The Guard never wanted to go near the castle again, but this was one final mission that had to be accomplished, and he would take the Princess with him. He would never leave her side again.
They waited until she was strong once again and bid farewell to the Maid in Waiting, telling her to return to the Palace and inform the Princess's father of all that had transpired.
They rode through day and night until the familiar grey turrets rose from the trees ahead of them. They stopped for a while looking at the looming grey stone and pondering the danger of what they were about to do and the fact that they may never leave this place again.
The Guard looked at his love, disguised in boy's clothes, her golden hair coiled under a rough hat. Her expression was determined and fearless. He couldn't believe how much she had grown in just over a year, and at that moment, he loved her more fiercely than ever.
The King was asleep in his huge bed, unusually and luckily alone this night. The Guard had skillfully bypassed the King's bodyguards; it took one of their own to know how to trick them. The Princess silently followed him into her old bedchamber, keeping close check on her emotions. She had to remain in control.
The Guard took out his dagger and holding it against the King's pale throat, said clearly and firmly, "Do not move."
The King jerked awake, his grey eyes full of alarm, his legs instinctively kicking out, but he soon realized there was cold steel pressing into his throat.
"Do not make a sound," the Guard whispered.
The King stared into the Guard's eyes and hissed, "It's you!"
"Yes, it is me," he replied calmly. "I want you to take me to my son."
The King glanced at the other figure standing nervously behind the Guard, but it was clear he did not recognize her. The disguise was an effective one.
"What makes you think he is still alive?" the King said.
The Guard gritted his teeth and pressed the knife into his soft flesh, "He better be," he said, "or you are a dead man."
"OK," the King conceded, "I will take you to him, I'm not interested in keeping the little bastard anyway."
In the shadows, the Princess had to summon every ounce of her self-control.
The baby was being cared for by a laundry woman at the far end of the castle. The Guard had to pull the King through darkened corridors, his knife stuck in his back, constantly alert. By the time they reached the laundry woman's quarters, the Princess could hardly breath.
The woman was startled to find the King and two strangers at her door in the dead of night, but when the King demanded to be let in, she quietly obeyed.
When the Princess saw her child she could have wept with relief. He was asleep in a cradle, healthy and clearly well cared for. The Guard's attentions were more occupied with keeping the King in check.
"Take him quickly," he said to the Princess and to the stunned laundry woman as they passed her, "Do not breath a word of this," and then they were out and away, riding through the starry night.
When they were at a safe distance, they stopped and the Guard was able to look at his son for the first time, aided by the moonlight. He lay in his mother's arms, fast asleep, his dark lashes fluttering on his cheeks. The Princess gently moved the blanket away from his face and the Guard stroked his cheek, murmuring, "He's perfect."
But then they heard galloping hooves and before they could respond, a horse appeared in front of them, rearing up angrily. The rider leapt from his saddle and shot towards them, tearing the baby from the Princess's arms.
"You are not going to get your happy ending," the King said, laughing wildly, but the Princess had not let go of the baby and passing him to his father, she grasped the knife hiding in her cloak and thrust it into the King's chest.
He slumped onto the ground, grasping himself, blood pumping into his fingers. The Princess pulled off her hat, letting her long hair fall down. She knelt by the King, blonde hair shining in the moonlight, and said "I am having your baby," as his breaths became laboured.
"I loved you," he managed to say before his breath died and he fell to the cold ground.