Part the Third
* * * * *
Amy of Madison danced around her turret, clapping her hands with devilish glee.
She had obeyed King Liam’s command, but had brought no serious harm to Prince Alexander. Perhaps one day she would be free of the yoke which Liam Angelus had placed around her neck, both literally and figuratively, and could rid herself of his albatross. A song in her heart and wetness between her legs, she glided back over to her scrying pool to determine the aftershocks of the prince’s unfortunate…accident.
She frowned and peered more closely, puzzled that she could see nothing but mist, as thick as that which covered the Bogs of the Oxnard Wastelands. Odd. What was happening here? She tilted her head. Magic, rudimentary to be sure, but magic nevertheless. However, she was unable to discern the signature, for it was neither hers nor that of the White Witch.
Eyes widening, she stood to her full height. Impossible! There were no other magical practitioners in the environs, save they.
“It is most comical how misinformed you are of so great a many things, Amy of Madison.”
The dark witch stiffened at the silky purr hissed at her from the doorway. Rather that turning around and openly displaying her fear, Amy held her ground and struggled for a tone of boredom. “White Witch. I have been expecting you.”
Willow threw back her head and cackled, each staccato laugh like a knife in the small of Amy’s back. “Oh, I am quite sure, novice, but not so quickly, correct? And not without triggering your wards, which, by the way, are rather pathetic. Not that I expected any less from you.”
The taunt produced the desired effect, and a sliver of bravado crept into Amy’s blood. Turning on her heel, she faced her greatest enemy, prepared to unleash the elements and take the kingdom of Aurelius with her, but was shocked into stillness and silence as she saw the tresses of the White Witch, normally the blazing crimson of dragon’s fire, swirling about her head in the shades of darkest night. The eyes, once glittering emeralds, were now flat and opaque, recalling the dull gleam of obsidian.
“How dare you,” Willow seethed, “touch what is mine?”
“That boy is not yours!”
“He is of the blood of my bonded, you stupid cow! I have raised that child since he was a mere babe. He could be no more mine than had I birthed him myself.”
“Yet he is alive, is he not?,” the dark witch coolly observed.
“Irrelevant. You have learned nothing in the past score years, insect. I thought our last altercation would you give pause, but you stupidly insist on your presumptive arrogance. Fool.”
“I had no choice!” Amy gathered her hair in her hand and held it aloft, revealing the collar Liam Angelus had placed upon her neck, indenturing her services.
“Is that supposed to quell my rage?,” Willow mocked, offended. “I should spare you because of this? Idiot child. You know as well as I that such a device could only be affixed to you with your consent. You whored yourself and your magic for his promise of sanctuary and revenge.” She stepped forward. “Are you so naïve that you believe practice makes perfect? Magic isn’t about trial-and-error, little girl, it is about power. I have it, you do not. Woe unto you that you did not recognize this long ago.”
“So what are you going to do?,” Amy demanded, with all the petulance of a maid. “Kill me?”
Willow’s smile was horrifying, her eyes arctic. “Why no. I have something much more suiting in mind.” The entire castle shuddered as pure white light began breaking through the mortar. “Ah,” she noted with satisfaction. “It seems my wife has arrived.”
Amy’s eyes bugged. “W-What?”
“Fret not,” the White Witch cooed. “Her Serene Highness will leave you to my capable hands. Her prey this night is much more a menace.” She shook her head. “Silly Liam. Pride is the one sin you can never conquer.”
“You and I are witches, Amy of Madison, ordinary mortals imbued with power to be used for Good or Evil. We have both made our choices. Queen Tara is something altogether different: she is a sorceress.”
The mouth of the other witch fell open and, before she could register the movement, Willow was on her.
“First, let us take care of this.” She snapped the collar from Amy’s neck as if it were nothing more than a twig.
Stunned yet rallying, Amy tried to summon all of her power to her.
“Wretch,” Willow smiled, “you know nothing.” With that, she began absorbing all of Amy’s magic. “Now it is time for you to learn what it means to be truly powerless.”
Amy of Madison screamed.* * * * *
“It should not be long now,” a smug Liam Angelus noted.
“Not long at all,” a soft voice agreed.
Startled, he turned to face the source of the voice. “Queen Tara,” he purred. “You pay me great honor by coming to visit me in my loneliness. You look as stunning as ever.”
