A Child in the Woods
Kina darted through the trees faster than she ever had before.
“Hold up!” Quinn shouted from behind, out of breath, “The king said you’re not supposed to run off without me! You know he’s been anxious since the attempt!”
“Well, what good is a bodyguard if he can’t even keep up with the princess!” she shouted back. Kina had gotten tired of the celebration of her tenth birthday and had decided to get some fresh air, as she usually did in times like these. “Aren’t you a year older than me as well Quinn! That’s a bit embarrassing!” she yelled and heard Quinn grunt angrily in response.
Quinn thought of a justification as he tried to catch up, “Well you don’t have to carry any weaponry with you Kina!”
Before she could shout back another witty remark, Kina felt as though she was being watched and stopped dead in her tracks.
“Why’d you st…” Quinn started, but Kina shushed him before he could finish.
“I think someone’s here,” Kina whispered.
All of a sudden Quinn yelled, “WHOEVER IS THERE, SHOW YOURSELF!”
“Have you no idea of the concept of stealth?" the princess chided.
“Well, knights don’t need stealth,” Quinn responded, puffing out his chest. Before Kina could respond that he technically wasn’t a knight yet, a figure moved out into the clearing.
Quinn drew his sword. “Stop right there!” he yelled.
Kina looked closer and saw that it was a boy, about the same age as her, wearing ragged black clothing and who had short, black hair. “Who are you?” she asked.
“None of your business,” he responded sarcastically.
Outraged, Quinn told him, “I shall have you know you are addressing Princess Kina daughter of King Robert Rillian, and as her subject, your identity is her business.”
The boy turned to the princess and remarked, with a small smile, “Oh, so it’s your birthday that’s causing all the ruckus.”
“Why yes, my father invited nobles from all over to celebrate. I do find it all a bit too much though, that’s why I’m out here,” Kina told him. She had always had a habit of going out into the woods whenever there was any stately dinner, or a foreign emissary was visiting.
The boy gestured to the forest surrounding them and told them, “Well, you two shouldn’t be out here all by yourselves. Your father’s guests are wealthy, and nothing attracts bandits more than wealth.”
“Then shouldn’t you also not be out here all by yourself. Maybe you should go back to your family too,” she shot back.
The boy, with face expressionless, responded, “Don’t have one and don’t need one.”
Quinn jumped in, “Wait, so do you live out here all by yourself?”
“Yes, that is what I just told you,” the boy replied, slightly annoyed.
Kina couldn’t help but feel sympathy for the boy, “Well, you are welcome to join us for my birthday feast.”
Quinn again cut in and the princess turned to face him, “Speaking of which, we really should be getting back to that.”
The princess looked back to the boy to await his response to her offer, but when she turned back, he was gone. “Where’d he go?” she asked Quinn, who responded with a shrug.
Quinn surveyed the area, “I say good riddance, that kid was trouble, I know it. Come on let’s head back.”
And so, they made their way back to the castle, and though she once again felt like she was being watched, they arrived back at the castle without an incident. Later in the day, Kina sat staring into space when she was interrupted.
“What are you thinkin’ ‘bout little one?” Claudia asked as she entered Kina’s room. Claudia had been the caretaker of the princess ever since her mother had died giving birth to her.
Kina told her, “Nothing, it’s just that Quinn and I had a strange encounter in the woods with this boy who said he had no family and was out there all alone.”
Claudia sat next to her, “Well, that’s strange indeed, and perhaps it will make you think twice before going out there again with all these miscreants running around.”
Kina responded, “I don’t think he was a troublemaker, Claudia, he seemed nice. I even tried to invite him to the feast, but he ran off.”
Claudia put her arm around the princess, “That’s probably for the best little one, your father would get riled up if you started bringing mysterious children back to the castle. It’s time to go to the feast now, princess. Best not to keep your father waiting.”
Kina and Claudia walked through the stone hallways of the castle, traveled down flights of the spiral staircase, and arrived on the main level where they were immediately hit with the smell of cooking food and the sounds of music and laughter. “Looks like they’re already getting started,” Claudia noted as she saw guests running about the dining hall. They walked through the large wooden doors and saw hundreds of people from all over the kingdoms conversing, until her father saw her.
King Robert was a large man and when he stood, he towered over his seated guests, “AHEM.” The room immediately became quiet. “My daughter has arrived,” the king began as all the guests turned to look at Kina, “NOW LET THE FEAST BEGIN!” With that, dozens of waiters scurried out of the kitchen laden with foods of all varieties. Kina took her seat next to her father and Quinn, who was devouring a chicken leg. The feast continued late into the night, but Kina still could not get her mind off the strange boy she had met in the wilderness.