The Price of Protection

Chapter 10

The sunlight filtering through the ripped tent woke Katherine up the next morning. She blinked her eyes and frowned, realizing that she felt much warmer than the night before. She then remembered that the prince had visited her tent the night before, giving her the extra blanket. She smiled, touch by the prince's gesture. However, a frown formed on her face, since she knew that the prince should not be taking care of her. Sighing, the brunette got up and exited the tent to see a bustling camp site.

Her eyes scanned the area and then finally landed on their target. Katherine immediately walked over to the prince, blanket in hand. His back was turned to her, but she addressed him anyway.

"Pardon me, Your Highness," Katherine said bowing and holding out her occupied hand. "I just wished to return this to you."

The prince, who had turned around, smiled gently at and shook his head. "No, keep it, I insist." He gently pushed Katherine's hand down. Katherine had to keep a straight face as felt a slight spark when their hands touched.

"Are you sure? You might need it."

The prince chuckled softly. "I am sure. Now, I suggest you have whatever is left over for breakfast, we will be leaving shortly."

Katherine nodded, before bowing an dreaded off to the fire in the middle of the camp. Sure enough, there were a few fish left to eat. After quickly eating two of them, Katherine returned to her tent and began to pack up her things. When she was taking down her tent, Javier walked over, a concerned look on his face.

"What happened to your tent?" He asked.

"A wild animal attacked it," Katherine lied, refusing to look at her comrade. She saw Javier's hand touch one of the flaps.

"I doubt that the animal had a sword," he murmured. "These way these cuts are formed suggest they are from a sword." He raised an eyebrow, waiting for an explanation. Katherine just sighed, before speaking.

"Some of our fellow soldiers destroyed it."

As she said this, Javier's expression twisted into an angry scowl.

"Why those little," he muttered, swearing under his breath.

Katherine shook her head. "Do not worry, it is nothing to get upset over."

"The hell it isn't! Javier exclaimed, shocking the brunette."They should have enough respect for you not to do that!"

"But they do not." Katherine shrugged her shoulders as she finished packing. "I doubt I will ever win their respect."

"You have gained mine though," Javier stated.

Katherine smiled softly, beginning to equip her horse. "I appreciate that. Anyway, are we leaving soon?"

Javier nodded. "In a few moments, the soldiers are just finishing gathering their things."

The brunette nodded, double checking her supply bag. As she was doing this, she thought she felt someone's eyes on her. She turned around and searched the area, her eyes landing on a certain prince. Sure enough, cerulean eyes were staring at her, only to widen and look away when he realized he had been caught. Katherine chuckled and shook her head, trying not to blush as she mounted Aristotle. A moment later, the other soldiers mounted their horses as well. A signal was given and the troop set off.

The journey was like the day before, quiet and calm. Most of the soldiers were keeping their eyes peeled for bandits or other threats. However, Katherine noticed that some soldiers were nodding off on their horses, forcing themselves awake. The brunette shook her head, surprised at the lack of professionalism and loyalty they were showing.

The hours passed dauntingly, making Katherine wish that they would reach their destination. There was not much scenery to observe, since the troop was traveling through the forest. Finally, several hours later, Katherine saw the edge of woodlands approach and she resisted the urge to rush forward. When the troop reached the end of the woods, they neared a cliff that overlooked a small town. From her view of the bluff, Katherine could see the village and an array of rivers that were nearby. She could also see mountains in the distance, green from the summer grass. There also seemed to be a small beach nearby, which lead into a portion of the sparkling sea. The brunette was in awe, she had never seen such a sight before in her whole life!

"Beautiful, is it not?" a voice inquired next to her. Katherine was almost startled. She had been so lost in her admiration of the view, that she had not noticed the prince come up beside her.

"Yes it is," she murmured, her gaze fixated on the sight in front of her.

"We stop here for a few moments before going into the village just admire the scenery," the prince hummed. "Now come, I wish to enter the village before nightfall."