“That for which I will be repaying you has nothing to do with honor, rodent.”
A stab of fear began needling his chest, but he would pay it no mind, refusing to cower before this lowly woman. “Come now. Must we reduce ourselves to a pitiful exchange of childish name-calling?”
“Very well. Bitch.”
He flinched. No, there was no way she could know. There was no proof of which to speak, he had ensured that. Unless that fool William had flapped his lips. Were there spies in the kingdoms?
Queen Tara laughed. “Your fellow vermin have kept their counsel, demon.” She cocked her head. “It is a shame, for their confessions might have spared them. Now, they shall be consigned along with you to the depths of Hell. Eventually. I do hope you have chosen wisely in your company, Liam, for you shall never be parted from them.”
No! Anything but that! He could not bear to be saddled with that miserable wretch William for all eternity! Although the bastard did have quite a tight and compact body. Liam looked around and grinned.
“I do not see your witch about, Your Majesty,” he simpered.
“That is because she is currently dealing with your own,” Queen Tara tartly replied. “Tell me, dear Liam,” she cooed, “on whom would you place your bet?” She laughed again.
Fie! Not only was he to lose his kingdom, but his witch!
“Then do your worst, bitch,” he viciously spat. “You have no power over me. Run and tell the other kingdoms of how naughty Liam conspired against that slut, Darla, and her ponce, Lindsey. Do you honestly think they will believe you? There is no proof.”
“None is required.” Her eyes burned white. “I can see into your heart, Liam, as black and diseased as it is.” She gave a sad sigh. “Were you not such a bastard, I might take pity upon you, but I am not that noble, not where my children and my family are concerned. Perhaps the Powers That Be will be more solicitous of your soul, but I shall grant you no mercy. You killed my cousin and her husband; you ordered the death of their only son; you schemed for the hand of my beloved daughter.”
At the display of her power, after recognizing it for what is was, Liam Angelus knew there was only one card left to play.
“Alexander,” he laughed. “I should have let dear William fuck that boy into oblivion as he wanted, for he is no more royal than his bastard father. As for the Princess Buffy,” he grinned, “she is a delightful creature who will one day make an exceptional queen.” He wagged his eyebrows. “You know as well as I that she will require a firm hand to smack that ripe bottom. And then there is her tasty sister! If there was ever a natural born whore, it is she. Such a dirty little girl, Queen Tara. I’m surprised one as noble as thee lays claim to her. Tell me, does she rut in the mud like the pig she is, or does she simply take it up the arse like the foul scarlet women of Cordeliana and Sunnydale?”
“Your vile words are as pathetic as their purveyor,” Queen Tara sneered. “They will not spare you from a slow death.”
With a wave of her hand, thousands of tiny cuts broke out across Liam’s body as rivulets of thick red blood swum to the surface of his skin.
“Is that the best you have?,” he grunted, smirking, even as the stinging pain forced him to his knees.
“Oh, that is not even close to my best.” She stepped closer. “Would you really like to see me, Liam, at my best?”
She planted her feet shoulder-width apart and began drawing power from the Earth itself. The very castle began groaning and shuddering in response, the mortar between the stones dissolving, the foundation cracking, as light poured through the walls and floors. Then, there was stillness.
“There is time. I am in no hurry, and I do believe that we have more important matters to which to attend.” She snapped her fingers, and a knot formed in his small intestine. “A fascinating organ. Its expanse is quite spectacular when freed from the confines of the abdominal cavity. Perhaps that is something also to consider.”
She snapped her fingers again. And again. King Liam Angelus of the Realm of Aurelius screamed in agony, music to her ears.
“There is magic to be found in every sound. One simply must tune their ear the right notes.” A clap of her hands rendered the man a eunuch. “I am quite sure you shall find yourself exceedingly popular in the pits of Hell.”
Snap. Snap. Snap.* * * * *
“Why, William! You have not touched your cocoa,” the Lady Joyce scolded. “I took great pains in preparing it especially for you.”
Oh, he was quite sure that she had. “I thank you for your kindness, dear Lady, but I am afraid that my fear for dear Alexander has stolen my appetite.”
“How humane of you,” she drawled. “Tell me, Duke, which is more frightening: that the Prince might never be found; or that he will be, alive and unmolested? Make no mistake, he will be recovered and restored to this throne, but your machinated usurpation is indeed quite finished.”
