You Can't Crack Iron

Chapter One- The Best Idea, Not-

Two icy, gray, glaring eyes stared into the center of two older brown eyes with dark circles directly beneath. Neither had blinked yet, neither had wielded to defeat. This was a staring contest to the extreme.

"I can do this all day," the older General Rogers said, keeping the anger in his voice to a minimum. This was exactly the reason he was going gray and why he kept pulling out strands of hair after even looking at his headstrong, rebellious son let alone the mounds he found after a conversation.

"So can I," his nineteen-year-old son replied gruffly. He continued to send his father icy stares in hopes that maybe the stubborn old man would get the hint.

"You will do it," General Rogers commanded, using the same voice he used to his soldiers when even they disobeyed. "You will not complain, you will wear a smile, and you will go through with this." He pointed behind him to the large, well-made king-sized bed that had three very empty suitcases sitting on it, ignored. A timid little maid stood at the foot of the bed, holding a pile of freshly cleaned clothes. This was her third time witnessing a "father-son" moment.

"No, I will not," Jake objected, using that same commanding voice he inherited and often jested in the presence of his father. "I will continue with my plans. I will continue with my studies and prepare for my entrance to the service. I will stay on my own soil."

Rogers couldn't take it anymore and broke the eye contact he had with his son to growl in anger and throw his hands up in the air. Jake smiled smugly, having, yet again, bested his father. The old man was half tempted to smack the smile off his cocky son's face, but he controlled himself- for now. "Don't you see? You do not have a say in this matter! You have no choice but to comply, so why are you making such a big deal out of it?"

"Because I don't want to go," Jake snapped bitterly. "It was a stupid idea from the start. It won't work. You and that snooty Emperor should have dropped the notion long ago."

"You don't know that!" Rogers huffed. He, himself, had his own doubts, but he would never let his son hear them, and besides, it would be wonderful if it did work. "You haven't even tried yet! How can you be so certain?"

"She's the enemy!" Jake exploded. "She's a spoiled brat, pampered and hideous!"

Rogers shook his head. That urge to smack him was getting harder to deny, "You've never even seen her before."

"I don't have to see her to know she's hideous. I just have to remember where she's from," Jake crossed his arms over his broad, muscular chest.

"Now, you're just being childish," Rogers walked to the door. He was done with this conversation. The boy was relentless. He pointed again to the bed. "Get those bags packed. That is an order, Jacob." He hastily grabbed the handle and slammed the door shut, causing the few paintings that Jake's mother had made to wobble on the walls.

Jake glared at the door for a moment or two before sighing and turning around to face the maid who was shaking so bad that the clothes she held were starting to come unfolded. Her face was even more pale than usual, and she kept her dull eyes focused so strongly on the floor that even Jake looked to see what she found so captivating.

"Emily," he said with increased annoyance. She didn't move. "Emily!" he nearly yelled. This was an instant mistake as she yelped and the entire pile went up into the air, and he then found himself buried beneath it. His thin lips contorted into a tight line as he tried his best not to go into a complete rage and yell his lungs dry at her. He could only utter out three forced words, "You may leave." She scurried out like a mouse that had just been released from a trap, not even bothering to pick the clothes off him that she'd catapulted at him. He didn't hear the door shut and figured that he'd scared her so badly that she forgot her manners. He sighed, even more annoyed now, if that was even possible.

"I thought you promised you wouldn't terrify the servant girls anymore," a voice said from the door. Jake knew who it was and didn't bother to reply. Instead, he busied himself with the task of ridding himself of the extra clothing he now "wore" thanks to Emily. His best friend Dirk appeared before him wearing his trademark leather jacket and sporting an amused grin. "Wow, you make a great mannequin." The sarcasm was seeping through his voice. Dirk was Jake's cousin and best friend and had been since they'd met at age three. He was about 3 inches taller than Jake, leaner with darker features and a tendency to prank innocent (and not so innocent) people, mainly just servants and their instructor, Elms. Dirk saw the look on Jake's face and adopted something more serious. "I'm going to guess Emily."

"Yes," Jake said, throwing the clothes onto the bed, careful to miss the suitcases. "She saw the conversation between Dad and I."

Dirk recoiled back, "Ooh! That's enough to scare any young girl out of her mind! What did dear ol' daddy have to say this time? He still set on that arrangement for you to spend a full year in Vegga?'

"Yes! Ugh, it's so dumb! I wish he'd give it up! There is no way it'll work because I'm not going!" He shoved the suitcases off the bed and flopped on it, wrinkling those clothes even more now.

