I'm in love with a fairy tale even though it hurts.
Cause I don't care if I lose my mind. I'm already cursed.
A princess. A knight. A forbidden romance.
Saylin Ture wants nothing more than to escape the betrothal to a man she barely knows. To run away and never look back. Her duties as a princess don't interest her if she can't choose who she can rule with.
_____ is a knight sworn to protect the royal family. Growing up around the family has given them plenty of opportunities to grow close to the princess.
With the wedding fast approaching and unsaid feelings coming to light, can the princess and the knight find a way to be together before it's too late? Or will their romance be another tragedy lost to time?
I'm looking for a semi-literate to literate partner who is willing to flesh out details with me. The story is something I want to write together. This is why the description is so brief.
The knight is left genderless for a reason. I don't mind if they're female, male, nonbinary, anything like that. It's your character. Play them as you like. Just take this seriously, please.
Real pictures are preferred, but not necessary. I'm willing to use illustrated if needed.
Communication. I myself am not that great at being on every day or replying every day. I understand life comes first, but at least keep in contact and agree to let the other know when we'll be replying or taking a break/hiatus, anything like that. I'm a very patient and understanding person, I promise.
Good grammar. I'm not great with this all the time. I constantly make mistakes, but I really don't want to try and decipher a reply.
This is a mature roleplay. RoleplayCloud (ES) rules still apply. Any romance that happens will either be skipped or taken off-site. With that said, please be at least 18+. I'm in my twenties and don't feel comfortable RPing with a minor.
Most importantly, have fun. This is just a small idea I had that I wanted to write and I want my partner to do the same.
PM me with the subject of "Fairytale" so that I know you read the entire thing. If I don't see that, I will simply assume you didn't read through and I will ignore you. I don't mean that in a rude way, but it's a pet peeve to go through and explain things or try and talk something over that is already presented above.
If you're interested then I can't wait to hear from you!
[center Most parties were meant to be enjoyable. They were special occasions, meant to celebrate new beginnings and the like.]
[center The one set for this cool autumn night was for an engagement. The princess's engagement, to be exact, so it was a much bigger deal than ordinary occasions.]
[center Well, to everyone except for the princess.]
[center Saylin Ture currently sat at her vanity, quietly allowing the maid behind her to finish braiding her hair, mentally wishing that someone or something would come to whisk her away from this nightmare. To take her far away and keep her hidden from the world for the rest of her life. She knew she should be excited. Her father had [i finally] found someone who was willing to wed her. It felt like a miracle to him.]
[center Of course she would be happy if it wasn't for the fact that it was her fault she wasn't married sooner. Over the years, she had managed to run off every possible suitor, irritating the king to no end and keeping her happy and content. She'd told her father on multiple occasions that she wouldn't marry a man that she didn't know and hadn't chosen.]
[center He'd blamed her fairytale ideals on the stories her mother had read to her as a child, alongside the ones she'd read herself as a young woman.]
[center Now, he wasn't completely wrong. Those books had given her a very high standard when it came to love and "happy ever after."]
[center There was more to it, however. The one thing he could never know:]
[center The princess had fallen in love.]
[center It had been subtle at first, something she'd hardly noticed when she was just a few years younger, but she'd quickly come to realize where her heart lay the first time her father tried to marry her off. The truth had reared its ugly head just as fast as she had at the mention of it, shocking her so much she'd almost fainted at the ball.]
[center After that night, all she could think about was confessing her feelings to the man on her mind and running away with him.]
[center The not-so-lucky man in question? A knight by the name of Tristan. She'd met him for the first time when she was thirteen, and while she'd found a friend at first, she'd slowly grown to want something more. Something she knew she would never be allowed to have.]
[center Her heart was aching now, a small lump slowly forming in her throat. She'd done so well at keeping any future husbands away that she'd believed herself to have more time. If she had just been braver, she'd have figured out a plan sooner and would've bared her heart and soul to the man.]
[center Unfortunately, fear of rejection had kept her just shy of doing that.]
[center So now tonight, she was going to have to put on a fake smile, force a laugh here and there, and pretend that she was okay with the idea of marrying a man who barely seemed to look at her when she was in the room.]
[center For being the man who agreed to marry her, Alexander Harrington hardly seemed interested in the princess. The annoyed side glances and irritated sighs when she got too close or tripped over her feet were enough of an indication that the life she had with him would be miserable.]
[center It was enough to make her want to cry.]
[center [b [i "All done now, Your Highness."]] The young brunette's voice was enough to snap Saylin out of her thoughts. She looked up into the mirror, meeting the woman's bright green eyes and gentle smile. [b [i "You look as beautiful as ever,"]] she said, taking a step back to allow the princess to stand.]
[center She forced her first smile of many that night before pushing away from the vanity, turning to face her. She did feel a little more beautiful than usual. Leah had done an amazing job on her hair, and the blue dress she wore did well to bring out her own blue eyes. The beads along the bodice sparkled when the light hit them and the skirt twirled with perfection. [b "Thank you, Leah."] She couldn't be mean to the maid. She was one of the kindest ones she'd ever had the pleasure of getting to know.]
[center Taking a deep breath, she grabbed the matching gloves that sat on the desk and slid them on, turning to face the door. It was time to make her way to the ballroom and face the music.]
[center To celebrate the beginning of the life that she never asked for.]
The knights stood in perfect formation. Commander Hollis marched up and down the line, barking orders and inspecting their armour for any scuffs of dirt the men might have missed while polishing the iron plates. [i "You will not speak unless spoken to!"] spittle flew from his lips, catching in his bushy mustache. [i "Unless given a direct order from myself, you will remain at your designated posts for the duration of this gala. I will not have any of my men rubbing elbows with the king's noble guests, do I make myself clear?"]
[i "Yes, Commander!"] Tens of voices sounded off at once, save for one.
Tristan hadn't been settled since the news had broken of the princess's engagement. Sleepless nights had left shadows under his eyes and exhaustion in his bones. Then he'd gone and been one of the men selected to stand guard in the ball room for the duration of the feast and ball. A punishment worse than lashings, if he was being honest. Tristan had always felt out of place among the elite ruling class; born with silver spoons in their mouths while he himself had scrounged for food that neither parent could put on the table. By some miracle he'd been granted an apprenticeship at the castle under Hollis's command, a twist of fate that led him to cross paths with [i her].
Eloquence was never his strong suit. A poor education and quiet nature often left him a bumbling mess whenever she'd smile and greet him in passing. And by god, she was the most beautiful girl he'd ever laid eyes on. Still, he knew his place. Hollis reminded him often enough of that to never get his hopes up that he would be anything other than a friendly acquaintance that had grown up alongside her. This royal engagement was a painful reminder that she would only ever be his in his dreams.
Nausea swirled in his stomach as he took his post, close to the head table. Prime position to see the entire room but also an up-close view of Saylin and her future husband. Tristan hadn't heard the most resounding endorsements of the man since the royal caravan had arrived at the castle. Staff gossip spread quickly. By the first night of his stay, Tristan had already formed his opinion of the narcissist who would claim Saylin as his bride. No one would ever be good enough, in Tristan's humble opinion, but certainly not the spoiled brat sitting before him.
