That night, a sudden snowstorm blanketed the countryside, bringing an end to autumn, and closing the door on Princess Abigail’s planned departure. Whether she liked it or not, she was now a houseguest of the King for the duration of the winter.
Unfortunately, the King was nowhere to be found. According to Christopher, King Eric had locked himself in his study following the dinner with Lady Georgiana Manchester. “You understand, the King has much work to catch up on. Matters of state and the like.” Christopher explained. Of course, Princess Abigail did understand, but she was still a little disappointed. She had looked forward to spending more time with the King…but perhaps this arrangement was for the best. There was no future there anyway. Instead, Princess Abigail busied herself playing chess and talking with Christopher…
Taking long walks through the garden with Hannah on crisp winter afternoons…
And even helping Maria in the kitchen and with the household chores.
Things carried on normally throughout the palace, except for the King’s strange behavior. Christopher began to worry about King Eric’s well-being. He was the only one who knew the location to his secret study, and as far as he could tell, the King spent all of his days, and even most of his nights in there. Christopher left meals for him on a regular basis, and often returned to find them untouched.
His worries were well-founded. King Eric had thrown himself into his work with an unsettling obsession. He slept little, and scarcely made time for food.
He had known that leading his country would be difficult work, and he felt the stress of his father’s legacy weighing down on his shoulders.
He wanted to do right by his people and make his father proud. He wanted to create a legacy of his own…but what would that mean?
Overcome with exhaustion, he laid down on the hard bench in his study, which had become his bed.
Meanwhile, Christopher had decided that enough was enough, and called for backup. King Eric’s old friend, Don Lorenzo de Medici, braved the snowy roads to come and help pull the King out of his self-imposed captivity.
“ Don Lorenzo! I hope your journey was not too difficult. We are so relieved that you could make it! If he won’t come out for you, then we know all is lost for certain!” Christopher smiled with gratitude.
“ Well, Christopher,” Don Lorenzo chuckled, “I shall do my best, but let’s not overstate the value the King puts in my company!”
“ If there’s anything I’m good at, though, it’s convincing people to forsake their work in favor of unproductive debauchery. Take me to him!”
Don Lorenzo approached the painting which doubled as the secret entranceway to King Eric’s study. He leaned in close and called to the King: “Well, is this how you welcome guests around here, Eric? I didn’t risk my neck on the ice to make conversation with a second-rate painting!”
“ What the devil…?” King Eric was startled awake by Don Lorenzo’s yell.
He recognized the voice, but he almost couldn’t believe it. He hadn’t seen his good friend Lorenzo in over a year.
“ We know you’re in there, Eric, and we’ve got you surrounded!” Don Lorenzo called.
“ I heard you the first time, you old wastrel!” He greeted his friend with a big smile. “ There you are!” Don Lorenzo chided. “We thought you got lost in there!”
“ And for the record, that’s a painting of my great-grandmother!” King Eric and Don Lorenzo embraced enthusiastically. Seeing his good friend made the King realize how isolated he had been these past few weeks.
“ Christopher called me in to try and show you a good time, and so I will whether you like it or not. Honestly, I don’t know how you can stand such mind-numbing activities as work .” Don Lorenzo joked. “ Haha! Well not everyone has the luxury of enjoying their luxury like you do, Lorenzo, but I will let you show me how its done, for a little while at least!” King Eric laughed. “First, let’s see if we can scrounge up some food. I’m starving!”
Upstairs, Hannah and Princess Abigail were enjoying an afternoon game of cards. “Oh--Maria wanted me to thank you for your help with digging out the winter gardens this morning.” Hannah gave Princess Abigail a disapproving glance. “You know, hard labor is not exactly an appropriate enterprise for a princess.”
“ Oh Hannah!” Princess Abigail laughed. “You know as well as I that if I stayed cooped up in this palace with nothing but the knitting to entertain me, I would rightly go mad! I know a thing or two about gardening, so I might as well help!” She paused before continuing. “Besides…it’s not as if I have to stay neat to impress the King. I haven’t even seen him since the dinner with Georgiana…”
“ Well, don’t look at me! I haven’t seen him either. Christopher says he’s been working in his secret study.” Hannah looked at Princess Abigail appraisingly. “Do you think of him often, Princess?”
