Kyle's Story

It was a bit too long to leave islanded in the other page.  So here you go... Hope you like it.

One day I'll finish it. XD

Getting Out
April 25, 2010

“How was your day, son?”
Kyle looked up from his plate.  His parents didn’t usually try to engage him in conversation at the dinner table.  Usually they were too busy trying to find how to effectively rule those beneath them, and expected the young prince to be paying attention.  Of course, that was easier said than done, and Kyle found himself thinking of other things during meal time.
Today, however, was different.  He thought of how to answer his father’s question.  He couldn’t tell the truth for fear of hurting their feelings, and he didn’t feel it was right to blatantly lie.
“Kind of boring,” Kyle admitted, watching his knife as he cut through his meat.
His mother tittered.  “From the way you talk, you’d think you didn’t like being a prince at all.”
Kyle shrugged.  “I just wish I could do something different every once in a while, I guess,” he said.
The queen raised her eyebrows.  “Honestly, you’d think a fourteen-year-old boy would be happy.  You have everything you want; you can go fox-hunting, or read books, or sit in on chamber meetings.  You should be preparing for when you’re king, Kyler.  It pains me to think you don’t appreciate anything.”
Kyle shook his head, sincere.  “It’s not that I don’t like it here, Mother- I just wish I could be normal, like other boys.”
The queen frowned.  “Count your blessings.  Don’t be so selfish,” she replied huffily.  “You’re a prince: you should act like one.”  She looked over at his father, the king.  “Isn’t that right?”
The king nodded, preoccupied with a scroll he was reading over.  “Mm-hmm,” he responded.
The queen nodded also, satisfied, and went back to her meal. They ate in silence for a while, and then Kyle spoke up again.
“You said I might be able to visit Uncle Hedrick’s castle when I turned fourteen,” he said meekly.
The queen rolled her eyes, and sighed.  “There’s too much trouble you could get into at your Uncle’s house.  You’ll have to wait.”
“But you said-” Kyle started loudly.
“Listen to your mother,” the king interjected, not looking up from his paper.
Sighing, Kyle stood.  A servant came up behind him and pulled out his chair.  Another picked up the napkin that fell from his lap.  “I’m not hungry,” he announced.  “I’m going to go to my room.”
He did, quickly.  He knew his parents were worried about him, and they did have a right to be.  After all, he was their only child, and crown prince at that.  But sometimes he wished they would let him go somewhere, do something.  He got tired of just reading about adventure; he was a fourteen-year-old boy.  He wanted to live it!
But his parents didn’t understand.  They thought he should be content with just hanging about the castle, being princely.
He sent his servants out of his chamber and flopped onto the fluffy bed.  His dark hair splashed across his pillow, and he sighed.  Staring up at the ceiling, he thought.  What to do?  He considered his options.
 I could ride my pony. 
No, I did that yesterday.
I could have them send me up some dinner.
No, I don’t feel like eating.
I could read.
No.  Boring.
He tried to think of anything else he could possibly do and came up short.  He spotted a decorative sword on the wall and considered cutting his hair.  He chuckled as he saw his mother’s horrified expression in his mind.  No, he wouldn’t do that.  He was too good of a kid.
He reached for the old book he had found in a musty part of the library.  He had to find his books there; he had already exhausted all other sections of the large chamber.  He wasn’t in the mood to read, but it was something to do, after all.  And anything was welcome tonight.
The story was of a girl living in a royal home who was tired of her life.  Kyle had already started the book the day before, so he knew a bit about it.  She looked for ways to escape, but all were thwarted as she was found out over and over.  He read as the girl cut off her long, beautiful hair and hid it in her bed.  She stole some clothes from a serving boy and ran away from home to live a life full of adventure.
Kyle was in awe.  What a marvelous plan!  Why hadn’t he thought of it?  Running away from home- it was simply perfect!
He thought quickly.  He knew there was cheese and bread in the pantry; he could get it after everyone had fallen asleep that night.  The girl had disguised herself as a boy, so he would disguise himself as a girl.  He could wear a cloak and hide his short hair, so no one would guess!
He smiled, satisfied.  Tonight he was getting out.