Trumpets sounded. Guests rose from their seats to greet their royal family but it was no secret that most were desperate for a glance at the bride to be; Saylin, beloved by her people, had that effect. Tristan felt his breath hitch the moment she came into view. The woman that had stolen his heart with a single smile all those years ago when he'd been brought to the castle to train for royal military service. God, how was he supposed to focus on anything but her tonight?
[i "You could be less obvious,"] Klaus muttered beside him, the knight assigned as his partner for the evening.
Tristan dropped his eyes immediately. The evening stretched out ahead of them, it would do no one any good if he were to be reprimanded and removed from his post before the first course was even served.
[center Any thoughts she had on keeping her chin up and a smile on her face left her mind the moment that Saylin laid eyes on Tristan. She shouldn't have been surprised that he was there. It only made sense, but damn if it didn't just knock the wind out of her. It would be almost impossible to keep a straight face now. How was she supposed to pretend to be happy and such when the one she really wanted was right in front of her?]
[center She averted her gaze as quickly as she could, taking a deep breath. She could do this. It was only for a little while. Then she could crawl onto her window seat and curl up with one of her books. It would be a nice escape from the cruel reality she was living right now.]
[center Instead, she put her focus forward to her future husband, meeting his gaze. A brow was raised, causing her stomach to flip, and not in a good way. If she wasn't careful, surely she'd be in trouble.]
[center Stopping in front of him, she curtsied, bowing her head to keep from looking at him for a moment. She would guilty and she knew it. She'd never been able to keep her emotions hidden. No, Saylin usually wore her heart on her sleeve. It was why this situation was so difficult for her; everything had to be thought about before spoken and every movement had to be calculated.]
[center One wrong move and she'd find herself locked up, she was sure.]
[center No, that wasn't right. The king would blame the innocent knight.]
[center She couldn't stand the thought.]
[center Looking back up, she offered Alexander a small smile before being allowed to sit down, not even waiting for him to take her hand and place the usual kiss on the back of it. She didn't want it.]
[center The first thirty minutes went by just fine. She was able to force herself to eat, despite the crushing weight on her shoulders, and even held a conversation or two. Her mind began to wander, however, and she soon found herself sneaking another glance at Tristan. She'd been staring far longer than she should've been, and it wasn't long before Alexander was clearing his throat. [b [i "Don't you think so, darling?"]]]
[center Saylin's heart nearly stopped before she tore her gaze away, her cheeks turning bright pink. [b "I...my apologies. What was that?"] [i Oh no...] That certainly wasn't good.]
[center The irritated look on his face quickly melted away before he patted her head, something that irked the young woman more than anything. It felt so...demeaning. Like she was viewed as a child instead of an adult. [b [i "Nevermind, then. It wasn't important if you didn't hear it. I have to wonder, though, what was so important that it gave you such a faraway look?"]]]
[center It wasn't a bad question. Not really, but every eye was on her now, causing her to feel even more pressure. [b "A story,"] she quickly blurted out. Perhaps too quickly.]
[center A laugh escaped the man's lips. [b [i "And what kind of story would that be?"]] The question wasn't a genuine one. The slight, smug grin was enough for her to realize that.]
[center Dread filled her before she forced a smile. [b "A fairytale. Nothing more..."]]
[center Another laugh. This one felt more...mocking. [b [i "A children's story? How fitting."]] The words hit like a punch to the gut, but she could only continue to smile. Laugh at her expense.]
[center She wouldn't defend her love for books. It was the one thing she had left of her mother. The one thing that meant more to her than anything. She would not allow this man to crush any happiness she had left.]
Was she enjoying the festivities? From his position it was difficult to read the expressions on Saylin's face but the tension in her shoulders had Tristan on alert. Not only that but it didn't appear that her future husband was even bothering to read her non-verbals, choosing instead to ramble of his own volition. The chatter of guests and cutlery made it impossible to eavesdrop, though judging by the void in Saylin's eyes it couldn't have been too interesting, he battled back a grin. Princely status clearly did not equate to charm.
Alexander had guards of his own on post, evidently not trusting the hosting royals to provide competent security for the evening. Twice Tristan's size and vicious scowls, they hovered behind Alexander's chair with hands already grasping the sword hilts on their belts. [b "I've got a bad feeling,"] he murmured to Klaus, glancing away quickly as he noticed Saylin's eyes straying to him once more. Best not to be caught staring at the crown princess in front of her fiance. [b "The commander didn't advise us of external guard resources this evening."]
[i "You're too paranoid. The richest people in the kingdom are in this room right now, the extra guards make sense."]
[b "The fact that the richest people in the kingdom are in this room is precisely why I have a bad feeling,"] Tristan muttered.
The sheer number of guests would make any kind of scouting virtually impossible. He could pick out the names of each noble family, to be sure, but Tristan couldn't put names to faces, save for a few familiar ones. Guests overflowed from their tables to the corridors and out into the courtyard. Friend or foe would be challenging to differentiate. [i "Not like we have to worry about anything but the head table anyway,"] Klaus nudged his arm.
Saylin's close proximity to the two unfamiliar guards was precisely Tristan's main concern. No doubt that they would interfere for their prince's safety, but he couldn't trust them to protect her in the event of an attack. Hell, he would bet all of his gold that the two men would gladly throw her to the wolves for Alexander's life to be spared. No, Tristan would not calm himself. Letting down his guard would open the head table up for danger and he would [i not] allow harm to come to the princess.
Commander Hollis approached the table, pressing a fist to his chest and bowing to the king. [i "Your Grace, the perimeter has been secured. My men are stationed at every entrance as well as the courtyard, as well as additional horsemen continuing their patrol of the grounds. Any threats will be handled promptly and without hesitation."]
[i You can't promise that], Tristan's hand shook behind his back. Perhaps he'd over-consumed caffeine in preparation for his senses to be on high alert. Too many people and too few knights to protect them all. [b "If I may,"] he ignored Klaus's foot kicking his own to step forward, bowing to the royals. [b "I would advise at least four knights patrol inside the great hall during the festivities."]
[i "You will hold your tongue,"] Hollis's face turned purple.
[b "I do not mean to overstep but there are a great number of guests, Your Grace. Merely standing post at the entrances will not ensure security within the ballroom itself."]
Hollis turned back to the king, forced laughter erupting. [i "Forgive me, Your Royal Highnesses, this young man evidently requires correction by his superiors. I shall deal with him, unless you see fit to handle punishment yourself?"]
[center The air had suddenly grown tense, the room quiet, as Tristan spoke out about the guard detail. It was unexpected, to say the least, and had Saylin gripping her dress beneath the table. It was fairly obvious, to her at least, that he cared about the safety of the royal family and their guests.]
[center Her feelings for the knight played no part in her agreement with what he was saying. It made sense, logically, to keep guards close by. While she had been lucky to have never dealt with an assassination attempt on her life, it was an assassin that had stolen the queen from them far too soon, and there had been many attempts on the king in all the years that they had ruled.]
[center It made sense that they would want to be careful.]
[center Her heart felt like it had jumped into her throat at the mention of punishment. It almost irritated her, in fact. Did no one else see that he was right? Or was she wrong and her personal feelings were, in fact, clouding her judgment?]
[center Before her father could speak, she found herself responding instead. [b "My apologies for speaking out of turn, but I do believe Sir Lockheed has a point."] It took all she had not to call him by his first name. One point to Saylin. [b "Dare we forget the brutal murder of my mother?"] It was not something she wanted to bring up. She didn't even want to think about it, but if it kept the knight from getting into too much trouble then she would certainly use it.]
