Chapter I: The Engagement
“The princess is coming today! She is moving here today!” Rutherford ran into his brother’s room excitedly. “Our guards have spotted her coach!” He bounced onto his bed. Sol, who was eating breakfast in his room, glared up at him from the table.
“You had best get all your energy out now. I do not want to be embarrassed by someone as childish as you,”
“My apologies. I just cannot wait. Do you know? She is not even sixteen. She’s very close to my age,”
“I am well aware of that. Quit making me feel more like a pedophile than I already do,” Sol glared.
“I beg your pardon, Sol. It is very traditional for a man to marry a younger woman, though,”
“Father married Mother when she was fourteen,”
“But Father was nineteen,”
“Enough of your gab,” Sol finished his plate and rose to his feet. “Make haste to get ready for her arrival.”
“Of course!” Rutherford jumped off the bed and walked out of the room. Sol closed the door behind him, grimacing. He ran his hands through his hair then breathed in deeply. He walked to the wash room and ordered for his bath to be filled with steaming hot water. The attendants went to work right away. He kicked his large, black boots off and stripped naked.
“My prince, your bath is ready,” said a chambermaid as she walked into the room where he waited. She looked at him and flushed. “Oh, pardon me!” she cried and covered her face in her hands. Sol walked slowly to the room where the bath was at, not a bit ashamed of his body nor embarrassed a lady had taken a gander at him. Not that he was pleased, either. He really did not care too much about who saw what. His mind was focused on one thing only - Priscilla.
Though she arrived in the middle of the afternoon, neither prince nor king was allowed to see her until the evening. King Isaac of Porfiry escorted his niece to the wing of the castle where they would be staying. The royal family and he waited around the dinner table eagerly for Priscilla’s official “unveiling” that night. Maximillian, Rutherford, and Isaac were all smiles. However, Sol was frowning the entire time and did not speak much. He felt it was very wrong to treat the actual princess like her portrait.
Isaac was the first to rise to his feet when the door opened. Maximillian and Rutherford stood up at the same after him. Sol took about a minute then got up as well. He noticed that his knees were shaking. He took a moment to take a deep breath then regain his composure. His knees stopped shaking. The princess walked into the dining room.
She was wearing a regal, emerald green dress that matched her eyes perfectly. Her fair skin really did seem to resemble a resemble from the way the light shone on her. The ends of her dark tresses bounced along her waist as she walked. She wore a small, silver tiara atop of her head. Sol’s heart skipped a beat, and his knees almost gave way. He somehow managed to remain composed.
“King Pingsley and Princes of Peradasia, I introduce you to the son of my younger brother - Priscilla Poring,” Isaac gestured for Priscilla to stand by his side. She walked over to him and kissed him on the cheek. He returned the kiss on the cheek. She faced the other men and held her hand out.
“A pleasure to meet you, Young Majesty,” Maximillian took the princess’ hand and kissed it. “I am His Excellency Maximillian Pingsley.” Rutherford walked gracefully to Priscilla and took her hand after his father let go. He kissed it very slowly then grasped onto her fingers delicately as he looked at her.
“I am his son, Rutherford. I am most pleased to meet you,” He melted when she smiled approvingly to him. He let go of her reluctantly and stepped away to make room for Sol. Sol strode to the princess and bowed before taking her hand. He kissed it politely.
“Fairest princess, I am ever honored to meet you. I am Sol,” He kissed her hand once more. Priscilla blushed and smiled. She nodded and pulled her hand away. Everyone took their seats and began to eat the dinner. They conversed for two whole hours while eating and drinking. Isaac and Maximillian were especially indulging in the drinking part of the meal. Sol drank moderately. Rutherford and Priscilla did not touch a drop. Sol and Rutherford asked the princess a lot of questions, but her uncle answered for her. It was almost as if the princess was mute. Nevertheless, Rutherford and Sol were both equally infatuated with the rare jewel from Porfiry.
“I dare say! Your son is a marvelous most kind of son!” Isaac exclaimed. Maximillian laughed and pointed to Rutherford.
“Yup, he’s a good one,”
“No, no, no! I meant the other one, the. . . uh. . .” Isaac stared blankly at Sol. Sol switched back and forth from glaring at Isaac to his father. Priscilla’s cheeks were a little pink, embarrassed about her uncle’s behavior. Rutherford was slightly embarrassed, too, so he tried to get Priscilla’s mind off the situation by talking about some of the things Sol and he did as children. Priscilla listened to him with a smile.
“Ah, I give up to try think of his name. Har har,” Maximillian laughed. Isaac laughed with him.
“We can call him Skippy!”
“Skippy! Bow-wow! Har har har har!” Sol ignored them and resumed eating, staring at Priscilla the rest of the meal. She looked at him every so often and batted her eyelashes at him when she giggled at something Rutherford said. Sol wasn’t sure if he should be jealous or not that Rutherford captivated so much of her attention. He decided he would get some personal time with her later that evening.
Sol invited Priscilla to take a walk in the castle courtyard with him late that evening when she should have been going to bed. She did not seem so sure. She stood at her doorframe, frowning at her husband-to-be.
“Come on, Princess,” Sol smiled softly. He took her hand and kissed it. “Please allow me the honors of showing you the midnight courtyard.” He gazed into her eyes sincerely. She smiled and nodded. He took her by the hand and led her down the spiral staircase to the first floor. She followed him uncertainly, but she did not say a word about her doubt.
“Sol! What are you doing at this hour with her?” An angry voice called out. Sol turned his head to see his father’s glazed eyes piercing at him. His eyes widened. He hoped that his father would have no recollection of this in the morning.
“Nothing, Esteemed Father,”
“Your head! I’ll have it for this! Shame! Shaming the princess! Your wife!!” Maximillian hiccuped as he walked further down the hallway to stand before Sol. Sol glared at him.