Getting to Know You
May 16, 2010

Kyle pulled at the long skirt, twitching it over his rolled up pants.  The dress was awkward, coarse and rough.  He couldn’t take long strides like he was used to.  The bodice was tighter than his soft shirts.  Thankfully his shoulders were not too wide for the dress; otherwise it wouldn’t have fit at all.
He was beginning to doubt his plan mid-morning.  He had been pushed off the road by cart-driving farmers several times in the past hour.  When one had first come, he had simply ignored it until it was almost upon him, and the driver called him some very rude names.  Apparently there wasn’t much respect to be had for young farm girls in the middle of a road outside of the capital city.
There had been more people travelling with him when he had first left the city, but now there were very few.  He seemed to be the only one leaving the castle city this day- or at least the only one taking the route he had been.  He was okay with this, though.  He supposed his parents would look for him quietly before announcing to the whole country their son was missing, but he couldn’t be sure.
His feet were starting to hurt, and the skirt of the dress was making him uncomfortably hot.  His cloak was hanging from his satchel over his arm.  He wished he had thought of bringing a water-skin with him, but he had forgotten.  Cheese and bread were good to have, but water would have been the best under the hot sun.
Groaning, Kyle heard another cart coming from behind him.  He walked on the side of the dusty road.  The cart passed him, and he coughed, squinting.
“Ho!” called the driver.  The cart stopped, and the older man looked back.  “Hello there,” he said cordially.  “Where you headed?”
Kyle thought quickly.  Why hadn’t he brought a map?  He could have kicked himself.
He glanced up to where the man was looking down at him.  “To the village ahead,” he said, waving his hand vaguely.  It was a safe bet that there was a village ahead, he felt.
“It’s pretty far.  Do you need a ride?” the man inquired.  “There isn’t any room up here by me, so you’d have to sit in the back with the hay, but I’m not one for conversation anyway.”
Kyle nodded.  “Yes, please,” he said eagerly, clambering up into the bed of the wagon.  “Thank you,” he said.
“Sure thing,” the farmer responded.  “There’s a water-skin back there too, if you’re thirsty.”
Kyle could have kissed him.
The ride went by quickly.  Kyle was glad he hadn’t walked; it would have taken him all day and some time into the night to get there by foot.  The farmer explained he wasn’t actually stopping at the village, so he dropped the boy off and continued on his way.
Kyle looked around the market as he walked slowly through the town.  He was so engrossed he didn’t spot the girl behind him until he had already run into her.  Her produce went flying, and Kyle hurried to help her.  “I’m so sorry,” he said, handing her vegetables.  “I didn’t see you there.”
The girl shook her head, flyaway brown hairs dancing around her cheerful face.  She was probably around thirteen.  She was a bit shorter than Kyle, with loosely braided brown hair and eyes that matched.  “No, it was my fault.  I never look where I’m going.  It’s a fault.”  She rocked back on her heels and smiled at him.  “What’s your name?”
“Ky-” He paused, scrambling for a girl’s name.  Why didn’t he think of this stuff before it was too late? “-lie.  Kylie.”  He said quickly.
She blinked.  “Kylie?  That’s an interesting name.  I don’t think I’ve ever heard it before.”  She smiled then and added, “I like it, though.  I’m Heather.”
“Hi,” Kyle responded, unsure of what else to say.  He improvised.  “That’s a pretty name.  Are you named after the flower?”
Heather looked pleasantly surprised.  “Yes, I am.  Most people don’t know that.”
Kyle just smiled and played with the hem of his cape absently.  He had it on now, hiding his short hair.
“Where are you going?” She asked, standing.  Kyle did also, brushing off his skirt.
“To a village down the road,” he replied, making a mental note to find a map somewhere.  “I’m visiting my uncle.”
“Oh, really?” Heather grinned.  “Are you going to Nance, by any chance?”
Kyle nodded.  Sounded good to him.  Geography wasn’t his strong point in school.
“I’m going down that way too, to visit my uncle!  We can travel together!” she said happily.
“Oh, I don’t-” he started, alarmed.
“It’ll be fun!  Come on!”
And so the two started off, to Nance, to visit their uncles.  They had to make their way through the Forest of Perils, but it was okay, because Heather said she knew where she was going.  Of course, she was a bit flighty and absentminded, and this made travel slow.
“Um, Kylie?”
Kyle turned to face her.  She had fallen behind, but this was usual.  He let out a little sigh as he saw her predicament.
“Can you help me?  I seem to be...” She looked down, where her feet were slowly sinking in sand.  “... stuck.”
Kyle walked back and grabbed her wrists.  Pulling, he managed to wrench her out of the sand.  They fell to the ground, Heather on top of Kyle, and his hood fell back.  Quickly he pushed it back on, and she turned, smiling at him.  “Wow, you’re strong,” she said, surprised.
“I’m the only girl in my family,” he said, scrambling for an excuse.  “So I have to take care of the animals and stuff.”
“You too?” she asked, sympathetic.
Kyle nodded.  “Do you want to get up now?” he asked awkwardly.
“Oh, right!” She said, hopping up.  “Let’s go!”
Kyle stood also and took a step forward.  Heather didn’t move.
“Um, Heather?” he asked.
Heather looked over her shoulder and smiled.  “I think we have a problem.”  She pointed down.
He looked down. “Quicksand.  Of course,” he replied, sighing.
He lifted his feet, attempting to step out, but he only sank further. He was only slightly worried then, of course, and started to struggle.  In a matter of moments his boots were engulfed in the sand.
“Help!” Heather called loudly.
“Don’t call for help!” Kyle hissed.  “Who knows what will come!”
A pixie emerged from behind a tree.  She was about two feet tall, and her skin was a shimmery pink.  Her long pink hair was piled ornately upon her head, and her dress was a dark magenta.  Her back was to the travelers, so she didn’t see them immediately.
“Help!” Heather said again, directing her cry at the pixie.
The pixie turned, her pink face surprised.  “Oh, dear!” she cried upon seeing them.  She quickly hovered over and waved her little wand.  Kyle and Heather were lifted out of the sand in a pink bubble and set gently down on the grass.
“Be careful!” admonished the pixie.  “Goodness knows what can get you out here if you’re stuck in sand and telling them all where you are!”
Heather just smiled a bit sheepishly.  “Thank you for saving us,” she replied meekly.
The pixie sighed, and then smiled.  “You’re welcome, dear.  Are you two lost?  Maybe I should show you the way out of the forest.”
“We’re headed to Nance,” Heather announced, hopping up again.  Kyle stood more slowly and nodded.
“I’ll show you the way,” the pixie said amiably.  “But first we might want to camp for the night.  It’s getting late.”
“Great!” Heather said, grinning.  “I’m exhausted.”
Kyle had to admit, walking through the forest with the pixie and Heather, he was having more fun than ever before in his life.  He could be himself- besides the fact he was hiding everything they would have to know about him to know anything about him at all.  He felt free.
I wonder if this is what normal life is like? He asked himself, looking around the darkening forest.  His gaze settled on the cute thirteen-year-old before him, bouncing as she chatted with the pixie, who was finding sticks for a fire.  What have I been missing?

