#1717

The omen is ancient, almost an old wives’ tale by now, but the king takes no chances. Two yolks in one egg – the son will slay the father. With a roar he commands all of his sons be brought to him, from the oldest toddler to the youngest newborn. His wives rush to fulfill the order, carrying in their babes with tears in their eyes and lips clenched tight. The king takes each child personally, hurling them from the high tower window as if they have already sinned against him. Though once proud of these male children, of their potential as his successors and perpetrators of his line, he tosses them as if they’re nothing more than bundles of dirty rags.

Only the youngest princess, a worthless girl and bane of her father’s existence, dares intercede. She has always been too headstrong, too wild, and she tugs now on her father’s arms, at the guards, begging for mercy, for an end to this madness. None pay her attention past a swift push to get her away; none seem to care as half the royal family’s children are sent to their deaths. Beside herself, the princess begins to scream, a shattering wail like nothing such a tiny human should be able to produce. The sound is horrid and the king cannot ignore her any longer. He turns on the child, eyes blazing, and threatens to throw her out the window to join her brothers on the flagstones below if she can’t be silent.

It’s a threat he will act on without hesitation, the princess knows this, but she can’t sit by and watch this senseless slaughter. She continues her wailing until a guard makes to grab for her, then she runs. Down castle corridors, past bewildered servants and weeping wives, just out of reach of her pursuers. The doors to the outside are all blocked, so she heads for a first floor library, diving through an open window just large enough to fit a young girl but too small for an armored guard. The princess hits the ground running and makes a mad dash through the manicured gardens, mind racing to form a plan beyond mindless fleeing. She’s never been past the castle grounds; a princess only leaves the castle once in her life, and that’s to be shipped off to her husband. Where will she go?

This princess is determined to escape no matter what, though, and her tomboy proclivities, while shameful to the royal family, serve her well now. She vaults hedges and clambers up decorative walls, heading instinctively for the wall separating the castle from the surrounding nobles’ lands. While too high to climb, she uses the smaller walls like scattered stairs, jumping from one to another until with a final desperate leap she’s over the last hurtle and landing on the other side. Her sudden appearance startles a group of nobles’ children playing hopscotch. One of them, a boy the princess has often played with, rushes to help her up. Catching sight of the matron watching over the kids, she begins to babble her message of terror.

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