An Example of Punishable Courting

In the book, which Adam handed to me to read myself, chapters were titled as ‘examples', and the first (Example 1) described the forbidden nature of love between a Dolphin and Phoenix, explaining the well-known Phoenix-Dolphin Conflict. Within the chapter, which was set out more like that of a history textbook, was a section titled ‘Cases'. Case 1 was Henry Waterfall and Vanessa Flame. Rather confusingly, their story was set out like a novel.

 

Henry Waterfall and Vanessa Flame

His Highness Henry Waterfall sat upon the throne to the right of his father, Milo Waterfall, the then King of Wavia. Henry was the High Prince of the Dolphins: a role he enjoyed and felt great pride in having. A responsible young man, Henry took his duties as heir to the throne very seriously and there was not a soul in the Palace who had not commented upon his responsibility. He was equally renowned for his conscientiousness.

At the time, it was thought that he would make a great king, and indeed that Wavia would be envied for having him as their ruler. And he? He was modest and stated that he merely set out to please, despite the contrasting evidence that he was a wonderful person in the form of the kingdom's adoration of him. It was even rumoured that he was more loved than his father.

On this day: Simon Waterfall's crowning as Second High Prince of Wavia; Vanessa Flame, High Princess of Fireland, was also present at Wavia Palace. She had been elected to represent her family at this ceremony and it had been with much reluctance and resentment that she had crossed the border between Fireland and Wavia, accompanied solely by her favourite maidservant, Phoenicia Fyre.

The Supreme Ruler at the time was Loretta Sky (unbeknownst to herself and Vanessa the mother of the latter's future sister-in-law), and she oversaw the proceedings of the day, playing her part in the ceremony and ensuring that any problems were solved quickly and efficiently, and any arguments settled.

It was in the parlour, during the customary after-party, that Henry and Vanessa found themselves on the brink of making history.    

After catching up with his close friends Calvin Terra and Kiana Soar (respectively the High Prince of the Land of Boulders and the Eagle Emperor's daughter), Henry walked over to Vanessa who he had noticed standing in the corner of the room looking very much as if she wished she were anywhere other than here, which of course she did. Henry did not know that it was a Phoenix he approached; he was just ensuring that all his brother's guests were content.

"Good morrow," he said politely, coming to a halt before his future wife.

Vanessa was amused. "Know you not who I am, Dolphin?"

Henry shook his head. "Fate has denied me the pleasure of your acquaintance and though it grants me this today, it has denied me the honour of just hearing of you. Pray, what is your name?"

Vanessa frowned. "You will wish to take back your words, the good intentions of which are not desired in this conversation, for I am Vanessa Flame, the High Princess of Fireland. In other words, I am a Phoenix."

"I see," Henry said, rather gravely. "I understand why my ‘good intentions' are lost on you. I wish to convey something to you; I hope that you will listen."

Vanessa was confused by Henry's apparent tolerance of the fact she was a Phoenix. Their nations despised each other so their behaviour and mood around each other should reflect that. She could not, however, deny this strange Dolphin a request which held so much mystery. It was not in her nature to suppress her curiosity and so her response to Henry's statement was "I grant you your wish."

Henry smiled. "You are most kind. I wish to apologise for an event which happened decades ago, yet which continues to impact on the lives of both our peoples. I wish to apologise for my ancestor's seeming assault on you culture."

"I know not what you mean," Vanessa replied, thoroughly mystified as though Henry had been talking cryptically.

"I am referring to Rex Waterfall's dousing of the fires of Mount Pyro and all other actions taken to prevent the certain effects of the volcanic eruption."

"I beg your pardon?" was Vanessa's response to the impossible words her imagination had somehow conjured which had replaced Henry's statement (which had undoubtedly been something much less surprising and much more believable).

Henry (knowing the incredibility of his statement, and reckoning that Vanessa had not misheard - highly doubting she had an imagination which disobeyed her) responded "I believe you heard me correctly." These words were spoken with a smile which conveyed his humour at the situation.

