Galahad and the princess then argued for some minutes over where to go next. The argument was not based so much on a difference of opinion as on the fact that Galahad hadn’t come up with a location even once the escape had begun.
Finally they decided upon going to his Uncle, Count Riverton, who had always been a friend of the princess’ father, but Galahad did not know how to get there from their current location and would have required a long circuitous route to get Galahad back to lands he knew well.
At this point the princess got on her horse. She would have rode off without him, to somewhere anywhere that wasn’t here and dangerous, but he managed to get on his horse before she had a chance to leave. And so it was that they rode out of the stables together to a land they had not yet decided on.
Lord Trapsfield, upon discovering the unconscious maid, sent riders out after them in all directions, including to Count Riverton, the uncle Galahad didn’t know how to get to. One benefit of not knowing where you are going is that it prevents anyone from beating you there.
Galahad and the princess rode for a long while. They avoided roads, towns and anywhere they thought they might be recognized. Somehow despite having every intention of getting lost they could not help but come upon a house or village smack dab in their way.
Finally too tired to continue and with darkness and rain both falling they found a small outcropping of rock large enough to give them both a little respite from the rain. Neither knew how to build a fire and even if they had everything was soaked. Galahad tied up the horses while the princess prepared a meal of waterlogged cheese and soaked bread.
They ate for a while in silence.
“What’s your name?” Galahad finally asked.
The princess blushed or what passed for a blush on her face. “Soliloquy,” she said, “but my parents called me Lilly.”
“That’s an odd name.”
“My father said I was his speech to the world. He was always prone to speaking his mind.”
Lilly expected another question about what this speech might be, but Galahad was not one to think deeply on any subject besides himself.
After a long while, the princess asked a question herself. “Galahad, today in the stable, why did that boy run away from me?”
“Well, Lilly, you’re uglier than a warthog eating a muskrat. The Whitsend Hag has nothing on you.” Galahad looked up with a smile, proud of his wit.
Lilly stared at him for a long moment. “Today was my birthday…” she said and dropped her face into her hands.
Galahad did not understand what was going on at first, but soon he began to feel a pang of regret. A deep disturbance he’d only ever felt before while missing out on something fun his older brothers had done or in not winning a trophy at a set of games. New to this as he was, he did awkwardly put his arm around her, pat her on the shoulder, and say, “There, there. There, there. There, there.”
The next morning they arose early, though to say that implies they got some sleep.
“Where shall we go?” Galahad asked.
The rain had stopped, but the world still glistened in the morning sun. Lilly wrung out her dress. She pulled the hair out of her face and said, “Why don’t you go ahead.”
Galahad looked at her and for a second, just a second, he didn’t see her ugliness. It wasn’t that he thought she was beautiful or found deep feelings for her that he never knew about, it was that just for a second the gnawing disgust that settled in his heart every time he looked at her face didn’t bother him.
“I can’t leave you here,” he said.
“Perhaps it would be for the best. You’ll always be in danger while you’re with me.”
“Then you’ll be in danger alone.”
“I can manage.”
He looked away, up to the hills that promised freedom, a warm bed, and dry clothes. Then he looked back at her. “Where shall we go?”
Now the uncle that Galahad had planned to go to, Count Riverton, was not just any relation of Galahad he had been the king’s master of horse. In wartime he answered only to the king, but in peace he was barely considered a nobleman outside his own land. In this time of peace, he rode out Lord Trapsfield’s carefully executed political purge with just a few words of warning while remaining loyal to the king. The political purge also cleared out quite a few rungs between himself and the positions of peace time power. He had always had a seat on the council, but his vote barely counted. In the reorganized structure his influence now reached to the council’s inner circle.
Count Riverton was not a Trite. He had married Galahad’s mother’s sister and thus hailed from a far more levelheaded and far less opportunistic faction of Galahad’s family.
As soon as Trapsfield’s messenger had come seeking the princess, Count Riverton had begun making plans and discretely sent out messengers of his own.
To Be Continued…