[center She could feel Alexander staring at her, could practically feel the heat from his gaze, but she kept her eyes on those of her fathers and Hollis's when given the chance. A sad smile found its way to her lips. [b "Not that I doubt any of the skills your men have, Commander, but I do not wish to relive that same pain with my father. Or worse, that he relive that pain with me."]]
[center She purposefully avoided mentioning her fiance's men. She had no faith in them whatsoever. They had no loyalty to her and her family for the time being. [b "I know I would feel much safer with a few knights within the great hall."] She looked away then, reaching out to grab the glass before her and taking a sip of the sweet liquid inside. [b "That's just my personal opinion, however. Take it with a grain of salt, if you really feel like you must."]]
[center Despite the confident exterior, she felt sick on the inside. She had overstepped her bounds, she was sure of it. The silence certainly didn't help ease the knot forming in her stomach. Had she said too much? Had she jumped to Tristan's defense too quickly? She hoped not. A glance at the king didn't help ease her mind. Not right away.]
[center [b [i "I can volunteer my men for the job, then,"]] Alexander said, breaking the tense air.]
[center She quickly shook her head. [b "With all due respect, I don't trust your men as far as I can throw them."] The words were harsher than she had meant for them to be, but true nonetheless.]
[center [b [i "Saylin!"]] Her father's voice caused her to look at him, eyes slightly wide. [i Whoops.]
[center [b "My apologies. That was rude of me."] Another sip of her drink. [b "Half, then. Two of Alexander's men and two of ours in the hall. If something does happen, there won't be any questions as to who would be shielded first."] She felt like it was a fair deal.]
Eyes forward, [i don't] look at her. Of all the people at the head table who could have spoken up on his behalf in support, Tristan hadn't expected it to be Saylin. He wasn't even sure why not. They'd gotten along well throughout the years and she never looked at him with anything other than kindness and respect, even if he watched her with lovesick puppy dog eyes. Saylin's support, against the scowling fiance beside her, caused a blush to rise from his neck to his face while he mouthed [i thank you] the moment the other men looked away.
Hollis was ill-prepared for negotiations between the crown princess and the visiting prince. Whatever punishment Tristan had earned by speaking out of turn was surely going to be made worse over the commander's embarrassment. [i "Two men from each military would work the best, Your Grace,"] he conceded with the princess, seeking the king's approval. [i "Two men posted here at the head table and the other two can patrol the ballroom for a shift, and then the men can switch postings."]
Alexander's jaw was clenched and if Tristan looked closely enough he was sure that he'd see a throbbing vein at his temple. The knight frowned. Such a barely concealed temper in a very public setting did not bode well for his personality behind closed doors. Glancing at Saylin, he tried to gauge her body language but could see nothing but a stoic exterior. [i "Two men from each army,"] her father finally gave his ruling. [i "Suspicious activities are to be reported immediately to Commander Hollis, do I make myself clear?"]
[b "Yes, Your Grace,"] Tristan bowed his head, volunteering himself for the first round of patrol. Pausing for a fraction of a second beside Saylin's chair, he leaned down slightly. [b "Stay alert, Princess,"] he whispered.
An hour into the celebration and Tristan could not place the foreboding knot in his stomach. [i Intuiton will tell you everything you need to know], Hollis had pummeled the phrase into all of their heads during apprenticeship training. [i Trust your gut]. What good was such advice if he had no idea where to even begin his search? Guests chattered and roared with laughter, not even in squabbles among themselves at their tables. Not a single noble appeared the least bit inebriated or miserable. Tristan prided himself on being able to read faces for evidence of potential threats but everyone appeared to be genuinely enjoying the festivities.
Across the room he could feel Hollis's eyes on him. Not that the young knight was hoping for trouble to rear its ugly head, but it would make his actions and declaration mighty difficult to justify if nothing untoward happened.
Klaus had taken the first shift beside Saylin's chair as direct protection against anyone who dared approach unwelcomed. [i "Tristan and I are honoured to serve you this evening, Your Royal Highness,"] he bowed to her, keeping his voice low enough to not grab the attention of Alexander, who had been speaking to the man on his other side. [i "If you need anything at all, please ask."]
[center A small smile found its way to her lips at Tristan's gratitude. She could only nod since she didn't want to draw too much more attention to herself, but the fact that he was grateful made her heart skip a beat and her body just a little warmer. It felt nice to be able to do something for him, especially when she had to be careful with her words and actions. The pit was still in her stomach, however, at the silence that hung in the air still. Had she messed up by speaking out? She had felt she'd done a decent enough job of agreeing without being disrespectful. It was only the part about not trusting her fiance's men that was a bit much.]
[center She was immediately filled with relief when her father agreed. She wasn't sure if she saved Tristan from any form of punishment. She prayed that she did, but she knew she'd have to check once everything had calmed down.]
[center She soon turned her gaze away from everyone else, downing the rest of her drink. She was mad it wasn't alcoholic. She felt like she needed a drink more than anything right now. She, however, wasn't allowed to drink. Not at dinner, at least. Later on, she might be able to...if she could sneak a glass or two. For the time being, though? She'd have to do this sober.]
[center The knight's voice in her ear sent an unexpected chill down her spine. She tensed slightly, trying to ignore the goosebumps that rose on her arms. Thank the stars for gloves. [b "Thank you, Sir Lockheed,"] she whispered, turning her head only slightly to respond.]
[center Time seemed to drag after that. For the most part, Saylin stayed quiet. What else could she say? Alexander was hardly showing any interest in speaking with her. [i Probably upset that you insulted his men.] He'd have to just get over that. While she knew she needed to be proper and lady-like, her mother had raised her to never take anyone's crap. She could be the sweetest person one would get the pleasure of knowing, but she also had a blunt tongue, and most of the time, she made no apologies for it. When she did, she usually didn't mean it.]
[center She looked up at Klaus when he spoke, offering him a kind smile. He was another knight that she enjoyed the company of. Not the way she did Tristan, of course, but he had never been anything but nice to her, and there were times she felt that his kindness was genuine and not because it was part of his job. [b "I'm honored to have you two at my side,"] she replied softly. For a moment, she debated asking him if he could find a way to get her away from Alexander, but she was sure it would only lead to trouble. [b "I appreciate that. Thank you very much."] She was going to hate when their shift ended.]
Tristan had been right; there were too damn many people to properly assess pending dangers. If they weren't bumping into him in passing, guests were crowding each other to be heard over the musicians and their lutes. Frustration built. Drunken nobles were irritating on a good day let alone when security was of the utmost importance. A headache pulsed behind his eye. From across the room he caught sight of Klaus tracking him, offering the slightest shrug in response to the unasked question. Perhaps he was merely paranoid after all.
Alexander's man was not nearly as thorough with his own patrol. If anything he had a glass of wine at each table he stopped at, ruckus and laughter distracting him from his task at hand. Any complaint to Hollis about the lack of professionalism would go nowhere, given that he was a soldier not under his command and serving Prince Alexander. Tristan grit his teeth, hearing the commander's voice in his head telling him to focus on the task he'd all but demanded.
Klaus bowed in farewell to Saylin when it was his turn to switch posts with Tristan. [i "Congratulations again, Your Royal Highness."]
[b "Congratulations indeed,"] Tristan muttered under his breath.
