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Unfortunately she was finding it hard to concentrate. It was a beautiful day. The sun filtering through the magnificent stained glass window danced playfully with the little rainbow shining down from the crystal chandelier. The soft melodies of the musicians in the courtyard filtered in through another open window. A soft breeze teased the elaborate tapestries which hung from the stone walls. Yet, with all this beauty and magnificence, Saleena was depressed. She lay on her silk pillows and stared at the open sky through her window. “How dull my life is,” she sighed, “nothing but a mix of banquets, balls, lessons, and suitors.” How she longed for something more. She wanted adventure, magic, even danger, things no princess should ever long for. Still, this wasn’t the reason for her deep misery. No, she had dealt with those things for nearly 16 years. The real reason was her parents.

Tomorrow would be Saleena’s 16th birthday, upon which she would be expected to announce the name of her future husband. The very idea of marriage made her sick to her stomach. She didn’t want to be stuck for the rest of her life with some brainless prince whose only claim-to-fame was that dear old dad had saved a country “way back when,” a lazy aristocratic fiend who could no more swing a sword than he could sew and only wished to marry her for her father’s title and money and so he could show her off at the Grand Duchess’s next annual grand ball!

Suddenly her train of thought was broken by a sharp whistle from outside her window. She jumped up (if only her father new!) and ran (yes, ran!) to the window. Sure enough, there was Jax standing in the courtyard below. “Would m’lady care for a stroll through the royal gardens on this fine day?” he called in a very bad impression of one of Saleena’s latest suitors. “I don’t know of any ladies within this window, but I certainly would love to come!” she called back. She ran to lock her door so no one would discover her disappearance, looked out the window to be certain no one was around to catch her, and threw a rope ladder over the window sill. If anyone saw her and told her father, there would soon be bars over her window! Another thing the king didn’t approve of was his daughter associating with “common folk!” Well, Jax was anything but common, but her father would never understand that.