Chapter 13.1


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Chapter 13.1

  1. 1. The Lords of the Isle:A (Very Late) Valentine’s Day Special, Part I<br />Things will be tamer than this, promise.<br />
  2. 2. Ah, yes! Love! Love is in the air as the Gen. 2 kids forge ahead into the realm of College and Adulthood and Beyond. And yes, your eyes do not deceive you: that is a picture of teenRoland on a date with the lovely Cecilia Goodytwoshoes (profbutters, The Squeaky Clean Legacy). And yes, this picture is out of continuum. But it does serve as a reminder of how charming their relationship was.<br />‘Was’, of course, is threatening to be the key word, what with the sorry events last update.<br />
  3. 3. Now, a word: unless you particularly like being confused, bear in mind that this chapter is a set of distinct, separate, and themed episodes. (The Tales of Ba Sing Se in Avatar, Book II come into mind.) So it would be in vain to try and determine a clear-cut chronological sequence, make connections between the stories, or try and find secret codes or omens of doom. This update is all about the wonders of Love – and nothing more. Keep things easy, man! ;)<br />On the other hand, though, I might just easing you off your guard...<br />
  4. 4. However, before you all lynch me for taking ten thousand eons to update, be assured that I had not been lounging around mindlessly, or sleeping idly on my sofa. No. I had been busy with my Philosophy exams, writing my second story for our Fiction class, and researching for the said second story by reading Doyle and the Miasma Theory. <br />
  5. 5. And yeah, I had been playing Lord of the Rings: Battle for Middle Earth II. Creating super heroes that grant insane leadership bonuses or launching massive tornadoes is fun!<br />Though... that doesn’t really help my case, does it? <br />But I have been agonizing over this update – especially on how I would deliver the second part! So all’s well and good! Shall we move on, then?<br />
  6. 6. The Story of Robert<br />
  7. 7. Once upon a time, there was a student named Robert.<br />
  8. 8. And Robbie was the student par excellence. As filthy dormies poked each other to death, he was conscientiously studying, diligently writing his own term paper, earning lots of gold from his masterpieces, making fabulous speeches for the student council rallies, and finding a niche in the secret society. (And he cleaned up well, too.) Inarguably, he had achieved more than what most college students have ever dreamt of.<br />And did we mention that he was an evil genius working his way to become the next Criminal Mastermind?<br />
  9. 9. But despite all his successes, poor Robbie felt a little... unsatisfied.<br />
  10. 10. After all, would not getting eight years’ worth of bad luck in a wishing well, getting chased by a particularly nasty swarm of bees, and basically overworking yourself into passing out make you a little grumpy?<br />
  11. 11. The problem, however, was that poor Robbie could not understand what was wrong, for he loved studying and skilling as much as... well, there was no one to compare him with, really. And yet, he felt like he was missing something. He just was not sure what that was.<br />Now, if only there was some way I could do for him...<br />But just what did he need, exactly?<br />
  12. 12. “Alright, pledge term over!” The Senior student Ysabel Mercator announced three seconds after Robbie applied for House membership. “Welcome to the House, brother dear!”<br />“Wow, that was it?” Robert gasped as his sister went over to hug him. “But I have heard the dormies say that you and Roland and Artie overwork pledges for hours on end!”<br />“Yes, well...” Bel-bel’s eyes darted sideways before continuing, “But you are family. It is all merely formality for you.”<br />
  13. 13. Though Ysabel was preoccupied with her impending thesis and presentation of a masterpiece for her degree in Art, she was nonetheless able to explain the House rules to Robert.<br />“House rules?” she giggled to herself, hearing Robert ask about the so-called ‘House rules’. “Oh, Robbie... Well, then.<br />First rule – do not destroy the House. Second rule – sneak out once in a while and have fun.”<br />
  14. 14. “Are – are you serious?” Robert did a fairly good impersonation of Roland whenever he was put into awkward situations. “But what about study group schedules? Homework hours? Workshops?”<br />Ysabel only laughed – openly this time. “The point is not to be serious, little brother! We’d have all the time in the world for that after College. Or do you desire to be as this young man working at his assignments all day, and behind my skirt at that?”<br />
