Part : HERE
Part 2: HERE
John could deny Franz nothing. He had loved, guided, taught, and supported the lad from a young boy to a young King. Seeing how seriously his boy pinned for the princess of his dreams, John knew he would not rest until he had met the maiden. And so, he devised a plan.
A portion of the treasury’s gold was melted down and recrafted into many crafty and splendid items. A mid-sized ship was ordered to be fitted for the long journey and a temporary government was arranged for the period the King would be away. The court was informed that the King would be going on a “diplomatic” journey to “form an alliance” with the Great King Midas. Some courtiers anticipated that King Franz might return with a Queen, but those predictions were left to whispers in the corridors. One sunny morning, John, King Franz, and a troop of carefully selected men set sail. Franz full of hope and excitement, and John full of foreboding anxiety.
The journey to King Midas’s lands was both faster and smoother than expected. The weather, the water, and the winds all seemed to favor their ship as it sped toward its destination.
“It’s fate John!” King Franz shouted over the flapping sails, sun grinning down on his face. “We cannot fail with luck on our side.”
The lands of King Midas were warmer and drier than they their own. The port teamed with exotic fruits and goods, but John was pleased to see that the items crafted by their goldsmith were of high enough quality and unique enough design to stand out amongst the other vendors.
King Franz was announced at the palace with great aplomb. The usual exchange of compliments and gifts were observed, and a formal banquet was arranged to celebrate the budding friendship between their lands. It would be at the banquet that King Franz and John hoped to finally meet the princess of the fateful portrait.
“When the princess is introduced, you must remain calm” John advised as he helped Franz into tie his doublet. “I know she is the angel from your dreams, but she does not know.”
“Do you think I am a simpleton?” Franz asked with a slight laugh.
“Not a simpleton, just impulsive.” John answered gently, patting him in the shoulder. “Do you forget that I have known you from your birth?”
“How could I? You have always been our Beloved John.” Franz turned and put his hand on John’s shoulder in turn. “Thank you. I promise, I will be careful.”
A footman arrived to announce the start of the banquet. John followed propriety rarely observed in their own lands, and walked in his king’s shadow. The banquet hall was lavishly decorated with golden plates and jewel encrusted goblets. Franz was seated to the right of King Midas at the high table. The place to their host’s left was still empty, but John presumed that this is where the princess would be seated.
“Greetings friends and honored guests!” King Midas stood, and the chatter of the hall ceased. “Tonight we celebrate new alliances, and commerce! Eat, drink, and bid welcome to our new partners in trade!” He raised his heavy goblet, and the hall followed suit. Midas returned to his seat and the chatter gradually picked back up.
“I hope you are enjoying your stay in my humble home.” The first course of food was delivered by uniformed servers, and Midas directed the dishes distribution with casual waves of his hand. “If you have need of anything, simply ask and it will be provided.”
“You are as generous as your reputation reports.” Franz replied accepting a cut of meat from his host.
At that moment, a veiled figure approached the high table.
“Pray, pardon my tardiness.” Her melodic voice rose to their ears, despite her bowed head.
“I will forgive it, my daughter, but I fear you have insulted our guests.” Midas replied, sternly. “I fear you must beg forgiveness from King Franz.”
The woman stiffened and turned from her father, still looking at the ground in deference. She carefully lifted her veil so the offended party might look upon her face to judge her sincerity.
“I humbly ask your forgiveness for my absence, King Franz.” She asked, lifting her eyes to meet his.
For a moment, John felt the world stop as he watched Franz and the Princess’s first meeting. She was as beautiful as the portrait portrayed, and more. Her honey-colored eyes were soft and sincere. As they gazed into Franz’s, John thought he detected a hint of recognition. Was it possible? Could it be?
“Spare it no thought, gracious hostess.” Franz replied with scarce breath. “No offense was taken, so not forgiveness is needed.”
The princess blushed, and Franz’s ears redded. Otherwise, John was proud to observe, Franz did nothing to betray the true purpose of his visit.
Midas signaled for his daughter to be seated, and carefully blocked her from his guest’s view.
“My friend, I must amend an offer I made to you earlier this evening.” Midas smiled, but his eyes were cold. “Anything you ask, you will receive. Everything except for my daughter.”