A Turn of Events
May 27, 2010

When Kyle woke up, the pixie was sitting at the fire.  Heather was asleep on the other side of it, her shoulders rising and falling slowly.  He watched her for a moment until the pixie cleared her throat.
“You should tell her, you know,” the pixie announced, eyeing him.
“Tell her what?” he demanded, defensive.  “She knows everything.”
The pixie sighed and gave him a look.  “You know what I mean, mister.”
Kyle sat up straighter.  “How did you-” he started, and then blinked.  He should have acted offended; now she knew he was really a boy.  He sighed.
“It isn’t fair of you to lie to the poor dear,” the pixie said definitely.
“Okay,” Kyle sighed.  “I’ll tell her.”
The pixie raised an eyebrow.
“Seriously!” Kyle said incredulously.  “Today.  I’ll tell her today.”
The pixie nodded, satisfied, as Heather rolled over.  Kyle glanced over, and she sat up.  “Good morning,” she said, rubbing her eyes.  She blinked twice and was instantly awake.  “How much farther do we have to go today?”
“Not very,” the pixie replied cheerfully.  “We should be out by late afternoon.”
“Great!” Heather said, jumping up.  “Then let’s go!”
“Okay!” Kyle agreed, following her quickly to get away from the pixie.
Several times that afternoon he tried to tell Heather, but she was easily distracted by various poison-spitting plants, temperamental tree-dwelling mammals, and large falling objects, and he wasn’t exactly persistent.  Dodging a few icy glares from his pixie friend and any danger Heather decided to get them into, Kyle somehow survived until they made it out of the Forest of Perils.
Heather bounced in the lead.  “My uncle’s farm is just up ahead!” she cried, waving at the two.
“I thought you said-” the pixie started, her hands on her hips.
Kyle skipped after Heather, pretending not to hear.  Heather crested a hill and bounded down the other side.  He could see the roof of the barn over the rise.
“Hey!” The pixie called after him. “I said-”
She was interrupted by a scream.
Kyle raced down the hill after her, concerned.  He started around the house, following his friend. “What’s the-” he stopped short.  The farmhouse had been burned down. Debris was scattered across the yard, the animals killed in pools of blood.  Someone had taken a sword to the field and ruined the majority of the crop.  Kyle gaped at the sight.  Who would do such a thing? 
Heather was leaning over a beaten wheelbarrow, her hands to her mouth. The expression on his face made him rush to her side.  The pixie was right behind him.
Heather’s eyes filled up with tears.  “Burne!” she said, voice trembling. “Burne, can you hear me?”
In the bottom of the wheelbarrow lay a young man, beaten and bruised.  His hands were clasped over a wound to his stomach.  Weakly, his eyes opened.  “Heather?” he said, coughing.  “Heather, is that you?”
Heather nodded.  “What happened, Burne?  What did they do to Uncle?”
Her cousin struggled to sit up, and Heather helped him.  His hand was still clasped to his stomach, and blood was seeping from between his fingers.  Kyle tried not to gag at the sight of the boy’s blood.
“He’s dead,” he replied unevenly.  He swiped at a trickle of blood from the corner of his mouth.  “They killed him.”
“They who?” Heather asked, tears streaming down her face.
“The soldiers,” he said, “the soldiers from Paruror.  They attacked . . . because . . .”
“Because why?” Heather asked.  “Why would they attack you?”
He coughed.  After he was finished, he looked up at her, his eyes soft.  “Because you’re the princess of Gladrian.  They were looking for you.  Paruror is at war with Gladrian.”
Heather stared at him not comprehending.  “I’m—you mean they did this because of me?”
Burne winced and pressed his hand against his stomach.  “My father told me that you must go to your family.  They need you, Heather,” he told her haltingly.
“But-” she started.
“Go,” he said firmly.
“Not without you!” she cried desperately.  She whirled, her gaze falling on the pink pixie.  “Do something!” she demanded, sobbing.  “Heal him!”
The pixie looked bewildered.  “I can’t-” she started, looking over at Kyle.  He shrugged helplessly.  What could he do?
The pixie stepped timidly up to the wheelbarrow and lifted the young man’s bloodied hand away from his stomach.  Kyle felt sick and stumbled away to vomit.
“Heal him!” Heather screeched. “Please!  Do something!”
Burne looked at her, his eyes gentle, as the pixie winced.  “I don’t-” she said weakly.
“Heather.”
At the sound of her cousin’s voice, Heather fell silent. Burne pulled away from the pixie and placed his hand back over his wound.  “She can’t do anything for me.  Go, Heather.  And don’t look back,” he added, his voice quiet.
When she didn’t say anything, Kyle looked to Heather.   She stood, feet apart, fists clenched.  Her eyes were closed tightly, tears streaming down her face.  A shuddering sob jolted her body.
Burne smiled tiredly.  “I’ll be fine,” he lied obviously. “Just go.”
Heather nodded, still sobbing.
He settled back against the wall of the wheelbarrow.  “I love you,” he told his cousin.
She nodded again.
“Goodbye,” he almost prompted.
She clasped him around the shoulders gently.  “I love you too,” she managed.  “Goodbye.”
And with that, she headed off.  Kyle and the pixie followed silently.