"I really don't see you getting out of this one," Dirk shrugged and sat beside his friend on the bed. "Uncle Rogers seems really bent on sending you, and you and I both know how hard it is to change his mind when he's this determined."

"I'm not going!" Jake said again more forcibly. "I'll kill myself before I go anywhere near that shrew."

Dirk couldn't stop the laugh and just let it explode, "This I wouldn't mind witnessing, but why kill yourself? Do the whole world a favor, take her out." Jake laughed at this, too, feeling much better now that his cousin was here. The two guys were engulfed in a loud, rambunctious laughter that they didn't hear the stomping of heavy army boots warning of General Rogers' approach.

The door slammed open, hitting the wall with much force, and the two young men went silent immediately as General Rogers stood in the doorway, tapping his foot impatiently. "I see you haven't gotten very far." He glared at his son. "You're not getting out of this. I want those bags packed. Now."

Jake sat up and looked at his father like he had just spoken to him in a completely different language.

"Now," the General repeated.

"Dad, I can't spend three hundred and sixty five days in that country with her! I'll be out of place and have no one to talk to, and don't you dare say that I could always talk to her because I sure as Hell won't be doing that." He had seen his father open his mouth to make that exact comment. "I'm not going."

"Three hundred and sixty-six," Dirk said weakly. "It's leap year."

General Rogers walked threateningly over to his son and stood towering over before him. Jake recoiled only slightly. "You're nineteen. I do believe that you can handle yourself." He smacked his son on the back of the head, a blow that was both a form of endearment and punishment. He walked around the bed and picked up the bags and threw them back onto the bed, making Dirk jump. "And you're not going alone."

Jake rolled his eyes, "Elms doesn't count."

"I wasn't talking about Elms," Rogers said as he gathered up those clothes on the bed and threw them casually into one of the bags. He then went to the closet across the room and started throwing clothes behind him. He had terrible aim and hit Dirk and Jake more than the suitcases, and Jake was getting annoyed at being mistaken for a hamper today.

"You?" Jake really hoped his father wouldn't be spending a full year there, too. That would just be the icing on the cake.

"Don't be silly," Rogers said. "I can't spend a year there while I have duties to take care of here. I have to run the country while an appropriate heir is found, remember?"

"Then who?" Jake demanded. He looked to his cousin for any help and saw that the young man's face had gone very pale.

"Uncle Rogers," Dirk said slowly and uncertainly. "Please don't say that I'll be going, too."

Rogers turned around to grin at the two of them before going back to ransacking Jake's closest.

"WHAT?" Dirk was on his feet in protest. "No!"

Jake jumped up, too, but to confront his previously loyal cousin. "You'd abandon me in my time of need?" he demanded, angered and possibly slightly hurt.

"I'm not the one for sale here!" Dirk said to his cousin. He turned back to his uncle, ducking as a heavy coat came sailing in his direction. It completely passed over the bed. "Uncle, don't make me go too! Why do I have to be punished?"

Rogers turned back around and walked over to the guys. "I never said anyone was being punished." Jake coughed loudly at this, but Rogers ignored it. "I want you to go simply to keep Jake company and be my eyes. I won't be able to watch him and keep him from killing Isabel, so you'll have to."

"Hell, I'll be helping him," Dirk muttered under his breath, but lucky for him, Rogers didn't hear it. He'd moved on to the dresser that sat to the right of the bed. Jake was glaring at his dad again.

"It won't be that bad. Both of you are making a mountain out of a molehill." He was throwing clothes again with his horrible aim. "It's not that big of a deal. It's only a year."

"Easy for you to say," Dirk said grimly. "You don't have that many left."

This was obviously not the best thing to say as the General found his aim and managed to throw a balled up jean jacket right into Dirk's gut. "I suggest you get to packing too. You leave in the morning." He smiled wickedly and both cringed.

"WHAT?" they both exclaimed, shocked.

"NOW!" Rogers boomed and pointed to the door. Dirk didn't need any more convincing and bolted out the door, leaving Jake alone with his father. Rogers moved his eyes from the door to his son, "At least he listens."

"He is a coward," Jake said with some resentment. He loved his cousin, but sometimes he just failed as a sidekick.

"You should take lessons," Rogers suggested with some amusement. Jake glared at him yet again.