It was bad enough having to boil under a thick woollen tunic and armour without the reminder of [i why] this ball was even being thrown. Saylin's betrothal irked him more than it had any right to. She was a princess, he was a knight. Any future his life would have would be spent in service to her family, not as a member of it. The sooner he accepted that fate, perhaps her imminent marriage wouldn't strike so hard against his heart.
[b "I hope you are enjoying your evening, Your Royal Highness,"] Tristan spoke once he was sure Hollis's attention was elsewhere. [b "We're all...pleased. For you, I mean. We're pleased for you and for this happy occasion."]
Lies were bitter on his tongue but they just kept falling out. Happiness for her was out of the question when Prince Alexander was involved. Saylin deserved someone who understood her and treated her as an equal, not this egotistical narcissist who was more concerned with inheriting titles and fortunes than getting to know his bride. [b "Perhap-"]
Klaus's shriek echoed over the noise, somewhere from the bustling crowd. Tristan's sword was drawn, barely catching the fiery red hair of a man he'd passed by twice before. Only this time, a dagger was clutched in his hand.
And then that dagger was airborne. [b "Get down!"] Tristan shoved Saylin's chair over, batting the knife from the air with his sword.
The assassin continued his movement forward, the soldiers struggling to get to him through the scramble of bodies. Klaus was elbowing his way through as best as he could but it was no use. Tristan and the second of Alexander's men were the last line of defense. [i "The crown must fall!'] the man bellowed in a thick brogue, seizing yet another blade from his belt.
Guardsmen were well-trained but whoever this man was it was clear that he'd not been an amateur either. He matched Tristan's strikes blow for blow, as though knowing his movements before even he did. Alexander's man was as useless as the prince, merely standing in front of the head table to protect his employer and no one else. Growling, Tristan drove the hilt of his weapon into the man's jaw to knock him off-stride long enough for him to tackle the assassin around the waist. [b "Get me a pair of shackles!"] he yelled, pinning the man to the ground while glancing back to ensure that Saylin was safe. [b "Go to her!"] he ordered Klaus, who had finally broken free.
[center This was exhausting. The fake smiles and the forced laughs were taking a toll when all Saylin wanted to do was sob. How was it that she could suddenly feel like a prisoner in her own home? Maybe it was some secret punishment for all the years of being difficult. She hoped this would be the last party for a long time. Perhaps it would be her last one ever.]
[center While holding mindless conversations here and there, she'd been debating on how to escape. Which runaway plan would be the best. Living outside of the castle wouldn't be easy, she knew that much, but it would be better than being stuck with a man who only wanted to marry her for the title of king.]
[center It would be a miserable and loveless marriage and she wasn't going to subject herself to that.]
[center At Klaus's congratulations, she almost let out a bitter laugh. She wasn't quiet about her disappointment with the marriage. Did people just not see it? Or did they choose to ignore it? It was hard to say.]
[center With Tristan soon taking his spot by her side, a genuine smile would spread across her face again. His words did nothing to help her mood, however. [i I wish you weren't one of them,] she thought to herself. That sentence was on the tip of her tongue, almost begging to be said aloud. It was probably a good thing she wasn't drinking, then. She would've slipped up.]
[center She turned to look up at him, wanting to ask him to speak of anything else, when shouting caught her attention.]
[center It all happened so fast after that: the red hair, the blades connecting, and her chair hitting the floor. She cried out at the sudden fall, wincing as she landed on her shoulder. It was an sharp pain, but faded almost as quickly as it jolted through her. She could hear the struggle and the yelling, but she didn't dare move. Didn't dare look for fear of what she'd see.]
[center [b [i "The crown must fall!]]]
[center Those words sent a wave of shock through her. Memories of her mother came flooding back to her so fast it made her dizzy. Was this what she had felt? That sudden strike of fear? Her heart began pounding so hard in her chest that she thought it might burst.]
[center She finally looked up when she heard Tristan call out, her eyes wide. It was only then that she realized she was trembling. The man hadn't gone after her father. Not like all the other assassins in the past. He hadn't even gone after Alexander. He'd gone after [i her.] [b "Why?"] The word came out so soft that she was sure no one had heard her. She wasn't even quite sure she'd actually said it.]
[center Seeing Klaus approach, she scrambled to sit up. Her legs felt too weak to stand at the moment, but at least they would know she was unharmed.]
It took four additional men to restrain the man, flipping him onto his stomach so that Tristan could latch the shackles onto his wrists, all while he continued his screaming tirade against Saylin and her family. [b "Enough!"] Tristan lost his temper, slamming the man's head into the stone floor.
[i "Escort the prisoner to a cell immediately for interrogation,"] Commander Hollis yelled. [i "He is to be under constant supervision, and no visitors!"]
The knights led the assassin away but not quickly enough to avoid him spitting in Hollis's face. Tristan's adrenaline was wearing off with each passing second. [b "Comman-"]
[i "I don't want to hear a word from you!"] Hollis snarled.
Reprimands were nothing new to soldiers but to be chewed out in front of guests and Saylin was a blow to Tristan's pride. Of course the blame would be spun on him; his entire patrol idea failed in spectacular fashion and the princess had nearly been killed. [i "How the hell could you have missed him, the man was a mountain!"]
[b "He was socializing with other guests both times I passed him sir,"] Tristan spoke through gritted teeth, knowing the king's eyes were on the confrontation. [b "Perhaps a better question is why the man was permitted past the guards at the entrance without forfeiting his weapons."]
[i "Now is not the time for you to be a smartass! I will deal with you in the morning after I've dealt with the assassin. You and your partner will escort the princess directly to her chambers, and you will remain outside of her door until the morning. No one is to go in or out, do I make myself clear?"]
It was rhetorical, of course. Tristan spun on his heel, seeking out Klaus and Saylin. The princess looked no worse for wear, though he was sure he'd injured her when he shoved her chair over. Klaus's sword was still in his hand. [b "Your Royal Highness, we must get you to safety,"] Tristan spoke with as much authority as he could muster. [b "The commander wishes for you to remain in your room until the castle is swept for any other threats. We will be posted outside of your door for security."]
[i "Do they think there are others?"] Klaus interrupted.
Tristan couldn't say yes or no. He was still kicking himself for having missed any signs that the red-haired man posed a danger, who knew if he had accomplices? [b "We will secure Princess Saylin's chambers as much as we can,"] he avoided answering. [b "Come, we need to go."]
[i "And what about me?"] Alexander must have been eavesdropping the entire time. He stormed over, face red.
[b "With all due respect, Your Grace, you have brought guards of your own so perhaps they will do just fine,"] Tristan snapped, brushing past him to lead Saylin and Klaus through the corridor.
[center Saylin's face had paled by the time Tristan had approached her, having barely heard a word the commander or him had spoke. She was so focused on what had happened, so stuck in the past, that she didn't feel like she'd be able to pull herself back out. What would happen if the man broke out? Or if there was another assassin? Was the attempt a distraction from something else? So many possibilities... her head was beginning to swim.]
[center Hearing him speak to her, she could only nod, her voice stuck in her throat. She wasn't going to argue against the safety of her room. She would feel much better than out in the open. She was positive, however, that she wouldn't be catching much sleep, if any...]
[center Anger quickly tore through her at Alexander's words. She'd been right not to trust his men. None of them had come to her defense. They'd stayed by his side, despite the fact that it hadn't been his life in danger. She wanted to tear into him, finally put him in his place, but Tristan was quick to speak, and in truth? She didn't have the energy for it.]