  15. 15. In the end, though, Bel-bel thought it best to set a mandatory fun dancing schedule (4 in the afternoon until eight in the evening) for her confused, wayward brother.<br />“Now may I do my homework?”<br />It was far from being the stellar success Ysabel hoped it would be. <br />
  16. 16. “...I really do not understand Bel-bel sometimes, Artie. So you are sure dialing this number would help? That this would make our dear sister stop badgering me?”<br />Arthur nodded, but the tone he took seemed... off. “Yea... you just do that, brother. And take good care to dial the numbers properly. 1800-MATCHMAKER.”<br />“So that would be 1800-62... 8... 2... 4... – odd, I feel I am being duped. Oh, well! – 6... 2...”<br />
  17. 17. Ten minutes later...<br />“Ehem.”<br />“What? How comes you here, old gypsy? Artie said that – oh my elves.”<br />“No pay, no date, my darling. With your brothers calling for me all the time I rather thought you would know the drill by now.”<br />
  18. 18. Robert was beside himself in vexation. “But I did not ask for your service! ...Or, rather, I did not mean to... Artie... said Bel-bel... argh!”<br />“Artie this, Bel-bel that, gah! Make up your mind young man!” the gypsy sighed dramatically, throwing backward in an exaggerated manner. “I do not have all evening, you know. And the trek from the City to this upper part of the College is not short and easy, mind.”<br />
  19. 19. “All right, all right!” Robert snapped, still a little smarting as he handed over a 5,000-piece note to the old charlatan. If his siblings were going to dupe him, he thought, then at least he could repay one ill turn with another by using up much of their resources.<br />In contrast, the gypsy’s mood could not have been better. “Aaah. Very generous, I see!” she exclaimed happily. <br />
  20. 20. “Well, then. I can sense it – you two are meant for each other!” the gypsy announced even as she peered into her crystal ball. “Yes, yes! This match will do wonders...”<br />“So... where is my date? Brother Roland had his falling down from the sky, or so it seemeth to him at the time.”<br />“Eh, he was a special case, so the theatrics won’t do for you. You will find that your match had already made her way into your House.”<br />
  21. 21. “Ha! Good find, my dear Robert!” Arthur chuckled as he passed by his brother, leaving behind...<br />A walking, giggling suit of armor.<br />Concealing his thoughts with a smile (so as not to alarm his ‘date’), Robert hissed threats of an un-chronicle-able kind to his smirking elder.<br />
  22. 22. “So...”<br />“...Erm...”<br />“Why on earth are you wearing armor?” Robert asked.<br />He needed no telling that he sounded awkward.<br />
  23. 23. “Well, ‘tis so because we live in a most dangerous place, sir,” the armored date replied, “what with the Xianxi threat and all. One cannot be too careful.” <br />Danger, indeed! Robert leaned over seriously towards his partner. “Now, see here. I have no idea what the gypsy matchmaker had in mind – I know not why I consulted one, even – but I must say your costume is rather menacing. Nay, not even that. Alarming would be the better term...”<br />
  24. 24. “...and that is rather... admirable.”<br />And so Robert Mercator, like many others before him, fell under the irresistible power that is known as Chemistry. <br />Or maybe it was because a promising criminal mastermind could feel a possible right-hand when he encounters one?<br />
  25. 25.
  26. 26. After a moment of merriment, however, Robert invited his date to take a seat.<br />“I know it is better to be prudent and prepared at all times, but we are safe here in our House, at least. I doubt even the Xianxi would brave storming the place. Artie has a lot of friends, you know. Besides, armor is quite hot and stifling. So let me take your helmet off.”<br />
  27. 27. “There!” Robbie ejaculated, holding out a mirror in front of...<br />A dark-skinned lady’s flowing raven hair tumbled down as the helmet came off. And then she smiled, glancing sideways at her own reflection, as if inspecting it for blemishes that it obviously did not carry.<br />“Is that not... better,” Robert breathed in conclusion.<br />
  28. 28. “You flatter me,” the lady said. Now that metal no longer echoed her speech, making it unnaturally heavy and brazen, Robbie could now hear how her deep, rich voice rang melodiously, almost like a chant, a spell.<br />“And for good reason,” Robbie replied. Then, with a smile, he went on, “So... I know this must be against all your better counsel, but... would you go out with me?”<br />
  29. 29. Even though the red armies of Xian’an had overrun much of the countryside, the City of Meridia still remained a safe haven in the Isla, and accordingly Robbie’s partner agreed to continue their date there. <br />Or, to be more specific, in the newly-established restaurant: Don’s Bistro.<br />(Oh, and there’s the New Orphanage, far center.)<br />
