1 comment

General

"What! He expects me to wait? The hide of him, he'll regret this!"

"My liege, please, His Majesty had no idea when to expect you, I am sure there is no offense meant," the guard said softly, seeking to calm his prince.

"That stupid excuse for a royal advisor in the hall...what was he supposed to be?"

"I am pretty sure he is the prime minister."

"What a fawning nuisance of a man!"

"Yes, yes, sir. Your patience and mercy are legendary, as everyone can plainly see."

Prince Ivar sat thoughtfully on the chair in the corner of the guest quarters he had been assigned. Yes, Captain Vedimand was right, he was known for great patience and mercy. He'd gripe about the inconvenience and maybe a veiled insult for a few more hours, and with a good night's sleep, he'd forgive and forget. Politics trumped personal pride every time.

"I need a glass of wine before I sleep, Vedimand."

"Of course," the captain said with some relief. "There is a flagon here on the table for your pleasure, or I can unpack your favourite mead from the bags."

"Their wine is sure to be watered down, I'll have my mead."

"Very good, sir." There was a pause. "I believe there is no way of warming it, sir."

"Then serve it cold, man. I've had enough of the day. I will take a turn in the courtyard nearby."

The captain glanced out the small window of the tower and frowned slightly. "The night air has been known to spread all kinds of foul odours."

"Stands to reason," the prince yawned. "I will do it in the morning, I suppose."

"A much better proposition, sir."

There was a heavy pause that lasted a few minutes. 

"I will keep watch at the door, Your Highness, for your security as usual. Maxim will relieve me in a few hours, and I will join the other men."

"Of course."

*** 

He had never met the princess that he had been betrothed to. Whether he was going to marry her or not was another matter entirely. She had been in no hurry to marry anyone and had given impossible tasks to any suitors wanting to ask for her hand. Tasks that had led many young men to their death. It seemed that his betrothed had a bloodthirsty streak that suggested a deep incompatibility with a normal man. He had his misgivings. 

Her father had agreed to a betrothal before the prince had left on his quest. But, in truth, no one had expected him to survive. 

Prince Ivar had a practical and cooperative manner as a rule, and although his patience was wearing thin after his adventures, it was something he normally possessed in vast amounts. All vanity aside, he was a patient man. Mercy was something else entirely. It definitely depended on the day.

He woke at dawn and went downstairs to the tiny garden. He had admired it in the dark, and in the morning light, he was delighted with the deep reds of the roses in full bloom. Butterflies fluttered from flower to flower, and birds were busy feeding on tiny lawns. Peace and perfection were to be found in this place, he thought as he breathed in perfume.

Something that was definitely not a butterfly, but just as fragile and beautiful, moved as he strolled around the grounds. He was aware of a young woman, in a light blue dress flowing to her toes, with a red floor-length cape, cowering slightly in her surprise at a visitor. He pretended he had not seen her, and she gradually relaxed into what must have been her daily routine.

She rested on the grass and played with a tiny kitten. She broke a piece of bread into crumbs and scattered them for a group of gathering sparrows. The little birds feasted for a few moments and glanced at the lady for more. She shook her head and they flew into a nearby tree.

"Pardon me for intruding, dear lady," Ivar said, after clearing his throat. The birds fluttered into the sky at his deep voice. She gasped and stood.

"My name is Ivar," he said gently. "What is your name?"

"It is Ana," she said with a gentle voice and stepped a little further away from him. He stayed where he was.

"Have you come a long way, sir?"

"I have, and I have fought monsters for many months to please a princess. I have brought treasures to this castle, trinkets and toys, and more besides."

"A princess has requested you to do this?" Her eyes were wide.

"Yes, or so I was told. An alliance with this noble house and my own was desired by our fathers and so I have earned it."

"The princess of this castle?"

"The same," he responded.

"My lady would do nothing so evil," she replied with some spirit. "How have they lied to you?"

