Chapter 1: The Beginning

Once a year for the last six years it had happened. The same exact thing always occurred. As sure as dragons devouring princesses and griffins gobbling knights, she would come. Sure enough, on the seventh April first, that red-headed, green-eyed “emissary” marched through the castle gate. Unaccompanied by any sort of entourage, she crossed the courtyard and didn’t even glance at the great hall’s splendidly carved doors as she heaved them open. It seemed that she purposely tracked mud all over the costly crimson velvet carpet, and when she finally halted, it was at an indecently small number of feet from his very own throne.

“No, thank you,” he responded to her annual question. The courtiers sighed with relief. Now she had only to say, “Thou shalt repent of it, my lord,” and she would depart. That girl made them nervous. It was uncanny how dignified she acted while wearing such a shabby cloak.

But this year, she didn’t move. She just stood there. The ladies and gentleman coughed, trying to inform her that it was time for her to leave. She ignored them, and remained fixated on the king. “My lord, my exalted mistress’s offer is of the best. She is assuredly as goodly a lady in person and character as ever thou hast laid eyes upon. She would make a most excellent wife to thee.”

“No, thank you,” the King replied. “I am rather advanced in years and wish to carry on like I have always done. A wife would only disrupt me. Thank you.” He tried coughing himself. It didn’t work.

“My lord, thou wouldst be advised to consider thy choice before fixing it. My mistress, the Queen, is very wealthy, and wouldst indeed bless this poor kingdom of thine.”

The King glanced helplessly at the Prime Minister seated at his right hand. The Prime Minister rose, his magnificent, diamond-encrusted midnight robes making impressive what was otherwise merely tall and thin. He spoke: “Ahem…um…my-dear…um…what-did-you-say-your-name-was?”

The girl was occupied in smiling sweetly at the Prime Minister’s handsome young son. With mortification the Prime Minister noticed that his son was sweetly smiling back. After a moment she shifted her attention to the Prime Minister. “Odyssey, sir,” she replied.

“Ahem…you-see…um…my-dear…um…Odyssey…um…your-mistress…um…with-all-her-charms…um…you-see…um…we-are-not-in-such-a-financial-situation-as-to-require…um…we-cannot…um…we won’t…”

“WE WON’T HAVE IT!” stormed the Head War Leader. He pounded his massive fist on his chair arm, cracking it, and leapt to the King’s side. The Head War Leader addressed the assembly: “WHO IS THIS ACCURSED WITCH-QUEEN TO SEND HER INFERNAL MINION TO TORMENT US WITH OFFERS OF MARRIAGE? WHAT NATURAL WOMAN WOULD ASK A MAN FOR HIS HAND? IS THAT NOT OPPOSITE TO TRADITION, TO ALL THAT WE HAVE KNOWN AND HOLD DEAR? WHAT FOREIGNER FOR QUEEN DO WE WANT? WOULD YOU HAVE A ALIEN TAKE OVER OUR NOBLE COUNTRY, AND INFEST IT WITH HER NEW-FANGLED NOTIONS? DO YOU MEN? DO YOU?”

“Hooray!” came the half-hearted cheer. Odyssey’s mocking face had grown darker and darker. Now she fixed her gaze on the king and spoke to him, and to him alone.

“Very well. Thou hast refused my mistress’ proposal. Thou hast sealed thy fate. Thou shalt assuredly be plagued and plagued until thou shalt agree to marriage with my mistress. Thou art forewarned.”

“No, I will not, never, thank you,” answered the king.

“I…um…I-think-it-highly-doubtful,” murmured the Prime Minister.

“WE SHALL NEVER GIVE IN! NEVER GIVE IN!” bellowed the Head War Leader.

“So be it,” replied Odyssey. She turned on her heel (ruining that bit of carpet) and stalked out the door.

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