  30. 30. “Such a distasteful uniform,” Robbie’s iron-clad date scoffed, though with a snicker, as the pair made their way towards the podium. But seeing the ‘Best of the Best Award’ plaque mounted upon the wall, even she had to recognize, “The food must be good, though.”<br />“So you disapprove of the staff, but approve of the service?” uttered Robert as he arranged matters with the hostess.<br />“You can say that. And I say the owner must be an excellent cook, or a depraved Romancer, or both. I wonder who he is.”<br />
  31. 31. She was not entirely correct, of course. But she had a point. <br />Digression aside...<br />
  32. 32. “So it is illegal to ask for the secret recipe? Or at least hint about your quality ingredients? A special dose of olive oil, perhaps?”<br />“No, sir, sorry,” was the waitress’ monotone answer. “May I take your order?”<br />“Your hair matches my partner’s. Odd. Well, seeing the choices... grilled cheese and chili bowl, please.”<br />
  33. 33. As they both waited for their meals, the pair amused themselves by telling the same old tales again and again.<br />
  34. 34. That, and they made countless toasts: to prosperity, to long life, to aliens, and to the puzzling fact that the Bistro had a medieval European look on the outside while its interiors sported a Moroccan theme.<br />
  35. 35. After a while their dinner arrived. Robbie, being a Knowledge Sim who craved new experiences, decided to taste the Don’s chili bowl, reportedly well-known even beyond the Sea. <br />(Also, Robert ended up craving a grilled cheese sandwich a day later.)<br />
  36. 36. “You know...” Robert at last began in a contemplative tone, “My siblings’ idea... ‘tis not so bad. In truth, I must say... I had a good time.”<br />His date nodded. “Mmmm. So had I.”<br />A thought came into Robbie’s head, “We should go out again, Miss... Oh, I forgot to ask your name. Mine is Robert, by the way. What of yours?”<br />
  37. 37. “Meadow Pederson.<br />And I would love to.”<br /> FIN<br />
  38. 38. The Story of Ysabel<br />
  39. 39. Once upon a time there was a princess named Ysabel.<br />She was on her senior year as an Art major, and she was not going to let her guard down at the last moment. She studied diligently and spent a considerable and proper amount of time to her studies.<br />And, of course, like all decent princesses, she did her duties with style and simple elegance.<br />
  40. 40. Why, she even went so far as to write her own term papers sometimes. <br />
  41. 41. These things being said, however, our little princess knew the meaning of the word ‘leisure,’ and was also aware of the many benefits it accorded: peace of mind, release of tension, and maxed Fun motives.<br />
  42. 42. Some ill-doers who have nothing to do all day might turn their crooked minds into gossip, spreading rumors that our princess Bel-bel is much too fun-minded, even to the point of boxing with men, and thus, abandoning her dignity.<br />These rumors are unfounded, and naught but the stuff of slander.<br />
  43. 43. But one thing even these foul-mouthed scoundrels cannot deny: Bel-bel loved her family. <br />
  44. 44. Though, of course, her family, a numerous fine brood they may be, was not the only thing she was capable of loving.<br />There was, of course, her childhood and secret sweetheart, Lenard Labouis.<br />
  45. 45. When and where did their romance began? Perhaps the roots could be traced to her sister Jeanne’s befriending the firstborn male of their Papa’s close friend. As the veteran reader of the humble volume, The Lords of the Isle, would know, Jeanne had often invited Lenard (and occasionally his sister Mariette) over to play male games, such as chess and boxing. <br />
  46. 46. Ysabel, living in the same house as Jeanne did, would inevitably come across their fair guests. At first, of course, shy Bel-bel made friends with the sister, Mariette, first, for they were both female, and thus naturally disposed towards each other.<br />But time passed, of course, and Ysabel and Lenard soon became equally amicable acquaintances.<br />
  47. 47. Oh, did our little princess knew, even back then, that the two of them were meant to be? Perhaps, yes. But this passage from being a little girl to a grown lady was of course a remarkably exciting and complicated one. It was during this time that little Bel-bel, chaperoned (and perhaps egged on) by Jeanne, sneaked out in the evenings and got caught from time to time.<br />
  48. 48. But Ysabel and Lenard were both past that secretive stage.<br />And they could not have been happier.<br />
