te the waves of tumult, to solidify the peace that is quickly spiralling out of control.”

   “Are you not confident that you can be a negotiator? Is that why you hand the crown off to your brother?”

   “It’s not that I don’t feel I am capable, I understand the burden of the crown, a weight that can not be lifted once it has been put on.” Bjorn looked out the window of the meeting room, thinking.
“I just feel my brother would be better suited to the role.
I just can’t justify dedicating my one and only life to values that are different to my own.”

   “What values would they be, for someone who set aside the crown with no regrets?”

   “That’s, probably…I guess, living life to its fullest, enjoying everything it has to offer?”

   Arthur looked at Bjorn gobsmacked.
Was he really sitting before the King of another country and talking this nonsense? He burst out laughing.

   “A very beautiful value indeed, and I don’t suppose buying up Lars’ bank is part of that?”

   “Oh, it’s an honour that your majesty would take an interest in my small investments.”

   “Small investments?”

   “Yes, didn’t the Prince Alexander of Lars recently buy up the most famous horse from Lechen some time ago?”

   The audacity of comparing Prince Alexander’s hobby of racehorses and Prince Bjorn’s attempts at merging with the Bank of Lars made Arthur laugh again.

   “Leonid is well aware of the price both countries have paid for our unity.
So there is no need to be worried, Your Majesty.
There is no need for arranged marriages, the alliance will remain as strong as ever, you have my promise on the honour of the Dniester’s.”

   Sunlight broke through a gap in the clouds and shone through the windows into the meeting room.
Arthur saw Bjorn knelt before him and let out a sigh.
What a foolish woman his daughter had been, the regret deepened.

   “Can I open the door now?” Bjorn said motioning to the door behind him with a tilt of the head.
“The ministers must be worried sick that you might have beaten me to death.”

   “Why do you put up with the awful rumours? Is it because you like to be seen as a troublemaker?” Arthur tried to make light conversation, in response to Bjorn’s joke.

   “I suppose you could say that, but please consider, I am on my honeymoon.” Bjorn said with a smile.

   “I understand your meaning, but why on Earth did you get married…the way you did? What a wonderful woman your bride must be.”




Karen let out a sigh as she rubbed the nape of her neck.
The Grand Duchess had been sitting at her reading table, memorising the Lechen nobilities family tree for several hours now.
Karen had to stand by her side and give guidance where asked.

   How do you pronounce this family name? What crest does that family belong to, and what does it all mean?

   “I’m sorry Karen, are you tired?” The Grand Duchess said with a look of concern.

   “No, Your Highness.” She gave a mechanical answer.

   Karen’s disapproval was evident on her face though.
It would seem that the youngest member of the Royal Family, Greta, who was only twelve, knew more about this than the Grand Duchess.

   “I hear you and Bjorn have been together for a long time.” Erna said, trying to make conversation.

   “Yes, Your Highness, I have been serving the Dniester since they were young boys.”

   “Mrs Fitz says you are very loyal, I think so too.”

   Karen narrowed her eyes at the Grand Duchess.
“Yes, Your Highness, thank you.” She got the impression the Grand Duchess was trying to say something.

   “I understand that you are unhappy with me because you respect and love Bjorn, Karen.” Erna still smiled softly.
“I know you think I am not good enough to be his wife.”

   “What, no Your Highness, I…”

   “So I will study hard and I will work very hard to be the Grand Duchess that people like you are not ashamed of.
All I ask is that you help me.

   Karen swallowed dryly and sighed.
Her tummy was all twisted and she couldn’t stand it.
She swallowed again and could do nothing more than accept the order.
Erna seemed satisfied and turned her attention back to the almanack.

   The barrage of questions didn’t come to an end until the sun had fully set.
Then, Erna went to get ready for dinner with her husband.
Karen was standing outside, getting some fresh air when a message came for Erna.
It said that Bjorn was going to be late and that Erna should eat without him.

   “What if the marriage doesn’t last a year?” The maids had laughed together when they heard the news.
Instead of scolding them, Karen joined in.

   “Tell her later.” Karen said.
“The Duchess is changing right now, it would be rude to disturb her.”

   The noise of the maids laughing and talking continued.
They joked about the Grand Duchess’ reaction, after spending all that time getting ready for nothing.
Their laughter and gossip carried way into the night.

   “Hey, isn’t that Jade?” A maid said.

   They all turned around to look and saw the maid of honour of Princess Gladys running toward them.

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