The Prince was roused from his fitful sleep by a pair of wings slapping his face.
“Wake up!” said the Barn Owl. “Wake—up! There is an intruder!”
“Intruder?” repeated the Prince drowsily.
No one had ventured into their territory for years, meaning the owl hadn’t been able to do his job as watchman. There was no one left to protect, nothing to protect them from. It was no wonder he saw this opportunity and went about it with vigor.
“Someone has parked a red car at the end of the road,” said the Barn Owl. “They’re waiting on the outskirts of the forest! They need only wander in and they could easily find the palace!”
The Prince sat up, his heart racing. “Lady Kelsea,” he breathed. “I did not think she would come!”
“Who the blazes is Lady Kelsea?” the Barn Owl demanded, watching the Prince scramble into his day clothes and snatch his coat from the ground.
“It’s no business of yours,” he snapped, knowing well that explaining it would trigger another lecture.
“I’m keeping watch, it bloody well is my business!”
The Prince shook his head. “Tell Lady Kelsea not to go anywhere!”
The owl’s yellow eyes widened with shock. “You want me to speak to a commoner?” he cried. “It will end in disaster!”
“Whatever it takes, I cannot have her walk away! I made a promise. Tell her to wait, and I’ll follow you shortly.”
“How could you make a promise to a commoner?”
Something inside of him snapped for the first time in years, and he found he could no longer handle the Barn Owl’s selfish reprimands. “Just go!” he shouted. “Tell her Caspar is coming!”
Bound by duty, the owl gave an angry screech as he vanished out the window.
Hesitating, the Prince crossed the hall to a room where the jewels were stored. He didn’t know how to find a princess, much less keep her around—but the tales his nanny told him implied that jewelry always helped.
The Prince opened a box, selecting an amber pendant that reminded him of Lady Kelsea’s hair. It hung daintily from a fine silver chain. He put it in his pocket and took a breath, then turned on his heel and ran.
He bolted down the spiral stairs two steps at a time, hoping the owl had reached Lady Kelsea before she could leave.
The Prince crashed through the forest, his feet pounding on damp autumn dirt, retracing a path familiar to him. He knew it by heart after all his ventures into town. This time he followed it with a different purpose, not stopping until he found the red car mentioned by the Barn Owl.
Beside it paced a flustered Kelsea, her hair tied back in a messy knot. Hearing him approach, she whirled around to face him.
“An owl just yelled at me to stay put,” she cried, advancing several steps towards him. “What the hell—”
The Prince dug the amber pendant from his pocket and held it out, gasping for breath. “I—I’m sorry—for the delay,” he panted, “Lady Kelsea…”
Her eyes were fixed on the jewel now, alarm mixed with confusion. “What’s going on, Caspar?”
“I’m late,” he lamented, “but the ballgown is in the palace and I am eager to show it to you. Forgive my tardiness.”
“Caspar, what are you?”
He swallowed hard, not sure how to answer the question. “Will you just come with me,” he asked at last, “please?”
He now saw that Kelsea was trembling, though from anger or fear he could not tell. Perhaps sending her a talking owl had not been the most prudent choice, but what other option did he have?
Finally she nodded, swallowing hard, balling her fists. “Show me,” Kelsea said, her voice trembling. “Show me the dress…and the palace.”
Does she believe him? I think it’s hard to doubt a peculiar fellow’s story when a barn owl is yelling at your face. The question now is whether Kelsea will keep him around or run away.
What would you do in her position?
Here we conclude the first week! Thank you for reading the first week of The Autumn Prince; it has been an honor to share it with you so far, and especially know you’ve enjoyed it! Come back Monday to see Kelsea’s reaction. Maybe the Prince has found his princess after all!
Here are the links to the other chapters, in case you’ve missed out! Also, follow my blog if you’ve enjoyed the story so far–it’s going to be updated every weekday this month!