Marco left the throne room, and Vladan stood up and began pacing. What have I done to cause all this? He paced and paced, until Queen Ann entered the room. Vladan didn’t hear her enter, as she sat on her throne, next to his. He felt her presence in the room then, and went to join her.

“What has happened to make you so distressed? You know I worry about you so much when you’re like this, Vladan. The servants that were attending for you sent for me straight away when they saw you pacing around in that manner. They care for your wellbeing too.” She lay her hand on his arm, and his eyes met hers.

“My love, I’m not sure I can do this. I have just put everything into Marco’s hands – you know how much Antonya adores him. He arrived not long ago, and came bursting in to see me. How grateful I was of his arrival. Then Antonya stormed in, and now he believes just what I mean about her. He promised to do something, but I am beginning to regret this decision. What kind of father am I that I have to turn to my younger brother for help?” Lines of worry creased his forehead, and his eyes began to swell with tears. She reached up and stroked his face.

“Darling let us walk and talk about these things that trouble you, for sitting here will only satisfy the eyes of prying hearts. Come.” She drew him out of his throne, and winding her arm through his, she led him down the corridors to the library. A fire was on in the room, and no one but a few servants tidying the books were present. She dismissed them, and led her husband to the chair closest to the fire.

“Vladan, do you remember when we first met? No one approved of our love, and I’m not sure many people still do. By blood you had right to the throne, but by blood I had right to nothing. Yet we had love for each other, and that seemed to hide away the problems of the world. I’m beginning to think that maybe, we should just let Antonya have Velibor, as much of an ignorant man as we find him. She will learn her lesson sooner or later.”

“But Ann think of the fate of the whole country if their desired marriage comes to pass! How could I let my beloved, beautiful daughter, and in turn my wonderful Serbia fall into the arms of such an arrogant, insolent young boy? I am ageing and must soon leave the kingdom to someone, but of whoever I leave it to I vow it WILL NOT BE HIM! I couldn’t bear it.” He stood, and made to start pacing again, but she grabbed him by the arm and stopped him.

“Well I’m sorry your highness,” she cut him off “but I love you, much the same as I love my daughter. I think we should let her do this. He’s going to end up going into the army sooner or later anyway.” She had tears in her eyes, having seen the amount of stress all of this was causing her husband, and how the stress was slowly ruining him. “My dear,” she softly called “maybe what we should do is ask Marco to take Antonya with him?” her voice raised slightly, being suddenly inspired by this new train of thought. “We can see just how strong her love is for Velibor, how genuine and just how much he loves her in return, and it will give you a break from all these pressing matters. Yes, my love, I see how much pain all this nonsense is causing you.”

“Sometimes, I wonder where I would be without my beautiful wife!” He exclaimed, a new light on his face. He leaned in and kissed his wife on the cheek, having sat back down next to her. Silence filled the room as he thought about this idea. “Yes, Ann, I think it will work. Hasn’t she always begged to be allowed to stay with Marco for a few months at the least? Well, I still have some considering to do, but I much fancy your idea. I love you so much Ann. How long shall we send her away for? Maybe two weeks – long enough to test her love and his, but not long enough for her to totally torture all of Russia, and ruin our allies with Russia.”

“Oh Vladan, sometimes you amaze me profoundly. But we’ll have to see about this. When shall we break it to her, about our choice?”

“Let me talk to Marco first, and then my wonderful Ann, we shall see how life fares from there.” Immediately he stood from the room, with an air of new-founded joy surrounding him. He smiled at her, and then walked out. Ann sat in her chair for a little longer, then too exited the room to go into the courtyard.

That night in the banquet hall, Marco and Antonya entered, but Velibor was nowhere to be seen. Vladan was slightly shocked by this, but nonetheless continued with the night. A beautiful feast was served in honour of Marco arriving. As the meal began to come to a close, Velibor was no to be seen anywhere in the room. Noticing how his daughter seemed slightly wounded by this, Vladan decided to address the court.

“Who has seen Velibor the knight today? He has not graced us with his presence this feast?” He commented gently, not intending to make accusations of any sort. A few of the ladies laughed, and the general spiked up. “Perhaps he has decided, your royal highness, that the army holds great proposition for him!” The hall roared with laughter, but died down quite quickly after seeing the king’s face. He was not amused. “And who are you to be joking so luridly, General? For surely if he’s packing his bags then shouldn’t you be too? A king always keeps his promises!” The halls laughter grew even louder, much the same as the general’s face went bright red. Antonya and Marco hadn’t heard a single word of this, but Ann had taken note of everything.

“Maybe, my dear husband, and for you too general, the subject should be changed should consequences arise from this conversation that none desire.” “Yes your highness” mimicked the king and the general in unison. Vladan thought this was quite funny, but decided against that move quite quickly. “Oh, Ann, I was just trying to fill in for the jester that seems to have not shown up today. What happened to our jester?” Vladan called to one of the butlers standing near-by. He smiled at the king and answered “You had him fired, your Highness, if you recall.” “Oh, yes, I see. Thankyou.”

Antonya had heard the last part of the conversation, and stormed angrily out of the hall. Marco followed her, determined to discover the reasons for her anger (she had been short-tempered all day). Eventually he found her, sitting in her room crying softly on the bed. “Oh, Marco, I truly thought father meant it when he said he would try not to bring up these matters again.” “What matters?” soothed Marco. “The jester was fired because he insulted Velibor and I. I thought it was just honest fun, but Velibor as truly offended. Vel thought he was suggesting that he was just using me to become the next king, in a story he told. I thought it was just honest fun, for he jokes about everyone. Velibor got angry at me when I said I wasn’t offended at all, and it was from that point on that mum and dad have disliked him. I admit it was irrational of him.”

Marco sat there, looking out into the darkened courtyard, thoughts drifting in and out of his head. Just then one of the butler’s entered the room, and addressed Marco. “Sire, the King has requested your presence in the Library, when you are ready. We’ve been looking for you everywhere!” “My apologies,” laughed Marco, at the thought of them running around trying to find him. “Please inform the King that I will be with him soon.” The butler left the room hastily.

Antonya noticed how Marco had been thinking, and pleaded “Please Marco, will you let me return with you to Moscow? I want so bad to leave this place. I love Velibor, but things are starting to get out of hand. I can’t take it much longer, and I know I’m causing father so much pain, but I don’t know what to do! Please!”

“I tell you what” he said tenderly, reaching over and cupping her face in his hands “I will go now and see what you’re father wants, and I might, just might, ask him if I can take you back home with me for a while. How about that?” A smile lit up the princess’ beautiful face, and Marco laughed.

“But promise me you’ll smile in the meantime?” She nodded, and he walked out of the room.