cloth over the almost untouched pile of timber, careful not to nick the worn fabric anymore than he needed to; the amateurish patches that were sewn into the cloth to cover up any rips were a testament to the treatment of it in the past. Sighing heavily, he looked at the retreating forms of the many patrons that could have been valuable and much needed customers. He had forgotten a small oversight: winter was nearly over, with spring was peaking it's wonderful head around the corner. He had hoped to get a few paranoid buys from the nobles thinking that there might be a few more cold days left, but it was for naught. Gavin knew that his main source of income wasn't going to help him any longer.

    After double checking the ropes, Gavin grabbed the carts handles, pulling out of his little section and began heading back the way he came toward the west gatehouse, passing by the left-over shoppers that either came late, or wanted to pick up scraps from whatever was left for a cheaper price. Gavin snorted mentally, he figured with the people that he had unfortunately met here, the noblemen stall owners won't take lowered prices for anything, and the poor owners would probably increase the price, seeing if the buyers were desperate enough to get something before it was to late to buy. Gavin shook his head, wondering if he was heading down that same path now. There were a few times where his selfishness had gotten to him when a few nobles wanted to buy his timber, seeing as how the richer business men knew that wood was valuable during winter, in which prices sky rocketed. Gavin knew he deliberately increased the price just fro the fact due to the snobbish accents and fancy clothes. A small part of him relished in their expressions when he told them he wanted 5 gold a piece, which he knew was cheaper then what the others were offering, but still a high price. They huffed, irritated that a peasant would dare stand up to there piercing and judging faces, as if they should have already owned the much needed wood to keep their large manors well heated. Gavin smirked to himself, glad he could take down some nobles a peg or two.

    With those thoughts in mind, Gavin slowly made his way back down the cobblestone path, moving through the groups that still walked the roads with as much grace as he could. The nobles sneered at him, of course, not moving from his path only making him have to move the cart around them, the commoners surprisingly enough moved out of the way for him, as generally peasants and poor people were still considered to be underneath them, and many had not hesitated to use that to grate on his nerves. Though, he didn't take this to mind at the moment, as Gavin almost didn't notice that he was now alone on the once very busy street.

    He stopped immediately, taking a few moments of silence to look about at the dark windows and the few nearby alleyways that were still covered in darkness. Gavin set down the handles slowly, before swiftly rushing over to the side of the cart to grab one of the two hatches that hung there; he wasn't stupid enough to come here unarmed. Gavin slowly returned to the front of his cart, putting his back against the wood, his weapon at the ready to attack any who dare try to attack him. At the moment, Gavin had wished he had his shield for extra protection, but knew it would be impossible. All of... that was gone now, along with his sword and armor. Gritting his teeth, he simply stood still and waited, he wasn't going to go chase his possible non-existent attackers if nothing happened, or his eyes and ears played tricks on him. Another few minutes had passed before Gavin shook his head, chuckling softly.

    "I'm insane," he muttered, secretly relieved that nothing happened. He turned, walking around to the side of the cart, where he began reaching out to put his hatchet back-

    "Go away!"
    Gavin whipped back around, his weapon ready once more at the sudden shout. A woman's shout, he figured, and from the sound of it, one in trouble. Gavin hesitated a moment, unsure if he should intervene in something that more then likely wasn't his buisness. Maybe a noble getting robbed? Or maybe a poor commoner running away from the guard? However, a nagging feeling in the back of his mind told him to investigate. Gavin took a breath, moving forward toward where he thought the shout came from. Working his way through the alleyways and back roads, he was close enough to hear voices of not only the woman, but a man as well. The voices were still somewhat muffled, only when Gavin turned the last corner did he see the full scene. A dark haired man who was armored from head to toe in steel was looking up in a tree, though Gavin was unable to see who, he guessed it was the woman that shouted from earlier. Behind him, two soldiers had their bows drawn, pointed to the spot where he presumed the woman was hiding from. Gavin took a moment to glance at the armor, trying to see any symbols that he could recognize to see if it was part of the city's guard or not. Gavin frowned, not reconizing the armor the man wore as one to the city's guard. It was... too shiny, too new. The same could be said to the other two soldiers, their leather armor shining bright from probably a recent polish. Keeping himself down, he stalked a few steps forward, using the midday shadow in the alleyway to keep himself hidden from the armed men.

