1.Find a prince. And try to duel him.
“You’ve got to be kidding me.” Kaya pulled the end of the rope with her teeth, securing the knot. She scanned the crowd in the market square, people of all different colors and sizes roaming around. They were laughing, talking, selling, buying, but the normal parts weren’t what Kaya was staring at.
It was the crown, right there in the center of the square, in a small glass box.
“They trust the people too much…” she muttered to herself, patting Sugar, her horse. “I’ll be back, Sugar. Don’t move and neigh if there’s trouble. There’s a sugar cube in it for ya when I’m back.”
Kaya itched at the dirt on her face. The undersides of her fingernails were already black and she ached for a nice, warm shower.
But it was important that no one recognize her.
She hooked her finger at her belt and walked slowly to the center, eyes on the prize.
“Well, howdy there fine maiden! Can I interest you in the offer of some delicious bread samples?” Kaya stifled an eye roll at the young salesman.
“Sorry, not hungry.”
She tried to walk past him, but he blocked her way.
“Where are you off to in such a hurry?”
“Is that really your business?”
“That was rhetorical. I’ll answer for you. It’s not. Good day.”
“Good. Day.” She huffed, pushing past him. And there the crown was, right in front of her. Kaya stared in awe at the way the sun filtered through the glass.
Before she could get any closer, a guard blocked her way. Kaya’s eyebrows quirked in confusion.
“Coulda sworn there weren’t any guards…” she muttered under her breath. “Excuse me, I’d just like to take a look at the crown.”
“No can do lady, the prince is coming through and he wants an unblocked sight of the beaut. If you could back up and turn to the left a little?"
“Wha-” Before she could protest, he pushed her away with the back of his sword and a red carpet was rolled through. She glared at the soldier before looking back to the red carpet to see a boy walking along with it, dragging a cape behind him and wearing a crown much too big for him on his head. Kaya scowled.
The boy walked past the guard and pressed his snobby nose straight onto the glass surrounding the crown. Kaya winced.
“This is what I endured seasickness for! Oh, this is preposterous! Absolutely preposterous! I did not come all this way to see a little girl’s play toy!”
Kaya raised her eyebrows.
Oh, he did not just insult the crown.
She fingered the dagger at her waist and ignored the soldier’s dirty looks as she pushed her way through to the crown. The boy stood up and crossed his arms.
“Look, kid, I don’t know who you are, but you don’t just go around insulting the crown, you hear?”
The prince stared her down.
“And who are you?” He wrinkled his nose as he looked her up and down, and Kaya did the same.
“I’m your worst nightmare.” She smiled, unsheathing her dagger.
“Don’t touch me! Oh, guard! Oh, how preposterous, I told mum there were maniacs on this island!”
The guard was visibly annoyed as he pulled on Kaya’s arm and took her away from the prince. She roughly pulled her arm back, rubbing her elbow.
“Sorry miss, the prince is a little...moody.”
“Right.” She rolled her eyes and walked aimlessly away.
2. Talk with
Kaya put her dagger back where it belonged and tucked a strand of extremely dirty blonde hair behind her ear.
She had to get to the crown somehow.
The prince stayed where he was, and the guard stayed still, well, guarding. The red carpet was rolled in and Kaya watched to see where it would end. She followed with her eyes to a small carriage where there were several other guards among other things. Travel cases littered the ground and the horses refreshed themselves, being tended to by servants.
“The Misipans…” She sighed. How could she have forgotten? Kingdoms from all over were coming to see the crown. The little prince might not have been impressed, but the older ones would be smarter than that. They would know its value.
Kaya crept closer to the carriage, careful to blend in. She nodded hellos to people and kept her hat low around others, people she recognized. Finally, she made it to a tree near the carriage and she stopped, stooping low.
Something nudged her from behind, and she gasped, pulling out her dagger and turning in a flash.
A large black dog stared at her in wonder, tilting his head to the side. Kaya sighed in relief resheathing her dagger.
“You scared me, boy…” She hesitantly rubbed the dog behind his ear and he curled into her, wagging his tail. “That’s a good boy…”
He barked excitedly and Kaya shushed him, bringing a finger to her lips. He whined tilting his head again. Kaya patted around in her pockets for anything she could bribe him with. She came up dry. Holding out both hands, she patted the dog on the head.
“You need to be quiet okay?” she whispered. He panted and rolled over on the ground. Kaya smiled as he stared at her with large puppy dog eyes(literally). She rolled her eyes and rubbed him on the belly.
“Good boy. Are you going to help me?”
The dog seemed to nod as he grew more and more excited and Kaya smiled.
friends enemies with other kingdoms.
The dog stood and Kaya placed a hand on his neck, rubbing his fur in small circles.
She had a dagger, a dog, and a few gold coins.
“I have to get rid of them,” she said and the dog barked softly in return.
She crept away from the tree, closer and closer to the carriage, drawing up a plan in her mind. If she could get one of the kingdoms to run off, that’d be one kingdom less to worry about.