He stared at her, his mouth falling open, before he began rapidly blinking. “I am sure I have absolutely no idea of that to which you are referring, Lady Joyce, and I will thank you not to sully my reputation nor that of my late wife by insinuating that I have acted in anything but the best interests of my stepson.”
“Do pardon me, as I certainly did not mean to imply or insinuate; I thought myself rather straightforward. Your unrighteous indignation bores me, titmouse, so let us place all of our proverbial cards on the table. I know what you have done, as does the White Witch. I suspect that by now the good Queen Tara has also been made aware of your treachery. It is only a matter of time before they deal with Liam Angelus and his witch.”
She raised an eyebrow and calmly regarded him. “How long do you think the King will last before he throws you to the wolves? Cousin or not, he has no love for anyone other than himself, his leather britches, and his hair. His magician is no match for the White Witch. And after you are finally exposed, do you truly believe the people of this kingdom will allow you to escape after learning the fate you forced upon their Queen? Darla was beloved, as is her child. The King of Attorneyata will seek justice for the murder of his only son, Lindsey. After Alexander inherits both kingdoms, secures a wife or husband, and forges a formal alliance with Sunnydale, there will be nowhere in this world for you to hide.”
“So I should drink your infernal cocoa and succumb to death right now, is that right?,” he demanded.
She threw back her head and laughed. “Oh, come now, William, I am not a murderess! My cocoa will do little but render you permanently impotent, which is really more for my own amusement than a punishment for you.” She leaned forward and gave him a menacing glare. “You will never touch the beautiful Alexander. I will not allow you to besmirch his sterling reputation by seducing him with your sculpted cheekbones and firm buttocks. He is destined for much greater things than being another notch on your hitch post.”
He stood and hissed. “Stupid bitch. You may be able to keep the pretty from me, but you have no power to keep me here. You should have killed me when you had the chance.”
“And rob her of all her fun?”
William screwed up his face. “Her? Who her?”
The Lady Joyce pointed a long, elegant finger at his magical mirror. “Why, the Lady of the Mirror, of course,” she purred. “Don’t you know who she is?”
“What do I care what fool name she calls herself?,” he barked. “That mirror is little more than a useless prognosticator, gifted to me by King Liam Angelus.”
“For services rendered, I am sure,” the Lady replied, rolling her eyes. She turned thoughtful. “It really is a shame that you hold not the Lady of the Mirror in higher regard. If you had, perhaps she might have been more forthright with her visions.”
Duke William frowned.
“Do you not recognize her?,” Joyce pressed. “Do you not recognize your own cousin?”
“Cousin!,” he gasped.
In the space of a single moment, the Lady Joyce poured out the contents of her cup of cocoa and flung the crockery at the mirror, its surface shattering and splintering into pieces, exploding inward. The room was flooded with yellow light and the frame of the mirror lengthened and narrowed, becoming a door. A beautiful young woman cautiously stepped through, seemingly disoriented and unsure of her location. Upon seeing those in residence, she heaved a sigh of relief, squared her shoulders, hitched up her skirt in hand, and sashayed toward the occupants.
The Duke stared, gaping at the vision of loveliness before him, understanding that the Lady Joyce expected him to know this woman, though he recognized not her countenance. He was further stunned to see the Lady Joyce fall into a deep curtsy and bow her head.
“What!,” he sputtered. “Queen!”
“Yes, dear cousin,” the woman purred, “it is I, Anyanka, sister to Liam Angelus and the rightful ruler of the Realm of Aurelius.” Her grin was predatory as his shock gave way to realization and his eyes flitted about in search of escape. She glided toward the door, blocking his exit. “You have been very naughty, William, running about and inciting violence against your betters. Your braggart ways have been almost unbearable to endure, but do make passing judgment against you so much easier.”
“Indeed,” Anyanka sniffed. “You see, my brother had his foul wretch of a witch imprison me in that mirror when I was but a mere babe so that I could not claim the throne, but her spell had one major consequence which she could not anticipate: I was able to travel to and from every mirror in the land, and thus keep myself apprised of all developments. Queen Tara of Sunnydale has disposed of my brother, and the White Witch has absorbed all of the magic from Amy of Madison. Your closest compatriots are either dead or powerless.” Her sneer was triumphant. “The Prince Alexander is safe, and his envoys have sent word of his location to Sunnydale. He is unharmed and will remain as such, and you will never have the opportunity to defile his virtue.”
