When Iris open her mouth to speak, everyone curiously glanced her way. For a brief moment everyone forgot about the princess as she had sat way too quiet for a long time.

She inquired of the traveller, ”How did you know that the horse was one-eyed and about the contents loaded on it? ”

The traveler carefully spoke, ”I merely used my intelligence ”.

Iris shrieked in triumph internally as the missing piece of the puzzle was finally put in place.

She rattled to the court, ”The traveller might have noticed while moving from Truxor to Sedan that the bushes on the left side of the road were grazed all the way. If so, the bushes on the right would be left uneaten. Any smart person would figure out that the horse that trailed that path was one-eyed. ”

Tears streaked down the face of the ordinary traveller and gratitude was written all over his face as he stared at his redeemer, Princess Iris.

Iris offered him a gentle smile but was cut off by Raelle, whose veins popped in anger at Iris reasoning.

She challenged, ”Well then how did he know that one side of the horse was loaded with sugar and the other with grains? ”

When Iris took some seconds to digest her question, Raelle sniggered in mirth, thinking she had won the day.

Her joy was however shortlived because soon Iris defended, ”Its possible that one side had sugar on it and the other grains. ”

”Exactly! ”, the teary traveller shot out.

”On one side, ants fed on the sugar and on the other, birds fed on the grains. Thus, I guessed that the one-eyed horse that travelled that road had a cargo of sugar and grains. ”

The wealthy trader, Raelle and the entire courtroom were silent. The trader fell to his knees, seeking pardon from the traveller. Everyone was dumbstruck, even the King, who had not uttered a word since that session began.

Only the animated discussion that ensued within the team of consultants could be heard in the room.

After some minutes, the advisor cleared his throat and everyone offered him undivided attention. The verdict was to be said about the case and also on the session of the competitors.

”It has been proposed by the team of consultants to release the victim of this unfortunate incident, Sir Fulker the traveller, to continue with his journey. He would be further compensated by Sir Ashton the trader, who falsely accused the former of theft, with a bag of hundred gold coins.

Startled gasps erupted from the crowd at the unfortunate turn of events as Sir Fulker unceasingly thanked Iris.

”At the end of both sessions ”, the advisor announced, ”Princess Iris carried the day by creditably winning them both! ”

Applauses erupted from the room and outside the Palace, the locals chanted and praised Iris intelligence. What baffled most people was that she was the youngest of the three!

Raelle fumed with anger and envy coloured her face.With watery eyes, she masked her envy with a pretentious smile and left her seat to congratulate Iris.

”Well done ”, she said but Iris saw through her insincerity and played along with her.

Raelle warmly shook Iris hand but instead of letting go after a few seconds, she squeezed and dug her nails into Iris palm causing her face to contort in pain.

Just as Iris was about to retaliate, Raelle sneakily dropped her hand, flipped her ponytail in Iris face and sardonically walked out of the courtroom.

When she headed towards the door, a swarm of courtiers congratulated her and praised her wisdom. After doing so, they exited the room leaving behind Iris, King Davis and his two advisors.

It was agreed that the promotion ceremony would be held in exactly a weeks time. Soon the two advisors left to attend to matters of necessity and King Davis rose up from his throne and embraced his daughter.

For the first time in a while, he opened the windows to his emotions in his eyes after burying them. Undoubtedly, he expected her to win but she surpassed his expectations in the last session. In addition, she portrayed the traits of a good leader and though her journey to become the first female ruler seemed hurdlous, he was willing to see her through. But now, other matters were at hand.

”You must be exhausted. Go get some rest and summon Keith here by noon. ”

”What of Raelle? ”, Iris questioned keenly.

”Give her time and space to recover ”.

And ”, he added, Bring yourself along with Keith ”.

Iris nodded thoughtfully and dismissed herself. Before she reached the exit, he called out after her, Make sure you treat those ”, he gestured at her hands.

Iris awkwardly nodded and scrambled out of the room. So he did see it, she thought. Now she really wondered if anything ever went on without her father catching a whiff of it.

Shaking her head to herself, she decided to take a stroll around the castle as she realised that she still had a few hours to noon. Iris headed towards the lower block and the stench of sweat and blood hit her nostrils. She guessed this was the training grounds of the new guards that had been recruited.

As Iris marched into the yard, all activities halted and the trainees ogled at the living distraction that intruded their training session. Iris ignored the stares as though they were normal but a nostalgic feeling simmered into her body.

That face! She had met him somewhere but where?, she asked herself.

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