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The Heir and the Dilemma
There once was a kingdom, renowned for its breathtaking landscapes, so exquisite that travelers would journey for weeks just to behold its unparalleled beauty. Grassy hills stretched for miles towards the west horizon, where travelers could view the gorgeous sunset at daybreak. Oak trees dotted the undulating countryside, their vibrant green leaves swaying in the spring breeze. The hilly terrain rose into a plateau, on which a grand castle of stone stood. In this castle lived a king, who reigned over his alluring kingdom. The king was generous, cordial, and hated seeing others quarrel and fight. As King, he wished to ensure that all of his people were content and peaceful. These were his redeeming qualities that had won him the throne over his two brothers, who were ill of disposition.
To the king were birthed seven children, each born on different days of the week. The king loved the orderliness of this, so he named his children accordingly with the first few letters of the respective days of the week. However, not all of his children came to be what he wanted them to become, as they each took characteristics from their own mothers, not to mention the days of the week they were born on.
Princess Susanna, born on a Sunday, showed qualities of leadership early on and worked as an unofficial adviser to her aging father, the King. In the same castle lived Prince Morgan, who either wasted his mornings away slumbering or sitting in his chair idly, when he knew there was work to be done. Everyone’s Monday mornings were their sleepiest, so there was no surprise that superstition arose regarding Prince Morgan’s unlikable character correlating to the Monday he was born on. Down from the castle hill and in the town tavern basements, Prince Tucker, born on a Tuesday, gambled with the local townspeople to make his money, but cheated with his own weighted dice. Everyone in the whole kingdom could agree that Tuesdays were not particularly pleasant either. Princess Winifred, born on a Wednesday, largely contrasted these two princes. She spent her hours reading and studying in the royal libraries, eager to answer her own burning questions. Not too far from the libraries lay the stables, where nature and animal-loving Prince Theodore tended to the horses. Thursdays were usually an easy going day for the people of the kingdom, furthering their superstitious beliefs. Regularly scouting around the land, Prince Frederick and Prince Samuel, born on Friday and Saturday, respectively, were in the Royal Guard. Samuel was devoted to his job of Head of the Royal Guard, while his brother Frederick was a natural comedian and always saw the light in everything. Fridays or Saturdays were always considered to be the most enjoyable days, on which were born two esteemed princes. One-half of the King felt that it was the days of the week that his children were born on that caused them to embark on such vastly different paths. The other half of the king dismissed this notion and believed that these feelings were fabricated in his mind by petty superstition.
As he watched all his children come of age, the King knew that he was growing old as well. His hair was graying, and he was finding everyday actions more difficult. The thought of making a final decision regarding the heir to the throne nagged at his elderly mind, but he couldn’t bring himself to choose amongst all of his children whom he loved so dearly.
The King passed away peacefully before he was able to come to a resolution. The whole kingdom suffered the loss of a great man, though everyone knew that they must move on. The deceased King’s four head advisers, knowing this, decided to converse on the subject of a successor to the throne.
They met in a candlelit room, each of the candles’ flames emanating a soft orange glow across the walls of the room. An antique painting of their former King hung upon the chestnut wooden wall, and four ornately sculpted pillars decorated the four corners of the small, rectangular room.
The advisers sat in silence for moments before Oliver, one of the advisers, spoke.
“Greetings, everyone. I thank you all for attending this meeting today, as we have important matters to discuss. We must have an answer for the people of the kingdom by the morrow, so let us not delay. My proposition: We should rule out candidates one by one until we come to a final decision. Agreed?”
The men nodded their approval.
“Good,” Oliver said. “Now, I think Prince Morgan should be ruled out immediately. I mean, have you seen that man, with his sloppy clothing, disheveled hair, and overall slovenliness? His profuse eating has grown him obese over the years! I see him in no way fit to be a royal king.” Oliver remembered being ordered to wake the sluggish Prince Morgan from his slumber on multiple occasions.
“I completely agree,” said Leo, another adviser, leaning forward in his chair, arms crossed. “Same goes for Prince Tucker. He has become spoiled and arrogant because of his royal fortune. As a child, he was known for boasting about his family’s affluence.”
“Yes,” added the third adviser, Laurent. “Prince Tucker often left this castle to those decrepit taverns down the hill to gamble with the local townspeople. With him as our leader, who knows where our money would be going?”
The fourth and final adviser, Orson, leaned back in his chair and observed his fellow advisers’ conversation. He knew who he wanted to ascend to the throne, and he would voice his opinion when the time came.
“I’ve heard rumors about Tucker’s ownership of weighted dice,” Leo said. “That would explain the bulging bags of money he hauled back into the castle.”
“I think we can say that Morgan and Tucker are out of the picture,” Oliver said. “No need for more explanation. We need to choose from Princesses Susanna and Winifred, along with Princes Theodore, Frederick, and Samuel. Anyone? Laurent?”
Laurent shifted forward in his seat. “I think Prince Theodore should be ruled out,” he said. “As a boy, he never quite fit in with his peers, regardless of the fact that he is a royal prince. Because of that, he’s now socially inept and would feel overwhelmed as the King.” Years ago, the former King had asked Laurent for advice concerning his son.
“How can I help my young Theo?” the King had asked. Laurent had responded by counseling him that he should just leave Theodore to pursue his own interests instead of trying to force friendships. Laurent also added that some of the best work ethics he had seen were people who were shy and reticent. However, the Prince had soon found his own friend, Nature, and became the royal horsekeeper, as he loved animals and involving himself in every aspect of a job, even if it may be unpleasant.