Duke William moaned, knowing that his life would soon be cut short. That realization, however, paled in comparison to the realization that he would never lay hands on the juicy, virginal skin of his delicious stepson. “Oh! Woe unto me and my mighty flesh lance!”
The Lady Joyce clenched her fists at her sides, but Queen Anyanka merely rolled her eyes.
“What will become of me?,” he whispered.
The Queen cocked her hip and raised her eyes heavenward.
“Well,” she slowly began, “I have had nothing but time to consider your fate. I had planned originally to collar you and compel you to service the combined forces of every royal guard of the land,” her eyes narrowed as his lighted with hope, “but I discerned you might like that too well.
"Then I debated about simply having you killed, of which I am sure the young prince would be in favor, but that would be too easy for you. Thus, I will ask the White Witch to inflict upon you the same curse you unleashed upon my best friend, the Queen Darla. You will develop an allergy to the sun, whereby you will find it impossible to be exposed to its rays. You will be confined to the same dark, dank dungeon in which you placed Queen Darla, but your end will not be as swift. You will be afforded enough food and water to survive, so that you will linger until death finally claims you. You will receive no visitors, save myself, the prince, and the Lady Joyce, so that we might mock and gloat, and to ensure that you will not prostitute yourself to any hapless soldier who might be swayed by your dubious charms.”
Lady Joyce cackled. “You will grow pale and weak. You will be denied your large store of hair maintenance products, including the coloring which you claim not to use. You will become skeletal, losing all of the muscle mass on which you pride yourself. You will be provided no lubricant to ease your self-pleasuring. You will never again know the touch of another. You will sleep on a pallet of hay, be outfitted only in rags made of artificial fibers in obscene colors, and the only reading materials provided to you will be literature pertaining to the study of equine hygiene.”
“No!,” he gasped. “Please! Do not resign me to such a horrid fate! Kill me outright, or violate repeatedly my exquisite body with implements of your choosing! Imprison me in that mirror! Anything but that which you have described!”
“The sentence stands,” Queen Anyanka dispassionately proclaimed. “Captain de Finn!”
At once, the tall, lithe Captain of the Guard stormed into the room, followed by a cadre of his most trusted men.
“Hold this vermin until proper preparations have been made. Feel free to taunt and sneer, but keep physical contact to a minimum. It takes little to arouse this nymphomaniac.”
Captain de Finn bowed. “As you wish, Your Majesty, and welcome back to our world. You have been missed.”
She coyly smiled and batted her eyes, pleased by his resulting blush. While not a royal, he was nonetheless noble, and certainly suitable enough to pass several lazy months while in search of a husband. Of course, should the man prove exceptional in those deeds which mattered, she might not bother searching out a royal mate.
He blinked rapidly to focus his eyes and cleared his throat. “And our Prince, Your Highness?,” he anxiously required.
She laid a soothing hand on his forearm, gently kneading its well-developed muscles. “Fear not, good captain,” she cooed. “Young Alexander will be returned to Cordeliana and will assume its throne. Your friend will soon be amongst you once more.”
Overcome with love and loyalty for his prince, Captain de Finn exhaled with relief and nodded, turning to his men, who were cheering the return of their favorite boy.
“Place this criminal in chains,” he commanded, indicating Duke William, “about his neck, hands, and feet. The charges include the assassination of our beloved and well-hung King Consort Lindsey; the cursing and regicide of our most beautiful and beneficent Queen Darla; and the magical assault of our sexy young prince, Alexander. Other charges include conspiracy, lechery, thievery, and fashion violations against the strict dress code the Great Cordelia herself set for our people. We reserve the right to add charges to this list as they are discovered, or simply for our amusement.”
He nodded again, and they hauled away the protesting Duke William, who continued to beg for just one of the burly soldiers to press themselves tightly against his backside.
Contented, the Lady Joyce and Queen Anyanka took seats at the massive table in the center of the room.
“Well,” the Queen sighed, “thank the Great Cordelia that nonsense has been decided.”