“Okay boy...you’ve got to help me on this, alright?” Great, I’m talking to a dog…She steered the mutt towards one of the servants that were standing by the carriage. She mustered up a little courage and tapped him on the shoulder.
He jumped three feet before turning around.
“By god's girl, you scared me! What is it?”
It was definitely someone from the prince’s kingdom.
Did these people all have phobias of dirt and people?
“You will die,” she whispered, widening her eyes.
It wasn’t hard to feign madness. She knew she already looked the part, with her light blue eyes, messy hair, dirt-streaked face, and a big black dog at her side.
“Take your prince and leave- Leave while you still can!” she let her voice rise higher and higher as she spoke, and the dog barked loudly to end it.
The servant’s face grew pale and he swallowed.
“Nonsense...you’re speaking nonsense...I-I- PRINCE-WHERE’S THE PRINCE?” He ran off to the carriage and began talking to the other servants frantically waving his arms. Kaya hid behind the tree again and watched as the prince was ushered by his guard back to the carriage.
Kaya couldn’t help but laugh.
They were that gullible?
“Come with me, boy.”
4. Wear a steal the crown.
Kaya walked with the dog back into the crowd. She tucked hair that had fallen out back neatly under her cap, sighing.
“Alright...Looks like that kingdom was early, and I should be good for now. Let’s go get that crown, ay?”
The pup barked in response, standing up a little straighter. Kaya slowly maneuvered herself around the crowd, getting closer and closer to the crown.
And that’s when she bumped into the same boy selling bread from before.
“Hiya! Would you like to- Heyyy, it’s you! You’re that lass from before! Looking as suspicious as usual I see. Didn’t catch your name?”
Kaya didn’t hold back this time and rolled her eyes.
“You weren’t meant to.”
“Oh, and who’s this little pup?” The teen held his tray in one arm, bending down to pet the dog. Kaya lifted him up out of reach just in time, grunting with the weight.
“Not. For you.” She breathed exasperatedly.
“Look, I don’t know why you’re throwing so much shade, I’m just trying to be nice. Here, the name’s Baker.” He thrust his hand out towards her. Kaya glared, shifting her weight from side to side, the dog in her arms falling little by little every second.
“You’re supposed to shake it,” he whispered, waving it in her vision.
Kaya set the dog down and pushed his hand away.
“Yeah, I know, my parents aren’t very creative…” He gestured to the bread on his tray as he held it with both of his hands.
“I’m...Kaya.” And I’m going to regret this later, she thought, hanging on to the dog’s fur.
“There you go! A name to put to that pretty face. A pleasure then Kaya.”
Kaya shook her head softly.
Baker took a loaf of bread from his tray and leaned down, feeding it to the dog. He wiped his hands on his apron and got back up.
“Well, a job’s a job, I’ve got to run before my mother starts asking questions,” he winked, “she knows you’re way out of my league- wouldn’t want her to catch me talking to you,” he whispered in her ear before promptly walking away.
Kaya wiped the sweat from her brow, petting the dog.
“People. So weird, am I right? C’mon Soldier.” The dog barked in response and began panting excitedly. “What, you like the name, huh? Right then Soldier, let’s bounce.”
She walked back to the center of the square, staring at the crown. She circled it, wiping the glass with her dirty clothes. She felt around the box for some sort of opening, sliding her hands all the way to the bottom, when her hands slid over a keyhole.
“Bingo…” She kept one finger on the keyhole so as to not lose its place, and unhooked a small pin from her hair with the other hand. She shoved the pin inside, wiggling it around before she heard a satisfying click. Sweat ran down her forehead and she grinned, twisting the pin like a key. Something else clicked. She carefully took the pin out and pried the glass off with her fingers. It fell with a thud to the grass.
Soldier began yipping excitedly, about to lunge onto the sparkling crown.
“No!” Kaya blocked him, coming face to tongue as Soldier licked all over her face, wiping off some of the dirt.
“Ohhh, that’s disgusting.” She pushed him off, wiping her face with her sleeves.
She walked over to the glass and gently pushed it to the side, staring at the crown. It was beautiful, golden with a single red stone at the tip, laying on a small red velvet pillow.
Just before she could set her hands on it, pain erupted in her lower leg and she cried out, falling to the ground. She stared down at her calf and gasped to see an arrow sticking out of it. Stunningly bright red blood dripped down, sogging her shoes.
Kaya grit her teeth and pulled the arrow out, gasping in pain. She put pressure on the wound, tears stinging her eyes.
“Think you can steal the crown, ey?” Someone jumped out and Kaya swiveled her head from side to side, trying to see who’d shot her.
She saw a man, probably in his twenties, dressed in a green tunic and with a weird hat on his head. He had a bow slung over his shoulders and he was chewing something between his yellowed teeth.
“Well, not before me.” He walked up to Kaya, stepping over her body, hovering his hands over the shining crown. Kaya moved her good leg out, tripping the man to the ground, and he fell face-first onto the dirt.