Drive: Kyle’s Perspective
May 28, 2010

Heather marched ahead, determined.  Kyle and the pixie hadn’t spoken since leaving the farm.  What could he say?  It all happened too quickly, too powerfully.  How things could change in a day, he marveled.
The pixie touched his elbow.  He glanced over and down at her, and she looked up at him.  “Do you hear that?”
He shook his head.  “I don’t hear anything,” he said truthfully.
“There’s a battle,” she said definitely.  “We’re headed straight for it.”
His eyes widened.  He looked at the pixie, and then up to Heather, but she widened her eyes at him.  She wanted him to tell her.
Quickening his pace, he stepped into line with Heather.  “There’s a battle ahead,” he said.
Heather looked resolute.  “I know,” she stated.
Kyle blinked.  He opened his mouth to reply, but instead realized there wasn’t anything to say.  He slowed his pace to fall back with the pixie, but Heather’s hand shot out and grabbed his wrist.  He looked up at her.  She met his gaze.
“Walk with me,” she said, not asking.  She sounded alone.
He did.
As they neared the battle, the sounds became louder and louder.  The ground became littered with arrows and broken weapons, fallen and wounded soldiers.  Kyle recognized the dark grey and red of Paruror, strewn among the blues of the army of Gladrian.  He averted his eyes from the carnage.  How could people do such things to others?
Heather continued marching, determined, but the pixie stopped.  Kyle glanced back. “I want to help them,” she stated, glancing at a moaning man.  Kyle nodded.  She stayed behind as the two went on.
As they mounted a grassy trench, an arrow shot by Heather.  She dropped to the ground, and Kyle dove down beside her.  They crept up to peer over the edge.
Before them, spread out over a valley, was the battle.  Dark red clad men were battling with those clad in white and blue.  Many men were on the ground, dead or dying.  Kyle shivered.  They had to get through that?  They would never survive!
Heather touched his elbow.  He looked over at her.  Her brown eyes were strong, those of someone with something to fight for.  Her jaw was set, giving her an air of confidence.  But inside, he knew she was as scared as he was.  His heart quickened.
“Are you ready?” she said quietly.  “We have to get through and help my parents.”
Kyle nodded.  “For Gladrian?” he asked.
“For Gladrian,” she replied.
They crawled over the other side of the hill.  Arrows were stuck in the little trench, flying in the air, falling on people.  Suddenly the men looked much bigger than they had before.  Kyle gulped.
Heather’s hand slammed down on his shoulder.  He ducked, and an arrow embedded itself here his head had been.  He felt a breeze on his head and he realized his cape’s hood had been pinned back.  He froze.
Heather looked up at him.  “You have to be careful-” she started, then stopped at the sight of his hair.  “Hey, I didn’t-” she started again.
He quickly undid his cloak and stood.  Grabbing a sword, he brandished it.  “Ready?” he asked.
She nodded and picked up another.  “For Gladrian!” she cried, running into the battle.
Kyle followed, running.  His skirt caught about his legs, and he stumbled.  I can’t fight in this! He thought, slightly panicky.  A Parorurian soldier bellowed at him, and he hitched up his skirt and ran out of the skirmish.  Yanking the dress over his head, he was thankful that he hadn’t removed his trousers and shirt beneath his disguise.  All of the sweat was suddenly worth it.
Dashing back into battle, he put all of his swordplay training to work, but only to wound, not kill.  He caught a few glances of Heather, and was surprised to find himself praying vehemently that she would be kept safe.  A nearby Gladrien soldier noticed his skill and they fought back to back.
Somehow he found himself on the edge of the battlefield.  The friendly soldier tapped him on the shoulder.  “They’ve given the signal to retreat to the tunnels,” he told the boy. “Come with me.”
Kyle followed him to a large rock.  Behind it was a large hole.  Other Gladriens were filing in quickly.  The soldier followed in, and Kyle went in after him. 
“You can stand here,” the soldier told him.  “If you follow the soldiers, they’ll lead you to the place where we’ll ambush the Parorurians.  Another way will take you to the chamber where the citizens are—but there’s a wall, and you have to know the password.  I would advise you to go there.  The password is Heather.”  He must have sensed Kyle’s surprise, because he smiled.  “Do you know it?”
A shadow fell over the entrance.  The soldier glanced up.  “Well, we need to go.  Are you coming?”
Kyle shook his head.  “I have to go find someone.  I’ll remember the password, though.  Thank you!” he called, waving to the soldier as he headed towards the exit.
The solider smiled. “Don’t get lost!  Be safe!” And with that, he followed his company.