  49. 49. But all the good days in College needed to come into an end – and at length, the end did come for little Bel-bel. Her professors, nay, the entire academic community and all its institutions, were impressed with Ysabel’s masterpiece, The Study of the Heliopatri, a moving painting of vivid colors depicting the ancient Kings. She was accordingly granted a degree and the title ‘Master of the Arts’ par excellence, summa cum laude.<br />
  50. 50. And so, with high spirits and high expectations...<br />
  51. 51. ...Bel-bel was quite ready for the next big adventure.<br />Literally.<br />
  52. 52. “Farewell, my dear sister! Excellent choice of outfit, I daresay.”<br />“I shall miss you too, Artie. <br />Do take care of everyone, mind. Especially Robbie.”<br />
  53. 53. After a long trip by water and by land (and a brief detour into the City’s boutiques), Ysabel was back at the Isla. And yet she did not head towards her Papa’s house, which, although it was her first dear home, was no longer to be her haven, as per the rules of their patriarch’s Legacy. Instead, she was led to the eastern parts of the Isla and, having alighted, was cordially and most formally greeted by a man in uniform, bowing stately.<br />
  54. 54. “Good day, mademoiselle. Do step in. The masters Labouis are expecting you,” the butler spoke as his hand waved towards the stone pathway leading to a magnificent country manor. After this the butler went into the house, and Ysabel followed.<br />
  55. 55. And then, once she had made her way inside, a pair of steady, firm hands clasped Ysabel’s.<br />It was Lenard, with his exultant face, welcoming her. “You have come!” <br />“You did send for me, you know,” quipped Ysabel. “It was rather hard for me not to.” But, changing tact, she went on, “But I did not expect you to call so soon! What is this urgent matter you speak of?”<br />
  56. 56. “Well, Ysabel, my love,” Lenard said, assuming an air of formality and importance, “I would like to introduce you to my dearest parents.”<br />
  57. 57. “Oh hai parents!”<br />Right. As if that was how things were done in this world.<br />(Though, still. Maxed Playful and Nice make such a lovely combination. :D)<br />
  58. 58. “Good day, Madame Labouis.”<br />“My warmest greetings, dear. My son Lenard has talked much about you.”<br />“I am home, Papa.”<br />“Welcome home, my son. And we have a visitor, I see. May I tempt you both with toast? We were just about to dine, your mother and I.”<br />
  59. 59. “I am so glad you could join us,” the Labouis patriarch, Nicator, said as Ysabel sat right beside his son. “Your father was here, once. I am sorry to say we ended the day with... less pleasant notes.”<br />“But he was a charming young man, your father,” the wife, Nicola, added. At these words Ysabel noticed how the pair seemed not to age, though they seemed to be contemporaneous with Damian, her Papa, now properly an aged man (even with their bad Uncle’s curse aside). <br />
  60. 60. “I thank you for the compliments to my Papa,” Ysabel courteously replied to her hosts. “I hope our family would be still of good service to yours.”<br />“Yes... in fact we rather think that in next to no time our families will become one, yes?” Nicator chuckled, causing Ysabel to blush and withdraw her jeweled hand. “But so much for that. Lenard told me that you had graduated with full honors! ...”<br />
  61. 61. So the pleasant conversation went on, even though Ysabel noticed that her fiancée's parents now seemed to be somewhat distracted, and to be alluding to some yet unknown grave matter.<br />“I could not help but notice, sir,” Ysabel remarked at length, addressing the father now, “that with great care you refer to ‘your futures’ and ‘your fortunes’ when talking about the union of their families. If I may politely ask, sir: what do you mean by this?”<br />
  62. 62. “Ah!” a weight seemed to have been lifted on both their faces, mother and father, as Nicator exclaimed. “So you have caught our tone, I see. Very sharp on the uptake, like your Papa. Sometimes.”<br />“You see, Miss Mercator, Lenard,” Nicola continued, even as she and her man clasped hands, “the time is now come for us. We are leaving.”<br />
  63. 63. “And Lenard – your mother and I could not be happier in having you both as our successors.”<br />
  64. 64. “What?”<br />
  65. 65. “You seemed surprised by this,” the lady remarked, even as the chief of the Labouisie took his leave and stared out of the window, surveying something far away. “Surely, my dear son, you would know the reason for our passing.”<br />And then it dawned upon Lenard. “The Sea... the Sea. It is the Sea, is it not, Mama?” he asked, not without a hint of sadness.<br />