“ Well my my, Eric. Who the devil is she?” Don Lorenzo stopped King Eric at the doorway of the card room. “Are you mad? To hide out in your study with such a delicious maid in your home?” “ Lorenzo! You old hound dog! She’s not a maid…it’s a long story. Her name is Princess Abigail of Avalon and she is my guest…but she is quite off limits. Let’s just go and have our dinner.” “ I said I would make you have fun, and I think we’ll start here.” Don Lorenzo gave King Eric a sly smile.
“ Oh, I don’t know, Hannah. I guess I do think of him often. That night after dinner, I felt like we had a moment, and…”
“ Good evening ladies. I do hope we’re not interrupting anything.” Don Lorenzo strode into the room, while King Eric stifled a surprised gasp. “My name is Don Lorenzo, and I am an old friend of the King’s.” King Eric started, “We were just passing--” “ Would you mind if we joined your game?” Don Lorenzo cut him off.
“ Oh! Your Majesty! And, uh, Don L-Lorenzo!” Princess Abigail was startled out of her conversation about the King. Had they heard her? “Of course you may join us. W-We were just about to start a new game.” She glanced at Hannah, thoroughly abashed.
“ Excellent! Then let’s play!” Don Lorenzo didn’t take his eyes off Princess Abigail. He ignored the agitated groan from King Eric behind him.
“ What brings you back to the palace, Don Lorenzo?” Hannah asked as they sat down. He smiled warmly at her. “Christopher was afraid old Eric here was working himself to death, so he called me in to save him.” King Eric rolled his eyes, and Don Lorenzo turned his attention back on Princess Abigail. “Although if I had such a beautiful guest staying with me , I could never lock myself away in a dreary study. Eric said you were beautiful, Signorina, but that meager description does not do you justice.”
Princess Abigail blushed, and glanced shyly at King Eric. “Well grazie, Don Lorenzo. I am flattered. It is true that we have missed the King--in fact, I feared I must have offended him somehow, and so he was trying to avoid me.” She laughed playfully.
“ Ah well, you have certainly not offended me, Princess. I do not mean to have neglected you…” He shot a glare at Lorenzo. He had not told him that she was beautiful, but he realized suddenly that it was obviously so.
“ Well, perhaps if the king is too busy, you can spend some time with me, Princess. I imagine I might get lonely during my stay here if he insists on working all the time. I’m sure we would get along famously! Tell me, do you enjoy long, steaming baths on cold winter nights such as this?”
“ Typically I do, Don Lorenzo, but if this is the type of activity you’re suggesting we do together, then I’m afraid you are sorely mistaken as to what type of woman I am. You will have to take your baths alone, which, given your obvious charm, should not be a new experience for you.”
King Eric was delighted with Princess Abigail’s scathing reply. “Sorry about that one, Lorenzo. Maybe your ways with the ladies have dimmed with age, eh?”
“ Especially with the lovely Princess Abigail here! I should tell you about the wonderful dinner we had the night she first arrived. I made the mistake of underestimating her then, and I won’t do it again!” Don Lorenzo scowled.
“ Ah yes, well. We all had an interesting time that night, didn’t we?” Princess Abigail said, sheepishly.
“ Sounds like an entertaining story. At any rate, the point has been duly noted. I see that you are a worthy opponent, Princess.”
“ More than that! You should have seen the look on Lady Georgiana Manchester’s face during dinner the next night!”
“ Ah yes, that was also a rather interesting evening. I was so sorry Lady Georgiana had to leave early.”
“ None more so than I, I assure you.”
“ Speaking of retiring, I’m afraid it’s time for us ladies to leave you gentlemen to your cards. It is quite late!”
Princess Abigail stood to follow Hannah. “It was very nice to see you again, Majesty. I hope you plan on making it outside of your study again soon.”