Drive: Heather’s Perspective
May 28, 2010

Heather was not having such an easy time with it.  She had never had any training before, and her attacks mainly consisted of stabbing aimlessly.
A glimpse of brown caught her eye.  She glanced over, spotting a young man in a beige shirt and brown breeches fighting a Parorurian.  She watched the boy down him and flick his dark hair out of his eyes.  She was impressed.  He’s pretty cute, she thought to herself.  She fought with renewed vigor.  If he saw her, she wanted to see that she was good.
She was temporarily distracted when a huge Parorurian soldier stepped before her.  “You should be easy to kill,” he said menacingly.
Heather swung her sword as hard as she could at his side.  It glanced off of his armor pitifully.
He laughed and lifted his sword high into the air. “Easier than I thought,” he said, still chuckling.
She stabbed at his shin.  Even though she didn’t break though his greaves, the impact still met with his bone.  Cursing, he dropped his weapon.  It thunked harmlessly into the ground as she darted behind him and whacked at his calves.  This time she drew blood through the chain mail and he cursed more heavily.
“You’ll pay for that,” he growled, advancing.  “You’ll die more painfully now.”
“No she won’t,” a voice interrupted.
The soldier stood at attention, still glaring at the girl.  She paused, confused.  A tall and dark man sat upon a horse.  “I want her alive,” he stated.  She recognized the royal crest of Parorur on his breastplate.  “She is the princess of Gladrian, fool.  Killing her would do no good.”
He snapped his fingers and a member of his personal guard grabbed her arm.  She struggled, but he was much stronger than her and slung her over his shoulder like a sack of potatoes.  She yelled, and the tall man laughed. “Don’t struggle, my dear,” he said, smiling coolly at her.  “You might be hurt.”
He turned his horse around and the man followed on foot.  They moved to the back of the battle, behind a tree, near where Kyle and Heather had first joined the fight.  The man set her down on the ground.  She immediately started up to run away, but the tall man hopped off of his horse and grabbed her arm.  “Now, Princess, that wouldn’t be very smart.  If you go into the battle, you could be injured.  We couldn’t have that; I want you to look the best for the wedding.”  A man stepped forward and tied her wrists and feet.
Heather glared at him through her hair.  “What are you blathering about?” she demanded angrily.
He smiled at her with an air of importance.  “The wedding, of course. When you marry into the Parorurian family.”
Heather was repulsed.  “I’d never marry you,” she hissed.
The Parorurian laughed.  “Not me, silly girl, my nephew, the prince.  He’s a bit younger than you, but that’s alright—you’re just a figurehead anyway.  It will unite the Parorurian kingdom with that of Gladrian, and you’ll just stay alive to give the Gladriens a reason not to revolt.”
Her eyes widened.  “You can’t do that!” she cried furiously.
“I will,” he responded, as if speaking to a small child.  “Watch me do it.”
She glared at him, eyes shooting daggers deep into him, but he just chuckled.  “You’re a spirited girl, aren’t you?  You’re cuter when you’re angry, too.  My nephew should like that.”
She growled and turned away.  A flash of vanilla-colored cloth caught her eye.  No one in the army had clothing that color. She spotted the boy hiding behind another tree.  He held his finger to his mouth, motioning for her to keep silent.  He’s going to save me! She realized with a thrill.
“Sir!” One of the Parorurian’s guards stepped forward, and he was temporarily distracted.
The boy darted forward, a dagger in his hand. Quickly he sawed through the cloth binding her.  Pulling her up by the arm, he was about to speak when the Parorurian turned around.  “Run!” he cried, his hand still around her wrist.
She obeyed, her wrist tingling where he touched it.  Behind her, she heard the tall Parorurian cry, “Fire!” Arrows showered around them as the boy instinctively pushed her in front of him, shielding her.  They continued to run.
The Parorurians followed at first, but were quickly lost in the sea of bodies.  The boy led her through the skirmish quickly, avoiding harm. 
Looking over the battlefield, she realized that the white and blue uniforms were growing sparser.  “Where did they all go?” she asked, worried.
“Into the tunnels,” the boy replied.  “That’s where we’re going!”
She fell silent and let him lead her.  As they reached the edge of the battle, he motioned to a tall hole behind a rock.  “In there,” he told her.  She started in, and he followed.