Lady Joyce nodded. “Perhaps we should plan a celebration for our two kingdoms, now that we, with the assistance of Queen Tara and the White Witch, have liberated them from their oppressors.”
“Oh, how exciting!,” the Queen trilled, merrily clapping her hands.
The elder woman nodded. “And the coronations! We must have a dual coronation ceremony for both Your Majesty and Prince Alexander. At long last, we will be able to begin healing the rifts between our two lands!”
Queen Anyanka clapped again, before abruptly ceasing. “We will be splitting the tab, yes?”* * * * *
The righteous and noble King Graham, regent of the small island principality of Marina Corpus, sat atop his steed as he traversed the sun-dappled wilderness of the Forbidden Forest.
He had crossed the Sea of Studs and entered the mainland through the kingdom of Sunnydale, just in time to witness the execution of a scurrilous knave named Warren. Death by crocodile was unusual, but not unfamiliar. Judging by the celebrated temperateness of the good Queen Tara and the screams of delight echoing from the forum, the criminal and his actions must have been particularly heinous.
Dismissing the scene from his mind, King Graham return to fretting about his most uncertain future. He had inherited his throne after a bloodthirsty coup in which he forcibly ejected his wicked stepmother, Lady Margaret Walsh, who had been using the populace in a series of unlawful and revolting scientific experiments, trying to disprove natural laws which had long since been proven true.
His kingdom’s population had been reduced by two-thirds; the youngest and the elderly were the first to go, before Lady Margaret and her monstrous troll, Adam, began eradicating the adults. His treasury was all but empty, and most of the island lay in ruins. Still, were it not for the most gracious Queen Darla and the money, munitions, and medicine she had provided, far more lives would have been lost. Thus, he was on his way to Cordeliana to pay praise unto her.
He was not sure why he had entered the Forbidden Forest, knowing it was far safer for a king without his retinue to travel the main roads, but an unknown force had compelled him to take this shortcut. He was not particularly worried, as he was little recognized outside of his kingdom, not to mention he was in exquisite physical shape and could well look after himself. He involuntarily flexed his biceps.
“H-Halt!,” demanded a wavering voice. “Come no f-further!”
King Graham peered down curiously and noticed a reedy dwarf ineffectually waving about what appeared to be a makeshift sword, constructed from a small stick, sharpened on one end to a point. Ridiculous. What evil could such an instrument dispel? He held up a hand.
“Patience, dwarf. I mean you no harm.”
“This forest is Forbidden!”
King Graham raised an eyebrow. “As its name implies. Yet it does not deter your presence. You must be an exceedingly brave, if ugly, dwarf."
A pleased blush spread across the small creature’s cheeks.
“Fear not, young dwarf,” the King continued, “I am King Graham of Marina Corpus. I am only on this road to hasten to Cordeliana and pay my respects to her lovely Queen, who has performed for me a most kindly service.”
“Oh,” the dwarf sighed, tears springing to his eyes. “I am most sorry, Your Dreamy Highness. You must not have heard the dreadful news.”
“News? What news? Dwarf! Who are you, and what is that of which you speak?,” he demanded.
“Please excuse my impertinence, Most Muscular One,” it bowed. “I am Andrew. I live in these woods with my heterosexual life partner, Jonathan.”
The King raised both brows at this. He might not have the guile of those who lived on the mainland, but he expected that this dwarf was about as heterosexual as a prancing unicorn with a rainbow mane.
“It is good to meet your acquaintance, noble Andrew, but please tell me what news of Queen Darla?”
“It is most tragic, Sir,” Andrew whispered. “The Queen’s husband, that scoundrel William of Cloroxia, conspired with King Liam Angelus and his witch, Amy of Madison, to murder the good Darla.”
“No! No, I refuse to believe this! It is outrageous!”
“It is, unfortunately, nevertheless true.”
“But…but what of her kingdom? What of her son, the most beautiful Alexander?” King Graham’s eyes became hazy. “I have not seen him for many years. My father once brought me to Cordeliana when I was but a mere lad. This was before our world was deprived of the King Consort, Lindsey, who was, at the time, the most handsome man in the land.” He sighed. “Prince Alexander was such a lovely boy, so full of life and vitality, running about the castle and charming everyone with his huge brown eyes and lopsided grin. I remember he was most fond of a curious confection known as a Twinkie.”
