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The Lord and the Princess

There once was a young and minor lord in a far kingdom who minded his own business and lived a humdrum life. Up until one day, that is, when he was visiting the great castle on a minor affair. He was standing at the top of the main staircase, bidding the clerk farewell when his breath stopped at the sight of a princess gliding up the steps.

Her dark hair flamed as she laughed a carillon of music with the friends around her. And as they swept past in a cloud of intoxicating perfume, she looked at him -- she looked at him and smiled a pure smile of unbridled warmth. He tried to smile back but could hardly stand.

It was as if he had been struck by all of the gods at once. Both timid and blindly bold, he did all he could to be near her and meet her, attending the same functions and sharing the same friends. Bizarrely, his clumsy tomfoolery seemed to amuse her and he clamoured and cavorted for that smile, that look. And so one strange night, they were both with friends at a village tavern and by chance found themselves alone outside. With foolish courage, he determined to tell her his heart and started mumbling, probably incoherently, about glorious beauty happiness and the like. And then, wonder of all wonders, she kissed him. Without warning, one long, deep, engulfing kiss. And then their friends came out and they were whisked away on a mad ocean of air.

It was not that simple, however, as she was already betrothed to a distant prince, and the next day the princess was back to her demure self. Desperately, the young lord wondered what to do. The kiss, whether it had been out of sympathy or love, gave him boldness unknown and he asked the princess to accompany him to the Midwinter Ball. Amazingly, she agreed, to the fury of her prince, who turned up unexpectedly and demanded she go with him. Obstinately and petulantly, she refused and indeed went to the ball with the moonstruck young lord, after which he remembered little but endless floating dancing and boundless joy.

But still it was not sealed. The prince persisted and showered the princess with gifts that the lord could never match and who hoped the princess would not be swayed by such bribery. What troubled the lord most, however, was the clear anguish of the princess who seemed unable to choose between her two suitors. And so he decided to sacrifice himself for his love. He wrote her a note, freeing her to be with the prince and rode off wildly across a storm-driven day to his residence out by the shore, where he sat in the dark wine cellar, drowning his mad misery in whatever bottles came to hand.

And in a crazy dream of tears, she found him. Half wild with fear, she and his friends had scoured the town before riding the storm to find him here. She held him and he held her, still telling her to go. But neither left as seconds became minutes became hours.

And so they met more steadily now and before long he proposed in his usual awkward way and she laughed music and accepted.

They were married on a hot summer's day that is now so far off yet still brilliant and warm. For now it is thirty years on, and they are still an odd couple, yet still gloriously in love, still walking hand-in-hand with sheepish grins and sudden hugs. And the old lord knows, looking at her, looking back and looking on, that he is the luckiest man alive.

 

***

 

~by David Straker~

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