“You can stand,” he told her.  “It’s taller here.  The tunnels will take us to your parents, but we have to hurry so the Parorurians won’t find us when they follow.”  They ran on.
“How do you know who my parents are?” she asked between breaths.
He glanced back at her, his eyes registering surprise.  “You’re the princess of Gladrian, right?” he asked.
“Yes,” she said cagily.
“Then your parents are the King and Queen,” he told her simply.
Heather started to talk again, but he hushed her.  “They’re following us,” he whispered.  Quietly, he pulled her into a small alcove in the dirt tunnels.
She was close to him, almost on top of him as they huddled in the tiny space, listening to Parorurains tromp by.  She studied him in the half-light.  He was listening to them, looking out, his jaw clenching and unclenching.  Heather could feel his chest rise and fall and realized they were breathing at the same pace.
Suddenly he looked down at her, his blue eyes bright even in the darkness.  “Are you alright?” he breathed, looking slightly concerned.  “They didn’t hurt you, did they?”
Heather’s heart hiccupped.  She shook her head.
“Good,” he said, looking back out.  “They’re gone now, let’s go.”
He stepped forward and Heather gasped.  “Your arm!” she said, eyes wide.  “You got shot!”
He looked alarmed as he looked down at his left arm.  “Oh,” he said.  An arrow was sticking out of it, blood soaking through his shirt and oozing down his arm.  “I did.”  He put his right hand against the wall to brace himself.  Looking slightly ill, he asked, “Will you help me bind it?”
Heather nodded and tore through her sleeve.  Pulling out the thread, she straightened the fabric and started to wrap it around his arm.  “It looks like it went deep,” she told him, “but I think you’ll be okay.  It might be touching the bone, but I don’t think it shattered anything.”
The boy held up his hand.  “Please,” he said, closing his eyes.  “I don’t really need to know.”
“Okay,” Heather replied.  She looked at her handiwork.  “I need to break the shaft of the arrow, so it’ll be easier to get out when you see the physician.”
He paled.  “Will that hurt?”
Heather shrugged.  “Maybe.  It shouldn’t hurt too bad, though.  Just keep quiet.”
“When are you going to-” he started.  She summoned her strength, grasped the wood and snapped it.  He sucked in violently.  He let out an undignified, “Man!” but stayed quiet.
She patted his good arm.  “See? That wasn’t too bad, was it?” she asked, smiling at him.
He didn’t respond.  Stiffly, he led her out of the alcove and down another tunnel.  The dirt paths turned into tiled floors, the walls engraved.
Suddenly something occurred to Heather.  “Wait!” She stopped.  “My friend Kylie is up there!  I have to go and help her!”
He looked back at her.  “What?”
“My friend!” Heather responded, slightly frantic.  “I left her up there, she needs my help!”
He shook his head.  “Your friend is safe,” he told her simply. “All of the Gladriens are in these tunnels.  She’ll be fine.”  He pulled her along.
“But what if she’s been taken captive?” Heather demanded.  “I should go back!”
“Your friend is fine, trust me.  I know,” he reassured her.  “Now come on, we can’t have them find us.”
She followed him.  “How do you know?” she demanded.
“I just do, okay?  Come on!”
She scowled.  “Nobody just knows stuff like that.  Who are you, anyway?”
“I’ll explain on the way,” he told her, turning to her.  “The Parorurians are going to find us if we keep up this pace.”
She yanked her arm away from his grasp.  “No!  I’m not going another step until you tell me who you are!  How do you know so much about me, anyway?”
He sighed, exasperated.  “I am Kylie, okay?”  He rolled his eyes at her disbelieving glare.  “You want me to prove it to you?” He raised his voice an octave.  “Hi, I’m Kylie.  Heather is a pretty name, are you named after the flower?  I’m the only girl on my farm, that’s why I’m unusually strong.  I’m going to Nance to visit my uncle, but I met Heather and a pixie along the way, and we went through the Forest of Perils where there were quicksand and monsters and things like that.”  He looked at her and raised his eyebrows.  “Believe me now?”
Heather’s mouth fell open.  “You mean- the whole time-?” she said haltingly, for once at a loss for words.
“Yes,” he said, looking displeased with himself.  “I lied to you, Heather.  I’m really Kyle, the prince of Merona, and I ran away from home.  I dressed up as a girl so my parents wouldn’t find me.  I never intended to lie to anyone, just get away from home for a while.”  He looked genuinely remorseful.  “I’m really sorry.”
She blinked twice.  “It’s . . . okay,” she said, slightly shocked.
“Will you come with me know?” Kyle implored.
She nodded wordlessly.  He took her hand, and they continued on, deeper underground.