"First I had to find the legendary Guild of the Poets and fetch their Golden Pen. The next task was to catch the Seven Golden Monkeys of the Salmon Isles, and then it was the Sword of Marcus of Maconia. Three impossible tasks, each one requiring diplomacy, patience, and gentleness. In different forms of course."

"I see. I have never heard of such tasks. They seem impossible, and you must be a great hero. You had to fulfill each task to get her father's consent?"

"Yes, for she had no desire for marriage. It was the patience of her father to order it so."

"And you came for an answer?"

"Yes, the King is not here to give it to me. To enter the princess's chambers without her father's escort would surely cause great offense and perhaps even lead to war."

"It is not the King's answer to give. It is his daughter's answer."

"Indeed. The princess lives under her father's protection, and cannot go against his wishes."

"I know the princess, and she is not like that. She has not requested the tasks, and she hasn't been informed of suitors of any sort."

"And if she had been?"

"She would wish to leave this castle a long way behind and take the chance that love would find her in her marriage. If such a thing is possible."

"Is her life here so terrible?" Ivar said, his concern mounting. "Is her father cruel and unreasonable?"

"At times every father is," she said with a shrug. "Do you know the princess's name?"

What was it? He had almost forgotten. The tasks had preoccupied him so much that the woman behind them was still a mystery. A cold-hearted lady with blood on her hands from all the men who had gone before him. But perhaps she had been used as a pawn in a larger game? An innocent with no power of her own?

"It is Anna-Romana of Fernadale."

"Of course it is," Ivar said, aware that she had sensed a hesitancy in his manner.

Ana glanced toward a small door nearby. "I must go, I will be missed."

"It was nice to meet you Ana," he said thoughtfully.

"Ivar," she replied, ducking her head in a small curtsy.

****

Maxim found his prince eventually and led him back to the main hall of the castle. 

"How many days must we wait for an answer?" Ivar asked the prime minister again, trying not to sound exasperated.

"Not long," the man dithered. 

"My Lord Ravencrest," a voice rang out from the upper floor.

A woman stood there, with a cluster of ladies maids behind her. She was dressed in a flowing white dress, edged with gold braiding, with a cape of red trailing behind. On her head sat a beautiful golden tiara, shimmering in chestnut hair. Blue eyes sparkled with a sense of power, and the prince bowed low.

"Your Highness, you need not concern yourself with these matters of state," Lord Ravencrest began, trying to be helpful, but seeming very manipulative and dismissive of the woman. She smiled slightly in response, glided down the stairs, and offered her hand to the older man.

"At your service as always," he said with a bow.

"This is…"

"Prince Ivarstinsky of the Dark Mountains." She stated in a firm and regal manner,

She looked deep into his eyes, and he recognised her from her garden courtyard. He flushed as he bowed again, brushing her hand with a soft kiss. 

"Yes, he is here to…"

"Claim his bride, as all the tasks have been completed." She answered again. 

"That sounds so presumptive, your highness," Ivar said softly. "Of course I would never claim anyone as a bride, of course, I would ask the lady herself."

She contemplated him for a few moments, before he went down on one knee, and offered one of the finest jeweled rings she had ever seen. 

"Would you, Anna-Romana of Fernadale, consent to be my wife? To leave this land and return to mine as a future queen of my people? You have proven yourself to be very resourceful and wise and your loveliness is beyond compare."

He met her eyes, and read conflicting emotions in their depths. What was her answer? Would she consent, or would she deny she made the tasks a requirement and turn away? He was more invested in this than he had ever been before. What was her answer?

"Yes." It came with a bluntness that shocked, and a glow of anticipation he hadn't imagined.

July 09, 2020 00:02

You must sign up or log in to submit a comment.

1 comment

Batool Hussain
15:50 Jul 12, 2020

Aww, this is so sweet, Rebecca. This story of yours has to be my favorite👍 Mind checking out my new story and giving your views on it? Thanks.

Reply

Show 0 replies