    The two bow wielding archers only seemed to be wearing leather, with steel boots and gauntlets, which matched the fully armored man. This was odd to Gavin, as only Royal soldiers did that. Another observation that he noted was that neither of them wore any sort of head protection, nor any swords or knifes, and they stood almost shoulder to shoulder to each other. Before Gavin could observe anything further, the fully armored man spoke again.
    "Shoot her down, lads."
    It all happened so fast.

    He didn't know why he decided then to act, nor the reason that he felt pure dread shoot up his spine at the command, but he did. Quickly thinking, he rushed out of the alleyway, holding his hatchet steadily as he rushed to the first archer. Using his forward momentum, he lashed out with his hatchet, using the blunt side of it to smash the unsuspecting man's skull in. Gavin didn't note the crushing sound of bone against iron, nor did he register the sudden blood splatter against his skin. He continued forward, using once again his momentum to bring the hatchet back, this time the bladed side, into the thigh of the now aware second archer. Gavin quickly ripped out the hatchet, turning to face the leader.

    By now, the leader of the small group turned around, shocked at seeing both of his men down on the ground. He already knew one of them was dead, the gash in his head and pool of blood evidence to that already. The second one was already close to meeting the first one's fate as the blood pumped out copious amounts of blood out of the wound on his thigh. He drew his sword, looking at the fool who dared to mess with Prince Laire's affairs. The man took a quick look over the man, a smirk on his lips as his arrogance grew at the sight.
    "A filthy peasant wants to be the hero, eh? You really think you can best me?" the man taunted.
    Gavin took careful measure to keep his face looking blank, not wanting to give the man anymore reason to taunt him. He did have one thing right, however: there was no way Gavin could fight him in one versus one combat. He wasn't going to underestimate the man, figuring he knew how to use that sword and how to move in full armor. Even with the added movement and agility that his clothing gave him, the man was completely armored, had longer reach and swing then he did. Getting up close would be suicide.

    He looked at the man, his brow furrowing as he thought of something. Even if it doesn't work, it will give time for whoever was up in the tree to run.
    "It will be a peasant that will laugh at your corpse, you damned coward!" he taunted back.
    Getting the desired effect, the man scowled, growing in anger as he lashed out at him with his sword. Gavin took a step back, avoiding the swing before he turned around, running back through the alleyway to setup his second part. Thankfully, the armored man followed him, watching Gavin as he turned the corner. Gavin stopped immediately, pushing his body up against the cold stone as he waited for the clanking footsteps to get closer. Holding his hatchet tightly, his heart beating a mile a minute, he heard the footsteps almost reaching the corner. Stepping out, he lashed out with his hatching, his pursuer looking at him in surprise before the bladed end of the hatchet met the side of his head, easily embedding past the bone and into the man's brain. The now dead leader's momentum carried him a few steps more before his body's muscles relaxed, his corpse falling to the ground. Gavin leaned against the stone in relief, thankful that his improvised on-the-spot plan had worked. Taking a few shaky breaths to calm himself from the almost forgotten feeling of the rush of battle, Gavin walked forward, yanking out the hatchet of the dead man's head.

    Walking slowly back through the shadowed alleyway, he approached the tree cautiously, unsure if the woman left or not.
    "Hello?... Madam? Are you hurt?" he called out tentatively.
    #2 Devos, Nov 9, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2014
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  3. Princess Lyren de Highlier, pink Lyren prepared herself for the worst. The men under her brother's command were ruthless and unforgiving, and the princess had no doubt that whatever they threatened to do would happen one way or the other. She clutched the bark of the tree and clenched her eyes shut with anticipation of the inevitable. Perhaps suffering arrow wounds wouldn't be as painful as they looked, though knew her brother would show no mercy upon seeing what his soldiers had done.

