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The Four Princes
On the 25th wedding anniversary of King Cameron and Queen Natasha, the four royal princes were called into their parents personal suite after all the guests had gone home. It was late, and the grand tower clock that stood regally in the main hall struck twelve as they stumbled up the winding staircase and knocked at the intricately carved door. King Cameron opened the door and smiled broadly at his four sons, thinking for the millionth time that he must be the proudest and luckiest man in the entire kingdom. He ruffled their hair affectionately as they entered and stood in a line in front of Queen Natasha, who was sitting quietly in front of the crackling fireplace.
“Boys,” she said gently. “Your father and I-” she then glanced pointedly at the king, who cleared his throat and and came to stand by her side, looking rather uncomfortable. The queen continued with a slight smile on her lips “- we have something to discuss with you all.” She paused and looked each one of them in the eye.
Only William held her gaze evenly. Oliver was attempting to count the number of freckles on his left arm, tongue sticking out in concentration. Stefan was humming silently to himself as he bobbed up and down on his toes. And James stood silently, staring off into space, no doubt lost in one of those fantasies he always seemed to be wrapped up in.
“Boys!” she snapped.
They all jumped and stood at attention. Queen Natasha forced herself to keep a laugh from slipping out at the sight of Oliver puffing out his chest like a baby robin. She shook her delicate head, clasped her narrow fingers together in front of her, and continued.
“As I was saying”, she said firmly, “Your father and I have decided that it is high time William was married.” At this, William’s cheeks bloomed red, yet he kept his head high and determinedly ignored Stefan, who snickered. The Queen shot him a look, and he bent his head quickly, hiding a grin.
“As there are four of you, and you are all fairly close in age”, the queen explained, smiling excitedly now, “we have decided that it may be best if there was a quadruple wedding.” The reaction was as she had expected.
William continued to stand tall, looking slightly put-out at the idea that he would now have to share the spotlight with his three younger brothers. Oliver was blushing furiously, and refused point-blank to make eye contact with his mother, instead finding a sudden interest in his fuzzy bedroom slippers. Meanwhile, James looked rather pale at the mere thought of it, and Stefan was on the floor, clutching his throat as if he could no longer breathe.
The Queen merely raised an eyebrow and stood firm. Eventually, she cleared her throat loudly and glared at Stefan, who was still rolling about on the floor, to the delight of Oliver, who giggled madly at the sight of his younger brother’s antics. Queen Natasha caught Stefan’s eye. “Are you quite done, Stefan?” She asked with exaggerated politeness.
“Yes, Mother”, he mumbled, and stumbled up onto his feet, dusting off his red silk pajamas. She gave him one final glare.
He promptly returned it with a cheeky smile and a wink.
The Queen sighed in exasperation and smoothed the imaginary wrinkles on her floor-length gown. “We have discussed this in length with the Royal Council of Advisors, and we have all come to the conclusion that this would be best, both for personal and political reasons.” She paused, waiting to see if the boys had anything to say, but they merely looked interested, waiting to hear her reasoning. She continued, “As you all know, there have been rising international tensions what with the new Treaty of National Possessions issued by the Alliance of United Countries. Those outside of the Alliance do not think that we, as the wealthiest nation, should have access to so much land and power over Germany and France. The Alliance has been growing more and more desperate for a solution with each passing day- for, if we do not have a solution soon, then the Fourth World War will become inevitable…” The Queen’s voice faltered. The boys glanced at each other uneasily, unaccustomed to seeing their mother so worried.
“Tasha”, King Cameron said gently, and enfolded his wife’s delicate hands into his large ones. She smiled at him and shook her head dismissively. “But I am just getting ahead of myself here”, she continued firmly. “What we really need is a stronger bond with the countries outside of the Alliance, especially the nations whose leaders are deciding whether or not to join.” She stopped suddenly and looked closely at her second son.
Oliver was fidgeting, twisting his hands nervously as if debating what to say.
Queen Natasha paused. “Oliver?” she asked gently. “Do you have something you would like to say?”
“Oh”. Oliver looked up, surprised. “Oh, um…well, I was just wondering…” His voice trailed awkwardly.
William rolled his eyes and huffed. Queen Natasha prepared to scold him, then thought better of it and paid him no notice. Instead, she waited patiently for Oliver to speak his mind. She had learned by now to give her shy son some time, yet secretly she worried about him. Of all her children, Oliver seemed to be the most dependant on his parents, and sometimes she was concerned that perhaps he would always remain somewhat child-like.
“Well, you see, Mama, I was just wondering… how does all this political… stuff… like, how does it exactly relate to… to me getting married?”
Stefan looked stricken, and attempted to discreetly nudge Oliver with his elbow. “No, no, don’t encourage her, you idiot!” He whispered desperately. But it was too late.
Queen Natasha beamed and pinched Oliver’s cheek. “Wonderful question, Oliver”, she exclaimed. “I was just getting to that. You see, in less than three months, we will be hosting the Annual Ball, and of course all the princesses in the Alliance will be invited to attend. This year, we plan to invite the royal families of countries outside of the Alliance as well.” William’s eyes grew wide and he began to say something, but the queen cut him off with a wave of her hand, and he returned to his former position of standing with a stiff spine, now looking slightly disgruntled.
The queen continued, “In addition, after the ball we will invite all eligible princesses to stay behind at our palace for, oh… perhaps a month or two.” She paused for effect. “Who knows? Maybe at least one of you boys will even find your soulmate…” She stopped, frowning slightly. Stefan was back on the ground, clutching his throat as if he had no breath left in his body. “Really, Stefan!” Queen Natasha sighed disapprovingly. “Honestly, if I didn’t know any better, I would think you boys had no interest in getting married!”
This was simply too much for both Oliver and Stefan. Poor Oliver’s face went pale to the point of pasty and he started giggling hysterically, his nervous laughter so high in pitch that it ricocheted off the walls and was heard by the scullery maid downstairs, who smiled and sighed dreamily, immediately recognizing the prince’s tell-tale laughter. Stefan, on the other hand, collapsed on the ground, arms and legs jerking in a spasm until, with one final twitch(for effect) he lay still, eyes closed and mouth hanging open.
Queen Natasha broke her neat composure for just a moment as she flung her arms up in exasperation and turned to her husband. “Oh...honestly, boys! Cameron, say something!”
King Cameron swallowed nervously and then came forward. “Well, um… boys, your mother is right. She is absolutely, completely, 100 percent right. As… well, as usual. So, that being said, um… I guess it is high time you boys should get laid… and stuff.” He surveyed the boys.
William was trying to suppress a smile, Oliver was whispering repeatedly to Stefan(who was still on the ground), “What does ‘getting laid’ mean? Huh, Stefan? What does it mean? Huh?” Stefan was pointedly ignoring him, and James was twiddling his thumbs, still looking slightly sickened.
King Cameron turned to his wife, smiling hopefully. “Well, Tasha? How’d I do? Not bad, huh?” Queen Natalia took one look at her family and wearily turned, collapsing on the royal bed, while King Cameron turned to William frantically. “What? What did I say?”
William shrugged and patted his father’s broad shoulder. “Women”, he said, shaking his head and proceeding to usher his younger brothers out the door.
The king heard his sons laughing as they stomped sleepily down the winding staircase. “Women,” he said mournfully and shook his head before slipping into bed with his wife.