94

The Royal Court of Alisandre was as old as it gets, and as new as they could make it, byzantine to its own youth.  According to Draig’s memory, the Princess had never been lost, though he often kept her company by encouragement, a sense of duty, and sheer curiosity.  No one ever stopped them, and he understood without being told that no one was to stop her.  Besides, why would he?  The kind of trouble she got into was no bigger than him.

This time, they’d found a seam, where well-kept ancient building met gleaming expansion.  Soleil peered through a waist-high portico on the old side.  “There are stairs!”  She boosted herself to hang through it.  “Small, not grand.”  The Princess wiggled over the lip and stood again to face him from the other side, now taller.  “They go up,” she said, pointing, and disappeared as she beckoned him up behind her.

They climbed together around a bend in the stair, losing the new wall behind them.  Above and ahead was a similarly sized opening, blocked with a piece of fitted and barred wood.  Fists at her waist, she inspected it.  “You can reach that, can’t you?”

Draig raised his arms to grip the wooden bar.  “I can get a good hold.”

Looking from him to the barricade, her smile grew.  “Will you help me open it?”  Catching the smile, he nodded.  It was blocked, neither sealed nor locked; he didn’t think there’d be a skeleton or a beast behind it.  She held up the barricade while he removed the bar, and together they cajoled the piece of wood from its dusty seat.

They squinted their eyes against the sudden breeze that blew across their faces.  The Princess peeked out.  “It’s a walkway.”  She boosted herself over and through like last time.  Draig felt his heart pound.  Soleil’s head poked above the sill – she was sitting.  “It’s high down this side,” she said tersely.  Her dark hair picked up in the wind.  He went to follow her out, but she said, “You’d better not.”  All he could see from his view was part of her and a section of stone beyond.

“I’m just going to…”  With a hand inside the opening, she stood.  The breeze couldn’t be that strong, could it?  She was standing differently, eyes blinking, face serious.  Then, she just climbed back in.  They left things the way they found them.

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