And Yet Another Turn of Events
June 4, 2010

“Curses!” Kyle yelled, banging his fist on the wall.  “We’re lost!  I knew this would happen!”  He leaned his head against his good arm and sighed crossly.  Heather had been through too much these last few days—the least he could do was get her out of the tunnels and find her parents, but all he had found so far were dead ends.
He glanced up at her.  She had been strangely quiet since he told her the truth.  But now, she didn’t seem too concerned.  “It’s fine; we’ll find them,” she reassured him.
He sighed again and straightened. “All right, where should we look next, then?”
She looked behind them. “Let’s go back and try that other path.  You know, where it split in half?  I bet we’ll find something if we go down the other tunnel.”
He shrugged.  “That’s as good an idea as any. Let’s go then.”
Kyle started back and Heather stepped into pace beside him.  He was surprised when her hand slid into his, but she said nothing, and they walked on.
They continued like this in silence for a while, listening for anyone that might be following them.  They passed many other branches of tunnels as they progressed.  As they passed one such tunnel, Kyle was startled as a yell rang out. He turned to see a troop of Parorurian soldiers running towards them.
He pushed Heather down the tunnel.  “Hide!” He told her, drawing his sword.  “I’ll hold them off.  If anything happens to me, just go on.”
“But-” she started, wanting to help.
“Heather! Don’t argue with me!  I want you to stay safe!”
She closed her mouth and nodded before running down the hall.  Kyle turned back to the incoming Parorurians, knowing full well he couldn’t take them all on and survive.
Kyle gripped his sword in both hands.  The action sent searing pain through his left arm, but he stood his ground.  If he was going to die, at least he was dying for Heather.
The Parorurians were upon him, and he engaged the first one in combat.  A blur of darkness, a flash of wood, and sounds of combat came from his right.  Distracted, he glanced over, and with a sweeping kick the Parorurian had the boy on the ground.  The enemy soldier lifted his weapon high above his head and prepared to bring it down upon Kyle’s head—when suddenly a thick stick whammed into the side of his head.  The Parorurian fell to the ground, stunned.
Kyle stared at the fallen soldier, and then looked up at his savior.  A tall man, swathed in a black cloak, stood over him, quarterstaff at the ready.  Kyle winced, preparing for impact, but the man relaxed and lifted his hood back.
Beneath, his blonde hair was shaggily cut, as though by a sword.  His green eyes were bright with life over high cheekbones.  His face was chiseled, with stubble scattered across his chin and cheeks.  He looked young, not older than twenty-six, and he grinned at the prince on the ground.
“You must have quite a story, taking on five Parorurian soldiers all by yourself,” he said, extending a hand to Kyle. He lifted the boy up and then shook it cordially.  “I’m Branach.  It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“I’m Kyle-” he started, when a blur tackled him on the left side.  Heather wrapped her arms around him tightly.
“I was so worried! Are you okay?” she asked, looking up at him, her brown eyes wide.
Kyle grimaced. “My arm,” he replied, voice forced.
“Oh!” Heather jumped back.  “Sorry!  Did I hurt you? Are you okay?” she repeated, looking concerned.
He blew out.  “I’m good,” he lied.  He up his sword and slid it into his scabbard.
Branach smiled.  “And who’s this little lady?” he asked, grinning down at Heather.
She looked back up at him.  “I’m Heather!” she said, smiling.  “Thank you for helping Kyle!”
He bowed.  “My pleasure, little lady.  May I ask why you kids are wandering through the Gladrien catacombs with Parorurian soldiers tailing you?”
Kyle sighed and massaged his eyes.  “It’s a really long story,” he replied.
Heather tilted her head.  “I’m the princess of Gladrian.  And he’s the prince.  Of Merona,” she added as an afterthought.
“Oh,” Branach replied, surprised.  After a moment he stated, “I guess that’s a good reason for Parorurians to be following you.”
Kyle nodded, smirking.  “I’ll say.”
Heather bounced.  “We’re trying to get to my parents.  Can you help us?”
Branach smiled graciously.  “It would be my pleasure.”
Heather tilted her head.  “You mean you know how to get there?”
The tall man nodded.  “I know these tunnels like the back of my hand,” he reassured her.  “I’ve lived down here for years.”  They started to walk, Branach on the left of Kyle, Heather holding the hand of the latter tightly.
“Why is that?” Kyle asked, curious.
Branach looked up.  “I was sent down here for stealing something I didn’t steal.  I was only supposed to be there for a year or so, but I lost my way.  When I finally learned how to get back, I had forgotten the password.”  He shrugged.  “The exits are sealed off most of the time, but I survive.  It’s not really that bad.”
Heather’s eyes went wide.  “So you’ve lived down here for years without seeing the sun?!  That’s crazy!”
Branach shrugged and smiled.  “It’s not that bad, really,” he replied.
“Well, when we get out, you’re definitely going to get out of here,” Heather stated.
Branach grinned at her.  “Well, here we are.”  He knocked against a stone panel that didn’t match the white and blue tiles of the tunnels.  A hollow knocking echoed back to their ears.
“What’s the password?” A voice called from the opposite side, sounding afraid.
“Heather,” Kyle replied, glancing at her.  Her eyes widened in surprise, and he smiled in return.
The sound of grinding stone rang out through the tunnel as the heavy door slid open.  A boy’s face peered out at them, glancing around, and blinked at the sight of Branach.
“Branach?” he asked, looking perplexed.  “I thought-“
Heather bounced.  “We’re kind of in a hurry,” she interjected.
“Oh! Right,” he replied, opening the door the rest of the way.  Behind him was a short hallway, opening into a larger chamber.  Kyle could see stairs going down either side of a platform directly in front of them.
Kyle and Heather headed in.  Branach hung back, speaking with the boy.  The door grated closed.  The two paused, looking back, and Branach waved them on.  “I’ll see you late, okay?”
Kyle nodded and they headed down the hallway.  He paused as he realized the platform at the end of the hall was a stage.  A crowd was below it, and they were cheering.  Putting out his arm, he stopped Heather as a procession streamed up both stairs and paused at the front of the stone stage.
Heather grabbed his arm and gasped as they watched two people separate from the others.  The man stepped forward first, and then the woman, each with crowns glittering in the torchlight.
Kyle felt Heather’s breath returning to her.  Suddenly his arm was slung down, and even though he reached for her, Heather ran ahead straight to the front of the stage in the sight of thousands of people.
And They Lived...
September 15th, 2010