[center So she kept her mouth shut, only glaring at her fiance as she was led away. [b "Pig,"] she mumbled under her breath. [b "It would save us a ton of trouble if he'd been the target..."] The words were harsh and cold, unlike anything she'd ever spoken before. Her hatred for the man ran deep, only enhanced by the nights events. Couldn't he at least [i pretend] to give a damn about her?]
[center Without thinking, and needing something to cling to, Saylin reached out and took Tristan's arm, not caring that Klaus was also there. She needed some kind of comfort and she'd take it wherever she could get it. Her hand shook and her legs felt like they were going to give out, yet she kept walking, unable to break down just yet. She'd wait until she was alone.]
The slight pressure of her hand on his arm stole more of his attention than it should have. Saylin had just endured a traumatic, potential life-threatening situation and here he was flustered like a schoolboy because she'd reached for him seeking comfort. Hollis would wring his neck. [b "The rest of the knights will ensure the grounds and castle are cleared of any further threats, Your Royal Highness,"] he laid his free hand on hers. [b "Klaus and I will not move an inch from your door, you have our word."]
The first task once they reached her chambers was to confirm that there was no one and nothing waiting to cause her harm. Once the two men had done a thorough sweep, the curtains were drawn and secured to prevent any scouts or archers from tracking her movements. For added security, they barricaded the door to the balcony with the solid mahogany armoir. [i "I don't like leaving such a large access point unmonitored,"] Klaus pulled Tristan aside. [i "Even with the patrols on the ground, it isn't impossible for another assassin to toss a grappling hook and climb up."]
Valid - and concerning - points. Standing guard in the corridor would do no good if an attack came in from outside. [b "Princess Saylin,"] Tristan looked to her, hating how unsettled the turn of events had made her. [b "Would you be opposed to Klaus and I standing watch...in your chambers tonight?"]
Christ above, if his face got any redder he'd be a tomato. It was hard enough being in her proximity in the light of day surrounded by other people. Being inside her private chambers when she was in a vulnerable state of bedclothes and sleep? [i "Rest assured that we will remain on the opposite side of the room, away from your bed, Your Royal Highness,"] Klaus interjected. [i "Your bed curtains will remain closed at all times, if you wish. We only mean to protect you from both access points to your chambers."]
Tristan locked eyes with her, hoping that they were able to bring her even a small ounce of comfort. [b "You will be safe with us, Princess. You have my word,"] his blue eyes shone in the light of the fireplace.
Both men would sooner die than allow harm to come to her. Tristan had always held a soft spot for Saylin, the compassionate princess who always showed him more kindness than most of his status ever knew in a lifetime. And Klaus? He was a third generation knight under the king's army. Pride of his family name and dedication to the crown made him one of the few men Tristan trusted with his own life, let alone protecting the royal family.
[b "You have the final say, Princess,"] Tristan reminded her. [b "If you would rather we wait in the corridor for the night, we will."]
[center It shouldn't have, but Saylin's heart skipped a beat at the feel of his hand over hers. It also made her feel a little bit better. His attempt to comfort her meant so much more than he would ever get to know. The thought was a little saddening. [b "I appreciate it...thank you very much,"] she said softly. She wanted to reach up with her other hand and squeeze his, even if it was just for a moment. With Klaus present, however, she decided against it.]
[center Waiting outside of her room just a little while later was...excruciating, to say the least. The thought that someone could be inside was a terrifying one, though she felt relieved when they found nothing. If she were an assassin, that's where she would've waited. That's how some of her stories led with an attempt, at least. The thought sent a wave of fear through her. Would someone try to come in and finish the job? Even if Tristan and Klaus were present, would they get to her in time? Would she even have time to alert them?]
[center Panic had begun to well up inside of her, threatening to choke her, when Tristan spoke up. Her own cheeks reddened at the question, despite the fact that there was no ulterior motive behind it. In fact, it made a lot more sense for them to stay with her in the room than stand outside the door. Then she really wouldn't have a chance if something happened.]
[center She tore her gaze away from Tristan for just a moment to give Klaus her attention. Hopefully, they couldn't tell how flustered she was, though she wasn't trying to hide it. She then glanced back at Tristan, obviously thinking over the idea.]
[center On one hand, she really would feel much safer. Logically, it made sense, and it wasn't like she wouldn't have any privacy. She had a cover to change behind and she did indeed have the curtains to keep herself hidden. She had no doubt that they would keep their word concerning her safety and staying opposite of her in the room.]
[center On the other hand... if her father or fiance found out that they had stayed in her room instead, she could only imagine what the backlash would be. Could they get in trouble for it if they were only trying to keep her safe?]
[center Taking a deep breath, she finally nodded. [b "I would like it more if you two stayed with me... If I'm honest, I don't really want to be alone tonight, anyway..."] Tears threatened to spill over her cheeks for a moment, but she quickly blinked them away. She wouldn't let them see her cry. She'd save that for behind the curtains.]
[b "Then we will stay,"] Tristan assured her, nearly reaching out to take her hand for added comfort.
Whatever exhaustion he had felt earlier on in the evening was entirely wiped clear. There was no time to lower their guards and get comfortable when there could be threats lurking around any corner. Klaus and Tristan both reached for their swords at the sound of clambering feet hurrying down the hall, only standing down at the confirmation that it was a platoon of Saylin's army continuing their sweep for danger. [i "Do you think he acted alone?"] Klaus spoke softly, hoping that it was quiet enough the princess couldn't hear. [i "The assassin?"]
It was hard to say. An attack waged against the crown princess was almost certainly a plot involved more individuals than only the fiery haired man however it did not necessarily confirm that they arrived in strong numbers for additional support. [b "He was the only one who moved in, and it didn't appear that anyone else tried to assist him once he was restrained,"] Tristan rubbed at the five o'clock shadow dusting his jawline. [b "I won't be comfortable until morning, when we can get a full assessment and report."]
Now all that his time required was not allowing himself to stare too frequently at Saylin. [i Klaus is right here,] he had to remind himself on more than one instance when he found his eyes lingering on the way the firelight danced across her skin. The king's daughter beauty was often discussed among the ranks of soldiers but Tristan felt a smug flare of pride that [i they] weren't the ones who were seeing her now in the privacy of her chambers where she was safe from the outside world. He only wished it were under vastly different circumstances. [b "If you need us to step outside for you to change,"] he cleared his throat, realizing that he didn't have the strength to be in the same room with the temptation but would if she commanded so. [b "I know you've had a fright, Your Highness, but we will protect you. Please don't worry. It'll be as if we're not here, if you want to go about your...usual bedtime routine."]
Christ, now he was thinking about what kind of garments she wore to sleep. Klaus came to the rescue, not waiting for a decision. [i "We'll be right outside the door when you're ready for us to come back in,"] he practically shoved Tristan into the hallway, grabbing him by the jaw in a firm grip. [i "I don't know what the hell is in that head of yours but you need to focus. No lovesick puppy dog eyes, no fanciful daydreams, you hear me? We're here for a job and I won't be reprimanded because you're too distracted."]
[b "I won't,"] the younger man pushed his hand away. [b "I just think my adrenaline is wearing off."]
