“I don’t want to do this! I never wanted to do this,” Taylor announced, shocking her parents in the throne room with her sudden revelation.
“You have no other choice,” her father pressed on, refusing to let Taylor change the decision he had made for her.
“You are the eldest princess,” her mother added, “It is your duty to help our kingdom. Your other sisters are simply too young to do this.”
Taylor's eyes widened. “I am not asking you to send them instead of me. I am asking you to spare all of us. We have not been at war with Mazian for decades; this is not necessary.”
King James of Kelone, her father, severely disagreed. “It is necessary. A new king is going to sit on the Mazian throne within the next two months. We need to find leverage over him before then to prevent any future wars,” he argued.
“That doesn’t even make any–” Taylor started.
“Enough!” Her mother yelled, glaring at her. “We are telling you to do something and as the leaders of this kingdom, you will listen to what we say and act according to it. You may be the princess, but don’t forget, I am your Queen. For once, Princess Taylor, do the duty that you have to do.”
Taylor gasped at the sudden hostility in her mother’s voice.
Before she could say anything, her mother continued. “You will leave tomorrow, before dawn. Take the carriage and go to the border. At sunset, a carriage will leave from that border. The driver will recognise you. Listen to him and follow his instructions. Don’t fail me on this too.”
With that, the Kelonean Queen whirled around and walked out of the room, leaving the magnificent throne room empty with a gaping Taylor and her sympathetic father.
“Taylor, you know we cannot trust anyone else to do this, right? It requires the highest confidentiality and no one in this castle can be trusted with such a sensitive situation other than our own family,” he said pitifully.
Taylor turned away from him, ignoring the plead in his voice. “I know that you can’t trust anyone else in this castle and that’s why I don’t want you to send anyone of us away,” she said, turning to look at him.
“You don’t need to send me to Mazian. You can keep me here and we can send one of your generals or something, please!”
The King looked ahead, feigning great interest at the intricate golden decorations on the walls of the throne room.
“Please, Taylor, don’t do this. There is more at stake than either you or I know. Please, just do this. Not for the king and queen. But for your parents! Please,” he pleaded.
“This is emotional blackmail, Papa. I don’t see the necessity of doing this. You know as well as I do that Mama is not sending me away to gain leverage on the new king. She is upset because of what I did a year ago and she is taking revenge on me now,” Taylor choked out, swallowing the lump of sadness in her throat.
“Taylor, you know that is not true,” her father argued.
Taylor nodded her head. “It is closer to the truth compared to what she is telling me, and you know it too. Anyways, since you both are so persistent, I will do it. Just,” Taylor paused, her voice catching in her throat. “Just promise me that if anything happens while I am there, you will tell Mama that I am sorry. You will tell her that I did not mean for things to go out of hand that day.”
Her father shook his head, a tear dropping from his left eye. “You know we don’t blame you completely for what happened that day. Don’t feel guilty about it, Taylor. We were simply too harsh on you.”
“It is impossible not to feel the guilt, but that is not important. Just promise me you’ll do as I say if I don’t come back in six months. Please!”
With a reluctant sigh, her father agreed. “I promise. But you must promise me to keep yourself as safe as possible. Don’t let anything happen to you and come back home safely after six months.”
Taylor nodded. “I’ll try my best, Papa.”
Her father frowned. “Try? That’s not enough. I need you to promise me you will come back unharmed.”
Taylor shook her head. If you want me to stay unharmed, you would not send me there in the first place. “Try is all I can offer, Papa. Goodbye.”
Taylor turned away, walking out of the throne room. Turning along corridors, she rushed into her grand room and locked the doors behind her.
After ensuring she was well and truly alone, a shudder went up her spine and she crumpled to the ground, sobbing her heart out.
In that moment, she blamed everyone, including herself, for everything that was happening, for her current misery.
Yet, deep down, she knew that she would have ended up doing this for her parents, even if they had approached anyone else first.
With that in mind, she let herself embrace the comfort of a few more tears before wiping her face and straightening her spine.
Walking to her bed, she looked out of the window in her room which overlooked the border between the kingdoms of Mazian and Kelone.
She smiled sadly.
Mazian had no idea who was coming their way, and Taylor planned to wreck their kingdom into miniscule pieces.