“ I think I will do that. Goodnight, Princess Abigail.”
“ Yes, goodnight. And if warm baths won’t do the trick, I see I shall just have to find other ways of wooing you, my dear.”
Princess Abigail laughed and shook her head. “I suppose you shall, Don Lorenzo!”
“ She does pose an exciting challenge, doesn’t she?” Don Lorenzo quipped. “ Don’t even think about it, Lorenzo.” King Eric warned. “As I said before, she is off limits.”
“ For someone who is so disinterested in her, you do get awfully jealous.” He looked at King Eric with a raised eyebrow. “No, you needn’t worry. I know why she was brought here.”
“ You know about that?”
“ Haha, oh yes. And I’ve also heard that you refused her. Are you sure that is wise? What a queen she would make!”
“ Not you too, Lorenzo. …Honestly, I don’t know what to do. I don’t feel ready to take a wife, but… I just feel quite confused about the whole thing. Ack, but we don’t need to talk about that now. I’m still starving--let’s go get our dinner!”
Unfortunately, Don Lorenzo was called away from his visit that next morning due to a family emergency. King Eric tried to get back into his work, but he couldn’t shake his distraction. He kept thinking of the things Don Lorenzo had said, particularly what he said about Princess Abigail. Damn Lorenzo! He thought. Why does he have to complicate everything?
Frustrated with his work, King Eric decided to take a walk around the palace late at night to clear his head. Turning the corner, he saw that the light was on in the library. Strange for Hannah to have left the lights burning…Oh well, perhaps some late night reading will relax me.
“ Why, Princess Abigail!” He was surprised to see her. “You startled me--I didn’t expect anyone else to be up this late.”
She jumped back from the shelf where she’d been browsing for books, equally surprised. “Oh! Well I apologize, your Majesty. I was having trouble sleeping, and sometimes reading helps calm my thoughts. Please, don’t let me disturb you. I was just about to leave.”
“ Nonsense! Do not leave on my account. Besides, I understand completely. Just this evening I was having trouble sleeping myself! Now let’s see--what were you reading tonight?” He took the book she was holding and went to the sofa.
“ Come, sit with me. We shall read together.” Princess Abigail could feel the heat rising up her neck. She felt she had waited so long to spend time with the King again, and now he was asking her to read with him, and in such an intimate setting! She calmed her uneven breath, and sat down beside him, silently.
“ Hmm, Tristan and Isolde . A little melodramatic for late night reading, don’t you think?” He gave her a teasing smile. He was enjoying the playful, happy mood that her company put him in.
“ On the contrary my Lord! It is a beautiful love story! Although yes, perhaps a tragic one as well…” Princess Abigail admitted. “ Well alright then, we shall see! Is this your bookmark here? You’ll need to fill me in on the story up to this point.” King Eric rifled through the pages.
“ Well you see, Isolde found Tristan washed up on the Irish shore, and she’s been taking care of him in a secret cottage.”
“ She gently removed his linen shirt and applied the salve again to Tristan’s injured shoulder. He had not yet woken up, and she marveled at his beautiful body.” King Eric read the passage, and feigned a scandalized face. “My, Princess! Is this really an appropriate book for you to be reading?”
Princess Abigail blushed. “Your Majesty, don’t sound so appalled! This is a classic story of true love! I suppose it also fulfills the role of a guilty pleasure. You don’t think less of me, do you?” She smiled back at him.
“ Of course not.” King Eric chuckled. “It seems like an interesting read, but…are there any battle scenes?” Princess Abigail looked puzzled. “Um, well yes there are quite a few, I suppose. Skip ahead a bit--I think there are some coming up.”
“ But perhaps you would like to borrow the book and read some more of it while you try to sleep. I’ve read it before, so I don’t mind. Besides, I am getting quite tired…” Princess Abigail didn’t want to leave the King, but she suddenly felt very sleepy.
“ Oh no, you need to stay and help me find a good battle first. We read your girly part, and now it’s time for some action!” King Eric could see she was tired, but he didn’t want his time with her to end. He enjoyed the closeness they were sharing now. “Now let’s see here…Oh! Bow and arrows!”
