As Talone performed his duties as Watcher of the East Gate, he found seven-year-old Princess Anidori-Kiladra unconscious on the shores of the palace swan pond. Frightened to see fever chills rack her small form, he wrapped her shivering body in his own cloak and carried her back to the palace.
Almost ten years after being found at the swan pond, Princess Anidori is sent to Bayern to wed their prince. Talone agrees to be the captain of the escort guard tasked with accompanying the princess to Bayern, although he is uneasy that many of the guards seem to follow a man named Ungolad rather than him. Knowing that Ungolad used to be a tradesman escort -a profession regarded to be little more than mercenary- Talone isn't pleased to have him along, but whether he likes it or not, Ungolad is the only member of the escort who has traveled on the road to Bayern before.
Constantly scanning the shadowy trees of the Forest for any sign of danger, Talone leads the company through the woods. One day, Princess Ani rides next to him at the front of the escort. After a moment, he reminds her of their first meeting at the swan pond and how much her shivering scared him at the time. They enjoyably pass the time by talking to each other about the Forest Road until the escort reaches a small river. Eager to replenish their water supplies and bathe, Talone calls for an early camp and assigns a guard named Ishta to guard Ani. The next day, Talone searches for a notched tree marking the halfway point between Kildenree and Bayern when the princess joins him. At her request, Talone tells her what he can about Ungolad and mentions that strangely, every single member of the escort volunteered for the job.
As they near Bayern, the company passes a trading party heading towards Kildenree and Talone learns from them that they are only six days away from Bayern's capital city. That night, Talone builds a fire for the princess and his men, but Ungolad builds another that attracts the majority of the guards and Selia, Ani's lady-in-waiting. Noticing that Anidori is struggling undecided between the two fires, Talone approaches her to ask her what is wrong. Suddenly, Ani asks him outright if she can trust him. Hurt that she even needed to ask -for that means he has failed in making her feel safe- he solemnly swears fealty to her and even offers to remain her personal guard until his death, if she so wishes. Touched by the sincerity of his pledge, Ani gifts him one of her gold rings. Thanking her, he carefully tucks the ring away into his vest pocket before leading her to his campfire. The men there are uneasy about the split escort, suspecting a mutiny. Just in case, Talone assigns his most trusted men to guard Ani and instructs her to jump on a horse and run straight to Bayern's king if there is any sign of trouble.
The next day, Talone's suspicions of Ungolad and his friends are proven to be justified when the tension between the divided escort snaps when Yulan removes his shirt in the summer heat. Talone orders him to stay properly dressed while he is in the presence of a lady, but the man refuses as Selia insists she does not mind. Gritting his teeth, Talone states that while they are the princess's guard, they will act as such. Scornfully, a friend of Ungolad's named Terne points out that they are a long way from Kildenree and Bayern hasn't claimed Ani as their princess yet, causing several of Ungolad's men to hail Selia as their new princess. Angrily, Talone confirms that the mutineers want to help Selia not only steal the title of princess, but also Anidori's very name. Realizing that the traitors want to kill Ani in order to replace her with Selia, Talone commands the true princess to escape. Unfortunately, Selia spots Ani and sends Ungolad after her, but Talone's right-hand man Adon moves to defend her and is swiftly killed for his trouble. Battle erupts between the two sides and Talone is furious when Ishta murders the defenseless cook Dano. But his rage likely makes him too reckless, allowing Ungolad to deeply stab him in the side of his body.
Talone faints from blood loss and awakes to the grim sounds of midnight grave digging, but manages to sneak away into the deep woods. He eventually stumbles across the home of a woman named Frigart who cares for him for two months before he can get out of bed and earn his keep. As part of the payment he owes her, Talone gives her the gold ring Ani had gifted him and continues to work with Frigart's husband in order to earn enough money to journey back to Kildenree to inform the queen of Ungolad and Selia's treachery.
Nearly a year after he first left Kildenree, Talone glances up from his work to see none other than Princess Anidori accompanying Frigart home. He immediately runs to kneel before her, sobbing with relief that she's alive. Once they are given privacy inside the house, they speak of how they have passed the time since the dreadful mutiny and commend each other on their continued survival. However, the mood darkens when Ani informs him that Selia plans to start a war between Bayern and Kildenree in order to prevent anyone from ever finding out what she's done. They agree that traveling the months it would take to get back to Kildenree would be pointless because in that case, all Kildenree could do would be to prepare as quickly as possible for a war they could not possibly win. Instead, they start forming a plan to convince the king of Bayern that Ani is the true princess.
Now knowing that Ani has been lying low working as a goose girl, Talone and Ani decide to return to the city in the hopes of requesting help from her fellow animal workers, but they don't even need to ask. Her friends have already decided to help her and don't even allow her to feel guilty about leading them into danger. Talone explains the plan to the workers, telling them that their duty is to protect the princess, but they are not allowed to fight unless they are attacked. He accompanies Ani to ask the old prime minister for help in getting them all horses to ride, and then to Selia's rooms in the palace where Ani needs to find a suitable dress so she can pretend to be her younger sister, Napralina-Victery, in the hopes that the king's guards will allow her through to see the king. As Ani is wandering inside the spacious closet, Ishta enters the chamber. Shocked but delighted to find them there, he eagerly springs into battle against his former captain. Ishta tries to taunt Talone, but his lust for blood makes him reckless and at the end of a fierce battle, Talone is able to use Ishta's anger against him and successfully runs him through. Talone exchanges his Forest-wrought sword for Ishta's Kildenrean blade, possibly the very sword Talone had carried as captain of the princess's guard. Soon after, Ani and her escort make their way to the manor where Prince Geric of Bayern and Selia will wed.
At the manor, they are stopped by the king's guards. To Talone's intense discomfort, they insist that the princess see the king alone. He tries his best to follow her, but the guards hold him back and take his sword away, forcing him and the rest of Ani's escort to remain outside. Nevertheless he eventually gains access to the manor just as Selia and Ungolad's treachery is revealed to the king of Bayern. Ungolad attempts to kill Ani, but Talone bursts in the nick of time, distracting Ungolad by challenging him to a duel. Talone fights the vicious, maddened Ungolad as the workers rush into the room to help the king's guard fight the Kildenrean traitors.
Talone holds Ungolad off, but only just. Ungolad severely wounds his shoulder and Talone most likely would have been killed if Geric had not hurriedly challenged Ungolad himself. Two soldiers take Talone out of the room while Ungolad is distracted and he is soon bandaged up and placed in a room where he can rest and heal.
Later, Talone leaves his sickbed to sit in a place of honor at Ani's right-hand side as they celebrate their victory against Selia and the end of a war between Bayern and Kildenree before it could even begin. They all drink to Talone's health, and, in time, he becomes the captain of the king's own hundred-band of warriors.
- "It is not easy for a brave soldier to admit to ever being scared."
- "I was hesitant to accept Ungolad's company when he volunteered. He has always been a little unpredictable, and traders' escorts often garner as little respect as mercenaries. But he is a member of the royal army now, and he has been to Bayern before."