Klaus didn't believe him but he also didn't press the issue. Once they were given the all-clear to go back inside, the two men settled themselves into the armchairs by the expansive fireplace. There was no sense standing until morning. It would only take one locked knee for either of them to take a tumble and potentially concuss themselves and then they'd be truly useless.
[b "Are you alright, Princess?"] Tristan risked a look at her. [b "You've had a rather...eventful evening."]
It wasn't just the assassination attempt that sprung to mind.
[center The words were so soft that Saylin wasn't quite sure either of the men had heard her say it. She truly meant it, though. If it hadn't been for them... well, it wasn't hard to figure out what would've happened. Her home would be in total chaos, more so than it already was. That was a little fact she was reminded of when she saw them go for their swords. She quickly tensed up, taking a step back towards her bed. It was almost like she could hide under the covers and the big bad monster wouldn't be able to get her.]
[center A childish thing, really, and something she'd grown out of long ago.]
[center Or so she thought. In truth, it was all she really wanted to do.]
[center She was filled with relief as soon as she knew that there wasn't another threat beyond the door, relaxing just a little. Tearing her gaze away from it, she looked at Klaus and Tristan, tilting her head as they spoke in hushed whispers. She was tempted to step closer to listen or even ask them what it was they were talking about, but it didn't feel right. Eavesdropping wasn't her thing, anyway. Not if she could help it.]
[center Instead, she turned away, moving towards a window and looking outside. It was such a beautiful night... How sad that it had to be filled with such an awful experience.]
[center She didn't stand there long, moving way just as quickly to open the wardrobe. As she walked, she could feel someone watching her. She glanced over long enough to catch Tristan's gaze, which immediately sent a wave of heat through her and caused her cheeks to flush a bright pink. Why was his gaze so intense? Had it always been that way? Or was it because they were in her bedroom? The light from the candles didn't help. It was too...atmospheric. Like a scene in a book she'd read one time...]
[center Her cheeks flushed even more at the thought, quickly pushing new images from her mind. Her father would crucify her if he knew what occupied her thoughts. It'd be far more embarrassing if Tristan could read her mind. He'd probably run far away.]
[center Then he spoke and it made her thoughts all the worse. She was almost like a lovesick teenager. It didn't help that she now held a nightgown in her hands, holding it close to her chest, almost as if it would somehow keep them from seeing her heart pounding.]
[center She opened her mouth to respond yet didn't have a chance to get a word out before Klaus jumped in, the two leaving her alone. A gasp escaped her lips as her eyes widened. She nearly let out a squeak before she buried her face in the fabric of the gown. [b "By the stars..."] She was hopeless. She knew she was... and yet, the way he had been watching her... It was enough to make her stomach flip.]
[center She knew she shouldn't be indulging in the possibility that he fancied her, knew she had to push the idea from her mind, but it was sticking with her. If there was even the smallest chance...]
[center [i Enough of that. Don't even go there.] He had simply been doing his job. That was all.]
[center With a deep, shaky breath, she quickly changed, setting the dress she'd worn for dinner on the back of her vanity chair. She was almost embarrassed to go get them once she was ready, having taken her hair down and allowing the curly mess to hang around her shoulders and face. Having two men in her chambers...surely some prick would try and twist that.]
[center Regardless, she went to the door, opening it a little to let them know it was safe. With the door shut behind them, she made her way to her bed, keeping the curtain open once she was sitting, one leg bent on the mattress while the other hung over the edge. It was comfortable and kept them from being able to see anything beneath the skirt.]
[center Tristan's question was an unexpected one, but not unwelcome. She could only shrug before she looked down at the floor. [b "If I am to be honest, no. What happened was truly frightening. My father is far better equipped to handle such a thing..."] Tears welled up in her eyes. [b "This will sound naive, but I didn't realize that someone could hate me so much to want to see me killed. I've never done anyone any harm, have I?"] She looked up at him then, the tears glistening in the light.]
[center Alexander's reaction hadn't helped her at all. He'd been so offended by the fact that they hadn't offered [i him] protection. It shouldn't have, but it hurt. She was important too, damn it. She wasn't just some bargaining piece for whatever political games her father was playing.]
It was the first time since he'd known her that Tristan had ever heard Saylin sound so distraught. Disenchantment with the royal family was inevitable among some of the more revolutionary countrymen but even they were hard-pressed to find a fault in their crown princess. Saylin expressed the utmost compassion everywhere she went. Her countrymen were not burdens to bear, but an honour to serve. She was one of the few royals Tristan knew to truly do everything for the betterment of her countrymen's lives instead of merely the nobles. And this was how she was repaid. With death.
[b "Forgive me Your Highness but as powerful and stoic as your father is, an assassination attempt would rattle anyone,"] Tristan spoke carefully. [b "I don't believe this act was carried out by anyone native to this country. The man's accent sounded more like that of the Highlands."]
[i "Our lands have been allies for decades,"] Klaus frowned. [i "If the Highlands king wished to start a war, do you think he would strike such a drastic blow from the start? Not only did the assassination attempt fail but anyone who initiated it has to know that the king will rain hellfire down on whomever is behind it."]
Moment by moment the scene played out in Tristan's mind once more. The target was not confused by any means; Saylin was the intended victim, not Prince Alexander. It was carefully calculated. Rumors of wars were not unfamiliar territory, but they were not actively at war nor was he aware of any stirrings of such. [b "Commander Hollis will assign additional protection for you and your family, Princess, until we have determined the threat level this poses moving forward."]
[i "That also means that no one will be allowed to leave the castle grounds until an investigation has been thoroughly carried out,"] Klaus added.
It took all of his willpower to not roll his eyes. [b "That will include Prince Alexander's entourage,"] he spoke through gritted teeth. [b "Those who were not in attendance at tonight's gala will have to be investigated until their whereabouts can be accounted for, which I'm sure the prince will not be pleased with. He will have no choice but to surrender his men to Hollis for questioning."]
Given the cold shoulder the prince had given to his bride all evening, Tristan would bet his last gold coin that Alexander would be less than pleased at his staff being treated as suspected criminals. [b "Your Highness if there are any qualms you have about who is assigned to your personal security detail, do not hesitate to speak with Klaus or I about it, if not directly to Commander Hollis. I don't believe a member of our army is behind this but I am unwilling to take the risk. You must be on high-alert at every moment. Trust no one, do you understand?"]
He looked to Klaus, crooking an eyebrow. [b "Perhaps what?"]
[i "I was merely thinking that it wouldn't be a terrible idea to arm the princess, for personal protection. Not that I think she will need it but surely having a dagger strapped somewhere on her person for immediate access in instances where she needs to rely on self-defense is better than relying only on soldiers?"]
[center The fabric of her dress was gripped between Saylin's fingers now as she looked up at Tristan, tears glistening in her eyes. While it should've eased her mind that it might not have been one of her people, the fact that anyone would do it, to begin with still stuck with her. She had limited reach for the time being, but no matter who she met or where she traveled, she did her best to extend her hand and kindness to everyone. So who could hate her so much? Especially in the Highlands?]
[center A pit settled into her stomach as she listened to them speak. She knew she should've kept her mouth shut, shouldn't have said what she did, but she couldn't help it. It slipped out before she couldn't stop it. [b "I would rather die, then. Prince Alexander and his men should be forced to leave. Let them deal with this on their own time and in their own home."] The words were laced with anger. This whole situation was frustrating.]
