Rose and Lukus had been home less than a week, when a page knocked on her door and announced the arrival of Prince James. Rose’s heart fell at this. “I shall meet him directly, in the second drawing room off the dining hall,” she said with a quiver to her voice that she didn’t expect.
“Very good, Your Highness,” said the page. “I shall convey this at once.”
Just as she was about to go out the door, Minuet arrived with an encouraging smile. “Rose, your Father and I have discussed your marriage at length since your return. We’ve decided that if you still find James objectionable after you’ve seen him, we’ll make some sort of reparation to King Edmond and cancel the wedding.”
“But…you said that such an action might start a war.”
“Anything’s possible, but we think that war is very unlikely for the time being. King Edmond would fare very badly in a war and frankly, a tidy windfall might be exceedingly beneficial to him.”
“Why Mother, what’s happened in Loxmere?”
“It’s a right lengthy tale, I’m afraid,” said Minuet as she put her arm around Rose and walked her out the door and down the stairs. “There’s no time now. James awaits. Go to him, and let your heart and nothing else decide, Rose.”
Rose hugged her and hurried through the dining hall to the drawing room, relieved to be able to make short work of her childhood nightmare. She entered softly. There was James, standing with his back to her, warming his hands at the fireplace. She studied him
for a moment. “He’s certainly not the short, pudgy thing he used to be,” she thought. “James?” she said.
Ch. 30, The Collector Witch
“O-ooh! That arrogant, dimwitted pig boy!” said Rose between breaths, at the top of the spiraled staircase. “How could I ever have believed he’d changed?”
“Rose?” said King Hebraun softly, making her gasp and jump.
She’d not seen Minuet and him following her all the way up. She turned to face them and panicked. What could she say to them? She began at once in trembling dismay, telling them everything as they carefully listened.
“…And so,” she said with a tremulous heave, “I told him I’d not marry him now, or ever.” She looked at their faces with tears filling her eyes and added a squeaky: “I’m so sorry!”
“Rose,” said Hebraun. “it sounds to me as though you handled the situation in the only responsible and sensible way possible. Your Mother and I stand behind your decision completely. The timing might be a bit awkward, considering the large numbers of guests who’ve already arrived…”
“Hebraun!” said Minuet, as Rose’s tears brimmed over and ran down her cheeks.
Hebraun went wide eyed and quickly gave Rose a shoulder to cry on.
“Hey!” cried Lukus, charging to the top of the stairs, full of dash from having just been with Soraya. “How come you all are up here? Oh!” He saw Rose’s reddened eyes. “So what’s going on?”
“I told James I’m not going to marry him, Lukus,” she said over her handkerchief. “The wedding’s off.”
“No! It’s…no! Rose, you’re making this up, right?” he said. Of course he could see that she was not. “Whoa! So what happened? Is James the same old pea-slinging gwrtaith he always was, Rose?”
“Lukus!” cried Minuet. “Walls have ears.”
Hebraun jerked his finger to his lips.
Rose nodded. “Lukus is right!”
“I am? You mean to say he actually shot peas at you? If he did, do you want me to…?”
“Lukus! If you’re not teasing, don’t be so dim. If you are, I’ve just been through too much. You’re about to become betrothed yourself, so I’d think that you’d…”
“That’s it!” cried Hebraun, giving Minuet a jubilant nod of resolution. “Where did anyone last see King Neron?”
“I left Soraya at his chamber, just now,” said Lukus. “I think they might be taking a stroll out by the big fountain.”
Ch. 31, The Collector Witch
Carol Marrs Phipps and Tom Phipps