“Out of my way. I am merely going to show her some flowers,”
“Flowers? She got them in her room!”
“The ones in the courtyard. . .”
“Courtyard, Esteemed Father,” Sol held onto Priscilla’s hand tightly. She squeezed back assuredly. Sol glanced at her and smiled a bit. She smiled back and nodded.
“Courtyard. . .” Maximillian hiccuped again. Priscilla pressed her other hand on the back of Sol’s hand that was holding onto hers. She drew his hand up and kissed it. Sol flushed as he watched her lips pull away from his hand. She let go of Sol and walked back to her room. Maximillian hiccuped once more and stumbled into Sol’s arms. Sol pushed his father away from him and kicked his shoulder once Maximillian passed out.
“You lousy drunkard. You’ll be my ruin if you do not start behaving like a true king,” Sol muttered and marched back to his room.
Two days later, Maximillian sent a secret message to Risetta. The message was to be seen by no one except Maximillian and the king of Risetta. Not even the messenger was allowed to read its contents. His sons were puzzled for days about it, but they soon forgot entirely about it once Priscilla started spending more time with each son.
About three weeks later, an artist came to the castle. He was there to paint the official engagement portrait for Sol and Priscilla. Sol waited in the throne room for his fiancee. Rutherford took the artist aside while Priscilla continued getting ready to be painted. Isaac left the previous fortnight to go back to ruling his nation, but he promised that he would return soon after the engagement became bonafide for the engagement party. According to Peradasia customs, a royal engagement became official when the couple’s portrait was painted, the picture was presented to the public, and the ruling king read the announcement himself from his balcony.
“Excuse me, mister,” Rutherford led the artist to his room. He knew it would be at least another hour before Priscilla was ready.
“What is it, my prince? I have to set up my studio,” scowled the artist.
“You will be here for awhile, won’t you?” Rutherford asked, wrapping his arm around the artist. The artist flushed.
“I have been invited to stay until the engagement party. . . Oh, my prince, what are you getting at?” He set his things down in Rutherford’s room and turned to him eagerly. Rutherford looked at him oddly. “My, have you grown since I last saw you! You’re much more muscular, aren’t you?”
“Yes, I am, thank you,” Rutherford smiled. “I hope to keep at it. Maybe I can impress the princess,”
“Impress the princess?” The artist pulled away from Rutherford, disgusted. “How could you lead me on like that?” Rutherford looked at him oddly again, and then he began to laugh.
“Oh, heavens, no!” Rutherford laughed some more. “I certainly was not trying to hit on you. Do not get me wrong! I need to ask a favor of you,”
“A favor?” The artist flushed again. “My prince, no matter how you say it, it sounds dirty,”
“Ahahaha! My apologies,” Rutherford smiled. “I must confess, I do not believe I could ever find myself attracted to anyone else ever again.”
“Attracted to anyone else?” The artist frowned. “My prince, you are still doing it,”
“My apologies,” Rutherford flushed. “You see, I believe I am in love with the princess.”
“Princess Priscilla? The one who is going to marry your brother?”
“Why in the world are you informing me? I cannot halt a marriage,”
“No, you cannot, you are correct. Perhaps, though, you can help to feed me information about her. You see, I believe she is very shy around me. She does not speak around me. Sol claims he has heard her voice, though, so she has surely leaked more information about herself to him! Do you catch my drift?”
“Listen to everything she might say to my brother while you are sketching and painting, I beg of you! Ask her some questions, too! Find out what her favorite flower is. . . Her favorite sweet. . . Anything!” Rutherford grasped onto the artist’s shirt. The artist pulled away uncomfortably.
“My prince, I’ll try for you, but I don’t believe I’ll be of any help,”
“Oh, if you can only tell me if her voice is sweet, I shall be happy enough!”
“Very well, my prince,” The artist picked up his art supplies. “Will I be rooming with you, by any chance? You must surely have had another reason to drag me up here to your room.”
“In your dreams, sweet peasant!”
“I figured as much,” replied the artist with a smile. “I will come back for my other articles after I am through painting.”
“Not a problem. Thank you!” The artist left quickly. Rutherford bounced around in his room like a childish man then calmed down. He reminded himself he had to behavior more accordingly to the situation. Rutherford walked out of the room to visit some of the soldiers. He bumped into his father.
“Rutherford,” Maximillian calmly said with a smile. His smile was different today - it was much more twisted. Rutherford’s heart skipped a beat. He felt like he was standing before Sol.
“I am ever sorry, Esteemed Father, for running into you like that. Are you all right?” Rutherford asked with genuine concern. Maximillian smiled more and nodded.
“I am perfectly fine. In fact, I do believe this is the best I have ever felt,”
“Well, yes, it is quite exciting that Sol is to be married in a couple of months. The engagement party is set for the night after tomorrow, yes?”
“It is. Preparations are going smoothly,” Maximillian smiled. “Oh so smoothly.”
“That is quite wonderful!” Rutherford turned away from his father, unable to bear a smile any longer. His heart was filled with nothing but envy at this moment. He was incredibly jealous of his big brother.
“Rutherford?” Maximillian cupped his son’s chin and looked at him seriously.
“Yes, Esteemed Father?”
“Would you be interested in hearing of a wonderful plan that would greatly save our nation?”
“Save our nation? Esteemed Father, are we in trouble?” Rutherford frowned.
“Not yet, but I have my fears about when Sol takes over after I die. . .”
“Esteemed Father, I know Sol is a different man from you and I, but. . .”
“A revolution will take place if he is kinged,”
“A revolution! How come? Would the people truly revolt when Sol becomes king?”
“No, not they, but he will.”