[center At Tristan's words, she slowly nodded. No doubt, she would be looking over her shoulder. Every creak, footstep, voice, and even the smallest sound would cause her to jump out of her skin, she knew it. She would never feel safe in her home again, especially with the heartless man she was going to marry. He would never help her feel that way.]
[center No, the one who did was sitting across the room from her. So close, yet so far... If Klaus hadn't been present, surely she would've collapsed into him and begged him not to let her go for even a second.]
[center She frowned at the knights' suggestion. [b "I hate to disagree, but I have no idea how to use a weapon. I'd feel much better with one, though I fear I'd be a much bigger danger to myself than any attacker."] With her luck, she'd cut herself open on accident and bleed out. It wouldn't be the first time she'd injured herself. Despite her gracefulness, Saylin could be quite the klutz.]
[center [b "Would Commander Hollis be so opposed if I kept you two near...? I would like to have it no other way."] She wouldn't feel better if it were anyone else. She just knew she wouldn't.]
[i “With all due respect Princess Saylin, we were all untrained at some point or another,”] Klaus issued his counterargument. [i “Daggers are the easier weapon to learn on, especially ones small enough to hide on your person. If you can dance a waltz, you can certainly learn to use a blade.”]
Tristan was too distracted by her second question regarding Hollis. Their commander was many things but adaptive was not one of them, especially not if it involved someone else making the decisions. After the evening’s turn of events he wouldn’t doubt if the commander put him on latrine chores for the next month let alone approving him as private security for the king’s daughter. Klaus likely had a chance but Tristan? He might as well plead his case to the stone walls. [b “Past experiences have proven that Hollis is more likely to catapult us into the next town before he would approve of us requesting to be named your guards,”] he sighed, rubbing at his brow.
[i “That doesn’t necessarily mean he will refuse your personal request however,”] Klaus spoke staring directly at Saylin. [i “You are the princess and therefore outrank him. If you make your demands then there is little he can do to refuse, short of disobeying a direct heir to the throne.”]
A reckless suggestion in theory but it was their only hope to fall back on. Rising to his feet, Tristan approached Saylin. The knight he pulled from his belt was minimally decorated, save for a single band of leather wrapped around the handle for a better grip. Extending it to her handle-first, he tried to justify his actions not only to himself but for whatever god was watching him, lying in wait to catch him in the midst of temptation.
[b “We will protect you with our lives, you know that. But it will give us peace of mind knowing that you are armed as well for those brief moments you will be alone.”] Christ but that wave of anxiety flooded through him again at the mere [i thought] of someone capitalizing on their absence. [b “Your father would never approve, but if you get permission to appoint Klaus and I to your personal security then…I will teach you how to fight with one.”]
The young knight might as well have volunteered himself for the gallows. To say the king would be livid to discover his daughter not only wielding a knife but being instructed by the men appointed to protect her, would be dulling the severity of the crime. Saylin had always been taught the ladylike way of noble society. Fighting and training with men was almost certainly forbidden no matter how good Tristan’s intentions were. [i “You realize that’s a deathwish, right?”] his partner pointed out the obvious dilemma.
[b “I see no reason why a woman can’t be just as capable of defending herself as a man,”] Tristan shot a glare towards the other man. [b “I have every faith that the princess could be taught to be just as dangerous as any man with a knife.”]
Turning back to Saylin, he held her gaze. [b "I won't let you hurt yourself. Do you trust me?"]
[center It was hard to argue with the point that Klaus made. She knew that the knights weren't just automatically good at what they did. She'd watched them train in the courtyard sometimes when she had nothing better to do. Admittedly, part of it was so she could watch Tristan, but that didn't change the fact that she had seen the training they had to put in just to be able to move and swing their weapons the way they did. [b "I suppose you're right,"] she finally said. It wouldn't hurt to have the extra protection.]
[center Blue eyes made their way to Tristan as he spoke, frowning a little. Did the commander really hate them so? Or was it because of something else? She glanced back at Klaus before nodding. [b "Then trust that that is exactly what I'm going to do. Even if my father disagrees with my decision, it won't be hard to sway him to my side, meaning that Commander Hollis most definitely can't say no."] Even with her outranking him, if the kind were to disagree, he would have to listen to him, not her.]
[center After tonight's attempt, however, she was very doubtful he wouldn't see reason.]
[center Tristan's sudden movement caught her off guard and it took all she had not to involuntarily step back. Looking at the dagger, she hesitated. She really didn't want to have to keep one on herself, but she knew she needed to. Reaching out, she took the blade from him, ignoring the chills that ran down her spine as her fingers brushed against his. It had been an accident, truly.]
[center She looked back up at him, meeting his gaze. [b "I'll convince him."] She had to, for her own peace of mind. A quick glance at Klaus before she found herself staring up at Tristan again. She was almost lost in thought as she watched the way the light danced across his face, catching each feature. Her eyes moved down for a moment, stopping briefly on his lips before she caught herself and met his gaze once more.]
[center She quickly nodded. [b "I trust you more than anyone else inside these walls."] The words held more weight than they should have, but they were true, and it was only fair that he knew that.]
For a fraction of a second Tristan considered ordering Klaus from the room. One delicious moment of privacy with her and he could die a happy man but it was best to not push the already-fragile luck of the evening. [b "If you can get your father's permission to appoint us,"] Tristan recalibrated his thoughts. [b "Then I'll be able to teach you right here, away from prying eyes instead of risking training at the arena."]
Perhaps he just didn't want to share her time with any other knight and their wandering eyes. Klaus was different, of course. The man was devoted to his wife and two young children; going doe-eyed for the princess was the furthest thing on his mind. It was the rest of the platoon that Tristan worried about. [i "You'll have to sneak some protective gear up here,"] Klaus was once more the voice of reason. [i "I doubt they'll be missed at the arena but it'll certainly draw some attention if you lug up one of our stuffed practice dummies."]
[b "Practicality-speaking, it would be best to learn with a moving target,"] he agreed, forcing a reassuring smile at Saylin. [b "Namely me. Any real opponent won't be standing still for you to defend yourself, you'll need to be well-versed in hand-to-hand combat while on the move. Thankfully your rooms are large enough to provide ample space for us to navigate around each other."]
[i Saylin will be fine,] Tristan thought to himself. Any other option simply wasn't permitted. Her hand still held the blade, but he folded his own hands overtop of hers. [b "I consider you a dear friend, Your Royal Highness,"] he admitted knowing full-well he was breaking every royal protocol he'd been taught. [b "It would pain me greatly to see anything happen to you. So together, we'll make sure that you are prepared for any such future attack they may have planned."]
But [i who] had been behind the plan in the first place? Her father had made enemies throughout his life, to be sure, but Tristan couldn't recall even one person having a single bad thing to say about Saylin to even raise a red flag about evil intentions. And unless they found additional suspects, the redheaded man was unlikely to give them any assistance with naming his companions. Sleep be damned. Tristan wasn't going to get an ounce of rest that night, he already knew.
All too quickly he realized just how unbearably [i close] he was standing to not only Saylin, but a pajama wearing Saylin who was sitting in the most intimate of spaces, her bed. Hands abruptly scalded, Tristan yanked them back and shuffled back to the vacant armchair to hide his blush against the glow of the fireplace. A taunt was on the tip of Klaus's tongue but he showed merciful restraint. [i "Is there anything else we can do for you this evening, Your Royal Highness?"] he did one last lap around the room to ensure the doors and windows were secured.