* * *

The Governess, Penny, was searching the palace high and low for Isabel, the Emperor's teenage daughter. She had, once again, hidden herself from everyone, especially since her father asked for her to meet him for lunch in his private quarters, and everyone knew what that meant: they were to discuss the coming visit of the General's son, Jake, of Colinia, and everyone also knew that Isabel had protested the idea ever since she was told about it. She even went so far as to threaten to run away before she would spend a full year with that "Colinia monster" as she called him, but her father, the delightfully optimistic Emperor Penlin, thought the idea would be a "slamming success" and had everyone in the palace prepare for Jake's arrival, and he instructed that Penny keep a specially close eye on Isabel. She had her mother's spirit and knack for creating trouble, and he wouldn't put it past her to actually try to sabotage any attempts to make the General's son at home here.

Penny, who was only a few years older than Isabel, had been her Governess for nearly six years now, having been thrust, quite literally, into this job since the old Governess quit unexpectedly. Before, Penny had been just an orphaned girl who excelled at the local secondary school as the only girl who cared. Emperor Penlin had required that his daughter's new Governess should be closer to her in age and be able to connect with the young girl. Penny had witnessed the transition of girl to beautiful teenager with Isabel and so had indeed become very close to her. They trusted each other and were good friends, but sadly, Isabel did not always include Penny in her plans, especially when they involved Isabel going against her father's direct orders. Penny knew it was to protect her from being fired, but still, sometimes she just wanted to be included.

"Izzy!" she called out as she pushed the heavy doors open to the library. It was dark, and she somehow doubted that she would be in here, unless it was do research on how to stop what she called her "impending doom." Penny almost laughed aloud at this thought. Upon realizing that the sneaky Isabel was not here, she decided to try a different location. It was a long shot, but perhaps she would be there, in the Guest Quarters where Jake would be staying. Penny smiled and gathered up her skirts and nearly ran to her newest destination.

The Guest Quarters were located on the western side of the palace, away from the Family Quarters. They didn't have many guests, but when they did, the Emperor made sure to go all out, making the stay perfect for any visitor. This particular guest would be much harder to please, considering how he was dreading this as much as Isabel, so the Emperor had his closest advisor, Wilmer, conduct research on Jake's favorite things, invest in them all, and oversea the transformation personally.

Penny found Wilmer in the Guest Quarters, having some gentlemen installing an extensive gaming area, including an indoor fencing area, for the young man to keep him somewhat entertained. Wilmer, old, wrinkly, and odd yet distinguished with his tall stature and full white head of hair wore his long red robes of importance and wore his usual frown. He was a difficult man to understand, but he was loyal and had much wisdom to offer. Penny often went to him when she was having a problem.

"Good afternoon, Wilmer," she said warmly, standing beside him and following his gaze to the workingmen.

He turned only his head to glance at her through large-rimmed glasses, and she immediately thought of a great owl. She stifled yet another laugh. "Good afternoon, Penny. What brings you up here?" He turned again to watch the men with scrutiny. He obviously disagreed with their work ethics but held his tongue- for now.

"Well, sir," she said nervously. She wasn't exactly sure how to word her explanation. "I was wondering if perhaps you have seen Isabel." She swallowed hard.

Wilmer's head snapped harder this time to her direction, "Have you lost her?" he demanded.

Penny hated to be put under pressure and swallowed again, "Not exactly." She found herself wringing her hands into her skirt.

"Well, what exactly would you call it then?" He went back to the men, but she saw the smile.

"You have seen her!" she exclaimed.

"Perhaps I have," he said, standing very tall with his hands cupped behind his back. A small smile was now clearly displayed, and Penny wondered what he was planning, or hiding.

"Well, where did you last see? Where has she gone?" Penny asked quickly, wanting to locate her as soon as possible before she did any real damage. "I'm supposed to be keeping an eye on her."

"Then how did she manage to get away from you in the first place?" Wilmer asked, cringing as one of the men dropped an armload of unique foils into a large heap on the floor. "Here! Here! Man, be careful with those! They have a price tag worth more than your life! Show some care! Place them in their holders!" He pointed to the hooks that hung freshly on the wall directly behind the careless man. He stared the man down with his dangerous eyes until the man fulfilled the order. Wilmer then turned to Penny again.

She smiled weakly, "She's cunning. She was reading in her room when Emperor Penlin sent for me. When I returned, she was gone." Penny sighed. "Where have you seen her?"

Wilmer raised a thin, white eyebrow at Penny. "Is that so? Well, I could suggest you try the bedroom." He didn't so much as say that she was in there, but Penny knew she had to be there or somewhere close. She smiled, and he winked at her. Penny bowed and moved across the room to the two double doors that led into the large master bedroom where Jake would probably spend much of his time. She pushed one of the doors open and proceeded in with great caution. She knew she should be alert for anything. That was to be expected with Isabel.

