Oh dear.

Oh dear, oh dear. I knew it. None of these trees look familiar. Oh my, I've never seen that pond before. I think... oh, I think I've gotten myself lost.

Tino readjusted the golden crown atop his head and leaned, breathless, against a tree. He loved walks and took them often, but this expedition had not been one of leisure. That frightening duke Ivan from the snowy faraway had come for an impromptu visit at the castle. Tino had overheard Ivan and the King of Denmark bargaining land and... had heard a bid for himself as well. Tino knew that his king, though stingy with what he considered "his," could be swayed with a good deal (or a good fight), and Tino would not put it past Duke Ivan the Frightening to sell his own soul for additional "property." So, as the flight response was ignited within Prince Tino, he ran from the castle and into the forest he frequented. However, veered from his usual path, ducking through thicker foliage and weaving around taller trees, he had made a satisfying escape.

While running, he had formed a sloppy plan in his mind: hide out in the forest until Ivan returned to his land of snow, close enough to find his way home after a few days, but far enough not to be caught.

Alas, his current predicament rendered him hopelessly lost. While he had left shortly after breakfast, through the dense green leaves above he could make out small specks of deep purple sky. Night was falling. Every moment rendered him more and more blind. His stomach growled at him for not thinking out his plan more thoroughly, for not keeping it in mind as he fled. Tino grimaced and leaned his back against a tree, sliding down slowly. He held his hands in front of his face, squinting to make out the vague image.

His belly grumbled in complaint and he placed his hands upon it. "It's too dark to find food," he said to himself. "I will get something to eat in the morning."

Tino willed his body to rest, but it was difficult. Though he needed his energy after his day of running and walking, it was hard to find peace resting against an upright and rough tree when he had never spent a night away from his soft, warm bed in all of his years of life. The noises of the forest that had kept him company during the day turned ominous and threatening when the sun disappeared. Tino hugged himself, his eyes rolling madly behind closed lids.

He fell into a restless sleep just hours before dawn.


It was the first thought in Tino's conscious mind as he awoke, feeling tired, hungry, and very irritable. His mood wasn't improved when he scraped his elbow on the tree as he was pushing himself to a stand, and his search for something edible had turned up fruitless for the better half of the morning.

Feeling sick and fatigued and not quite minding the idea of going home regardless of creepy guests, he crouched down in a clearing to take a rest. Lying down in the soft grass he sighed. His crown rolled from his head, but anymore he didn't care. He rolled onto his stomach and moaned. He had never been this hungry in his life. At every turn he'd ever made, there was a servant to cater to his whims. He was fed nearly every hour, pampered with cushions and velvet, never finding the need to lift a finger for even the most menial tasks. It was a wonder he wasn't fat. He had always found solace in the fresh air of the woods, but after just a day surrounded by trees, he wouldn't mind staying in the stuffy castle for an entire year without setting a foot outside.

"Where's a maid when you really need one?" he mumbled, rubbing his eyes.

He must have fallen asleep, because when he woke up the air was cooler and the sky was tinged a faint orange. Tino sat up and blinked the sleep away from his eyes, scanning his surroundings. He stood, brushed the dirt off of his front and backside and strolled through a few bushes back the way he had come that morning.

When he saw it, he froze.


How had he not seen it before?

A bush, peppered in bright red berries, leaves fluttering gently in the breeze, coaxing him in. His belly rumbled in encouragement, and Tino surged forward, sifting his hands through the bush so that the berries were caught while the leaves slid through the tiny opening of his fingers. He popped a handful in his mouth and chewed hastily, going for more.

But then the bitterness of the berries shot a hole through his hungry haze and his eyes widened in realization. He dropped the remaining red fruits in his hands and coughed, his arms wrapping themselves around his stomach as the bitter pain began. Tino moaned, staggering back into a tree.

He felt hot, too hot, and his vision was going on him. The innocent-looking bush blurred and faded as Tino slipped into a wretched slumber, terrified that he would never again wake to see the light of day.

Tino was not sure whether or not he was floating between life and death. He could not be certain of his surroundings at all, for his eyes would not open, and his mind was fuzzy. But he was quite sure he was dead. Bordering his line of consciousness he noted that another being was present, for he could hear footsteps. They stopped, and a moment later, a hard, hard pain surged through his stomach. It was... it was almost like he had received a blow from a fist.

He could feel himself retching.

And then, once more, dark nothingness.


Gah. I want to continue so badly. But it is a school night, and my bed beckons. So I will continue tomorrow. Reviews would be absolutely amazing.