“Heather!”  Kyle hissed, just as the king and queen turned.
“Who is this?” the queen asked, her blonde hair in a loose braid down her back.  She looked at Heather, who seemed to be frozen, staring at the woman.
“Excuse me, young lady,” the king said, turning to her as well.  “What are you doing up here on the stage?”  No one seemed to notice Kyle.
Heather took a breath after what seemed like an eternity, and Kyle realized he had been holding his breath as well.
“I’m . . . “ she started, haltingly.
The king and queen exchanged a glance.  “Yes?” the queen prompted, her voice soft, like her eyes.
“I’m Heather,” she blurted out, loud and harsh.  “I’m your daughter.”
The queen’s blue eyes went wide, and without hesitation she flung her arms around Heather. Kyle watched her cinch her eyes closed as tears made their way down her cheeks.  “I knew you would come back,” she murmured into her daughter’s shoulder.  “I knew it.”
Heather stood, somewhat stiffly, and then put her arms gently around the queen.  “I—“ she started, but fail to say anything more than, “I’m your daughter.”
The king looked as surprised as the rest of the little group on stage.  “You’re our daughter?” he said, trying to process it.  “It’s really you?”
Heather just nodded, and let her face fall into her mother the queen’s shoulder.  They stood like that for a moment.  The crowd was deathly silent.  Kyle shifted uncomfortably.
The queen pulled away from her daughter and held her by the shoulders.  “Let me look at you,” she commanded, beaming happiness.  “Oh, you’re just lovely.  I’m so proud of you.”
Heather turned to her father, who was smiling as well, now.  He held out his arms, and they embraced.  “I never thought I’d hold you again,” he whispered.  Kyle wasn’t sure who overheard, but he noticed the moisture gathering at the edges of the king’s eyes.  He looked down.
The king released Heather, and they turned to face the crowd.  He took her hand, and lifted it daintily.  “Gladrian,” he roared jubilantly, “Here is your princess!”
The crowd cheered, and Kyle was surprised to see how happy they all looked.  All this for a princess they never met? he couldn’t help but think.
“Now,” the king continued.  The crowd hushed respectfully.  “Now, women and children, into the hold.  Soldiers, I want you to head through the tunnels.  We will repel those people,” he said, “For Heather!”
The crowd cheered wildly, but Heather held up her hand.  The cheer died off into a surprised murmur as the new-found princess replied, “No, for Gladrian!”
The crowd cheered again, and hurried to do the king’s bidding.  There were several tunnels that led into the labyrinth under the castle. Kyle could see soldiers streaming into them.
The king and queen turned to Heather again, and they started asking her question after question.  “How did you get here?  What happened?” they peppered her, and Heather just smiled.
“I’ll tell you later,” she said.  “For now, we should be helping the soldiers, right?”
The king shook his head.  “Not you,” he said.  “You stay here and catch up with your mother.  I’ll...” he looked up, towards the door to the tunnels, and his gaze landed on Kyle.  “Good heavens!”  He exclaimed.  “Who is that?”
Heather looked back and spotted Kyle.  He was unsure of what to do.  He was used to meeting royalty in the courts, but this king and queen were dressed in very modest apparel, were outside of court and seemed so... real.  He settled for a short bow.
“Oh, that’s Kyle,” Heather replied, walking over and grabbing his arm.  She tugged him gently up to her parents, and said briefly, “Mom, Dad, this is Kyle, prince of Merona.  Kyle, this is my mom and dad.”
The king blinked.  “The prince of Merona?  What’s he doing here?”  He didn’t sound upset, just baffled.
“Umm...  I’ll tell you later, okay?” Heather said.  “It’ll take a while to explain.”
The queen gasped.  Kyle spotted her looking at his arm, and he looked down at it.  “You’re hurt!” she said sympathetically.
“Oh, yeah,” Kyle said, somewhat slowly, staring at the soiled fabric tied around his arm.  The arrow’s shaft was still sticking out of his arm.  “I got shot.”
“Well!” she said, motioning to one her assistants.  “We need to get that taken care of!  Fetch the physician,” she told the servant, “and quickly.”