"Izzy?" she called out timidly and then listened intently. She could see nothing in this darkness and moved over to the window. She reached her hands up to draw the curtains. As she pulled on the thick braided cords, the curtains flew back, and Penny screamed as she stood face to face with the very person she had been trying all afternoon to locate. Isabel doubled over with laughter, her long auburn hair falling into her face. Penny stumbled backwards and fell into the bed, only increasing Isabel's fit of laughter. "Not funny!" Penny exclaimed as she found herself cracking a smile and emitting a giggle or two.

"Yes!" Isabel exclaimed as she gasped for air. "I wish you could have seen your face!" She pointed to her Governess and friend. "I shall see that every time I look at you now!" She tried to replicate the apparent face that Penny made, showing one of pure terror that was comical for all, and even Penny had to laugh. Isabel dropped to her knees, laughing.

Penny pulled herself together and stood to cross the room to Isabel. "Come on, now," she said, extending a hand to the young woman, who now had tears streaming down her face. "You have to get ready."

The laughter died almost immediately in Isabel's face, and she looked up at Penny with suspicion, "For what?"

Penny tried to smile like it was the best idea yet, "Why, for lunch with your father. He wants to talk to you about something." She hoped her acting skills had improved since the last time she had tried to pull one over Isabel.

Isabel recoiled and shook her head, her red locks whipping about her face. "Oh, no you don't!" She stood and tried to get around Penny to run to the door and disappear again, but Penny, for once, had faster reflexes and grabbed her arm.

"You have to go to lunch! He requested you be there!" Penny insisted, almost desperately.

"No!" she protested. "I know what he'll talk about: that stupid idea of bringing that pompous, dirty, good-for-nothing General's son here for a whole year. Well, no thank you," she said, pulling her arm out of Penny's grasp and crossing her arms over her chest. "I won't have any parts of it."

"You don't have a choice, and how do you know that it will be so bad?" Penny asked innocently.

"He's a Colinian," Isabel said matter-of-factly. "It's that's simple."

"Never judge a book by its cover," Penny stated, shaking her head. She grabbed the stubborn girl again and proceeded to pull her to the door, bent on getting her to that lunch, even if it meant by force. "You must do this! I'm sure it won't be as bad as you think!" She struggled to get Isabel to move even an inch. She had dug her heels into the floor and tensed up, determined not to be moved. Penny pulled with all her strength, but it just wasn't working. She huffed and ceased her vain efforts. She mirrored Isabel's stance and crossed her arms over her chest and looked at her with an annoyed expression.

Isabel smiled weakly, shrugging, "Sorry,"

Penny rolled her eyes, "You're going to get me into trouble, you know." She watched with some enjoyment as Isabel's face went quite pale at the thought that disobeying her father's orders would indeed get Penny in trouble. Penny made a mental note to use that as blackmail more often. "Fine," she sighed. "I'll go, but I won't like it, and I'll disagree with everything he says!" She stuck her tongue out at Penny and whirled around, putting her back to the young Governess.

"Oh, I have no doubts that you will!" Penny said through her smile. "But you had better come along, or you'll be late, and you know how your father hates it when you're late." She tugged on Isabel's arm. She glanced over her shoulder and sighed. The two of them walked out of the bedroom and past Wilmer who was once again yelling at that foul-hearty workingman. Penny looked to Isabel with a smile, "And who knows, maybe later we'll go mess with the stable boys." Isabel lit up at this idea and her emerald eyes sparkled with impish delight.

* * *

Isabel sat in her father's private quarters, at the small table set with all her favorite food items, an obvious sign that her father was trying to butter her up. She sighed and played with a random strand of auburn hair that had fallen from her curled bun. She felt like she was suffocating in this stuffy room with this hideous, five-layered dress that constricted her very breathing. Her father had been whisked away for some important business that he had promised would "only take a few minutes," and they had to wait on Wilmer anyway. He was always present at their little lunches, which Isabel found to be most comforting. Wilmer was a good distraction for her father, and she could probably get him to get her father on a tangent that would stay far away from the topic he had purposely summoned her here to discuss.