Katherine frowned and scrunched her eyebrows together in confusion. "Sunset is not for another few hours, I believe."

The prince shrugged. "I like exploring the town whenever I come here. You'll love it, I'm sure." He gave her a reassuring smile before trotting down the road. Katherine just stared after him for a moment, before following him.

It was a while before the troop actually reached the town. When they arrived, Katherine saw the town was bustling with people who were doing work or shopping. The town was filled with various shops, from dresses to candles. The troop stopped by a small inn, where Katherine assumed they were going to stay for the night. As they dismounted their horses, the troop was greeted by a woman coming out of the inn.

"Oh, hello, Your Highness," the woman said, curtsying a little. When she straightened herself, her green eyes sparkled and Katherine could see that the woman was clearly with child.

"Hello, Agnes," the prince chuckled, dismounting his horse and approaching the woman. "Do you have any room for my men and I tonight?"

Agnes cocked her head, clearly counting the number. "I am pretty sure I have enough room. The finest room is yours, of course," she stated, scurrying inside as fast as her body would allow her to.

The prince and the troop followed her inside. When they entered, Katherine saw that the first floor was a bar with some tables and booths set up along the walls. Behind the bar was a black haired man, a few years older than Katherine, tending to some customers.

"Phillip, Prince Richard and his men are here," Agnes called before walking upstairs.

"Greetings, Your Highness," Phillip said, bowing.

"It is nice to see you again, Phillip. I see you have been busy," the prince joked, gesturing towards upstairs.

Phillip chuckled and nodded. Katherine could practically feel the joy radiating off of him. "Yes, I have. Although, Agnes is quite fiery when with child it seems."

Richard chuckled. "Well, maybe it will different next time." The other man just rolled his eyes as the prince headed upstairs. When the troop arrived on the next floor, several doors were open in the hallway.

"You are in luck; I have just enough rooms for each soldier to get his own," Agnes stated and then her green eyes turned to Katherine. "And who is this lovely young lady?"

"This is Katherine," the prince said. Katherine held out her hand for the woman to shake. "She is our newest soldier."

Agnes took the brunette's hand warmly, her eyes portraying interest. "It is a pleasure to meet you."

"Likewise," Katherine stated warmly.

"Well, just give a yell if you need anything. I must return downstairs." The blonde then returned downstairs, waddling slightly as she did so.

The prince then turned to the troop, smiling. "You are free to explore the town as much as you wish. Just be sure to get a good night's sleep, since we are leaving earlier tomorrow." The troop all seemed to relax at this and wasted no time in leaving the prince alone. Looking around, Katherine realized that she was the only one left.

"Are you sure you will be okay alone?"

The prince waved a dismissive hand. "I am perfectly capable of handling myself. Now, go out and enjoy yourself for a while; you deserve it." He grinned at her and winked. Katherine chuckled, bowed, and thanked him.

Once she left the inn, Katherine explored the town, paying attention to every detail. The streets were filled with venders selling items ranging from fine silks to fresh produce. The shops were also busy too, with people either leaving or entering them. As she walked down the street, one shop in particular caught the brunette's eye. It was a dress shop that had simple window display. Normally, Katherine was not one for dresses, but the designs in the particular shop appeared interesting, so Katherine decided to browse the shop.

When she entered, Katherine looked around and saw that no one else was there. Shrugging , she began to browse the various dresses, finding the various patterns that decorated some of the dresses unique. Katherine was looking at a light blue dress with an intricate pattern of swirls on it, when a voice greeted her.

"Hello, may I help you?" the voice said. The brunette turned around, facing a blonde woman with kind blue eyes and a polite smile.

"No, thank you, I am just browsing," Katherine responded.

"I am Madeline," the woman responded, placing herself beside the brunette. "I am the owner of this shop."