    Instead of loosed arrows, the sound of steel on steel reached her ears. She opened her eyes to the questionable noise and looked down upon the growing fight, a single stranger who had stormed into the fray to look for a sense of heroism. She remained helpless in the tree, feeling a fool and wishing for some sense of assistance that she could offer.

    When the shouts and taunts fell silent and the clash of steel was muted, Lyren dared to look down upon the outcome. The stranger who had so gallantly come to her rescue stood covered in dirt, no doubt from his previous work before the fight, as well as sweat and blood. The pursuers lay dead across the field and her savior was panting, looking up to where he guessed her location was in the brush atop quaking branches. When he shouted up to inquire as to her condition, it took several moments for the princess to find her voice and consider carefully the right and wrong words to say. Can he be trusted?

    "I--I'm alright," she called back down to the stranger, looking at her pathway down the tree and realizing sullenly how impossible it would be to descend without breaking a limb. "I think I'm stuck, through. And I'm hurt, I don't think I can risk climbing down without injuring myself. Do you think--I mean, if it's not a terrible inconvenience--that you could help me down? Somehow?" Lyren glanced nervously to the direction where the soldiers had come in their pursuit, wondering in a panic if more would be sent.
  4. Gavin Laforet de Mevius, seagreen

    Gavin stood still, squinting his eyes as he observed the tree before him, trying to spot the woman he saved. However, the leaves are plenty and thick, covering even the trunk itself. He took a few steps back, figuring that the woman was still scared. Setting the hatchet onto the ground as slowly and non-threateningly as he could, he took a few steps forward again, holding his hands up in a passive manner.

    "I mean you no harm, I promise," he called out.

    He only had to wait a few moments before she answered.

    "I--I'm alright,"
    Even if she couldn't see him, Gavin nodded, releasing a breath he hadn't realized he was holding. He was relieved at the thought that he had gotten here before she got hurt. Glancing at spot where he thought he heard the woman's voice, Gavin took another few steps forward, almost standing near the base of the tree. From the angle he was at now, he could make out the lithe silhouette among the green of the leaves.

    "I think I'm stuck, through. And I'm hurt, I don't think I can risk climbing down without injuring myself. Do you think--I mean, if it's not a terrible inconvenience--that you could help me down? Somehow?"
    Gavin let out a small sigh, knowing that maybe he was to hasty about her being not injured. Shaking his head, he observed the branches above him, noting their length and thickness before he tried his weight on them. After a few tries, Gavin managed to find a branch that didn't creak in warning at his weight and pulled himself up. Steadying himself, he repeated his actions from before, slowly stepping on the branches around him and testing his weight on the ones above. Slowly, Gavin worked his way up the tree, slightly noting that the woman had managed to climb pretty high. Slightly impressed, he wondered if the woman had climb trees in her youth as he continued up until he could fully see the woman. He nodded to her, climbing up to the lowest branch under her's.

    Checking for injuries, Gavin noticed a few things about this woman that rang alarm bells in his head. The clothes that she wore was obviously made from noble silk, something that he had seen plenty of during his lifetime. The second most startling thing was how young she looked, even with the dirt and small blood streaks that marred her face, probably from her haste in trying to climb the tree, that she couldn't be older then twenty at most. Gavin's brow's furrowed, confused as to why any sort of guard would chase a noble, knowing full well what they could get away with. Clearing his thoughts, still checking for anything serious, Gavin couldn't see anything out of the ordinary.

    Nodding to himself, he looked into her bright, grey colored eyes. "Greetings," he grinned. "Can you climb down to me? I'm unsure of the extent of your injuries," he asked gently.