Isabel simply could not take it any longer and pushed away from the table to rise and moved to the window that sat at her far left. She tripped over her skirts in the process of a simple task of walking across the room. Upon reaching the window, she was nearly gasping for air. Stupid gown, she thought bitterly, glancing down at it with pure hatred. She made a silent vow to never wear this dress again. She went back to her task and, after hiking up her thick skirts in one hand, climbed onto the windowsill and tried to pry the old window open. She tugged and tugged but it would barely even move. She was starting to get very aggravated and pulled harder. The latch finally released and Isabel went flying off her perch and onto the floor with a loud thud. She stared wildly up at the ceiling as she tried to gain back her breathing. Behind her, she heard laughing, and she could feel her cheeks begin to burn.

"Why, Isabel," Wilmer said with a highly amused tone, one she preferred not to hear, especially at her own expense. "That attempt to fly was a rather bad one." He crossed the room to her in long strides and looked down at her with a smirk. She made a mocking face at him and took the hand he extended to her.

"I wasn't trying to fly," she mumbled, keeping her eyes ferociously glued to the floor, cheeks now as red as her hair. "I just wanted some air. He keeps this room so stuffy, I could hardly breathe."

Wilmer led her gently by the arm back to her seat. "Don't squirm so and you won't such difficulties." He took his usual seat to her upper left, back to the window she now saw as an enemy. He himself pulled at his collar, signifying his own discomfort, and Isabel opened her mouth to repeat his words sarcastically back at him but was interrupted by the door slamming open and her father entering quickly.

Isabel and Wilmer both stood to show their respect, and Emperor Penlin waved for them to be seated. He looked flustered, but he smiled warmly at the sight of his beautiful daughter. "Izzy!" he said warmly and crossed to her to place a small peck on her cheek that had finally gone back to its original color. "It pleases me that you have accepted my lunch invitation. We have much to discuss." He frowned as he saw that wrinkle of protest form on the bridge of her nose. Her mother did that too, quite frequently. "Oh, my little dove, don't be that way! It won't be all that bad!"

Isabel rolled her eyes at the way he tried to sugarcoat this horrible idea. She snatched up her fork and began stabbing the meat on the plate before her. Emperor Penlin looked to Wilmer for help but the advisor simply shrugged. He had no children and thus had no experience here. He had spent time with Isabel, of course, but those times were of play and learning, not obedience or parenting. Emperor Penlin sighed and took his seat. He was a majestic man to his people, but to those who knew his properly, he was an awkward man of only five foot two with a very round belly from his vast love of food and wine. He had a big round head and was balding around the top but still had a ring of thin, light brown hair around his cranium. His face had the evidence of wrinkles that would soon form, especially from the few more years he had to raise his unruly daughter.

Wilmer, seeing the silence that had settled between the two uncomfortably decided that he would have to be the grown up here and start an actual conversation, "Sire, the Guest Quarters are coming along quite nicely." He saw Isabel's head jerk up and her eyes pleaded for him to move to another topic, but he gave her that look that told her this was the conversation they would approach.

"Splendid! Splendid!" Emperor Penlin said with a wide smile. He lifted his glass of his favorite wine and toasted it to Isabel who now wore a frown that both men feared would be her permanent face during this lunch and the General's son's entire visit. Despite her look of objection, the Emperor continued, "The boy should find the room to his liking, I hope." Wilmer nodded in agreement. "And I hear that he's quite the catch." He winked to his daughter.

"I don't care if he is or not!" Isabel said hotly. "He's a dog from a country of dogs, and nothing you can do can change my mind about him and this stupid idea!"

Emperor Penlin and Wilmer looked at the young woman with shocked expressions on their faces. She threw the fork onto the plate where it clanked loudly and then crossed her arms over her chest again as she sat back against the chair.

"Isabel!" Emperor Penlin gasped. "This is not how a young lady of your stature should be acting!" Wilmer nodded.

"I don't care!" she hissed darkly, acting in such a way that neither of them had seen her do before. "I refuse to comply!" She grabbed her napkin from her lap and threw it onto the table. She glared at them both momentarily before stalking away, slamming the door behind her. Once safely behind it, she sighed, ashamed at the way she had acted, but they needed to see that this was a bad idea for all parties involved. She fled from that area, hoping to find a good place to hide.

Inside, Emperor Penlin and Wilmer stared at the door she had just exited to.

"Oh Wilmer," Emperor Penlin said sadly. "What are we going to do with her?"

"I do not know, Sire," Wilmer said as he took a sip of his tea. "I am no expert in children or women." That last bit at least got a laugh out of the Emperor, and for that, Wilmer was glad. "We have no choice but to go ahead with all plans in hopes that maybe something will happen. It could be that they will meet and it will be love at first sight."

