Petuna stood for a few moments feeling light-headed.
“Petuna. I am going to ask the king for your hand in marriage.”
Petuna looked up at Phineas in a daze. A new an unfamiliar feeling took hold of her and all she wanted to do was to run away from the situation but at the same time all she felt was a strong pull towards Phineas.
“You! You tell me all this now? You place it all in my hands now when my father is about to make the announcement?”
Petuna felt confused and all she could do was rush out towards the grand veranda to get some air. It was only a few moments later that the national anthem was sounded. She knew what this meant. The king was about to make his announcement. She had to return to the ballroom and take her place on the throne next to her father. Her heart was beating faster than she could ever remember it but she knew she had a duty towards her father and her land first and foremost.
The king waited until the crowd’s full attention was given to him and a silence filled the ballroom.
“Citizens and friends of the Land of the Flowing River, it is with great honour that I welcome you here tonight,” started the king as Petuna sat by his side.
The king continued, “Our land has experienced many threats over the last years and tonight we celebrate the end of the water-wrestlers as we know them. Tonight, we celebrate the freedom of our lands from dangers that lurked in the shadows. We celebrate new beginnings and a bright future for all of us.”
The guests cheered and clapped with excitement and the king brought his hand up after a few moments signalling that he had more to say.
“My citizens and friends, you all know of the untimely death of the queen many years ago when the dreaded avalanche struck after Storm Blazer had tried stealing the Amber Crystal. Tonight I am pleased to announce that Storm Blazer has been executed.”
More cheer followed before the king continued, “Glacier who was once my strong ally has proven once again his worthiness and solidarity. A few days ago he led the army of icicles in a battle against the avalanche. If it weren’t for him, many of your friends and loved ones would’ve lost their lives. Tonight, I am pleased to announce that Glacier has been appointed as commander of the icicle army once again.”
Glacier beamed warmly and bowed to the king with gratitude as the crowd cheered on and congratulated him.
“My citizens,” continued the king, “we have much to celebrate tonight. We celebrate the end of the ice age that we thought would last for centuries to come. But most of all we celebrate the return of the Amber Crystal to its rightful owner. My citizens and friends, the Amber Crystal has chosen.”
Murmurs spread through the guests as they wondered who the Amber Crystal would choose other than the king.
“The Amber Crystal has chosen Princess Petuna as leader of this land,” said the king finally.
Petuna sprung a shocked look at her father and she opened her mouth in protest but her father held on to her arm.
“Father, no!” whispered Petuna, “How can I rule with you as king, there must be a mistake!”
“Petuna, this is the truth and it is time,” the king whispered back.
Chatter in the crowd grew louder as they spoke of the king’s announcement. When the murmurs settled down again the king continued.
“A date will be set soon for the princess’ royal coronation and from then on she will be known as Queen Petuna,” said the king.
The crowd cheered for Petuna as she forced a smile in acknowledgement to the crowd. She searched the faces in the crowd for Phineas and found him gazing at her, a confused but proud look spread across his face. She wondered whether he was still intent on asking the king for her hand after the announcement he had just made.
“Finally, my citizens, I now present you with the human who cured this land,” said the king.
The crowd surrounding Phineas tapped him on the shoulder in congratulations and slowly brought him forward until he stood before the king and the princess.
“Human. Phineas,” said the king with a smile, “You have saved this land from centuries of ruin. You are free to return to your world and may take anything you wish with you. What is it that you wish?”
Phineas was bowing before the king and raised his head slightly. He glanced at Petuna searching her face for an answer but she avoided looking at him. He was hoping to get any sort of indication from her that she felt the same way too. He wanted nothing more than to spend the rest of his days by her side. The king’s announcement had confused him and he did not want to appear as an opportunist yet at the same time, he could not deny what he felt in his heart. He knew what it was that he needed to do.
“Your Majesty, if you’ll allow me to speak,” said Phineas then continued when the king indicated to him to speak freely, “I came to this world in complete wonder. There were many times when I had ventured and risked through unknowns, certain each time that death awaited me. It is true that I came to this world the first time by complete coincidence. And other times, I returned with the intention of taking back water that would cure my world from eternal drought and destruction. I stand before you now a changed man. I have met many interesting people from your lands and I have learnt much. I know now that the things I believed in before left much to be desired. I have learnt from you, Your Highness, about courage and sacrifice. I have learnt from you, Your Majesty, about forgiveness and generosity. I ask that you forgive all my shortcomings, both of you and that you look at the truth of my heart…”
Phineas looked away for a moment. A soft murmur started to rise in the crowd and Phineas was conscious of his men standing behind him in support.
“Phineas, forgiveness has already been granted to you. You have proved your worth and it is you who has the choice now to ask what you will,” said the king.
“Then I ask you, Your Majesty, for safe passage for my men back to our world.”
“Granted, Phineas, but what of you?” asked the king.
The men standing behind Phineas started muttering amongst themselves.
“I ask that I remain here in this land, by your side,” said Phineas slowly as he looked at Petuna, “for a little bit longer.”
The king noticed Phineas’ glances towards his daughter and sensed her agitation. The crowd was stunned in silence and anticipation. Petuna’s fairies fluttered nervously on the spot. The king looked at Phineas with renewed interest.
“It is granted,” said the king and motioned for the celebrations and the music to start once again. Petuna waited until the commotion in the crowd started again with song and dance and took the opportunity to rush out into the ballroom’s veranda again. The king signalled for Phineas to stay close to him. He rose from his throne and started walking slowly in a quiet area of the ballroom.
“Tell me, Phineas, what is the real reason for you seeking to stay here in a land that is so unlike your own,” asked the king when he was sure there was no one else about to overhear him.
Phineas fumbled with his shoes and looked awkwardly at the floor.
“Your Majesty, it is nothing more than not bearing the thought of departing so soon,” said Phineas dejectedly.
The king laughed heartily.
“My son, I meant what I said before. You may ask for anything you wish and it will be so granted,” said the king earnestly.
He smiled softly at Phineas and walked away back to his throne leaving Phineas standing alone. Phineas was left with a hint of a suggestion that he could not shrug off and all he found himself doing was walking over to Petuna in the ballroom’s veranda. A crowd surrounded her. He could see her fairies fluttering close by to her in deep conversation with her. He saw Fortune Fountain and Glacier. He saw some of his men and many others he had met along the way. If this was the way it was meant to be then so be it.
They looked at him as he approached them and fell silent but Petuna still had her back to him. It was only when she felt a refreshing breeze that danced around her when the crowd pulled away that she turned around. Phineas walked closer to her and reached out for her hands. He knelt down on one knee as he had read many a time in fairytales but never ever imagined that he would one day be in a position to do himself.
“Petuna. Your Highness, and soon to be Your Majesty, would you do me the honour of allowing me to spend the rest of my life with you?”
Petuna had been confused and agitated from the moment he had told her what he would ask of the king. But now a new feeling came over her. It was one of happiness and promise. She found herself smiling ridiculously.
“Yes, Phineas, do stay here a little bit longer,” she said teasingly, “so that I can teach you how to stop the water fairies from playing with you.”
Petuna used her magic to wipe away the sweat drops from his forehead while they stood close, hand in hand, their smiling eyes locked and the crowd around them cheering.
Standing afar, King Kornelius watched as the fairies danced around them and their new friends congratulating them. He wiped the tears of joy from his eyes. There was much to plan for including a royal wedding. Things could not have turned out better than this for him and for the future of the Land of the Flowing River.