The second installment of “Blood, Sweat, and Tears” is here! Will Prince Jaron’s lucky slaying of the dragon back in Part 1 secure him the hand of Princess Terren the Fair?
“HIS ROYAL HIGHNESS,” announced the crier, “PRINCE JARON THE COOL!”
Princess Terren sighed wearily. People would tack any old thing onto their titles these days. And she didn’t particularly care to see Prince Jaron today. He was always popping by, and for the most part, she put up with him, for one mustn’t burn bridges when one was heiress to one’s own kingdom. But she didn’t like him terribly much, and would much prefer that he leave her alone. She knew why he called so often, of course: She was the most beautiful princess, like, ever. Annoying suitors were just another part of the package.
“Hello, Terren, baby,” said Jaron, swaggering into her visiting chambers.
“I do wish,” said Terren, with more than a little attitude, for that was her way, “that you wouldn’t call me that.”
“Whatever you say, milady. Guess what? I bring you a gift beyond price.”
“I do. Servant! The dragon head!”
“Dragon head?!” Terren gasped as the horrible thing was dragged into her chamber. “Oh, that’s repulsive! Take it away!”
“But it’s a gift,” Jaron insisted. “A wedding gift, if you like.”
“W-wedding gift? What do you mean?”
“This ain’t no dime-a-dozen dragon head, princess,” Jaron said, smirking away. “This is the head of the dragon that, if killed, would allow the killer to marry little old you.”
Terren suddenly found it very difficult to breathe. This had not been part of the plan when she conceived it! She had greatly hoped that the dragon would be killed by Prince McKail – maybe Prince Vincent! She never intended for Prince Jaron to be the one to slay her monster! All at once, the world seemed a very dismal place indeed.
But she had made her bed, now she would have to lie in it. Such was the life of a princess. Bravely, she said, “Oh! How… wonderful! Ha! So, um, Jaron… would you like to take me as your bride?”
In one stride, Jaron crossed the distance between them and swept the stunning beauty into his arms. He ran his long fingers through her flowing mane of shining red hair. They kissed, and Jaron wanted nothing more than to ravish that princess like she’d never been ravished before. He gazed into her clear blue eyes, moments away from giving the word that would change their lives for ever.
And then a courier arrived with a priority-mail message for the princess.
Terren pulled away from the unwanted embrace with giddy relief. She smiled widely as she beheld message’s opening paragraphs, congratulating her on her long-awaited betrothal to— to whom? One of her favorites? Or some wild card prince from another neighborhood? So long as it wasn’t Jaron, she really cared not. Then her smile vanished as her gaze came to rest on the remainder of the announcement.
The gist was this: Princess Emmalyns’ parents, the King and Queen of Caspion, and Prince Osmar’s mother, the Queen of Mayers, had decided that their hitherto-betrothed children ought not to marry after all; nothing personal, of course, merely royal politics at work. For their kingdoms were not quite as near each other as they might have been, and their lands could not conveniently be joined. Therefore had Osmar’s mother turned to the kingdom just the other side of Mayers’ borders: Liaralay.
“No…!” Terren gasped, dropping the parchment as though it were a hot coal. “No…! They can’t…! NO!…” And her fair body fell to the floor in a fit of agonized weeping.
Jaron looked on in surprise. “Why, princess, what troubles you that you should lament so?”
Still howling, the princess indicated the message where it had fallen. Jaron picked up the missive and quickly scanned its contents. His face paled.
“N-no…” he said, his voice thick and strangled. “No! They can’t… NO!”
“My thoughts were the same,” Terren sniffled.
“Wherefore?!” Jaron railed. “Wherefore would those accursed adults do this to me?! To us?! Terren, we can’t just take this lying down! This union must not occur! Come, we will ride to the Mayers castle and confer with Prince Osmar. Perhaps we will get to the bottom of this matter and come up with a solution.”
Prince Jaron lifted Terren onto his horse – a dark, brooding horse, it was, looking only barely tamed; much like its master, in that respect.
Jaron and Terren rode swiftly to their destination, and after Jaron’s crier announced their arrival, both burst into Osmar’s visiting chambers. The corpulent prince looked forlornly at his callers.
“Greetings,” he mumbled sadly. “I presume you are here to discuss this most dire turn of events?”
“We are,” replied Terren stiffly. “We cannot allow this engagement. Something must be done about it.”
Osmar shrugged. “I could wish no less, but what is to be done? It is not for us to say whom we will wed; our parents say it for us. And they have said we are to marry.”
“Well, I say otherwise,” Jaron stated with determination. “And my word will be the final one. Now, let us put our minds to the task at hand: How to prevent this doom?”
Much thought was given to this query. At length Terren suggested, “Suppose we take our cue from those lovers in that new play that hast just come out? What is its name…? Ah, yes, ‘Romeo and Juliet’. In this play did Juliet feign death that she and Romeo might be wed in peace.”
“But I thought we didn’t want to be wed,” Osmar reminded her.
“I know that, you fool. But you could still pretend to be dead. They can’t make us marry if you’re dead, after all, so they’ll break off the engagement and free me to marry whomever I will.”
“But what about me? I’ll be dead!”
“Not for real, lackwit!” growled Jaron. “You’ll be pretending! You need only ingest a potion that causes you to lie as though in death, as did Juliet, though in truth she lived.”
“Oh-h-h…” Osmar nodded, understanding. “Where would one find such a tonic?”
“Well, Juliet came by hers from a monk,” said Terren. “But we have no monks in the land. Enchantresses, though, we have aplenty. Mayhap we could get a potion from one of them.”
“Or, hey, we could simplify things,” suggested Jaron. “Rather than obtain a formula to make Osmar appear dead, we could see to it that he is truly dead. We could do it now; I happen to be in possession of my sword…”
“NO,” said Osmar firmly. “I would much rather we forget the whole death thing entirely. Can we think of nothing better?”
For several moments, it seemed that no one could. Then Jaron spoke once more. “Suppose we forgot the death potion – could you not still go to an Enchantress for aid?”
“Me?” asked Osmar, pointing to himself. “I have to go?”
“Verily. Go to an Enchantress, and request that she change the minds of your mother and the King and Queen of Liaralay. Then all will be well. Off you go, then! Happy trails!”
Osmar shook his head vehemently. “Uh-uh. Such a journey would be too perilous. Even if I knew where such an Enchantress could be found, which I do not, Enchantresses are chancy folk. One false move on my part, and BAM! I’m a frog! Enchantresses fairly look for excuses to turn princes into frogs, you know.”
“Do you mean to say,” Terren said coldly, “that you refuse to go?”
“That is what I mean to say,” Osmar confirmed. “I’m not about to risk my life in this manner, and neither should you. Better for us both to just live with our parents’ decisions – because at least then we’ll be living.”
“It is not living to be married to a pig like you!” Terren hissed. “SOMEONE will be going to see that Enchantress, or Heaven help you, you worthless prince!”
Osmar blinked nervously. “Well… uh… er… Why does Prince Jaron not go?”
Two pairs of eyes looked at the prince in question. The prince in question raised his eyebrows in surprise. “Me? You would have me visit the Enchantress and make your request?”
Terren and Osmar nodded in affirmation. Jaron narrowed his eyes, considering. Then, slowly, a small, sly smile appeared on his face, and in his dark eyes shone their telltale gleam.
“Very well,” he assented. “This I will do.”
“Brilliant,” said Terren. “You do that. But first, do be so kind as to drop me off at my castle.”
“Of course, princess,” said Jaron, still smiling, eyes still gleaming.
<<< End of Part 2 >>>