"But... But...," Vanessa spluttered, incapable of coherent speech in her shock.

When she had recovered, she said, "You bring shame on your family for apologising on behalf on an ancestor who believed his actions to be well-intentioned."

"I feel it necessary to apologise. This conflict has been going on for too long and someone had to breach it." Henry added to this "I believe Rex did not consider how offended he would really be if a wave was turned to vapour, contrary to his challenging question."

"This... - this is unheard of," Vanessa cried, so bewildered and confused that thinking of valid arguments was quite beyond her.

"Unheard of is merely a concept we have to explore, I feel," Henry said, giving one of his most charming smiles.

Vanessa experienced something strange then. The sensation was brief but extremely significant. She felt a lapse in her self confidence and also in her Phoenix pride and stubborn belief that Dolphins were cruel. For the first time in her life she felt weak. Like Henry had stripped some essential part of her away, removed the outermost layer of her attitudes and characteristics; leaving her naked in the harsh conditions of stark reality (though what exactly it was that made life so cold and unfriendly she was not sure). As mentioned before the moment was short-lived but afterwards, Vanessa felt shaken and in need of support. She put out a hand behind her and used the wall to steady herself. Hastily, she resumed the discussion. Her stubbornness and pride had returned, and with them came renewed contempt for Dolphins. It was not quite that she hated Henry for having such an effect on her; it was more that she was terribly afraid and needed to cover this up with some strong emotion.  

"You can't apologise on his behalf," she said harshly and firmly.

Henry, until this moment, had been experiencing some strange emotions himself. He had been taken aback by the sudden lack of vulnerability in Vanessa's eyes and filled with a strong desire to protect her, look after that frightened child inside who would surely die if left to fend for herself in this cruel uncaring world. Even when Vanessa's eyes veiled themselves again, he was thinking about ways in which he could give the child the care she needed. Caught in the whirlwind of his emotions, it took him a while to process Vanessa's dismissal of his apology and reasoning.

His eventual reply was "Well, he can hardly apologise himself. Besides, we intend not to argue for ever, I am sure?"

Vanessa could not reply. Henry seemed convinced of what he had communicated to her and had thought this out exceedingly well. She could not help but admire him slightly, for his intelligence, his desire that they should no longer be enemies and of course for the charm he had briefly shown when giving his opinion of the unheard of.

"I think I agree," Vanessa said in a subdued voice. It was as if she was suddenly at Henry's mercy. She lowered her eyes to the floor and awaited the judgement that was sure to come.

What Henry in actual fact said surprised her. "Can we be friends, then?"

Vanessa looked up, unsure if she'd heard him rightly. "I'm sorry; did you just ask if we could be friends?"

Henry nodded, smiling.

Suddenly, Vanessa felt wild: reckless and impulsive. It was similar to when she had been feeling vulnerable - the feeling was alien and startling - but this time, it failed to fade and was seemingly unprovoked.

"I would love to," she told him.

"Excellent. Let us move to the gardens. I feel my parents would disapprove and fail to see the logic in the reasoning I presented to you."

...

A knock on the door interrupted my reading.

"Enter," called Adam who was lounging against his pillows.

The door opened to reveal a tall, slender, beautiful girl with waist-length blonde hair and cerulean eyes. She looked perhaps a year older than Adam and something in her face reminded me of him. I didn’t recognise her: she wasn’t one of the Eagles who had attended my crowning.

"Afternoon, Eden," Adam said warmly, sitting up. "This is the Second High Princess of Wavia, Selena. I attended her crowning today. She..."

Eden rolled her eyes and interrupted him. "I know what happened, Adam." To me, she said, "Hello," with a welcoming smile on her face, to which I shyly replied "Hi". She looked at both of us as she said "Supper is ready."

"Thank you," Adam said. "I'll be downstairs in a moment."

I rose to my feet as he slipped off his bed and went to his wardrobe. I followed Eden to the dining room as Adam dressed in dinner wear.

The End

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