    #4 Devos, Nov 13, 2014
    Last edited: Nov 14, 2014
  5. Princess Lyren de Highlier, pink There was something painfully familiar about the man's face, about the way he spoke and held himself. He didn't have the accent of someone terribly low-born and his stature was one of ease and general confidence. His hands were rough and calloused and his shoulders were burned from the sun, which suggest some sort of hard labor. But if he is a poor man, why would he trouble himself with me? Especially after what my brother has done?

    Lyren glanced down to the forest floor, some twenty feet below where she was perched, and gulped. It was no small wonder that she had climbed so high in the first place. No doubt, she would feel the pains of her brush with death the following morning, but adrenaline was a curious thing and perhaps it had spurred her to this height. Whatever the case, this tree and this man were the reasons she still drew breath. "Okay," she sighed in trepidation, "I can climb down. Just be prepared to catch me should I lose my footing, I've never climbed a tree before. Or unclimbed one."

    She no longer paid attention to where her savior was located within the thickness of leaves and branches. Her body trembled with hesitation and the stresses of holding herself upright, placing one foot below the other on continuously questionable thresholds as she made her slow descent. More than once Lyren slipped and clutched to the nearest branch for dear life, trying at her utmost ability to hold back a scream and give away her position to any guards nearby who remained oblivious to her location.

    "Am I almost there?" she called, not daring to look down and risk the precious ground she had covered. Lyren had only descended about five feet, clinging to the trunk of the tree like a child to her mother's leg. "I think, oh gods, I think I could go a bit further down--"

    Her misstep cost her dearly. Lyren gave a gasp as her foot hooked into the bark of the tree and twisted her ankle in an unnatural angle before letting go, and she clenched her eyes shut in preparation to slam against the dirt.
  6. Gavin Laforet de Mevius, seagreen
    It might have been from the recent battle, or maybe it was the feeling of fear of getting caught by more guards, but Gavin's heartbeat rose to match that of a galloping horse. It didn't help with the fact that he didn't know how much time they had left before any of the now dead guards's companions notice their prolonged absence. Gavin had no idea if he could take on any more guards if they decided to show. With his luck, a whole battalion would march down the road, straight to where he and this woman was.

    He decided not to think about that at the moment.

    Taking a small peak at the alleyway where he came from, his heart settled down slightly as alleyway still appeared to be empty of both noises and people. Turning back to the woman, Gavin put on what he hoped to be a reassuring smile as he carefully watched her climb down. "You're doing fine. Don't think about the ground, just the next branch - That's it!" he smiled lightly, watching her talk another step down to another branch.

    As she descended, so did he. While it did surprise him at first, he had no issue with letting her do so as she seemed to be capable. He'd rather not find out if he could carry her on the way down, unsure if their combined weight could be supported on the already thin and flimsy branches. The last thing that they both needed was to make any more noise, or have him hurt himself, or the woman further. As he lowered himself down to another branch, he nearly lost his grip as he heard the woman gasped loudly, rustling the leaves as she grabbed onto the nearest branch. Gavin looked up in concern, almost scrambling back up the branch he was on. "Madam!?" he cried, looking about worriedly as he couldn't spot the woman anymore among the leaves.

    "Am I almost there?"
    Gavin cocked his head upward, hearing her voice but still unable to see her. Looking down, he could see that they, or he, was indeed close to the ground; only a few feet more and he could climb down or jump off. "Yes, just a couple more branches and we'll reach the bottom," he answered truthfully. Gavin stood on his branch, waiting for the woman to continue down her decent to where he was before he continued, just for reassurance that he wouldn't have to climb back up and repeat his process to find her once again if she got stuck... Or if she fell. He didn't like to think about the latter.​

    The sickening pop was all the clue that was given to Gavin before he saw the woman fall through the leaves above him. Acting more out of instinct than thought, he reached out with both hands, catching the woman before she could fall any further onto either a branch, or heaven forbid, the stone ground. He really didn't think it through at the moment, as the groan and creaking of the branch below himself seemed to echo in his mind. In what seemed to be slow motion, he hugged the woman tight against himself as the branch finally broke and they descended down. Gavin's upper back stung in pain as he smashed through the first branch, while his upper thigh was given the same treatment. He only barley registered the familiar feeling of the sun on his skin before landing on the hard stone, his back roared in pain once more and the air in his lungs were forced out from the impact.