“Oh!,” Andrew squeaked. “Prince Alexander is at my cottage! Jonathan and I discovered him perchance only this afternoon, lying unconscious in the Forest after a magical storm.” His eyes flitted about nervously. “We believe it was the work of Amy of Madison, whose king, Liam Angelus, has sought for years the Cordelian throne.”
“Is the prince quite well?,” King Graham anxiously asked.
“I believe so, yes. He has not yet woken, but is no immediate danger, for his constitution and his thighs are very strong. He bears the mark of the White Witch! Certainly she will allow no serious harm to befall him.”
“But whatever was he doing in this Forest?”
“We believe he was sojourning to his kingdom, after being recalled by his stepfather. No doubt the people of Cordeliana wished him to claim the throne, rather than see it fall to that villainous knave, Duke William. He had been living with his mother’s cousin, the good Queen Tara of Sunnydale.”
King Graham frowned. “I passed Sunnydale just hours before. They were celebrating the execution of one whom I can only believe was most evil. His name was Warren.” He ignored the dwarf’s excited squeak. “Noble Andrew, you must take me at once to Prince Alexander. If I cannot remunerate his sainted mother for her kindness, the least I can do is ensure her son’s safe return to his kingdom.”
Andrew narrowed his eyes and studied the pinched face of this foreign king, discerning no malice from the handsome royal. The man was disheartened and worried, and the dwarf doubted King Graham had an evil bone in his strong, delectable body. After a moment, he nodded.
“Very well, good King. Our cottage is just over that next ridge. Follow me.”
“We will arrive much faster were you to join me on horseback,” the king decidedly declared. With that, he scooped the dwarf up in one of his beefy arms and took off in the indicated direction.* * * * *
“Andrew! You have brought home a stranger,” Jonathan scolded. “What if he is a mercenary for the villainous Liam Angelus, or the evil William of Cloroxia? Have you no sense? And where is the firewood? How are we to see to our charge without light? What if he catches a chill?”
“Hush, Jonathan,” Andrew answered. “This is the strong and brave Graham, King of the isle of Marina Corpus.”
The other dwarf’s eye immediately found the royal signet ring on the hand of the beautiful man, and he gave a low bow. “A thousand pardons, Your Highness. I had no idea, and I meant no disrespect. You grace us with your presence.”
King Graham waved him off. “No apologies, please, noble Jonathan, but please tell me of my young friend, Prince Alexander. I only just learned of the tragic news regarding his mother. I must see that he is returned to his people. I owe Queen Darla so much.”
Instantly judging the man’s sincerity, Jonathan nodded. “Of course, Your Majesty. He is just through here.”
The King scrambled after the fleet-footed dwarf, and crossed the small living space, entering the single tiny bedroom, which contained only one bed. Heterosexual life partners indeed. Then, he spied atop the small mattress a youth of incomparable beauty.
“Oh,” he breathed, his eyes widening. “He is almost exactly as I remember.”
The dwarves watched as the King slowly approached the bed as if in a daze. They eyed each other when the large man bent down on one knee and slowly pushed the prince’s hair out of his eyes.
“Oh, Alexander,” King Graham whispered, gently stroking the boy’s cheek, “I am so sorry for your undeserved troubles. I wish I could take them all from you. I promise you, dear boy, that I will avenge your parents if it my last act on this earth. I pledge my life to you, good prince. I believe it was the work of the Great Cordelia herself which brought me here to you, and I will not rest until you, her last descendant, child of my benefactor, are restored to your throne.”
He took the prince’s hand in his own and gently kissed the top of it.
“You stole my heart all of those years ago, sweet prince, when were both mere babes. I knew then that you would become a man of great beauty and compassion, one who would rule wisely and bring unto his kingdom even more glory.” He blinked furiously. “We have both lost so much, but you must know that your parents would be so proud of you, dear Alexander, and I will punish all of those who dared to bring such sorrows into your life.” He turned to the dwarves, tears streaming down his cheeks. “Is there nothing we can do to rouse him? His people have endured so many losses. I do not wish them to see him in this condition.”
Andrew shrugged helplessly. “It is a magical coma, my King. We are but simple dwarves. Our minor magic is no match for the evil of Amy of Madison. We should wait for the White Witch.”
The King gave a dejected sigh.
