“Um…” said Addie, looking around at the solemn faces. She rose from the end of Reggie’s bed. “Should I leave?”

          “No, it’s quite alright, Darling,” said Coramund. She had clearly been awake for hours. She was perfectly coiffed, as always, not a curl or ruffle or eyelash out of place. Her sky blue eyes looked upon Reggie with thinly veiled disdain. Though she likely hadn’t come from any ball or council meeting, a silver tiara sat atop her mane of ebony curls. “It’s nothing too serious.”

          “Reginald,” said Valentine. His serious tone worried Reggie. He shifted into a sitting position as Valentine knelt next to him. He reached out and took his son’s hand, which was far from comforting for Reggie. Reggie shared his father’s deep brown hair. The regal light in his cerulean eyes would’ve been intimidating if not for his disarming smile. “My son, my heir. The fortune-tellers have interpreted your dream. And, though the first interpretation is very… glum, it may not be as bleak as that.”

          “The first interpretation is that war will plague every day of your reign,” said Coramund. She turned her nose up at Reggie as though he had already been the cause of three pointless wars. “The fiery-haired girl will be the enemy that you’ll fight. The future queen of Encardia is a redhead; perhaps war between Encardia and Alterra will come at last. However, if your brother were named the heir, our kingdom would avoid the war altogether. Many lives would be spared.”

          “But I wasn’t fighting against the redhead. She simply told me a story of a young dragon. She didn’t seem interested in hurting me,” said Reggie, wilting slightly under the glare of his mother. He knew better than to contradict her, but as long as Valentine was in the room, he could usually do so without too much consequence. “And… I was fighting to save someone. A girl, maybe even the redhead.”

          “Ah, that would explain the second interpretation,” said Valentine, shooting a smile to Coramund as though he much preferred the second to the first. Coramund smiled in return, but rolled her eyes as soon as he looked away. “The fortune tellers said that the girl might be your future wife. Perhaps the war is merely a metaphor for turmoil in the marriage, but they couldn’t say for certain. Or maybe you will simply be warring to get your wife back.”

          “Warring over his wife,” said Coramund. “It wouldn’t happen if Jerald were king.”

          “But we outnumbered the enemy,” said Reggie. “I don’t know how I knew, but I had four hundred more soldiers than the enemy. And they were all well-trained and loyal and…”

          “Wonderful,” said Valentine, cutting off his son before his nervous rambling could kick in. Reggie’s uneasiness only grew. “After everything I’ve heard, I believe there will soon be joyous news for our kingdom.”

          “Darling, please, it would be easiest if we would just make Jerald our heir,” said Coramund, placing a hand on her husband’s shoulder. “Spare ourselves the expense of a wedding for a marriage that will most likely fail due to Reginald’s incompetence.”

          “Now, Darling, have a little faith,” said Valentine, waving off her suggestion. Addie’s eyes locked with Reggie’s and she offered him an encouraging smile. His returning smile was far from encouraging. More like a strange contortion of agony. “Reggie, I believe I may know who the redhead was, other than Princess Christina of Encardia. See, for months now, I’ve been writing back and forth with Duchess Luna Heart of Underland. She has been enquiring about your… personal alliances.”

          “My what?” asked Reggie, looking from Lottie to Addie to Valentine to Coramund, searching for answers to his unspoken questions. “I… I don’t have any alliances…”

          “Not yet, no, but as future king, you will soon have many,” said Valentine. Reggie still didn’t quite understand. “Her Grace simply wanted to know if you were promised to anyone yet. You see, she believes she’s found a match for her son in the court of Frosteria, but she’s yet to find one for her other child. Her daughter, Lady Vivika, is only a year older than you, and from the few times I’ve seen her, I can assure you, her hair is as red as can be.”

          “But what about the political unrest in Underland?” asked Coramund, sounding almost desperate. It was clear she was grasping at straws. “Do we really want ourselves allied with such uncertainty?”

          “I’d hate to break this to you, Love, but we already are, what with the peace treaties we signed hundreds of years ago. We’re allied with all the Great Kingdoms,” said Valentine. “Besides, it’s still a powerful kingdom with plentiful resources and many connections with lesser kingdoms. Underland will make a wonderful close ally.” With that, he turned to Reggie. “My son, I believe it is time you are wed.”

          Reggie’s face paled sickeningly at those words. Lottie reacted with the speed of a marlin. She picked up a small silver bucket on the end table nearest to the door and placed it on Reggie’s lap. For extra protection, she took a step back. Right in the nick of time, too. Lottie knew Reggie had always had a weak stomach. Seconds later, Reggie’s stomach churned unpleasantly and every little bit of food that he had left in him came back out the way it had come in.


The End

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