  66. 66. “Yes, my dear. Our people are of the Sea, and it is there where we find our heart’s content. Not so long ago, as you know, we have landed here in this Isla, and given the task of ferrying those who wish to cross the Sea. It was in this manner that the folk from Beyond-the-Sea came, did it not, Miss Ysabel?<br />But we Labouisie are the Mariners, the Lords of the Sea. Haven and port we visit, but we cannot tarry.”<br />
  67. 67. “And your father, my dear Lenard, knows this, ever since we first stepped foot upon this fair estate: we are not here to stay. We were only on an extended vacation. And now the Sea calls us back.<br />Sometime, too, your turn to be called will come – but that is still far-off. However, we cannot remain on land now.”<br />
  68. 68. “The thought of the Sea is ever present in our minds now.”<br />
  69. 69. And, indeed, the day of departure came soon after that conversation.<br />
  70. 70. “So our time has come to its end,” the lady Nicola spoke, smiling a smile that rather wished the time had not come that soon. Too soon. <br />“Do not worry, my love. Our children shall thrive here for a while, and then they shall join us, and their children’s children, too. And then we shall all be together.”<br />
  71. 71. “But when will this be so?”<br />
  72. 72. “It will all come to pass, my dear Nicola. All in due time.<br />Farewell, my son, and my newfound daughter! In the end your eyes will gaze Seaward, too. But for now, till as long as you may, and reap the fruits of your joy!”<br />
  73. 73. And so it was that the great ones of the Sea-folk, Nicator and Nicola Labouis, sailed away...<br />
  74. 74. Leaving the Isla and all its turmoil forever...<br />
  75. 75. And yet leaving their own legacy behind.<br />
  76. 76. And so the first of the Seafaring Folk pass from the chronicles, never to reappear in the Isla, save in forgotten, fading lore in the times to pass. What became of them is unknown, but it was held in belief that in the midst of the great Sea all the woes and cares were banished in the chief’s face, and he and his lady roamed the waters in bliss even unto this day.<br />
  77. 77. And yet, parting from those one loved could never be a completely happy experience, and we could only be but sure that some sides were left with sadness.<br />
  78. 78. And yet in every sadness there is a welcoming hand and a warm embrace...<br />
  79. 79. And in every love that sails far into the distance (for love never can be erased) another one shines yet brighter, yet closer, yet merrier, even as the sun rises all the more glorious with every morning after the stars fade.<br />
  80. 80. And with it comes a new dream, a new day, a new future.<br />FIN<br />
  81. 81. The Story of Arthur<br />
  82. 82. Once upon a time, there was a young college student named Arthur. <br />
  83. 83. He was easily one of the best men in his college. A promising – and good-looking – history major with the dream to become mayor, Arthur was also, even from his childhood, a brilliant mind and an adept fighter. It was thus no wonder that, combined with his confidence and inviting demeanor, people flocked to him almost instantly.<br />
  84. 84. Much to the disappointment of his female admirers (and there were many), Arthur Valois Mercator was already spoken for: the entire campus already knew that he was in close terms with the mysterious gypsy, Jasmin.<br />As an aside, people who speculate on who wore the proverbial pants (seeing that they both did not wear a pair, literally) in their relationship would do well to review the past.<br />
  85. 85. Oh, and did we mention that Arthur is the current Heir to our Legacy, and he wielded the almighty sword Excalibur, which he won fairly and squarely against his sister Jeanne, which settled the Heirship question once and for all, and that Arthur was destined to great things, things that the Creator, who indeed is hatching plots even for Generation Five, had already set in store for him?<br />Yea, truly.<br />
  86. 86. Life in the Greek House had so far been kind with Arthur. Having now reached his goal of helping his father’s House reach the apex of popularity, he and his siblings have settled in quite nicely, studying and honing their skills. In fact, it is the pride of the Mercator House that all of it principal members had stellar marks, and the College was glad to see that at least one of the campus fraternities had priorities and achievements in mind.<br />
  87. 87. The downside of such excellence, however, was that the Mercator siblings soon assumed a lethargic behavior. Exhausted by their own brilliant studies (or engaged with their own little problems), it was not unusual to see Ysabel or Robert sleeping even into late morning, just as it was natural for Roland to stare quietly at nowhere, unavailable for rational conversation.<br />And so, Arthur realized that something must be done.<br />
