Moderated Discussion

“It’s not my problem,” Gavin grumbled backward over his shoulder.  The princess sat bound and unfortunately, not gagged, in the back of his wagon. Gavin was thankful to see the city growing in the distance. They would be in the capital before dusk and he would be rich enough to celebrate a wonderful evening.

Gavin did not bother to gag her because he did not expect her to talk so incessantly over the two-day journey back from the dragon’s lair. He’d saved princesses a time or six but they usually shut up after about an hour of not being talked to. Not that they had a conversation. It was two days of her talking at him about how boring and repetitive her royal life was. She renewed her attempts to talk him out of returning her as soon as the city spires came into view.

“Of course it’s your problem!” the princess replied. “I’m just going to sit in my room bored for a day until the dragon comes and kidnaps me again. Aren’t you tired of saving me?” she asked. Gavin slowed the horses a bit, then turned around to face the princess.

“What did you say?” he asked. A smirk grew on the princess’ face.

“Aren’t you tired of saving me?” she repeated. “Or, do you just like throwing me over your shoulder?” she added.

“You…. you remember?” Gavin asked. The princess nodded.

“I’m tired of sitting in the castle and in the dragon’s lair; I feel like that’s all I’ve seen my entire life. There’s more out there,” she said. “I want to see the AlterNet.”

“WHOA!” Gavin pulled the reins hard and halted the wagon. He hopped off the cart and dashed around to the back to stare at the princess on more even footing.

“Where did you hear that word?” he asked. Slight fear filled her eyes and she pulled back slightly.

“I-..I don’t know,” she said. “I just know it.”

“Aughh,” Gavin gave a heavy sigh. “Well, at least that explains why you wouldn’t shut up,” he said. The princess noticed he was suddenly more relaxed and she felt more at ease.

“Does that mean you’ll help me?’ she asked. Gavin sighed again, then nodded.

“Yeah. Now that I know how,” he said. He reached under his cloak and pulled out a transparent card.

“That’s a node!” the princess said eagerly. She scooted closer to the edge of the cart to get a better look. Gavin kept his attention on the node, but didn’t try to hide it from her; his thumbs tapped quickly on its surface. “What are you doing?’ she asked.

“Getting someone to help,” he said.

“Thank you!” the princess replied with a bright smile. She extended her bound hands in a friendly gesture. “My name’s Princess,” she said. Despite his situation, Gavin couldn’t help but chuckle. He reached out and shook her bound wrists.

“Of course it is,” he said with a smile. After they shook hands, a disappointed look took over her face.

“Aren’t you going to untie me?” she asked.

“Hi,” a new voice made both of them jump. They turned toward the speaker and saw a chubby, curly-haired teenager wave at them.

“Mod Aury,” he said. “NPC troubles?”

“What?” Princess asked. She looked at Gavin for guidance and saw him nodding at Aury and pointing at her. “What does he mean?” the question was out before she registered he was talking about her.

“He’s going to help me get you back to your father,” Gavin replied.

“WHAT!?” Princess’ heart sank from the betrayal. She turned toward Aury hoping to make an appeal. A large grey glass hovered in front of him as his fingers moved across it.

“I don’t know you, but please, Aury. Don’t make me go back there,” she begged.

“Done,” Aury said. He tapped the glass slate one more time and it disintegrated into nothing.

“Thanks!” Gavin said. He gave Aury a friendly wave, then headed back to the front of the wagon.

“Why have we stopped?!” Princess asked. “Make haste! If we reach the city before dusk I’ll make my father give you a bonus reward!”

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