The guard stood to attention in the King's private reception room. He had been summoned, only minutes earlier and was mystified why he was here. He rarely left the confines of the Princess's quarters and to find himself in this most private of rooms was puzzling and slightly overwhelming, even for him. Only the King and his most trusted advisor stood before him, having dismissed the footmen the moment he had arrived.
The King gravely looked him up and down.
'I have heard good reports about you,' he said. 'You fought bravely in battle, and you have been a loyal servant for many years.'
The guard swallowed his guilt. If only he knew.
'I think you have intelligence too, I can see it in your eyes.' His eyes flicked to his advisor, who nodded slightly. 'I need your absolute loyalty. What I am about to say to you is of the utmost secrecy.'
'You have my word, Your Highness,' he said.
The King paused for a moment, cleared his throat and continued. 'The Prince has requested that you join his household and accompany him and his new wife on their journey home.'
The guard could not help raise an eyebrow in surprise.
'I do not know why he asked for you in particular but I am glad that he did, because I would be able to trust no one else,' and he added, 'I believe you also have my daughter's trust.'
The guard dared not respond.
'This union has brought a certain protection to my lands,' he continued, 'but it is not secure, and to be honest, I do not completely trust the Prince.'
The King was proving to be far more astute than he had ever thought.
'Therefore this request is somewhat fortuitous. I wish you to join the Prince's household, but your loyalty will still be to me. You will watch and you will gleen information, and report back to me. In other words, you will act as my Secret Agent.'
All was quiet for a moment as he was allowed time to digest what had just been said.
'Do you accept this posting? It is an important mission and I need your complete commitment.'
The guard did not even need time to consider. He felt that this request had dropped in his lap from the heavens itself. To accompany the Princess, now she was married, would be a painful task. It would test his resolve to the limit, but he was born for a mission like this. Those long hours confined in Palace rooms had not gone to waste.
'I accept, my Lord,' he said, and to himself whispered, 'with all my heart.'