  88. 88. “Yea, and call all your people, as well.”<br />
  89. 89. “’Tis a toga party!”<br />
  90. 90. “Hey, I am flying!”<br />“This is odd. Brother, think ye not that we have crossed this path before, once? Something about us not being supposed to blow bubbles?”<br />“Wheee!”<br />
  91. 91. “Now, sir, there is no need to act so shocked!”<br />
  92. 92. “This is the greatest party ever, sir! Your House is the best, surely!”<br />
  93. 93. Of course, though, Arthur would not have dared beginning a party without inviting a certain someone over. <br />“I thank you for inviting me. It was very nice of you,” Jasmin simply said.<br />“And why should I not?” Arthur commented jovially, patting his good friend. “After all, even sister Bel-bel—”<br />
  94. 94. “Aie, me.”<br />
  95. 95. “I say, what is that?”<br />“Where?”<br />“Look yonder!”<br />“As long as I do not see anything that might scar my sensibilities...”<br />
  96. 96. “Agh!” Arthur hollered as cold water splashed against him. “Bad form! What was that for?”<br />“You may now be Heir, Arthur, but you yet have a lot to learn!” Jasmin pointed out, but with a jesting smile. And, in a more serious tone, she added, “You have to truly know who you are dealing with, you know.”<br />But Arthur seemed not to notice the change. In the same spirit of bantering, he replied, “Yea, but now I am all wet. Can the ‘getting to know’ part wait? I must change my attire.”<br />
  97. 97. ...<br />
  98. 98. ...<br />
  99. 99. ...<br />
  100. 100. “There you are. I apologize for taking so long to change wardrobes – I rather feared you had slipped away.”<br />Jasmin breathed deeply, as if composing herself. “Arthur—”<br />
  101. 101. “—what in the Elf-king’s name are you wearing?”<br />“This?” A slight laugh escaped Arthur’s smile. “A friend of mine here in College gave it me, in gratitude for accepting him as a pledge . It was all that I had that seemed overblown enough to wear in a celebration,” he concluded, with a shrug.<br />But Jasmin did not respond; her gaze was fixed at this knightly personage approaching her.<br />
  102. 102. “But why this moroseness? I would not have my good friend be so dejected during my own party.” Arthur then got an idea from the events transpiring downstairs. “What say you to a dance?” he asked. “There is no music here – but, well,” he hesitated, a small part of his native self showing once more, “there is no one else, either.”<br />“Oh, Arthur...”<br />
  103. 103. And then she remembered. “Arthur,” she gasped, almost inaudibly. Suddenly withdrawing, she spoke, now in a firmer voice, “No, Arthur. This... this is wrong.”<br />“Wrong?” For all of Jasmin’s uneasiness, Arthur, for his part, remained composed, reassuring. “What can be wrong, Jasmin? Pray tell me. Perhaps we can right this wrong.”<br />“No, no, no. You need to know something, Arthur. About me, that is.”<br />
  104. 104. “And what, precisely?” Arthur answered, still in the same normal manner. “That you, my dear Jasmin, are by right of birth High Princess JasminHeliopator of the Isla, and of the City of Meridia, and the District of Serena, Lady over the Peoples of Xian’an and the Labouisian Fiefs, and Daughter of the Elves in the Holy City of Elfinar?”<br />The gypsy was thunderstruck. “You knew? You knew... and my full title, even!... all along?”<br />
  105. 105. “I just came by it recently,” Arthur unconcernedly replied. “I am a History major, you know.”<br />
  106. 106. “Our professor, Father Montgomery, had us begin planning our seniors’ theses. It was unorthodox, given that we were still juniors, but he apparently thought that we had to prepare thoroughly. <br />And... well, you do know my fascination with the Elves, do you not? “<br />
  107. 107. “So I read my sources,” Arthur continued, “and then, to my surprise, I found out that the Heliopatri, the Old Kings, claimed descent from the Elves to sanction their rule. The last King, according to legend, married the daughter of the Elf-King to fully consolidate his position.<br />And he had two children – one of whom was named Jasmin. <br />And Jasmin, according to socio-anthropological studies, is an very rare name in this Isla.”<br />
  108. 108. “Reading on, I have come to learn much of your history – and at length I knew. <br />I know that you have been brought up to be among the great, Jasmin. I know that you have escaped from the evil that befell your family – something, I am sure, that still troubles you in the dark cold nights. I know that you have taken refuge with the gypsies, who accepted you as one of them.”<br />