“That sounds reasonable. He has loved his job for many years,” Oliver said, slipping out a piece of parchment and writing with his ink pen. “I don’t see why he would want to leave. After all, you would develop a connection with your horse after spending so much time with it, wouldn’t you? Now, Orson, you haven’t been contributing. Why don’t you speak your mind?”
“Well, I think that the answer to this whole succession problem is obvious,” Orson said. “Princess Susanna, naturally, would be the finest decision for our heir to the throne. She worked closely with her father, which gives her experience and influence in this kingdom. That must be enough to convince you.” Orson had met Susanna personally, and took an immediate liking to her, as she had to him. She was a beautiful lady, regularly dressing in elegant attire wherever she went. She also stood taller than most of the castle’s men, which made her the slightest bit intimidating. Orson’s choice for the successor to the throne came not only from her qualities, but his own personal relationship with her. The other advisers were unaware of this then.
A look of immense surprise came upon Oliver’s face. “Susanna? I presumed we would unanimously agree that Princess Winifred, who is very knowledgeable, would be the most valuable successor to the throne. She would be a superior negotiator than Princess Susanna, being one that has read about and understands ways of life beyond our land. Winifred truly appreciates literature, and her passion has sculpted her into an astute, insightful woman.”
Leo and Laurent have a brief, whispered conversation, then Leo rises from his seat. “Laurent and I agree that Prince Frederick and Prince Samuel should be ruled out. Prince Samuel is a persistent soldier, and he is firmly committed to his job as head of the Royal Guard. Prince Frederick has found his place in this kingdom as well. His comedic nature has increased the morale of many of his comrades, and we need that in the Royal Guard.”
Oliver reminisced the day Prince Frederick was born. He came into the world with a twinkle in his eye and a ravenous appetite. The king knew that Frederick would become an adventurous young lad. Frederick enlisted in the Royal Guard, under his brother, Samuel. His humorous nature would cause roars of laughter from his comrades. Oliver’s lip curled up in a smile. Frederick had entertained the King and his advisers as well.
“This problem is nearly settled now,” Orson said. “We just need to decide between Princess Susanna and Princess Winifred. Let us go our separate ways to dine. I fancy some tender mutton chops right now.”
“Beforehand,” said Leo, “we should inform the kingdom that our heir to the throne will be a Queen.”
After the advisers feasted, they returned back to, the dim, candle-lit room where seminars and meetings occurred.
“Which Princess will be more beneficial to this kingdom,” said Leo, “the eloquent and knowledgeable Princess Winifred, or the experienced and diplomatic Princess Susanna?”
Laurent cleared his throat, and said, “I have to side with Orson, supporting Princess Susanna. He’s correct, she has experience in a position of honor, and has spent time her whole life being surrounded by leaders, including her father. I see this now as irrefutable proof that she will be our best choice for our Queen.”
“Having Winifred as our Queen would have greater benefits,” said Leo. “She is light-hearted and loves when people ask her questions. She is very open to suggestion from the common folk of the kingdom, and those are the qualities that our Queen should embody. Susanna was always the one to take matters into her own hands. She can sometimes use her supremacy and influence as an advantage to rein her horse where she wants it to run.”
“But,” Orson challenged. “Princess Susanna has much larger influence! Winifred just stays cooped up in the libraries all day!”
“However, you can’t forget,” said Laurent, “that Princess Susanna can overuse her supremacy.”
“Laurent,” replied Orson, in a composed manner, “I thought you were on my side of this argument.”
Laurent shrugged. “It seems that opinions change, they have supported a strong argument,” he said.
“It seems that we have the majority, Orson,” said Oliver. “Which means that we now have a final decision.”
Laurent peered at Orson as if attempting to read his thoughts. Orson had always been very close to Princess Susanna. He had even sensed a kindling of a fire of love between them. However, he had never suspected Orson having a favoritism because of it. “Admit it, Orson,” Laurent started, “the major reason you support Princess Susanna is that she likes you, and you like her.”
Orson’s eyes widened, his face flushed, and he stammered, “Wh-what? I wouldn’t dare do such a thing!”
Oliver turned to look at Laurent, gaining understanding. “Oh, I think you would, Orson. You seem very uncomfortable right now.”
“No I’m not!” Orson exclaimed.
Oliver, Laurent, and Leo all raised one eyebrow, and Orson sputtered, “Princess Susanna would be a better Queen than Winifred, and I am firm with my opinion!”
“Yes, and Susanna would appoint you as her head adviser, which would make you an even more prominent figure in this humble kingdom,” explained Laurent.
Orson’s face flushed, and he looked around at all of the advisers that he had worked with for many decades now, knowing that he had been defeated. He stood up quickly, pushing his chair out from behind him and causing it to crash onto the floor. Storming off out of the room, he bitterly slammed the door behind him, his footsteps and mutters heard echoing down the hallway.
“Ah, well, as we know, prejudice shan’t be accepted here,” Oliver affirmed. “I assume one of you shall inform Queen Winifred of this after the ceremony?”
“Yes,” said Leo. “It would be wise to do so.”
Queen Winifred sat atop her grand throne on a Wednesday, unsurprisingly. After the ceremonial proceedings came to an end, she was informed about one of the former King’s advisers. This man, Orson, supported her sister, Princess Susanna, because of their close relationship. He had aspired to raise himself in the hierarchy of the kingdom with Susanna as the new Queen. However, his plan backfired, as the other three advisers found out about his affinity for Princess Susanna, and disapproved of his prejudice. Queen Winifred had read about many leaders before her time who were fair and just. Those were the people who lifted their communities up, prospered, and became an example to those after them. Therefore, Queen Winifred was pleased to have such steadfast advisers by her side. With more people like them, she mused, her kingdom of rare beauty would flourish at last.