Liam smiled as he stepped into the night. Leaves crunched under his boots as he walked with a new found vigor. Caden had asked if he could walk ahead to steer him through the maze of the forest. After a while of mindless walking, Liam’s mind started to wander.
He had always imagined that Gwen would have a legacy bigger than most, but he never expected all of this. Royalty was one thing, but mind bending powers were another. The bits of the story that the princess had quickly told him were enough to make him curious for all of the details. He only hoped to hear the rest of the story from Gwen. Liam wanted to know if Gwen was safe. No, he needed to know that she was safe. Looking behind himself and squinting his eyes in a vain effort to see through the darkness of the night, Liam saw the shadow of Caden right behind him.
“Are you doing okay back there?” Liam hollered out into the darkness. All he could hear was some faint shuffling in the background. An awkward silence rang through the air, then Caden seemed to finally realize he had been asked a question.
“Hm? Oh, yes. I’m fine,” Caden said, his voice muffled with the effects of fatigue. Liam slowed his constant stride down to a less militaristic march in hopes to slow down to Caden’s speed. Finally deciding to come to a stop, Liam laughed as Caden tripped over his feet.
“I guess I am just a little tired from all of this chasing after girls business,” Caden confessed with a laugh as he sat down, leaning against the trunk of a tree.
“I have a feeling that they don’t really need saving,” Liam responded his tone full of laughter. “But what kind of lads would we be if we didn’t go chasing after them? No story is complete without its Prince Charming, and I was being considerate for the girls by filling in for Kernan.” Before Liam had the chance to make a comment on Kernan’s oh so charming nature, Caden interrupted him.
“After a morning of hearing that boy talk, I would love to hear you make fun of him, but the only thing my mind can handle is the thought of sleep.”
“You go ahead and sleep. I’ll stay up and keep watch,” Liam said as he sat down, leaning against a nearby tree. It only took seconds for Liam to hear the sounds of heavy breathing from Caden.
Liam drifted off in a dreamlike state while keeping watch. He saw stories scattered alongside stars as he gazed up at the night sky. Memories and adventures of times past seemed to surge through him all at once. Liam would never forget meeting Gwen for the first time. It had been his first summer at the palace, and he knew nothing of the way of things at the castle. He remembered seeing Gwen hold herself with such such a sense of boldness in spirit that he had fooled himself into believing that this was the famous Princess. At the ripe young age of ten years old, Liam walked over to Gwen with as much regality as he could muster up, and bowed in what he hoped to be a guardly manner.
“It is a pleasure to meet the princess herself,” Liam greeted as he lifted his chin, hoping to make a good impression. Liam did not get the reaction he was expecting. This girl had laughed in his face! Liam smiled as he remembered standing as still as a statue as this girl went into a fit of laughter. Gwen was now in tears of laughter and tried to brush them away and calm herself down as she straightened her posture in what Liam thought was a very regal looking stance.
“If I am a princess than you are a frog,” an even shorter version of Gwen countered. She was still in a fit of laughter. Liam was stunned into silence; he had no clue what to say.
“Did you really think that I was the princess?” She let out in a shrill laugh, clutching her stomach. “Oh goodness, you must be new. I do not see how anyone could think of me as royalty, but I suppose I will take it as a compliment… and as a bit of a joke. The real princess is much grander than me, just wait until you see her,” The girl of nine said with the look of pride swelling in her eyes.
“I’m glad I could make you laugh, I suppose…” Liam finally responded after realizing the mistake he had made. “I am new, you guessed it. And you would never guess, but I am going to be a guard! I will get to ride on horses and have a sword and–” Liam was cut off by Gwen’s laughter once more.
“Nope. You’re not going to be a guard,” she said while running off with Liam’s wooden sword. “You are going to be my friend.”
And just like that, Gwen and Liam became the best of friends from that day forward. Every once and awhile, Liam would remind Gwen of how she carried herself as royalty and how he had no doubt she would be great at ordering everyone about. Who would have known that he was right all along.
“Good morning, sunshine,” Liam hollered over the sound of pouring rain and thunder. He was surprised Caden hadn’t woken up by now. You would think that a constant stream of rain would wake him up, no matter how tired he had been the night before. They needed to get going again. If they didn’t leave soon, someone would catch on that they were missing by now. If they didn’t already know. Just as these thoughts circled through his head, he heard the sound of leaves rustling behind him. Caden suddenly shot up and froze as if standing would help him identify the sound. Liam, of course, did the sensible thing, and ran towards the rustling intruder.
“Show yourself,” Liam said as he walked purposely towards the general area of the sound.
“What are you doing?” Caden urgently whispered.
Before Liam could respond, the two boys saw what was making the noise. Standing there was someone no one expected to see.
Kernan stood pathetically crying and glaring before them.
By E. Crowther
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This blog post is part of a collaborative writing project (The Five Fledglings); if you’d like to read the story from the beginning, click here!