Rhana approached the guard before her cautiously. Her mission was dangerous and it would not due to alert him. As she drew closer she slowed, her breathing became more hushed, and in her head she cursed her ridiculous dress for being so noisy and cumbersome. She was directly behind him now; slowly she reached over him and quickly covered his eyes. The guard gasped when he felt cold metal against his throat.

"Do not scream." Rhana told him. He nodded in understanding. "I have come for the one you serve. Lead me to her and you live. Refuse and you die. I have no qualms over spilling the blood of a noble's dog."

Quietly, but with as much confidence as he could muster, the guard replied, "My loyalty shall never falter. If it is blood you seek I will gladly allow mine to spill in place of my lady's. If it is money, then take what I carry and be off with you."

The blade twitched on his skin. Rhana smiled. "You are certain that is your final answer?"

The guard straightened. "Do your worst."

Rhana couldn't take it anymore, she burst out laughing. The guard turned around in surprise as the cold left his throat. His would be assassin was rolling in the grass laughing, kicking her feet in the air. The blade she carried was… was that a butter knife to the left of her?

"Princess!" exclaimed the dumbfounded guard.

"Oh my, Mavrek! You should see your face!" The princess said between laughs.

Mavrek stared in disbelief at the lady which he served. A smile was spread from ear to ear as she guffawed, pinching her eyes shut tight, and wrinkling her caramel complexion. Her long, curly, black hair, which normally was pulled back delicately into a fashion suiting her station, was frazzled from the grass and flowing wildly from its fasteners. As her legs kicked the air her purple dress moved far above her heels, quite indecent, and was close to revealing more. Mavrek blushed.

"Please, my lady, this is hardly decent behavior for someone of your status."

Princess Rhana didn't hear. She was laughing far too hard. "Oh, when I pressed the knife to you and you trembled… I wasn't sure if I'd be able to go further, but it was so worth it!"

"Princess Rhana, you will compose yourself at once!" The voice was cold and harsh. Mavrek turned to see an elderly woman walking briskly toward them. At once he composed himself.

"Lady Carrillo." He stated in respect, and to announce her presence to the still laughing princess a foot away from him.

Lady Carrillo walked right past him, but not without a deadly side glance, and straight to her granddaughter.

"This manner is simply outrageous! Not to mention that you have skipped your afternoon lessons yet again!" the lady chided upon deaf – or rather laughter filled – ears. Two maids were now running toward the scene as well, calling the princess' name.

Madame Carrillo, as she preferred to be called, was the mother of the queen, now passed. She had taken it upon herself to educate her rebellious, and rather inappropriate, granddaughter on how to become a proper noble and now royal. Her demeanor was cold, judgmental, cunning, and of course arrogant, but she was indeed knowledgeable and meticulously manipulative. She always wore a garish black dress and veil in honor of her deceased family, and to keep the sun off her pale skin. Her sky blue eyes glared at her obnoxious granddaughter.

I still can't believe they're related. Mavrek thought.

Finally, Madame Carrillo had had enough. "Get up this instant!" She grabbed her granddaughter's arm and yanked her to her feet. Princess Rhana ceased her laughter, trading her smile for a straight mouth. She yanked her arm free and returned her grandmother's icy stare. Her light brown eyes flashed red. It took Mavrek a minute to realize that the princess was mimicking the old woman. He stifled a laugh. The maids arrived, catching their breath.

"Do not test me anymore today, young lady. Don't think I don't know what you're doing." Madame Carrillo warned.

"Do not test me anymore today, young lady. Don't think I don't know what you're doing." Princess Rhana repeat in perfect mimick. Mavrek wasn't sure he could hold back much longer.

Madame Carrillo turned red with anger and frustration. Princess Rhana held her breath to do the same. Then it came: a resounding noise of skin clashing against skin. The maids gasped. The princess looked up from her new seat in the grass, holding her cheek, at the old woman. She stuck her tongue out. Madame Carrillo raised her hand for a second blow, but Mavrek stepped between the two ladies. He knew as only a squire this was not his place. However, he had promised.

"Madame, that is quite enough. I am sure the princess has learned her lesson." Mavrek said, with more courage than he actually had.

"Step aside, little squak! How dare you speak to me, you should not even be allowed to walk upon the same ground as me."

Mavrek ignored the insult and stood his ground. "Well, if that is indeed so, my lady, perhaps you should learn to fly." The maids gasped again. He knew he had overstepped his ground with that one, but when he heard Princess Rhana chuckle he ceased to care. He was sure Madame Carrillo was going to strike him next, but then the king's voice resounded from above.

"Dear Mother, I am in need of your assistance with choosing a decent look from my new dress robes for tonight. Would you mind ascending to my chambers." He commanded. The older lady adjusted herself and, with one last glance to her granddaughter, briskly turned and walked away; the maids followed.

Mavrek turned and helped the princess to her feet.

"I hate that old crone." Rhana stated.

Mavrek sighed. "Princess, you bring her wrath upon yourself."

Rhana scrunched her nose as if she had smelled something foul. "I hate it when you call me that."

Mavrek felt the blood rise to his cheeks. She's so cute when she does that. He cleared his throat. "I am here to serve you princess. I must address you appropriately."

Rhana cast her fiery gaze directly into his eyes. "Do not act so formal. We are childhood friends. We've rode together, laughed together, pulled off the most outlandish pranks. Why now do you choose to distance yourself? Mavrek, you need not be formal with me when we are alone. Father doesn't mind, he never has."

Mavrek regarded his charge with sad eyes. It was true that they had grown up together, were once very close friends, sharing every dark secret and scandalous adventure. But they were adults now – well close enough. The princess would turn sixteen within the coming month; she would be of age to marry and, once she did, would rule her kingdom. He was two years her senior, and once he was knighted was expected to wed and serve her till the end of his days.

Lately the idea of marriage appealed less and less to him, putting a bitter taste in his mouth. He knew there was only one person for him, but that she would never be his. The thought of it filled him with more sorrow than he could express.

Mavrek glanced around the courtyard and, when he saw no one, took Rhana by her shoulders and pulled her into his embrace. He lowered his head to hers.

"Rhana, you know I would give anything to be free of these expectations, to be with you as we once were. I am bound by my station as are you; such is the cruelty of life." He whispered.

Rhana held back tears; she wasn't sure if she should slap him or embrace him. Instead she pulled away and looked at him, her eyes brown again, with a softness he rarely saw. She took his hand and squeezed it in reassurance.

"Many things will change, my friend, when I come of age." She smiled that crooked smile when she had a master scheme to prank her grandmother. Then she brushed off her dress, which had many grass stains on it, and fixed her hair as best she could. Before she could turn to leave Mavrek tucked a curl behind her ear, she blushed. He bowed, she curtsied, and they shared a mocking glance.

"Be safe Princess." Mavrek said.

"Aren't I always." Princess Rhana giggled.

Mavrek watched her as she left; walking gracefully with her rumpled and stained dress, a disheveled hair. Only he and her father ever got to see how well-bred she actually could behave. He smiled as she disappeared into the castle. Something glistened in the grass and he noticed the butter knife. The young squire chuckled and picked up the utensil.

"Best return this to the kitchen. The cooks are probably in an uproar looking for it."

A/N Ok, full disclosure (in case you're thinking that their romance came too suddenly) I don't normally write romances. I prefer dark tragedies, but I thought I'd give this a go. If it gets too cheesy please let me know! Also, because I'm not a romance writer this may not work out the way you expect (especially since I'm still working out the direction I want these two to go.) just keep that in mind :P