    Gasping breathlessly for a moment as his lungs worked furiously at trying to get the lost oxygen back. The pain in his back and right leg were something that he haven't felt in a long time, a feeling that he'd rather not have again anytime soon or ever again. Getting his breath under control, Gavin groaned heavily, glancing at the woman who was still against his chest. "Are you alright?" he asked. Checking over the woman from his point of view at the moment, it seemed that she was fine, however Gavin had spotted her twisted ankle, wincing slightly just at the view itself. She wasn't going to be able to walk anytime soon.

    Lightly gripping her shoulders, he gently moved her off of himself. Slowly getting up, he gripped his left shoulder and rolled it a few times to get a sudden knot inside of it. Looking at his bloodied hatchet that still sat in the place he left it, Gavin walked over and picked it up, placing it through one of his belt loops and walked back to the injured woman. Kneeling by her legs, he took a closer look at her ankle, the odd angle could mean she simply dislocated it, but he wasn't a doctor by any means. She may have broken it for all he knew. Frowning softly he looked back at her. "I'm sorry," he apologized. He wasn't sure why he did, it just felt like he needed to. Shaking his head, he continued. "It looks dislocated, but I'm not sure. You will most definitely won't be able to walk on it. I'm going to have to carry you, or I could try to find a suitable branch from the tree to give you for a walking stick."
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  7. Princess Lyren de Highlier, pink The force with which they hit the ground was nearly crippling. Lyren groaned as she rolled off of her rescuer's chest and into the dirt, taking a moment to collect herself on the forest floor. Her arms spread wide and her ankle throbbed so hard she thought it might fall off. When her consciousness had returned to her from a temporary stun, the princess propped herself up into a sitting position and looked at her swollen ankle, biting back tears. It didn't look dislocated--shattered might have been a better word. I'm as good as dead, she thought miserably. I have nowhere to run, and even if I did, I can't. My brother will no doubt find me now. Defeat was scattered across Lyren's features as she looked up to her brave rescuer, who appeared to be injured as well from the fall, and her heart was filled with dread.

    "There's no way they won't find me now," she ground out through gritted teeth. Lyren drew in a few hard breaths to steady herself. "I have nowhere to seek shelter, nowhere to hide. Unless you know of a kind person who can keep a noble secret from the king and his men. I would hate to trouble you beyond the kindness and mercy you have already shown."

    Even speaking was an agony. Lyren bit down on her lip and tasted blood, but it was better than crying out entirely and alerting any nearby soldiers to her location. Perhaps it might have been better to die in the tree, or back in Everbright where she belonged. A death beside her parents would have been ironically less torturous. She felt the glimmers and hopes of escape dwindle and wept quietly at their demise. "A stick wouldn't help, I can't--I can't walk on this at all, it's hopeless."

    Yet still, she tried to stand by gripping onto the very tree they had fallen from, using it as leverage to pull herself up on the leg that remained useful to her. Lyren was nothing if not determined and stubborn. I told myself that I wouldn't die today, and I intend to keep that promise. But there was no reason why the poor stranger should have to die for her, and it was only a matter of time before she was found and retaken by Laine's men. He had risked his life and more to save her from a bloody death. It was the princess's duty to return the favor.

    "They'll be back," Lyren warned, sniffling as she held herself one-footed against the tree trunk. "You shouldn't be here. They'll hang you for what you did, even in service to me. There is no honor among the king's men anymore."
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