King Vladan was taken aback by the fact that his young Princess Antonya actually wanted to leave Serbia for a while. He thought that Velibor and Antonya would be inseparable. Queen Ann, seated next to him, smiled at this news, yet said nothing more.

Marco had entered the room wondering what on earth his brother could possibly want now. At times he got seriously annoyed with Vladan, his older brother though he be. Hopefully he would allow this to come to pass, for the way Antonya sounded she really needed a break, and it would do Vladan no harm to let her go a while. But would he let her go all the way home to Moscow with him?

Vladan stood as his brother entered the room, and greeted him with a smile. “Join me in a drink brother!” he exclaimed, passing a glass of wine to Marco. Marco was surprised to see his brother so happy. “Marco, my dear brother, I am so happy this night! I light has shone in my darkness, and I think I know now what to do!” He winked at his wife, and then sat down.

Marco was rather amused by this, seeing his brother enjoying himself, yet acting formal at the same time. “What causes you so much joy this evening Vladan? One might think that there was excess wine in the palace and you were responsible for it’s disposal!” They all laughed, Marco draining his glass and holding it out so a maid could pour more for him. “Such humor brother! Would you be the next court jester for me? I’m starting to miss the old one, though he got out of hand occasionally…” His voice drifted off, and the smile slowly began to recede from his face.

Marco saw this as the perfect opportunity to ask Vladan about Antonya. “Vladan, you know I promised you a solution, or at least a proposal, remember, for Antonya?” The king looked at him for a while, lost, then his face lit up. “Oh, yes! I remember!...come to think of it, isn’t that why we asked for his presence here with us Ann? I think it was…”

Hopefully this is going to be a positive conversation then, thought Marco. His brother was a professional at taking a good moment and ruining it sourly. “Marco,” Vladan said, bringing him out of his thoughts. “Ann and I were discussing life earlier today, when she brought to my mind an wonderful idea, although you are yet to agree with me.” He paused and sipped from his glass. Marco stood and moved to stand closer to the fire, while Ann reached out to support her husband. “Oh, my brother, she loves you, truly she does, like a best friend, an older brother. You’re her idol. If she’s not talking about Velibor its always about you. Often she has expressed her desire to travel to Russia with you and visit Moscow for a while…”

“Vladan!” Marco cut in “this is the solution I have for you! Oh my, I never thought I’d here you even talk of such a thing. Hopefully this is what you meant, but getting back on track.” He paused for a breath, suddenly excited at what his brother could have been suggesting. “I followed Antonya to her room after she stormed out of dinner tonight, and we were talking for a while. She told me about the jester, but then moved on to Velibor. According to her, things are not all too well with them at the moment, and she begged me to take her with me to Moscow, even if it were only for a few weeks she said. I would really love to bring Antonya to Moscow!”

Queen Ann’s eyes were shining so bright, and the king stood and began to pace, but this time with a spring in his step. They were overjoyed to hear that Antonya had said this of her own accord. Just at that moment, Antonya walked into the library.

“Ah, my beautiful daughter! We were just talking about you. Please, sit here! Of all the things I’ve ever said to you that have made you come to hate me, surely this will change your heart to me!” The king was smiling, and gestured to the seat next to Marco. Antonya looked at her father strangely. Marco sat down next to her, and she whispered in his ear. “Has father been drinking a lot of wine Marco?” He laughed and shook his head.

“Darling, your uncle, father and I have been discussing what to do you. I don’t mean that in a bad way dear, but it seems to me that what you need most is a break from your father and I, and to get out and see the world.” She motioned for the maid to bring a glass for Antonya. “True, Antonya, and I am so sorry that I haven’t been able to be the best father to you.” The king rose and kissed his daughter’s forehead.

Marco stood up, and moved once again by the fire. “Antonya, I have told your parents of your desire to travel with me to Moscow. They know just how much you wish to come with me, and all too well how much I wish to take my little niece home with me.” Antonya’s face lit up brightly, and she was sitting on the edge of her chair in anticipation. “Unfortunately, they said I can’t have you forever.” Casting her eyes downwards, she sat back in the chair feeling even more defeated. I should have never come, she thought to herself.

“Ha, Marco! You’re crazy my little brother! I swear you claim my daughter loves you, but she does not even understand what you meant! You have broken her heart!” He laughed, but stopped abruptly after seeing Antonya’s eyes declaring murder in his direction. “Oh my sweet, we were just joking! Your mother and I have decided to allow you to travel to Moscow with your uncle. Provided he wants you, and you behave.”

Antonya looked at Marco, and watched him as he returned to his seat next to her. HE put an arm around her shoulders and laughed. She punched his leg, and jumped up to hug her parents. Queen Ann stood to meet her daughter, and tears began to fall from her eyes having finally seen her daughter enjoy something honestly for once. The king stood too, but expected only a peck on the cheek. Surprisingly, Antonya threw her arms around her father, and held him tight. “I’m sorry father, and please don’t think that I hate you! It’s just at times that I don’t like you, or disagree with what you say. But mother says I have your temper anyway. She laughed and moved away from her parents.

“My daughter, I think it’s time you headed off to bed. You’ll have a big day tomorrow, and we must go and get some new gowns for you to wear in Moscow. Your uncle is here for one more week, and then you will leave together.”

Antonya kissed them all lightly, and ran to her room. Finally! She breathed out, as she collapsed on her bed. A trip to Moscow!