On his journey to rescue a princess stuck in a tower, a prince recruits a peasant boy named Fern to assist him.
"So," the prince said, leaning against the rickety wooden fence. "There's this princess-Princess Myra I think was her name- I'm supposed to rescue. Up in a huge tower, and all that noise. Supposed to be the prettiest thing in the world, prettier than the moon. The thing is..."
A long sigh accompanied his next words. "I'm no good with heights. Haven't been since I fell from that second story window when I was a kid."
Fern raised an eyebrow in response.
"I suppose you're wondering how I survived, and what that has to do with you," the prince continued, waving his left hand as he spoke. "Well, simply put, you're going in my place."
At Fern's narrowed eyes, the prince leaned back a bit, holding his hands in front of him. "Hey now-" His hurried speech was interrupted by the rotten wood of the fencing caving in on itself under his weight. With a big crash and a good deal of panicked arm-flailing, the prince fell on his back, splinters of wood littering the ground all around him.
"Ack-ow," he muttered, lying prone there for a moment to get feeling back in his spine. When he opened his eyes, Fern was there, holding a hand out to him.
"Oh, thank you," the prince said, grabbing the offered hand. With a bit of effort, he was back on his feet, surveying the conspicuous hole he had just created in the fence. "I don't suppose...?"
He turned back to Fern and found that the other boy still had his hand held out to him. He blinked in confusion, glancing from the hand to the boy's grumpy expression. Then suddenly, the prince's green eyes lit up with understanding
"You. You didn't hold your hand out to me when I was on the ground to help me up, did you?" the prince asked, scowling when Fern shook his head in answer. "It was for compensation for breaking your fence, huh."
A mischievous smile, slightly too big, spread across Fern's face. The prince groaned and smacked a hand against his own face.
"Alright alright, Fern, I'll fix it. I'll pay for it. I'll even fancy it up with some decorations Just come rescue that princess with me," the prince muttered, dismissing the other boy with a wave of his hand. "Your fence'll be brand new once you get back."
Fern cast a critical gaze over the ruined fence that he had helped build with his own hands in the old days, when there had been coins enough to spare for such a thing. What was it that they had been keeping in? What was it that they had been they keeping out? Absolutely nothing.
They had just liked how the fence looked, how it contained their rundown little house and made them feel safer.
His gaze went back to the prince, who was now leaning against another section of the fence. Obviously the spoiled boy had learned nothing from his earlier experience. Fern rolled his eyes, and knelt beside the prince's pack, digging through its cluttered contents.
"Ah-hey, what're you doing?" Fern ignored the boy's protests as he continued taking out everything that looked like dead weight. Clothes, heavy pieces of jewelry, a goddamn crown, etc.
"Stop that!" the prince exclaimed, picking the crown up and dusting it off. "I need this! So what if I can't actually wear it while I'm traveling? And those clothes were expensive! Don't get them dirty!"
Fern gave him a meaningful look, which made the prince hang his head in defeat and hand over his prized crown. "Oh, fine, let's just sell them. They're going to get dirty anyway."
Good enough for Fern then. The boy nodded, slung the pack on his left shoulder, and got to his feet. As soon as he stood up, he began walking in the general direction of the town's market. The prince, more than a little miffed at this point, trudged after him, not expecting the other boy to ruffle his hair reassuringly.
He looked up to see Fern staring at him with a helpless smile, the crown still in his hands. The peasant boy reached over and delicately hooked the crown on the inside of the prince's jacket before pulling the hood of his clothes up and over his face.
"Ah, right, someone could recognize me. Thanks, Fern," the prince muttered, tugging the hood further down. His vision was partially blocked, but he could still catch the small nod that the other boy sent him.
And with that, they made their way down to the market, the prince's steps no longer weighed down with the thought of all that came ahead.