“However,” Jonathan slowly said, “it is said that even the evil of oldest magic dispels in the face of true love’s kiss.”
King Graham’s eyes widened as his mouth fell open. “But I am not…he is not…we are not…”
“How do you know?,” Andrew gently asked. “Prince Alexander is of marriageable age, yet wears no ring of betrothal. He is the most sought-after royal in the land, and has most likely been courted by the noblest of families. Why, I am sure the White Witch and Queen Tara would have been delighted had a romance blossomed between he and one of their young daughters, the beautiful princesses Buffy and Faith. Perhaps he was waiting for a prince of his own.”
The King’s eyes filled with hope.
“This great man is a king, not a prince,” Jonathan corrected.
“They met when both were princes,” Andrew countered.
“You are disrespectful.”
“And you are unromantic!”
As the dwarves continued to quarrel, King Graham cautiously leaned over and pressed his lips to those of Prince Alexander, noting their exquisite curvature, their lush softness, the way they yielded and seemed to mold to his own. He inhaled the scent of the boy’s hair, reminiscent of vanilla and sunshine, calling to mind a warm spring day. King Graham closed his eyes and, with every fiber of his being, prayed to the Great Cordelia that this boy, this young king, might be his, that they might have found each other in the midst of great personal tragedies and might find, together, a life of joy and happiness. He beseeched her to bless this union if she thought it prudent, and, if not, he begged her to watch over this young man and ensure his life was a happy one. He poured all of his soul into the kiss, and then added a bit of tongue for good measure.
When he finally pulled away, he opened his eyes and, turning his head, swore he saw before him a young woman so beautiful, her breasts so proud and true, his heart jumped into his throat.
The dwarves immediately prostrated themselves, and that was when the king knew this vision of perfection was real.
“It is she! It is she!,” Jonathan squeaked. “It is the Great Cordelia herself!”
She turned and smiled down on them. “So it is,” she replied. She waved a hand, and their hunchbacks disappeared. “You have been most helpful, dwarves. You have protected and cared for my descendant at no small risk to yourselves. Arise, and know that you henceforth walk through this life blessed.”
Trembling, the dwarves stood and bowed before her, tears leaking from their eyes.
“As King Graham told you, Jonathan and Andrew, Warren of Robotica is no more. The most gracious Queen Tara was much aggrieved upon learning of his dastardly misdeeds. What little remains of him is now in the belly of a crocodile. Fear him no longer.”
The dwarves joined hands and merrily skipped about the room.
The Great Cordelia floated over toward King Graham and laid a hand atop his head.
“Young king, this boy before you is the last of my line, and he does me and mine great honor. Kind of heart, gentle of spirit, he is the best of both his parents and of me. He will be a great ruler, a kind man and loving father. He needs at his side one who will love him unconditionally, but who will not put up with any of his bullshit.”
She smiled. “I believe you are that person. Both of your lives have been marred with injustice and adversity, but you have now found each other and will embark on a life filled with joy and laughter and Hallmark moments, and you will do so together. You have my blessing, dear King.”
She leaned over and kissed his forehead, before placing her mouth next to his ear. “But if you ever hurt him, pray that the Lady Joyce gets to you with her cocoa before I come for you.”
He jerked back, his eyes the size of saucers, and nodded frantically. After a moment he recovered and bowed his head.
“Thank you, Great One,” he whispered, his tears renewing. “I swear on your name that I will live out my days making him the happiest man in all the land.”
She smiled again and clapped her hands. “Okay! Well, my work here is done. In the immortal words of Jerry, Count of Springer, take care of yourselves and each other. Catch you all on the flip.” She turned on her heel and disappeared.
A moment passed, and the eyes of Prince Alexander began to flutter. Finally, they snapped open and he rolled on his side and coughed.
“What has happened?,” he weakly asked. “Where am I?” He looked up into the eyes of the handsome man before him. “Gray? Prince Graham? Is that really you?”
“I am King now,” the man smiled, before biting his lip and blushing, averting his eyes.
Memory washed over the young prince. “As am I,” he whispered. His eyes filled. “I do not wish to be.”
“I was so sorry to learn of your mother’s passing, sweet prince,” King Graham said, his voice low. “She was a remarkable lady.”
“Thank you. But where am I? What am I doing here? What are you doing here?”
