“Your Majesty,” he continued, “I am here to claim Princess Madeline’s hand in marriage. Surely you recall our deal?” His voice got higher with each word-surprise echoing in his head as laughter and snickers started through the throne room.
“Our deal, Prince Paulsen,” the king began, sitting up straight. “Our deal was that if you brought home my daughter, she was yours to marry.”
Prince Paulsen stared incredulously, feeling his anger rise as his cheeks grew redder in embarrassment.
“You see, Prince Paulsen, you did not bring her home, so you do not get her hand.”
“But surely, my work these past few months wasn’t for nothing.”
“Of course not, our kingdom thanks you. We can all sleep better now knowing we are safe.” A twinkle flashed in the king’s eyes as he held in his laughter. He always enjoyed getting the better of someone.
Prince Paulsen’s eyes widened as the king waved him aside to call his steward forward.
Leaning in, the steward whispered something into his ear.
“Perfect,” the king said, clapping his hands together. “Thank you for your hard work,” then turned to face the crowd. “Gentlemen,” he said, addressing the people still in line. “An important matter just came up. Prince Braden will answer the rest of your concerns.” Prince Braden’s head shot up at the mention of his name.
The king stood and left the throne room. Prince Paulsen stared, disbelieving his quick dismissal, as the line of farmers walked by snickering, hiding their faces behind their hands.
“Next,” Prince Braden’s voice called out.
Storming out of the throne room, Prince Paulsen’s humiliation quickly grew into rage. He stopped at the front gates of the castle, looking out towards the forest, where his men waited. Staring blankly ahead, he wondered how he was going to explain this to his men and to the people of Morengo that he had failed. That despite their hard work and his charismatic charm, they had lost their rightful reward to the whim of a girl and her romantic notions. Running his hands through his hair, he tried to find a way to exploit this in his favor, a way to take back what they had worked for.
Ideas formed in his mind as he watched the forest trees sway, remembering all the men he had captured. His smile twisted crookedly. “I will not let this go. She will be mine,” he vowed under his breath. There was one way he could have it all, the princess and his pride.