"I see," Katherine chuckled. "Your dresses are very unique, I love some of the patterns you have." The woman's eyes lit up at the mention of the patterns.

"Ah yes, my speciality," she said excitedly. "I created all these dresses. I have an assistant who helps me, of course. However, all of the designs were my idea."

"Impressive," Katherine mumbled, a deep red dress catching her eye.

Madeline followed her and cocked her head in curiosity. "Is that a soldier's uniform you are wearing?"

"Yes," Katherine answered with a slight smile. " I am a part King Rodger's army. I am protecting the prince at the moment."

"Prince Richard?" The brunette nodded. "It has been a while side I have seen him. How is he?"

"He is well," the brunette responded, lifting up the dress. The dress was a deep red with a swirl pattern weaves into the fabric with gold thread. This dress was clearly meant for a ball or party.

"Would you like to try it on?"

"Goodness no!" Katherine exclaimed. "I cannot even afford it." Even if she really like the dress, she knew there was no point in trying it on.

"Oh come, I insist, just to see what it looks like on you," Madeline said, pushing Katherine towards the changing screen. "But first." The blonde undid the braid in
her hair, fluffing out the brown waves. "Now go on," Madeline urged Katherine, giving the brunette a reassuring smile.

Katherine sighed and rolled her eyes, before reluctantly getting behind the screen.

Richard walked the streets of the small town casually. He loved being in this particular town. Whenever he went on a journey, he made sure to stop in the particular town. He knew many of the people very well, and were friends with most of them, despite him being royalty. He very close with Agnes and Phillip and was glad to see that they were going to have a child. He knew they had been trying, and obviously they had been successful.

As he wandered the town, Richard planned to stop by the particular dress shop owned by a woman named Madeline. His mother loved Madeline's designs and Richard always made sure to return home with one of talented seamstress' dresses. When he entered the shop, he spotted Madeline standing near the changing screen. Obviously having heard the door open, Madeline turned and smiled at him, curtsying. She then put a finger to her lips, urging him to be quiet. The prince, although confused, decided to play was then that he noticed a silhouette behind the screen.

"I am sure it looks fine," Madeline insisted to the person behind the screen.

"I feel ridiculous," the person grumbled. Richard's eyes widen when he realized to whom the voice belonged.

"I will be the judge of that," Madeline stated. The prince held back a laugh as he heard a slight huff. Finally, a moment later, Katherine stepped out from behind screen. The moment she did, Richard lost all ability to speak

"So, what do you think?" the brunette asked, twirling around.

Richard wanted to comment, but found no words capable of describing the image in front of him. Katherine was absolutely gorgeous, breath-taking even. The red dress made have her skin a slight glow, and the neck accentuated her slender arms were tight, making the brunette's arms look slender and feminine, along with her hands. The dress fitted nicely, giving an emphasis on her breast area. Her brown locks fell in soft curls around her face. Richard found himself having the urge to run a finger along her neck. His daydreaming was interrupted by Madeline's voice.

"You look absolutely lovely," Madeline exclaimed. "What do you think, You Highness?" she asked, almost smirking when she saw the look on Richard's face.

Katherine's head snapped towards the direction of the prince when he was addressed, and her eyes widened in surprise.

"I, uh," Richard stuttered. "You look stunning, Katherine."

The brunette blinked in surprise, before curtsying. "That is very kind of you, Your Highness."

Richard chuckled. "I mean it, you really do look lovely; the color suits you."

Katherine just nodded, before turning to Madeline. "Thank you for letting me try the dress on, but I cannot afford it, unfortunately. Let me change back into my uniform." The prince chuckled as Madeline sighed, but nodded. Katherine then stepped back behind the screen, beginning to change. As she did this, Richard kept replaying the image of her in the dress in his head. It really would be nice to see it on her again.

So, when he saw Madeline being handed the dress again, the prince pulled out his coin pouch from his belt and held it up. This earned a grin and a wink from Madeline, who gladly took the money.

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