“We are in the cottage of the noble dwarves, Andrew and Jonathan. They rescued you after a most foul magical attack perpetrated against your person by the evil cow, Amy of Madison.”
At once, the wooden shutters on the single window burst open and Swift Wind stuck through his head and neighed happily upon seeing his master.
“Oh,” Alexander blinked. “All right, then.”
King Graham again took the prince’s hand in his own, kissing it. “The Great Cordelia was just here.”
“What!” He scrambled into a sitting position, his eyes darting around the room. “But where is she? I have waited my whole life for such a moment!”
“I prayed to her. I prayed for you.”
“Well. Thank you, good King. It is most likely because of you that I have awoken from whatever…”
King Graham held open the hand of the prince and used it to caress his face. “I prayed for you.”
“I…oh. Oh!” He swallowed. “For me?”
“This is so lovely,” Andrew trilled.
“Stop being rude!,” Jonathan protested.
“Stop being a prude!”
The dwarves once again began to quarrel, as King Graham leaned over and again pressed his lips to those of Prince Alexander.* * * * *
A double coronation ceremony was held the next day, in which Alexander and Anyanka received the crowns of their respective kingdoms, and such began a long and fruitful alliance between Cordeliana and the Realm of Aurelius. Soon, the kingdom of Sunnydale was incorporated into the union, and the three principalities became a trifecta of such power and goodness, no evil would ever again dare to besmirch the land.
The wedding of King Alexander and King Graham was a grandiose celebration, and everyone who was anyone was in attendance. It had been decided that the kingdom of Marina Corpus would be dissolved and all of the displaced citizens who had lost so much during the civil war found new lives and loves in the kingdom of Cordeliana, which welcomed them with open arms.
The island of Marina Corpus became a wildlife sanctuary for unicorns.
Alexander's paternal grandparents, King Gavin and Queen Lilah, insisted he also assume the throne of Attorneyata, which had been held for him since the passing of his father, Lindsey. Alexander was hesitant, but eventually capitulated. As Attorneyata lied directly west, it became part of the Cordelian empire, but maintained its independence and would do so in perpetuity.
As the two Kings were joined in marital bliss, Queen Tara of Sunnydale, the White Witch, and their two daughters, the princesses Buffy and Faith, looked on in happiness and relief that their dear cousin and good friend had found such a worthy partner. The White Witch was already working on a spell which would provide the couple with children.
Princess Buffy met at the wedding a beautiful young man named Parker; after he broke her heart, Clem the Crocodile was awarded another feast. The princess would later ascend to her mother’s throne and find eternal bliss with Jesse of the Clan McNally.
At the celebration, Princess Faith met her match, or matches, in Samuel and Dean, the Brothers Winchester, a fraternal pair of transients who traveled from kingdom to kingdom, dispelling evil with their hotness. Eventually, they settled down in Cordeliana, becoming commanders of the combined armies of Cordeliana, Sunnydale, Attorneyata, and the Realm of Aurelius. Neither princess displayed the magical prowess of their mothers, but they were quite happy to live their days without the burden of supernatural powers.
Queen Anyanka watched the young kings with joy, with Captain Riley de Finn at her side; neither had ever looked so satisfied, and they were married at the end of the month.
Also present were Earl Charles de Gunn and Princess Winifred of Illyria, who would later find love with Sir Wesley and Giles the Fool, respectively.
Dwarves Andrew and Jonathan served as ringbearers, and were later knighted by their Kings and appointed a suite of rooms in the Cordelian Palace.
The Lady Joyce was delighted to be asked to serve as the officiator of the ceremony, and not a speck of cocoa was in sight. She was later named the Cordelian Ambassador, and it soon became a contest amongst the other royals as to whom would be the next to welcome her to their kingdom.
One and one-half years later, Cordeliana had more reason to celebrate, as Prince Connor was delivered unto his fathers. Two years after that, he was joined by his sister, the Princess Dawn, who had the shiniest hair anyone could ever recall seeing.
The Great Cordelia herself visited the children one night while they slept in their cradles and blessed them. She then snuck into the royal bedchamber and watched Kings Alexander and Graham go about their royal business. Higher Beings were notoriously voyeuristic.
And they all lived happily ever after, until the evil Lord Voldemort came to their land in search of a boy with eyes as green as a pickled toad. That is a story for another time, however.