[center It shouldn't have, but the idea of Tristan teaching her how to use the blade sent an odd thrill through her. It would keep him close, to start, and it would be enough to help her later on. Hopefully, they'd be able to steal a good few times throughout their days to train alone. A blush threatened to paint her cheeks. This was about her safety. Not about spending alone time with the knight. Not to mention, if they were caught, it wouldn't exactly look good.]
[center That didn't stop her from thinking about it, though.]
[center Her eyes widened slightly at their back and forth, more specifically about the fact that Tristan wanted her to use him as her target. [b "I can't say I'm very comfortable with that idea. What if I hurt you?"] She was doubtful that she would, since he could probably easily dodge any attack she made against him, but one wrong step and the blade could possibly go through him. The thought didn't sit well with her.]
[center She jumped slightly as his hands covered hers, sending that blush across her face as she looked up at him. His words didn't help. [b "Thank you, Sir Lockheed. I consider you a dear friend, as well, and wouldn't trust anyone else with my life."] It didn't matter if Klaus heard her say it. It was the truth. It wasn't like she would necessarily try and hide it.]
[center An odd silence settled over the room for a moment, and she was very quickly made aware of the other knights' eyes on the two of them, though she didn't take her eyes off of Tristan. If they were alone right now, would she be brave enough to steal a kiss? Would she pull him closer to her? They were already close enough and it made her heart pound so hard against her chest that she was afraid one of them would hear it.]
[center His sudden retreat caused her to gasp, eyes widening slightly as she watched him move away. Was her mind playing tricks on her? Was he blushing? Or was it just the light from the fireplace adding to a possible illusion? The thought of him actually red because of her sent another thrill through her, and only solidified the thought that he might feel the same way.]
[center It was a dumb thing to hold onto, but it was enough to keep her happy for the time being.]
[center Tearing her gaze away from him, she looked to Klaus, she bit the inside of her cheek. [b "Perhaps I could request a glass of water? Even if you have to call for Leah to get it, that would be wonderful."] She smiled up at him, hoping her own blush had finally faded. Now that everything was starting to slow down, she felt exhausted.]
[i "No need to bother Leah, Your Highness,"] Klaus rose to his feet. [i "I'd rather not have any of your ladymaids wandering the halls this evening until we know it's safe. I will get your water myself, and Sir Lockheed will remain by the door until I return."]
Well away from her bed, the instruction was clear enough but Klaus threw a warning glare at his young partner. Tristan latched the door behind him and stood at attention. [i Eyes forward], he repeated to himself internally lest he start focusing too much on the fact that he was now alone with the girl he'd harboured a crush on since the day he'd arrived at the castle as a boy. A girl that he had no business whatsoever of pining for. Given the distance to the kitchen it was likely this was going to be the longest he'd faced such temptation without the security of Klaus there to bring him crashing back to earth and reality.
[b "You shouldn't worry about hurting me, Your Highness,"] he blurted out once he was no longer able to bear the quiet. [b "During training, that is. Cuts and grazes are occupational hazards in my career. I'll bear them with pride if it means I do a good enough job training you."]
Having Saylin's protection in his hands was a daunting but crucial responsibility. Tristan desperately needed to focus on that factor and not dwell on the thoughts invading his head about being within close proximity to her. A shudder tore through him. Whenever their hands so much as grazed each other it felt like his skin was burned. What kind of reaction would he get if she was pressed up against him entirely, personal space be damned?
He risked a look at her. [b "I need you to promise that you will tell me if you're uncomfortable at any point, Princess Saylin. You've been thrown into a situation where you will have little to no privacy if Klaus and I are following you around. I'm afraid we are ignorant men used to the messy life of knighthood and we don't always have the best of etiquette. The last thing I want is to do or say something that crosses a line."]
Boundaries needed to be firmly in place. Friendship established or not, he was still well below her station. Her father might have been a kinder man than most kings but if he knew that a lowly knight was instructing his daughter in the art of knife combat, Tristan would be strung up in the courtyard before the hour was up. As such, they needed to tread carefully. Under no circumstances was he going to put her in a situation she wasn't comfortable with.
[b "Our friendship means quite a lot to me and I would hate to see it affected negatively,"] he bowed his head. [b "Especially if I were the one to make it so."]
[center Saylin wasn't sure what to say. Admittedly, she didn't expect Klaus to offer to get the drink for her. She had really thought that one of them would get Leah to do it, even though he had a good point. It wasn't safe for her so it certainly wasn't safe for the maids. She'd feel terrible if something were to happen to any of them because of her. [b "Thank you,"] she said, feeling a bit tense now. Too many thoughts had gone through her mind at the idea of being alone with Tristan. Not that it should be a big deal, but now that it was happening, she didn't know what to say or do.]
[center Every idea was out of the window now.]
[center She looked up at him as he spoke, doing her best to hide how she was feeling inside. It wasn't easy, that much was for sure.]
[center She quickly shook her head. [b "I'm going to worry, Tristan, I am. I can't help that. Whether you're used to it or not, I'd feel terrible."] She paused. His name was out of her mouth before she could stop it. Not that it should've been a big deal, but it was. She was so used to calling him by his last name that his first name should've never crossed her lips. Maybe it was because she was exhausted...or nervous. [b "My apologies,"] she said a moment later, looking away from him.]
[center Hopefully he wouldn't mind, or if he did, he would say something.]
[center She almost laughed at his next words. [b "Please, don't worry about that. I'll be sure to tell you, but I don't want you two to turn around and not be yourselves or anything because you're worried about offending me. I promise that I have most likely heard worse,"] she said with a smile. Anything she could say or do to make him feel better about it.]
[center [b "I have some serious doubts that anything could ruin our friendship. You mean too much to me for that to happen."] The deeper meaning to those words stabbed at her, despite the smile that stayed on her face. She really cared too much about him to let anything keep the two of them from at least being friends.]
As a knight there were few things left that could render him a stammering, shy fool. Saylin's soft voice reciprocating his fondness did just that. Tristan's cheeks were a darker red than the blush he'd fought off already yet he found himself unable to look away from her. [b "I'm glad to hear it, Princess."]
How many chances would they get like this? Where they felt free enough to shed propriety and societal boundaries, sharing their thoughts openly with one another? As soldiers of the crown, they were forbidden - mainly by Commander Hollis - from being too amiable with the royal family; ideas of friendship or more was simply out of the question. But still...Saylin seemed comfortable enough conversing with him. What harm could small talk do? Klaus was ninety percent of Tristan's impulse control on most days so without him there to rein the young man in, Tristan dove right in to uncharted waters.
[b "Do you remember the day we met? Must have been the first week or so that Hollis had taken me on as an apprentice knight,"] he adjusted the viewpoint of his chair to see her straight-on. [b "I got lost trying to find my way around the castle. Hollis had sent me off on an errand and I stumbled into your tutoring lesson. I thought your tutor was going to wring my neck for staring at you."]
A soft grin pulled itself free on his face. [b "She would have marched me right to your father and Hollis if you hadn't stepped in to save me the embarrassment. That was when I knew that the princess of the kingdom was truly as kind and compassionate as people always said you were. Even that young, you never treated us with anything but respect. And for that I will be forever grateful and in your debt,"] his head bowed slightly.
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