“Sorry...not...today!” She grunted, pulling herself up with the side of the glass. She grabbed the crown just as the man shot her again, in the other leg. She yelped as she fell, but kept a firm grip on the crown.
“A feisty one, aren’t ya? Didn’t plan for this…” He adjusted the hat, which had a feather sticking out, and crouched down. He set down the bow and arrow. “Hand it over kid, and no one has to get hurt.”
“No one has to get hurt?” She managed to get the sarcasm out even as she pulled out the second arrow, biting back a scream. “Obviously we’re past that point. And you aren’t getting this crown.” She hugged it close to her side.
“Look, little lady, I don’t mean to offend you, but you’re a child. I’m trying to make the world a better place here!”
“You’re stealing a crown, someone’s morals are obviously disgruntled.”
“Look who’s talking! Hand it over.” He reached forward and Kaya scowled, pulling the crown closer to her chest.
The man sighed. “I didn’t want to have to do this…” Kaya quirked her eyebrows as the man brought his fingers to his lips and blew, letting out a long whistle. She winced as the high-pitched sound hit her ears. “Boys! Come out!” He picked up his bow and arrow and Kaya squinted, staring at the unsuspecting crowd around.
She had just about decided maybe the man was crazy when she heard a battle cry coming. Slowly, three..four….seven men came out, dressed in similar manners to the man.
“Need some help, ey Robin?” one of the men said. He held no weapon, rather in his hands was a ukulele, and he strummed it dramatically.
“Just get the crown…”
Robin aimed again and Kaya shut her eyes tight, holding the crown so tight, she was sure it would break. She waited but the arrow never came. She opened her eyes one by one.
The ukulele guy from before sat in front of her, a dramatic expression on his face.
And then he burst out into song.
“Give us the crown, please! Give us the croooown. Ohhh yeahhh. You won’t regret it! Just give us the crown...Your...face is...very brown! We want the poor to be happy, make it snappy, give. Us. The. Crown!” he sang to out of tune playing, and Kaya resisted the urge to cover her ears.
“Are you done?”
The man put a hand on his heart mockingly, gasping.
“Am I- Yeah I’m done.” He got up. “Okay, you can shoot her now.”
Robin rolled his eyes and set aim again. Kaya scrambled to stand.
“Can’t I team up with you?”
Robin hesitantly lowered his bow. He whispered intently with one of the men next to him. Their conversation ended and Robin nodded curtly.
“Okay, kid. We’re leaving the island to sell the crown, you willing to do that?”
“Leaving the…” Memories flew by in her mind. Playing in the trees, swimming on the shore, playing in the sand...But mostly, boredom. She shook the doubt from her mind.
Besides, it was that or death by arrow. “Yes.”
The Ukulele man held out an arm and Kaya held on, letting him pull her up.
5. Get to know Leave everyone in your kingdom.
She kept a firm hold on the crown, and she felt a nudge at her leg.
“Soldier!” She rubbed his fur. The man let go of her hand and she winced as the weight was put on her injured legs. Robin rubbed behind his neck as he neared her.
“Right. Sorry about that. Crown?”
“I’ll give it to you on the boat. After you promise not to kill me.”
“Oh, we’re not going to kill you, honest. You’re one of us now, we agreed. Welcome to the merry men! Er, men and woman. Who’s this?” He gestured to Soldier.
“Great. Come on.”
Kaya followed as they walked through the crowd and towards the water.
“So...about your song. What are you planning on doing with the crown?”
The Ukulele man smiled.
“We’re going to sell it and give the money to the poor. It’s what we do. Welcome to the club.”
“Huh.” They came up to the waterline and to a small wooden boat by the shore, held onto the bridge with tightly tied knots.
In seeing the rope, she gasped, remembering Sugar.
“No time kid, get on the boat,” one of them shoved her on the boat, staring out into the crowd. Kaya glared at him before moving her sight to where he was staring. She saw everyone in a frenzy and the royal guard running through. She gasped, pulling Soldier closer.
Soon, all the men were boarded and Robin was untying the rope that held them to the bridge. The knot fell into the water and he pushed them out to sea. Two of them starting rowing them farther and farther out.
Kaya slid against the wall of the boat, pulling her pant leg up to examine her scar. The blood had mostly stopped running but it still hurt.
Around her, the men cheered.
“We did it, boys!”
Kaya smiled and set the crown down.
“Couldn’t have done it without ya kid. Here.” He handed her a waterskin, and Kaya took it. She spilled some onto her hands, rubbing her face to rid it of dirt. She sighed as the cold water took the dirt and sweat away. She rubbed at her face with her hands until she was sure she was clean.
The Ukulele man gaped at her.
“You’re the princess, aren’t you?!”
Kaya rolled her eyes.
“Yes, will that be a problem?”
He shook his head in disbelief, singing some other song on his ukelele. All the men joined in and Kaya leaned back, satisfied.
6. Live happily ever after.
They rowed out into the calm waters, and Kaya smiled at the sun. Bleeding and sweaty, surrounded by badly singing men, she'd never been happier.