"Or they'll take one look at each other and declare another hundred years war," Wilmer said sadly with a sigh. He shook his head as he lifted his glass again. He had the strangest feeling that he would go through an entire bottle just for lunch.

"Sire, you never know," Wilmer was trying his best to be supportive and optimistic, but this was hardly his area of expertise. "You must try. She will come along sooner or later." He hoped she would anyway, but he would not voice his doubts.

"Wilmer," Emperor Penlin smiled at him. "You are a wonderful asset." The Emperor smacked his companion on the back and then dug into his lunch that was quickly growing cold. Wilmer sighed, wondering if this really was such a good idea.

* * *

Isabel had decided to hide outside in the palace gardens, as it seemed to be the most unlikely place that anyone would look for her. She had managed to swipe a book from her favorite collection in her room before heading outside. She settled herself on the thick limb of a tree in the very back of the garden in the very tree her great grandmother had planted years and years ago. She really hadn't expected anyone to find her or even miss her this soon, but her little haven was still invaded,

"When will you learn that I will always find you?" Penny asked, tugging on her skirts as they hung from her perch.

Isabel slammed her book down onto her lap, losing her page. She wrinkled her nose, "Well, one day, can you not find me?" she asked, looking down at the Governess who now stood with her hands on her hips, trying to look intimidating. Isabel decided that she at least had to give her points for trying. "I really didn't want to be found."

"Don't you think I don't know that?" Penny asked. She gave up on trying to be the adult and grabbed hold of a knot in the tree and climbed up, seating her self on a neighboring limb. Isabel smiled. "But I have to follow Wilmer's orders, and he has to follow your father's orders, which were to find you and make sure you behave. And it's quite the challenge, I might add." Isabel now displayed a rather large, blinding smile, "Oh, stop it. Can't you at least try to behave?"

"Do you really have to ask that?" Isabel asked innocently. She then sighed heavily. "I do behave. It's just that I want to have my fun. Aren't I entitled to a little fun?"

"Your definition of fun is not the same as everyone else's, Izzy," Penny said dully. "And sometimes you have to be grown up about things."

"I am seventeen, Penny!" Isabel exclaimed. "I certainly know how to be grown up!" She sat up and started to swing her feet which Penny now realized were bare and her slippers on the ground below, despite the fact that it was less than fifty degrees out side. "I just don't want to right now especially not for this."

"There's no way out, Izzy," Penny shook her head, feeling her friend's pain. "You have to deal with it. I mean, it's just for one year. How all bad can it be?"

Isabel looked to her Governess with bored eyes, "You have no idea. It's going to be just simply awful!" She swung her feet harder, shaking the limb, and Penny thought she heard it crack slightly, but she hoped it was just her imagination playing tricks on her. "Have you heard the stories of those people?" She turned her head to Penny, eyes big and full of wonder. "They're all brutes, loving nothing but war and themselves, and the men beat their women and make their own children do hard labor from the time they learn to walk! And I've heard they're all ugly and fat with pigeon toes!"

Penny brought a hand to her mouth to shield the smile that was forming. "That's absurd!" she exclaimed, but Isabel went on.

"And all their teeth are crooked and yellow and black and falling out! They have no manners either!" she laughed giddily.

"Izzy! You've never met a Colinian! How could you even believe those stories?" Penny demanded, still fighting her battle to keep a straight face. "You really should give him a chance. You know, I've always found that the better your mood, the faster time passes."

"So, you're saying that if I wear a smile the whole time, then three hundred and sixty five days will pass in what will feel like five minutes?" Isabel asked. Penny didn't need to guess whether or not that was supposed to be sarcastic.

"Just try to have fun!" she exclaimed. "And it's three hundred and sixty-six days. It's leap year." This job was tiring.

Isabel jumped down from the branch and grabbed her shoes once she was on the ground below. "The only fun I see myself having is making sure that his stay is the worst he's ever experienced." She looked up to Penny with that same smile that suggested that her mother might have been part imp. Penny crossed her arms disapprovingly, but Isabel kept smiling. "Well, since I have to go along with this, what else do you expect me to do?" She turned on her heel and marched off, back towards the palace, ignoring Penny's calls for her to wait.

Penny watched with much annoyance as Isabel stalked off and looked down. Now was a bad time for her to remember that she was scared of heights.

A/N: Hey all, this is a new story from me. It's currently my idea for NaNoWriMo, and I thought it might be a good idea to post it on here. Let me know what you think. R&R Thanks and Later Days.