interest, the party goers returned to their usual topics of conversation.
Horse racing, the foundation festival ball, or which socialite was currently enjoying the lime light of fame.
Although Bjorn showed disinterest, he still listened in to the conversations.

   “Honestly, I didn’t think our prince would do so well, with a woman he had won on the gambling table,” Leonard said, “you should thank me, because that whole bet happened because of me.
I’m the number one contributor to his marriage, ain’t that right?”

   “Shut up, Leonard,” Bjorn said with a smirk, the rest of the table burst into laughter.

   “I wont ask for anything in return, just give me some investment tips, maybe.
We served as bridesmaids so that she would marry the Poisonous Mushroom Prince, so you should show us some gratitude at the least.” Leonard did not shut up.

   “I know.
Tell us the truth, it was a bet that you won not because you did well, but because the rest of us are so damn hideous,” Peter said, everyone else rankled.

   “What are you talking about, you crazy bastard? I’m no where near as ugly as you are,” Leonard said.

   The conversation grew heated as the men exchanged insults in a joking manner.


   The shout came just as Bjorn was putting down him drink.
He looked up to see Walter Hardy shouting.
When Bjorn turned to look where Walter had been shouting, he saw Erna coming out onto the terrace.
Walter was about to approach his daughter, pretending to be a doting father.

   Bjorn stood up without hesitation.
Erna had been anxiously looking around, looked at Bjorn with relief softening her worry.

   “Erna,” Bjorn said.

   As he approached and called her name, Erna hurried over to his side.
Bjorn held his wife’s hand tightly and he glared at Walter Hardy.

   “Ah, Your Highness, you’re here also,” Walter’s face went servile, “I was having a chat with my daughter, whom I have not seen in quite some time.”

   Bjorn wished they were living in a more barbarous time, so that he could swat this insect away and no one would bat an eye.
He would probably even be praised for the act.
Bjorn grieved anew and forced a smile.

   “I see,” Bjorn simply said, in his usual, nonchalant manner.

   “If you don’t mind, I would really like to talk to my daughter.”

   Just as he was about to tell the man to leave, Bjorn’s attention was dragged away by Erna’s sudden coughing fit, he noticed the cigar in Walters fingers.

   “I’m sorry, but as you can see, my wife is not feeling well, so you will have to postpone the conversation for another time.” Bjorn ended the conversation with a snap of his chin.

   His father-in-law is always blinded by greed and was very good at getting scammed, so much so that he has amounted a huge amount of debt and tried to sell his daughter to get out of it.
Leonard was partially right, but the chief contributor to driving Erna into Bjorn’s arms was Walter Hardy, not Leonard.
A terribly hunter, who had driven a baby deer out onto the hunting grounds.
There was no reason why he couldn’t show a little patience for such a worthy person.

   Bjorn left the terrace with Erna linked into his arms, leaving Walter Hardy to stare dumbfounded at their backs.
Once they were down the last flight of steps and out into the garden, Erna stopped coughing and although her eyes were watering, and her nose was red, she still smiled.

   “Bjorn, the Queen said it would be okay to go and visit Grandma with you.
If you wanted?”

   “Do you want to go?” Bjorn asked, even though he knew the answer.

   “Yes, if you don’t mind.”

   Erna took a step closer to him and she reached up to adjust his bow tie.
He had spent ages trying to tie that knot and smiled despondently.
As Erna wriggled it straight, it felt like the knot was mocking him.

   “I won’t take up too much of your time, okay?”

   Erna’s eyes became desperate as she took his prolonged silence as a rejection.
He really liked those eyes.
Beautiful, sparkling eyes that only stared at him.
Erna, who cried and laughed all because of him.

   Bjorn readily admitted that he was enjoying this moment of petty control as he watched her.
It was like he didn’t have any regrets about the crown and was just happy, here, with this woman.
It was funny even so, the fact that the marriage hadn’t been that bad made Bjorn laugh.

   Bjorn smiled and nodded.
The wind smelled sweetly of spring flowers and then Erna laughed.
The throne and the crown shone in her eyes brightly.
She was his beautiful little kingdom.

   Bjorn stretched out a hand and brushed her cheek as she finished with his tie.
He leaned in and kissed her on her forehead, then the bridge of her nose, then eventually her lips.
She shrank into his arms.
Bjorn couldn’t deny it, everything had worked out in the end.

   He was the king of his kingdom and he really loved it.

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