In times of war, villagers from across the country travelled to hunker down in the safety of the palace’s fortified walls. It had a reputation for being impenetrable — except to those touched by the king’s express permission. To Amira’s surprise, it wasn’t the palace’s stone walls that kept unwanted visitors out, nor was it the lines of archers poised across its towers. In fact, encircling the palace was a vast, looming maze built entirely from plants.
For years, Amira had assumed the maze was simply another myth, but seeing it stretch for miles before her, she couldn’t believe how wrong she had been. Teeming with dense bushes, flickering leaves and a host of dangerous plants, it could take them weeks to wade through. But they only had days.
“Ready?” Ro asked. She tugged a coil of pink climbing roses from her bag and passed them to Amira. Attached to one end was a metal grappling hook. Ro was the strategist of their pair; smaller and weaker in every scenario except those that involved lugging around library books. The grunt work, the thievery, the danger? That was Amira’s forte, despite how often she tried to shirk that title.
With a little shrug that belied her fear, Amira wound her arm backwards and launched the grappling hook through the air. It landed on the other side of the maze with a dull thud.
She turned to Ro, eyes wide and disbelieving. “That did not just work on the first attempt.”
Ro appeared just as flummoxed as Amira felt. “Well, this is already more successful than when we tried to buy David Austin roses online,” she said. “Maybe the mission will actually go in our favour this time.”
Amira chuckled. “I very much doubt it. But enjoy this stretch of good luck while it lasts.”
She hooked her fingers through the bottom rung of rose stems and clambered up them like a ladder, Ro following closely behind. When they finally crested the top of the maze and dropped onto the other side, it was as though they had entered an entirely different world.