“Princess Madeline?” her professor asked to no response. “Princess Madeline,” he yelled, whipping his willow branch on top of her desk, shaking his head in frustration. “Please pay attention. In the ancient days of the dragons, Lord Hawthorne created what is called Hawthorne’s Theory, a series of complex battle arrangements designed to startle the enemy and keep them off guard.” Her professor continued talking and pointing to various diagrams and outlines on the wall.
Princess Madeline could barely keep her eyes open. She was waging a personal battle between fighting off sleep during the day and fighting off her nightmares at night. Her eyelids grew heavier the longer Professor Warren spoke. The low steady tone of his voice, the long lectures on lords, kings and history, even the bland beige robe he was wearing lulled her to sleep. It wasn’t Professor Warren’s fault. He was doing the best he could under the circumstances. It was his charge to teach while managing the thin compromise between King Theodore and Princess Madeline.
Earlier that summer, King Theodore had reminded Madeline of her royal duty and pressured her to marry. Outraged by his plan, she devised her own- defying the king and running away, determined to make a stand for her freedom. After being captured, beaten, and narrowly escaping, she quickly realized that her true place was at home. Princess Madeline returned and new compromises were reached. Every day since, she and her father performed a calculated dance, each giving in a little, and each taking a turn leading, still trying to figure out some of the quirks of their arrangement.
“… and that is why his theory is greatly regarded as a fool’s notion in the battlefield.” Professor Warren turned around and squinted, rubbing his eyes with his forefingers.
“Princess Madeline,” he yelled again. “Please pay attention.”
Jumping at the sound of his voice, she opened her eyes quickly, reluctantly leaving the sunshine and birds in her dreams.
“Princess,” he said wearily, “could you please explain Hawthorne’s theory to me?” Crossing his arms, he waited for a response.
Madeline looked down at her notes. Brushing a few loose strands of her brown hair out of the way, she smiled. Her papers were full of sketches of herself and Daniel, rather impressive ones too for only a few hours of work. She quickly scanned the rest of her notes, feeling the Professor’s eyes on her, and hearing the tap-tap of his shoes.