Two Princes

 /   /  By Emma Birches
Stone Soup Magazine
May 2019

By Lia Taylor, Art by Isha Narang

Shadow in the Sun

 

Once there was a beautiful kingdom called Galavor. Giant trees and impossibly green grass flooded the land like a smile on a baby’s face. The sun would always shine without a doubt, warming the vast kingdom. The king, King Charle, seemed reasonable and fair. His dark, stiff beard and squinty eyes created a wise and trustworthy appeal. Everyone was happy and everyone adored their ruler.

One warm June day, King Charle and his only child, Prince Richard, were eating a breakfast of omelettes and fresh fruit. They ate alone, as the Queen had passed away a few years prior, and all of Richard’s brothers had passed away at a young age. As per usual, the only noise was clinking cutlery. Prince Richard’s soft, platinum- blond hair occasionally fell into his emerald green eyes. His hands almost blended in with the porcelain chinaware. He was in premium health, but his complexion matched his mother’s, at least in his last memory of her. His bony body made the prince appear puny, but he was stronger and nobler than any man within the kingdom.

Suddenly, King Charle broke the silence. “Son, while I hope to live much longer, we do have to acknowledge that I am getting older. In two months’ time, you will turn 21, and by then you shall be engaged to the woman of your choosing. Then you and your fiancée will get married and have a coronation, for it is an event I wish to be present for. Today, you shall travel to the next kingdom, Spañia, to search for a wife.”

“While I do not disagree with you, Father, I would like to ask: why you are planning to step down from the throne so early in your life? You are only 60 years of age. You must remember, I am your youngest child, as my brothers have long passed. But, very well. If that is what you wish, I must obey. I will pack after breakfast,” responded Richard.

“Very well,” said King Charle. The men continued to eat in silence.

At about noon, when the sun was high in the sky, Richard mounted his black stallion, gave a small wave to his father, and set off on his two-day journey to Spañia. About two hours into his ride, he began to think about what he searched for in a wife. Romantic, independent, strong . . . As he tried to picture his perfect bride, he realized that each time he imagined her, she wasn’t the slim, graceful woman that is thought to be the most beautiful. Instead, she was more handsome than pretty and had a sturdy build. He realized that marrying and starting a family with a woman filled his heart with dread. He only wished to befriend women. He thought he was starting to hallucinate. So, after only three hours, he stopped for a nap beneath a willow tree.

He arrived at the palace of Spañia around two o’clock in the afternoon, when the kingdom was at its hottest. The palace was built at the top of a tall, brown, and rocky cliff. While Spañia was just as beautiful as Galavor, it was pretty in a different way. It was warm and mystical. The royal family greeted him at the gate: King Ferdinand, Queen Isabel, Princess Isabel (the eldest sister), Princess Mia (the youngest sister), and Prince Francisco. They were all kind and very welcoming. While Isabel was the prettiest of the princesses, Mia took the most interest in Richard right away. Richard knew picking a bride would be difficult, especially considering he was attracted to neither of them. Instead, he took a strong interest in the prince, Francisco.

Lucky for Richard, it was Francisco who showed him around the palace and helped to get him settled in his room, which was between Princess Isabel’s room and Francisco’s room. As Richard put his things away, he noticed the massive and beautiful garden outside his window.

At six o’clock, dinner was served. Richard was placed between Isabel and Mia, and across from Francisco. The King and Queen sat at either end of the long, rectangular table. Throughout the evening, Richard had boring, two-sentence conversations with both princesses. (“How was the trip?” “Fine.” Or, “The salmon is quite delicious.” “Yes, it really is.”) Finally, Richard remembered the garden.

“I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful garden you have here,” said Prince Richard.

“Ah, yes,” said Francisco. “I love it. It’s where I spend most of my time. If I’m not gardening, I’m wandering, or reading under a willow tree. But, really, it’s nothing much. If you like, Richard, I can show you after dinner?”

While Richard’s hair fell in his face, he wondered what it would be like to have Francisco’s dark complexion and stiff, yet wavy, black hair. He was the most attractive man he had ever seen. He liked his kindness too. He admired how humble he was.

“Of course! That would be fantastic!” Richard exclaimed.

“Great. I’ll meet you in your room at 7:30,” decided Francisco.

At 7:32, Richard was still waiting in his bedroom, which was quite luxurious. He was starting to worry. “What if he has forgotten?” he thought. “Maybe I should go check on Francisco, to remind him of our—” Richard was not sure how to define it—“date?” Richard thought it was a date, but did Francisco? Did Richard want it to be a date? Richard was now more nervous than ever. As he stood to check on the prince, there was a short and rhythmic knock at the door.

“Richard? Sorry I’m late. Are you ready?” called the voice of Francisco, through the door.

“I’ll be right out, and don’t be sorry, it’s alright,” replied Richard. A second later, the two men stood together in the corridor. Richard found Francisco especially dashing. Was this a date? It seemed the answer was yes. To his own surprise, Richard smiled at the revelation.

