Never drink dragon's blood without permission.
With less than a week to live, Princess Rosette has a lot on her mind. Her wicked exiled sister Leah has King Aldric captive. Her brother Prince Maximilien is walking into a trap. And she needs to find a dragon and ask nicely for its blood to cure the lethal poison coursing through her veins. Luckily Philippe and a Gitano caravan are there to help.
Princess Rosette hid behind a pillar on the mezzanine of the great hall. Below her King Aldric spoke to a group of men. They weren't in uniform but they were definitely guards. Their stance gave them away.
Aldric scrutinized the men critically. "Captain Leopold has vouched that you are the bravest, noblest and most skilled men in his command that meet the qualifications for this unusual assignment."
Rosette took a quick glance. The guards were young, not much older than her, one even looked younger. She counted eight. What was her father up to with this small team? One man looked up her way but she ducked behind cover before he spied her.
"I need one eligible gentleman. Your task will be a pleasant one I trust. Princess Rosette is as tenacious as her reputation leads you to believe. Keeping her within safety confines is increasingly difficult. I'm seeking an honorable man that will not take advantage of the situation who can keep her interested enough to curb her desires to stray."
That plan didn't have much merit even if she didn't have forewarning. Rosette crouched down and looked between balustrades to examine the prospects. She recognized one as Pierre. He had come off as a terrible flirt and self-obsessed boor.
Perhaps amorous was one of the unnamed qualifications. Age and attractiveness must have been considered as well. She continued her investigation. The others were unknowns. One was far too chubby for her taste. Another too short. And she already crossed the young one off.
"Sir." One man stepped forward with a subtle bow. "If I understand your intentions, you seek someone to court Princess Rosette?" He was the most handsome of the group but just barely. Tallest of the lot with the darkest hair and complexion. She couldn't see more than his profile. It was pleasant. Too bad she wasn't going to allow it.
"Not exactly. This is a temporary assignment of undetermined duration to be a mild distraction. We'll have a trial run this week for our Millennium Celebration. She is betrothed to marry next year, so it cannot last long."
Betrothed. Another one of her father's poorly planned schemes for her. Unfortunately, she did not have an escape to liberate herself from that dilemma.
"If she found someone entertaining," King Aldric continued speaking more with his hands than words as was his way when he was nervous, "she will be less likely to explore beyond sanctioned limits."
The King disapproved. "Did you have something to contribute?"
"Pardon me." He excused. "It's that your daughter has a knack for evading her keepers."
Of course she did. She didn't need to be kept. She was the Princess after all or had this scoundrel forgotten.
"Which is why I have come up with this plan to find a less obvious way to manage her. It is logical to curtail her stealth with stealth." King Aldric had eliminated one of the eight men. "I cannot emphasize enough that there will be no inappropriate behavior permitted."
Rosette rolled her eyes. Her father remembered how enticing men had been to her older sister. Rosette was paying the price for Leah's indiscretion even though she was not a coquette and her sister had been gone for years.
"Which one of you is Philippe?"
"Philippe isn't here, sir." The tall man answered.
"I am." A man rushed in. Giving a full referential bow he apologized for his tardiness.
He was more handsome than the rest. As far as the Princess was concerned, the King had a winner. Maybe she could play along if only for a little while.
"Hmm." King Aldric had mixed opinions on the man. "You were recommended for this mission by name. Is timeliness often an issue with you?"
"No sir." Philippe answered but the tall man harrumphed.
The King updated the latecomer of his misguided attempt of control. "Would you be interested?"
"I'm honored you would deem me worthy of such an important task. However, I would be a poor choice to purposely mislead a woman, even your rambunctious daughter."
The nerve of this Philippe. Rosette wasn't unruly. She had trouble with the occasional overwhelming feeling of confinement. Who wouldn't under constant watch? Taking leave for personal space wasn't beyond reason. It was perfectly safe being that most of the kingdom didn't recognize her out of her formal attire. As for the surrounding town, it had a long established civil order. She expected her father to take offense in Philippe's ill-chosen comment.
Aldric did not. "When I was her age I wasn't much different, perhaps worse."
This admission shocked her. It was one he never meant her to hear. Philippe was taken aback as well. He regretted his words seeing how they may have inadvertently offended the King.