“ The pages ran to warn Tristan of King Marc’s surprise attack. Jonathan felt the sting of an arrow in his right shoulder, but still he ran…” Princess Abigail’s eyes began to close of their own accord as King Eric read. His deep, rich voice was lulling her to sleep where she sat, and she was powerless to stop it.
King Eric looked up from his book, and saw that Princess Abigail was nearly asleep, nodding her head forward. He put his arm around her and she rested on his shoulder. “I see that stories from the battlefield are boring you, Princess.”
Princess Abigail was in a state of half-sleep. “Hmm? I like fighting…” “ Haha! Well I think we already knew that!” King Eric pulled her closer to him. He realized this was the closest he had ever been to her, and he liked the way her body felt against his. She was warm and soft.
“ Maybe if I read some more of your ‘love’ parts, those will put me to sleep as well, do you think?” When she didn’t answer him, he knew she must be fast asleep. He watched her peaceful face, and felt protective of her. He didn’t want to leave her, but he knew he couldn’t be there when she awoke--already they had crossed the lines of propriety.
He gently laid her down on the sofa, and stood watching her slow breathing before returning to his room, taking the book with him.
Princess Abigail let out a contented sigh in her sleep, and snuggled further into the pillow.
The next morning she woke early, forgetting where she was. Then she remembered her conversation with King Eric the night before, and she flushed with embarrassment. Did I fall asleep while he was reading? She thought. Oh my, how mortifying!
She changed into a fresh gown and put up her hair. She looked at herself in the mirror before heading downstairs, and was dismayed at the red sleep mark on her cheek the pillow had left. Aren’t I a sight! She thought, agitated.
Walking through the foyer, she noticed the King standing outside in the snow, and she instantly brightened. What a treat to see him out of his office again!
Oh, he probably thinks I’m just a silly girl after last night! Hopefully I can redeem myself! She ran to get her coat in an excited flurry.
“ Good morning, Your Majesty! Enjoying the snow?” “ Indeed I am Princess Abigail!” Seeing her brought an instant smile to his face. “And you? I imagine you must have quite a sore neck this morning.” He teased.
She blushed. “Oh! I had hoped you wouldn’t bring that up! Was I terribly foolish? I don’t remember anything after ‘bow and arrow.’”
“ Oh yes, you told me all of your secrets, and then said I was the most handsome man you’ve ever met.”
“ Your Majesty! Well I know I didn’t say that because it’s not true!” She teased back.
Suddenly, Princess Abigail saw her chance to put him in his place. “Oh look, my King! A deer!” ‘ Where?!”
*SMACK* She hit him square in the jaw with a snowball, and took off around the palace.
He ran after her, laughing. “You’ve done it now! You won’t get away with that one Princess!”
He gathered up his own snowball. “You can run but you can’t hide!” He let it fly.
His snowball hit her square in the chest and sent her flying off her feet. “Ooof!”
“ Oho! Perfect shot!” King Eric gave a big laugh.
“ Well, I see how you treat a lady now! That makes you fair game, even if you are a King!” Princess Abigail started to get back up and gather another snowball.
“ I don’t think so, Lady!” King Eric tackled her back down onto the ground. They were both laughing. “ I give up!” Princess Abigail stopped her mock struggling with a laugh, but King Eric did not let her go. Instead, the smile faded from his face, and he suddenly became very serious. He looked deeply into her eyes.
It happened so fast, and yet it seemed like slow motion. Abigail felt like she was in a different world as King Eric lowered his face to hers and kissed her softly with his surprisingly warm lips.
She held onto him tightly and returned his kiss with fervor. She was not aware of the time or of the cold snow--only of his strong arms wrapped around her. Kissing him felt so natural and wonderful.
The King pulled away and looked into her eyes again. He smiled, and she could see that he was happy. She smiled back at him, feeling giddy and light-headed. For that moment, the world seemed perfect, and she hoped to lose herself in it.
