d proud as ever.

   “We won’t say that you are in bad health, I don’t think that is a good reason.” Bjorn said flatly.
He was looking at Walters leg.

   “What are you suggesting? You really dare go this far?” Walter said.

   Maybe it was because Walter was worried that Erna had told the prince everything, but no matter who he was, he had no authority to intervene in a fathers discipline of his child.
Walter carefully prepared a rebuttal and waited for Bjorn’s response.

   “Yes, so what? She is my wife.” Bjorn said.

   It took Walter off guard and he felt his fighting spirit bleed away.
In the end, he had to acquest the prince’s suggestion.

   Walter fumed at the ruse and cursed every living thing under the sun.  The prince swanned into his home like a perfect gentleman, insulted him and then floated out of the house like nothing was out of place.

   Walter cursed the prince with every hobbled step he was forced to take.
He had to keep reminding himself that he was to be the father of the Grand Duchess and the Hardy family could enjoy the honour of being raised up as part of the Royal Family.

   The prince was a crazy man, but he wasn’t the only one crazy around here, Walter could be crazy too.




  The roads were lined with crowds of people, that all clustered together along the paths to the Schuber Palace.
Even though they spoke of the end of the world for the Lechen Royal Family, they cheered for the spectacle of it.

   “Hey, there they come, they’re coming.” They called when the luxurious golden carriage trundled past, pulled by four white horses.

   The brides procession was led by regal looking Royal Guard, in their formal attire they looked splendid and dignified.
It was nothing when compared to when Princess of Lars as the Crowned Princess, but it could never be called inferior, only prepared in haste.

   “I can’t believe he can catch such a woman.” Some said, as they saw the beautiful princess through the windows of the carriage.

   “She may be beautiful, but she is no Princess Gladys.
She is a whole different class.” Others said.

   The clatter of tongues permeated across the precession.

   “The Princes second wife does not look all that much.”

  “She’s so arrogant, just staring off like that, she is very different to Princess Gladys.
At least she showed some kindness.”

   “She is very haughty, is she not, with her nose up in the air.”

   By the time the rumours spread through the streets, the carriage passed along the Arch-Dukes bridge.
As the palace drew closer, Erna started to turn ever more pale.

   From the moment she put on her wedding dress, her mind went blank and she struggled with her nerves.
She realised she had been like this from the moment she boarded the train to Schuber.
Everything seemed like a dream and she imagined the real Erna Hardy was still asleep some where, probably on that train.

   That reality seemed a lot more likely than the one she found herself in right now.
The one where Erna Hardy becomes a princess.

   When her carriage stopped outside the Royal Chapel, Erna let go of the tethers of her delusion.
She struggled to suppress her rapid breathing as she got down from the carriage.
It was lucky that she was led to where she was needed to be, her mind was so fuzzy, she struggled to notice where she was and when she looked down, she was already on the red carpet.

   Erna stared blankly at the bouquet of flowers that had appeared in her hand, a whisper of a voice in her mind wondered where they had come from, had she been holding them the entire time?

   She looked up at the closed door in front of her and she could feel the fear rise up in her.
She was afraid of this door more than any door she had ever faced.
It was about to open and beyond would be Erna’s new life.

  ‘I can be happy.’

   She remembered the promise she had made confidently.
Her heart pounded and felt ready to burst.
Her legs were trembling so much they barely kept her upright and the flowers of the bouquet shook.

   ‘I should turn and run.’

   The conviction felt so certain in her head, it was the only true course of action, but as she felt the motion a shadow fell over Erna.


   She looked up at the soft voice and saw him, the prince, Bjorn.
He was to be her chaperone into the new life.
He felt more like a guard escorting her to her execution.

   “Breathe.” Bjorn said.

   Breathe. Erna said to herself.

   “That’s it, breathe, relax.” Bjorn said. 

   Bjorn seemed jovial at Erna’s outward struggle to mentally contain the situation.
He held her hand and she could feel it.
She knew he was probably recalling the same memory as she was, their first meeting.
The night of the fountain and the trophy.

   “Thank you.” Erna said, her voice trembling.
“You heard my request.”

   Erna gave an awkward smile as she waved a hand.
Bjorn laughed lightly as if to confirm what Erna had said.

   “I will be a good wife.” Erna went on.

   The moment she made that promise, her voice became firm and the trembling stopped.
Bjorn still just smiled at her, even as the door opened, he looked at her and smiled.
Even as the sunlight, tainted with reds, greens and blues of the stained glass window at the far end of the chapel, washed over them, Bjorn smiled at her and led her to her new life.

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