  109. 109. “And I know – now I know – that you were the princess in the prophecy,” Arthur concluded brightly. <br />“Prophecy.”<br />“Yes, the one the old matchmaker told me about. Why, I never thought that she did mean a literal princess, though! And when I did find out about you, I was altogether convinced—”<br />
  110. 110. “And I am convinced – convinced that you are being a fool!” came Jasmin’s indignant interruption. “You are placing too much weight on the prophecy, Arthur!”<br />“What—?”<br />“By Elves!” Jasmin shrieked. “Have I not taught you to think things through? “<br />
  111. 111. “You are the Heir to your father’s mission, Arthur! Do you know how crucial it is for you to survive?”<br />“But how does that—?”<br />“Think, Arthur! For you to be safe, you must still remain in hiding! And hiding means maintaining a low profile! And that means staying away from me!”<br />
  112. 112. “Preposterous! Everything was – no, seemed – fine for us before you knew of all this—”<br />“Exactly so! Had it not occurred to you, Arthur, that without the prophecy, and without you knowing about me, that I would have kept incognito, and we would be merrily unnoticed in going about our way?”<br />“So you meant to keep your self – your whole self – a secret, even from me!:<br />
  113. 113. “Yes!” With that Jasmin broke off and faced the windows. When she spoke again, it was in a lower, more mournful tone. “I meant that. It would have kept you safe and made us both happy. But ever since Trisha – our Great Mother, and your ancestor – told me of this prophecy... <br />You would have me marry you as Princess, Arthur, for the prophecy to take root. And yet revealing myself would draw danger to you. So you must find your princess somewhere else.”<br />
  114. 114. “Nonsense. I have already found my princess.”<br />“Did you not just listen to—”<br />“Oh, yes, I have heard you well. And,” Arthur raised his tone, prepared to make a stab at humor, “if I have to hurl myself into a thousand spears, then I also would, for do you know how bloody hard it is to find a princess?”<br />
  115. 115. “But the point is that I love you, Jasmin, prophecy or not, princess or Heir or whatnot. Have I not made that clear?”<br />“No, you have not listened at all. There is danger—”<br />“Bother danger! I think you forget that I am grown now, Jasmin. I can now take care of things myself.”<br />
  116. 116. “Or do I need to make it clear to you?” he inquired, and as he did so he suddenly scooped Jasmin up, lifting her off her feet. <br />She was very light.<br />“What on earth are you doing?!” the princess hissed, unable to raise her voice in sheer surprise. “Put me down, Arthur!”<br />
  117. 117. “Put me down, I say! Why, I never—!”<br />“Never thought I could bear burdens? Yea, I surmised as much,” Arthur said, a little grimly, as he walked a few paces further before placing his load gently back on her two feet.<br />
  118. 118. This done, he seized the moment of stunned silence to go on. “A new day rises, Jasmin. So what if you are the Queen of all men and elves? Let the people know all about it – and all about us! We, the Mercator Family, have gone into hiding when the people needed us the most. True, at first it had to be so, but Papa had already sown the seeds, and the tree is strong! And should we continue hiding, even with the Xianxi already knocking at our door? Or should we not arm ourselves and step up? Should we not rally forth the people and give them the symbol – the hope! – they had been waiting for so long?”<br />
  119. 119. “Besides, I was never one for hiding, anyway.<br />Even as I do not hide the fact that I love you, Princess Jasmin, more than any sword or any throne or any mission or any principality.”<br />“...But...” But Jasmin found it even harder to counter his arguments.<br />
  120. 120. “But you, my love,” Arthur began at last, kneeling, the heavy metal joint kissing the floor as he addressed the woman who had been with him always, from his childhood, through his uncertainties as Heir apparent, through his triumph and growth, and now, as he would have it, through the rest of his life. “Would you still hide behind your own fears? Would you keep back from what you truly ought to be?”<br />
  121. 121. “That is to say, would you be not my wife?”<br />
  122. 122. ...<br />
  123. 123. All in all, it was the greatest party ever.<br />
  124. 124. “But seriously, no more secrets from now on.”<br />“I agree — just as long as you do not keep secret that you already know what I had intended to keep secret. Are we clear on this?”<br />“Yes, Ma’am.”<br />FIN<br />
  125. 125. Credits:<br />Cecilia Goodytwoshoescome from profbutters’ Squeaky Clean Legacy.<br />Don and Gage Uglacy come from candi’sUglacies.<br />(watch out for part 2)<br />