Parents And Prince Leaving

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          Queen Gleapa was the first to speak.  "As you know the mysterious Tepry told us that we needed to take the right steps now to avoid a bloody war.  After meeting with the council and discussing the situation all week, we have decided on the best course of action.  Your father and I are going on a trip.  We will be traveling throughout our kingdom to encourage our subjects and to assess our preparedness.  Then we will visit our neighboring kingdoms to strengthen our ties with our allies, securing their promise to come to our aid if war begins." 

    King Bybob spoke up next.  "Although we do not know who attacked us, we believe that it was the kingdom of Quelf.  We have heard rumors that they are preparing for war, and things have never been friendly between us.  However, it might also be the kingdom of Phase10, for there has been great unrest in their 10 cities.  It is possible that they hope to conquer us so that our fertile fields and rich mines will be theirs.  We hope to learn more as we visit our neighbors.  Since Belac will one day be king, we have decided to take him with us as part of his training.  While we are gone, you..."

    Princess Atamar interrupted, "You mean you are going to leave me here alone while you three go off and have a grand time and great adventures!? 

    Queen Gleapa explained, "Atamar, we can't take the whole royal family.  Belac needs to go as part of his training for kingship.  We were going to take this trip with him in a year or two anyway.  Due to the attack on our border, we had to go sooner than expected.  Besides, you won't be alone.  We are leaving your Uncle Ulap in charge of the kingdom while we are gone.  You have always loved your Uncle.  You will have a wonderful time with him, and there is another reason why you must stay here." 

Queen Gleapa spoke in a soothing voice that only irritated Atamar further.  She felt like her parents were treating her like a child. 

    "What reason is that?  Do you think I'm worthless and would only get in the way?  I never get to do anything important or fun!" 

    King Bybob frowned at Atamar's outburst.  "Of course we don't think you are worthless.  You are our precious treasure, so we try to protect you.  But we are leaving you here for a very important reason.  Most girls consider it fun, and it is definitely an important task.  You are now 17.  This means that many princes will be coming to try to win your hand.  They might start arriving any day.  If they arrived and you weren't here, it could cause hard feelings at a time when we desperately need friends.  Also, you have the opportunity to try to cultivate alliances with the princes.  Be friendly with them.  Make them want to be your friend instead of your enemy.  As a man, I can tell you that a man will do a lot to keep the trust of a beautiful lady who treats him as her friend, and you are a beautiful young lady." 

    Queen Gleapa picked up the thread of the conversation.  "I wish we could be here during this time, but I trust you to use good judgment and discernment.  Do not merely listen to flattering words, but watch their actions and their attitudes.  How do they treat others?  How do they speak of their parents?  How do they care for their animals?  How do they act toward the other princes?  Get to know their hearts and minds.  Don't be swayed by pretty speeches and pretty faces for both of those are easily changed, but a beautiful character is not and that is what you want in your future husband.  I hope you find several men worthy to be your husband, but please, don't lose your heart to anyone while we are gone."

King Bybob nodded his agreement before speaking.  "We have no idea how long this journey will take.  However, I promise that we will be back before your 18th birthday.  We will even work on our plans for the next scarf race while we are gone.  We will send you frequent letters to tell you what is happening.  I hope to also hear good news from you about how much you are enjoying meeting the many princes who I know will be arriving to meet you.  But please promise me that you will guard your heart carefully and that you will not lose it to any man while we are gone."

At those words Atamar burst into tears and fled to her room.  The next morning, she stood next to Uncle Ulap as her parents and Belac departed. 

As her parents hugged her, they both whispered in her ear, "Remember, don't lose your heart."  Then Belac gave her a hug and whispered, "I'll try to figure out why they are so obsessed with you losing while we're gone." 

Atamar's outlook was gloomy as she watched her family drive away, but she didn't have long to mope about being left behind, because the next day the first prince arrived...

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