“Once the carriage moved out of earshot, Sylori addressed the perplexed audience.
‘I must apologize for my mother. She can be quite old-fashioned. Now, where were we? Ah yes, you!’ She pointed to the next man in line. ‘I want to hear from all of you.’
Sylori stayed in town long after dusk, listening to each suitor, and taking down all their names. After the last man spoke, she stood and stretched, clearly proud of what she had accomplished that day. ‘Thank you all,’ she said. ‘I have only one short year to choose my husband, and you’ve graciously given me an abundance of options. I am thrilled to meet you all. Let’s get started, shall we? It seems I’ll need an escort back to the castle. And I’ve been sitting on this throne all day. Would one of you care to walk with me?’ Sylori perused the long scroll of names she held. ‘We might as well start at the top of the list.’
Although he was hundreds of miles away, Jarlan caught wind of Sylori’s plan within a few weeks. He grew furious. All his thoughts turned to how he would stop her. Would he take over her homeland and keep her prisoner? Would be kidnap her and force her to stay in Trao? Would he kill her? Surely the royal lineage would be lost if she were to marry a commoner anyway. Fortunately for Sylori, Jarlan was preoccupied in his father’s war, as were most of his servants. As much as he wanted to, he simply did not have enough resources to deal with the princess. At least not conventionally.
Knowing Jarlan could do little to stop her, Sylori continued with her plan. Everyday she came down from the castle and everyday she graced another Berxian male with her presence. She gave them each as much time as she could afford, knowing she had a tremendous promise to uphold. She was given hundreds of gifts and had dozens of homemade meals cooked for her. She learned about alchemy and blacksmithing. She was shown parts of Berx and the surrounding countryside that she never knew existed. Of course, she liked some men more than others. But anything was better than being trapped in her castle, just waiting to be wed to Jarlan.”
“What happens next, princess? Jarlan does something bad doesn’t he?” The children gathered around Vathari stared up at her in anticipation. For many, this was their first time hearing the tale.
“I bet he leaves the war and captures her anyway!” one child shouts.
“I think he’ll set fire to Berx!” says another.
“I heard he makes a deal with a wizard.” The boisterous children suddenly grew quiet. The voice came from a little girl who sat behind them. She didn’t even look up, but continued gathering the small whitish yellow flowers that grew in the grass around her.
“Is there really a wizard, princess?” one boy asked Vathari. “Wizards aren’t real right?”
“You’ll have to listen to the rest of the story to find that out.” Vathari smiled warmly at the children and once again settled into her reading.