A ruler is someone who must fight. This I have been taught since childhood.
The night is dark as I climb over the palace walls to the waiting city below. A few stars peek through the clouds to shed a faint, pale version of their light. I let myself drop the last couple feet, my boots make hardly a sound as they land on the dew covered grass.
From the moment the crown touches a ruler’s head, they must fight to keep the peace, to rule the kingdom, to stay on the throne. There will always be someone who would rather wear the crown. There will always be someone ready to tear apart the peace and set chaos loose. There will always be someone who disagrees with the rules.
I keep to the darkest shadows as I slip through the city, my heart pounding against my chest so hard I think it might bruise. The satchel slung over my back seems heavier than before, and it digs into my shoulder.
To wear a crown means every day is a struggle, every hour a close call. Rulers surround themselves with guards and advisers, but it never quite sets them to rest. Advice must be weighed with caution and searched for alternate motives. Paranoia seeps in, questioning the loyalty of their soldiers.
I glance over my shoulder, my imagination running wild with tales of killers in the darkness, or someone waiting to drag me back. A cold sweat breaks over my skin, and I run. I run to the edge of the city, then slip past its gates.
The road ahead of me is dark and I cannot see where it goes, but that does not matter. It will take me away and that is enough.
A ruler can never let down their guard.
Not when they sleep, not when they eat, not when they speak with friends. Assassins love the dark, food is easily poisoned, and betrayal only comes from the ones you trust.
A ruler must know the feel of a blade and how to use it, for they will carry one at their side until the day they die.
At the crest of a hill, I glance back one more time. The city is barely visible, a dim glow from taverns and inns outlining its edges. Looming over it all, dark and cold as the stone that built it, the palace waits. It never sleeps. Not even in the dead of night, when every light is out.
To wear the crown means to fight alone. It means playing mind games that will cause insanity. It means never trusting, never resting.
I would rather run for the rest of my life then walk those gilded halls again.
I turn away, facing the night before me. A flicker of excitement sparks inside my chest. The possibilities have sunk into my pulse, beating stories of what might be, of I only reach out for them.
I plunge into the darkness and shed my royal skin.
The prince is no more.