Read part 1 HERE:
A formal letter of agreement and a gift were promptly sent to the Kingdom of Sonnigeebene, and James and I were preparing to follow. I was eager to see our neighbors to the East, but Prince James’ nervousness the more the topic of marriage was brought up. Each time Prince Hans or King Friedrich expressed their excitement or confidence in James’s upcoming role in the negotiations, James grimaced and looked at his feet.
Our departure day arrived with great fanfare for Waldgebiet. When the young prince returned, he would be accompanied by a new crown princess and a duchess for the kingdom. James held himself together for his official send off, but looked nauseous as he settled in the carriage.
“Look after him,” Queen Hildegard had instructed me during a luncheon with Prince James. “I had always hoped you and my son would become close, as your mother and I have always been.” She smiled at James, who was in conversation with Prince Hans. She then continued, “I have seen that you are a true Eisen; as true and strong a friend as iron. James does not trust himself, but he can, and does, trust you.”
The Queen’s words of praise and her plea to support my friend echoed in my head as she waved us off, with my mother standing on her left and King Friedrich at her right. Just as my mother had accompanied Queen Hildegard to Waldgebiet, I would follow Prince James to his wedding.
The roads became wider and smoother was we approached Sonnigeebene. Our small company attracted little attention, as our visit was to negotiate rather than impress. The lack of guards allowed us a quick journey, and -to James’s relief- less inquires. The fresh air seemed to lift James’s spirits, as he rode on his steed. He even told jokes and sang with the soldiers as we traveled, listening to the soldier tall-tales of scrimmishes gone by. As we crossed the boarder into King Konig’s lands the topic of conversation turned to the legendary wealth and beauty of the princesses.
“I hear that the sun himself is surprised whenever one of princesses steps into his light!”
“I heard the moon refuses to shine on their faces, in fear her light would be compared to their beauty.”
“I heard that the gold of their treasury could fill the Rhine river, and yet none of that gold shines brighter than their lustrous hair.”
The rumors and grand claims grew more elaborate as we neared Konig’s primary castle. The more the soldiers praised the princesses of Sonnigeebene, the more silent James became. From crossing the border to the time we arrived at our final checkpoint, the prince had scarcely said more than 10 words at a time.
“Henry”, James asked the night before we were to arrive at Konig’s court. “What would such grand princesses want to do with someone like me?”
“You cannot be serious.” I replied, attempting to dismiss his concerns as a joke.
“If the legends about their wealth and beauty are true, why would one of them agree to marry the second son of a smaller, weaker kingdom?”
“Just James, Henry. And, I’m serious. How am I supposed to convinced them to marry me and Hans? Even if I do, how do I know which one will be a good Queen to our people, or a good Duchess?”
“James, you aren’t giving yourself much credit. You’ll know when you meet them.”
“What if I don’t? What if they only pretend kindness and courtesy for the court? What if they think Waldgebeit isn’t good enough?
“You haven’t even met them yet.”
“They are rich, powerful, and beautiful. They are also probably also spoiled, idle, and vain. They will no more think of me than they would a frog!”
“A frog?!” I laughed in spite of myself. “A frog. Have you seen yourself? I could only hope to look at good on a horse as you do!”
“Still, a Queen or Duchess of Waldgebeit must be as kind and courteous to a frog as she would be to a prince. How can I be sure such grand princesses would treat a peasant like a duke and a frog like a prince?”
James looked defeated. His rubbed his neck and kicked at the dirt under his boot. I had an idea. A risky, stupid, brilliant, mad idea.
“Do you want to test your theory?” I asked.