A Gift: The King

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He first saw her in the courtyard, a thin waif of a girl dressed in commoner's homespun. She carried a package in dirt-stained fingers, and as she flowed across the cobblestones in calloused bare feet, his breath was stolen away.

Her dark hair was wild and unbound, her dark eyes bold and spirited. She smiled and laughed as she gave her package to the elderly keeper of the gardens, whose old crooked back seemed to straighten just for a moment when he was the focus of her attention. Then she twirled around and danced out of the courtyard, unaware of the burning gaze that followed her.

For the next three weeks, she consumed his thoughts. Her bubbling laugh and long tangled hair filled his dreams until he longed to run his fingers over that golden skin, to stare deeply into those mesmerizing eyes.

He wanted her.

And when he told his advisers so, they were appalled.

"But Your Grace," a balding adviser sputtered, "you cannot wed a peasant girl! Such thing is unheard of!"

A tall, thin man in scholar's robes wrung his hands. "The people will never accept it – it would much more prudent for Your Grace to find a young woman of noble birth."

"At least then you could be certain of her. . .purity," said a third, his lips curling in distaste. "With the commoners and their barbaric ways – why would you even want such filth?"

His fingers dug into the armrests of his chair so savagely, the sound of cracking knuckles filled the air. "I," the King snarled, "will hear no more of this. Find the girl, and bring her to me!"

The snivelling advisors fell silent, cowed by the anger that twisted his features. They stared at him as if unsure that they had heard correctly, that he indeed chose to ignore their warnings.


"Get thee gone!" He roared.

Faces turned pasty white as they seemed to remember just who they were addressing, and just what lay at stake. They scampered out of the room like a stampede of frightened mice with a hungry cat hot on their tails.

The king was tempted, for a moment, to have his guardsmen to stake their cowardly heads about the entrance of his castle. However, that was no way to greet a young bride. At the thought of her, his anger evaporated.

A peasant girl. . .indeed, that could pose an issue. However, every problem had a solution and it would be an easy matter to make a peasant girl into a queen. Closing his eyes, the King imagined a rich green gown instead of homespun cotton, dainty little shoes to cover those rough feet, and combs and oils to tame that wild hair. His heart skipped a beat at the resulting image, drawing a long sigh from his lips.

"Beautiful. . ."

She would sit at his right hand, a bride worthy of the King. He smiled then, a true smile that hadn't graced his features since the crown had first been lowered onto his head.

They brought her after four days. But she was not alone. A tall, young man stood by her side, his face made of frozen stone. At the sight of him, the King nearly growled and for a moment, was tempted to order one of his guards to drag him to the dungeons on some fabricated charge. No other man but himself should have the right to stand at her side!

Grinding his teeth, he turned his attention to her. It was like stepping outside under a gentle rain. He felt refreshed. Cleansed.

The King rose from his throne to offer her a small bow. "Greetings, my sweet. I have waited so long to meet you." He held out his hand and waited, focusing on her lovely face. Her eyes were wide, a little flighty, but he supposed she was merely flustered by being in his presence.

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