“Shall we?” Francisco put out his arm. Richard reluctantly rested his hand atop Francisco’s arm. He didn’t want to want to, but he did. What was this new feeling? Was it . . . attraction? This was something he had never felt before. He never thought he would fall for anyone, especially a prince.

Back home, Richard had never met anybody who was gay. It was not allowed, because his father, King Charle, had made a law against same-sex couples. If they were found out, they would be banished. Richard never understood this, but everyone knows better than to question a king’s judgement. Richard wasn’t in Galavor now, though.

Francisco led Richard through the gardens. As they walked, Francisco started a bouquet of his favorites, the flowers he nurtured the most. A white rose, an orchid, a tiger lily, a peony. After two hours of laughs and banter, the bouquet had grown full. Francisco gently placed the flowers into Richard’s hands. There was a silence, but not awkward. They each gazed into each other’s eyes.

“I don’t want to marry either of your sisters,” said Richard. His pale cheeks turned bright red with embarrassment. The contrast made him look even paler.

“I know that. If you were to marry them then why would you be here, on a date with me? You . . . you do know this is a date, right?” Francisco seemed confused. “You came here to find a fiancé; I thought you had chosen me.”

“Umm, no . . . I don’t know. My father wouldn’t approve. We could never inherit the kingdom . . . ” mumbled Richard.

“We’ll figure it out. A happy kingdom needs happy rulers. I know you don’t like my sisters, so—be with me?”

“I- I don’t know. My father is a scary man.” Richard took a deep breath, inhaling the thick scent of his bouquet. The bouquet that Francisco had given him. Francisco, the only person he could clearly and fondly see in his future. “Okay, but we need a plan, for our future.”

“Isabel and Mia, they are just magnificent with secrets. They never intended on marrying you anyway. They’ll be in the study”

The four stayed up all night suggesting ideas. Overthrowing Galavor would not be popular among citizens. Isabel was next in line to rule if Francisco was unable, and she intended to take that chance. Many ideas were proposed, all shot down.

“What if you founded your own kingdom?” proposed Isabel.

“You could run away, take Pegasus,” added Mia.

“Anyone from Spañia or Galavor could come with us, to be citizens of a new land,” suggested Francisco.

“Yes! This could work! We’ll lead on Pegasus with our citizens in boats below,” Richard exclaimed.

“And King Charle will never have to know. We’ll work by night,” Mia explained.

“No, no. He needs to know. I will confront him tomorrow. May I take Pegasus? My horse is ill, and it will make traveling faster,” said Richard.

“Of course!” said Isabel.

Pegasus was a large white mare with a wingspan longer than a man is tall. Gentle in nature, yet strong at heart. Richard climbed aboard cautiously, but soon realized he was perfectly safe, and the draining two-day trip became an exhilarating two hours. It filled the timid and confused prince with confidence.

As Pegasus started her descent to the castle grounds, Richard noticed the king waiting patiently outside the castle.

“Hello, Richard, have you found a fiancée?” asked King Charle.

“Yes, I have.” Richard said this confidently, yet inside he was dreading the moment.

“And her name?” prompted the king.

“ . . . Francisco. His name is Francisco,” said Prince Richard, sheepishly. And with that, he took off, back to Spañia, feeling a mix of emotions. Brave, proud, worried. He had fled before his father even had time to react.

A few days later, everything was ready for the escape. Richard was overjoyed that he could spend his life with the one he loved so dearly, but there was the familiar emptiness of loss, an emptiness he hadn’t felt since the death of his mother.

Flying, the two princes could see everything for miles and miles, including the large ship of hopeful citizens. Then, somebody below shouted “Land ho!” A loud cheering erupted, then quickly faded as they saw the state of the land. Death flooded the landscape. Ashes and dead grass spread as far as the eye could see. The joy melted from people’s faces. Nevertheless, Richard and Francisco guided Pegasus to the ground. As they landed, the ship was pushed up onto the shore.

Everyone was uneasy, except for their leaders. The princes felt the earth calling to them, begging to be nourished and lived on.

In unison, the princes announced, “Behold, our new kingdom! We shall call it Terracinis! We will create life upon this ashy land. We will live with the land, not on it. We will find beauty in this demolished plain.” They said this with such confidence and hope that the people were able to understand.

The land appreciated this and became beautiful right before their eyes. The grass was greener than grass should be, but was undeniably healthy. The air was fresh and the flowers could bring tears to eyes with their exquisite beauty. The land saw the hope and love in the hearts of the princes and gave them sweet fruit, in ample amounts. A crystal palace rose from the ground and a sweet, quaint village swirled up from the ashes. Birds placed crowns fit for a king onto the heads of the princes.

“Long live the kings!” cheered the crowd of citizens, awestruck and joyful. The people of Terracinis lived happily ever after.

Two Princes Lia Taylor

Lia Taylor, 12
Elkins Park, PA

Shadow in the Sun Isha Narang

Isha Narang, 13
Austin, TX

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