But suddenly the warm feeling was gone, and she found herself reeling in the reality of the situation. “No…No I can’t.” She whispered.
“ Abigail…Please. I--I’m sorry.” She saw the crushed look of surprise on his face and her heart fell, but she knew she couldn’t stay. “ I must go.” She choked out, fighting back tears.
She got up and ran into the palace. King Eric stood there in the snow. He felt so confused, and he cursed his own stupidity.
He retreated to his study once again to try and sort himself out. How stupid could I be? He wondered. I was totally out of line! How can I ever convince her to forgive me? He had been trying to read more of Tristan and Isolde , but he put it down. It just reminded him of Princess Abigail, which just made him feel angry at himself again.
Try as he might, King Eric could not stop thinking about her no matter what he did. Being with her these past few days had brought warmth to his heart and a smile to his lips. The idea that he had ruined all of that in one afternoon was more than he could bear. He couldn’t rest until he had made things right with her. I have to find her and speak with her. He concluded.
He walked all about the palace, but the Princess was nowhere to be found.
He was so absorbed in his own thoughts, he almost didn’t see Maria. “Oh! Good afternoon Maria.” “ Good afternoon, indeed.” She replied, eyeing him suspiciously. “This is the third time you’ve passed through here in the last hour. Are you looking for something, Your Majesty? …Or someone?”
“ Oh Maria, your intuition is spot on! I think I may have offended Princess Abigail by something I…I said earlier. I want to apologize to her so desperately, but I can’t find her anywhere! Have you seen her about?” Maria thought that the King looked very upset and she felt for him. “No Your Majesty, I have not seen her today. I don’t know what went on between you two, but I do know that she’s ordered to take her supper in her quarters this evening.”
“ Supper! Maria that’s a grand idea!” King Eric’s face lit up suddenly, as if all of his worries had vanished. “I want you to prepare a big feast for everyone tonight! I will insist that Princess Abigail dine with me, and I can speak with her then! What do you think of that?” Though the prospect of preparing a huge feast last minute was not her idea of great fun, she obviously could not refuse the King. “That can be arranged, your Majesty, but if I may say just one thing…If the Princess wishes to be left alone…then perhaps it is best for you to honor those wishes.” “ She may be upset now, Maria, but you’ll see! I shall try to find her or Hannah to let them know of our dinner plans!” And with that, the King ran off, excited.
Standing outside the door to the Queen’s Wing, which also housed the ladies’ guest rooms, King Eric took a deep breath and knocked. Please let her answer the door! He hoped.
“ Oh, Your Majesty.” Hannah greeted him with a weary look. “If you are looking for Princess Abigail, she is not receiving visitors at this time.” “ No visitors? Am I to be a visitor within my own palace?” King Eric shook his head. “No matter, Hannah. I merely wanted to extend a dinner invitation to the Princess. I would be most pleased if she would dine with me tonight.” “ I will tell her.” Mistress Hannah started to go back inside, but stopped. “Please do not take this the wrong way, Your Majesty, but you have already turned her down as your betrothed. It is not fair to a young lady’s heart to continue to lead her on so.” She turned and closed the door behind her. King Eric felt frustrated and confused as he stomped back down the stairs.
Princess Abigail did not come down for dinner. “I don’t understand, Christopher. I know I must have offended her, but why won’t she just talk to me about it?” “ Your Majesty, it is obvious that the Princess has feelings for you beyond those of mere friendship.” What Christopher had to say was difficult, but he knew it must be said. “By keeping her distance, she is safeguarding her heart. Soon winter will be over and she will leave, and things will get back to how they always were. In your desire to pursue her, you need to be honest with your own feelings, and decide what your true intentions are. Otherwise, I suggest you give the Lady her space.”
Much later, King Eric sat in the library and tried to make sense of his thoughts. It had been days since he played with Princess Abigail outside in the snow. Days since he felt her warm body against his, and tasted her sweet kiss. King Eric couldn’t eat, couldn’t sleep. The thought of the coming spring and her impending departure devastated him. He did not want her to go, but how could he possibly make her stay? He came to the library every night, hoping to find her there. He could feel her presence in this room and it made him comfortable, even if it was just his imagination.
On this particular evening, he had been waiting for hours. He knew she would not come, but he felt his vigil paid tribute to her somehow, and so he was glad to keep it. He felt suddenly tired, and laid down on the couch. A shallow sleep came over him, while thoughts of her burned in his mind.
He smiled at the sight. He was complete. His heart started beating faster, no doubt to handle all of the happy emotion running through it. His heart was so big with love, it could fill the room.
There she stood with him, his son. How beautiful she looked holding their child.
His son was strong, and he felt so proud. There was nothing more important in the world.
He pulled his wife close to him and kissed her deeply. Being in her arms felt like coming home. He had finally found his purpose.
*CRACK* Thunder boomed outside the window and King Eric jerked awake. A storm had blown in. He looked around and remembered where he was. What time is it? He heard the rain pounding heavily on the windowpanes, and suddenly he recalled his dream. It made everything seem so clear. He knew what needed to be done, but how to do it? King Eric got up and headed downstairs to clear his head.
The palace was dark, and the wind howled. The atmosphere was electric, and King Eric was so preoccupied with his thoughts that he almost didn’t see her standing at the window, watching the storm.
She startled him, and his breath caught in his throat. She was so beautiful, standing there next to the window. Beautiful, but strong too. Her posture was proud and imposing. He was filled with the desire to take her into his arms and tell her everything that was in his heart, but he felt his courage waver. Would she reject him?
Princess Abigail heard King Eric in the doorway and turned abruptly. “Oh, your Majesty.” She said. She was surprised to see him, but resigned to it all the same. She’d known she would have to face the King at some point, and she just hoped to get it over with quickly.
King Eric walked over to her tentatively. He wanted to take her hand, but her suddenly rigid stance sent a clear message: ‘Off-limits.’ They stood there like that for a moment, each waiting for the other to break the silence. Finally he opened his mouth to speak, but she broke in: “I should be leaving the palace soon. This rain will wash away the last of the snow. The roads will be suitable for traveling after that.”
“ Abigail please.” He spoke tenderly, trying to soften her. She shook her head and a tear rolled down her face. “I would like to thank you for your hospitality…” “ No, please listen.” He felt panicked. He could see her slipping away from him, just as he had found his resolve. He could not control himself any longer, and stepped forward to embrace her. “I don’t want you to…”
“ No!” She cried, and ran out the door into the storm. “ Abigail, wait!” He called, running after her.
“ Please talk to me!” He didn’t know what he would do if he lost her now.
She stopped suddenly, and he skidded to a halt behind her. He kept his distance for fear of scaring her off again. “Why?!” She yelled. “Why should I stay?” Tears were streaming down her face now.
“ Because…because I love you!” He yelled back to her.
“ I think I’ve loved you since the moment I first saw you, Abigail.” He was shaking as he got down on one knee before her. Princess Abigail’s eyes were open wide in disbelief. “I want you to be my Queen. I want you to be my wife.”
King Eric had been carrying his mother’s ring around in his pocket for the past few days, and he offered it to her now. “ Oh Eric…!” She was still in shock.
“ I love you more than I thought I could ever love anyone.” King Eric put the sparkling ring on her finger. She was still crying, but now they were tears of joy. “I didn’t have the courage to admit it to myself for so long, but now I feel free!”
He stood, and she threw herself into his arms. They held onto each other tightly as they kissed passionately in the pouring rain.
With some effort, King Eric pulled back for just a moment. “So, is that a ‘yes,’ my love?” “ Yes!” Abigail exclaimed! “Yes, yes, yes!”
And so, perhaps their happily ever after had begun. End of Chapter 1.3!
Special thanks to “Treasure Chest for the Sims 2,” Fairy Forest! They’ve provided a lot of custom content for my game, including the cool secret door/painting! You can find them at: http://www.feenwald.de/en/index.php Also, be sure to stay tuned for Ch. 1.4, “A Royal Wedding!”