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The Rover Prince

A faerie tale courtship

Let me tell you a story, a story about a prince who was a rover, and a princess who did not know she was a princess. Now I hear the question asked, "How can this be, a princess being unaware of being a princess?" The answer lies in the midst of a war that lasted a thousand years.

Over a millennium gone by, one nation invaded another, and after the first battle, the aggressor declared the war won. It wasn't. Three hundred years later, many families left their devastated home to fight the enemy on other fronts. It was into one of these families that the princess was born. However, over six hundred years had passed before her birth. Her family, like many others had lost their royal trappings, and much had been forgotten, that, perhaps, ought not to have been forgotten.

This is not a story of that dreadful war though, for by the time this story takes place a cease fire had been in effect for a decade.

Now the prince (who was a rover), when he was a young man, set out to find his fortune. Many were the roads he traveled, and bloody were the fights he fought (for not all were welcoming to him). This is not a story about his battles, or his grandiose exploits, nor about his noble deeds (of which there were not a few).

One fine day as he followed his path he came across a town that he had never visited before (and there were many of those). The town was neither large, nor small, so it was about a medium size, as towns go. The people were friendly, the climate was balmy, and the food was tasty (and it was not a wonder that the prince, who was a rover, decided to stay a while).

One afternoon he met a young woman, and they struck up a conversation, and before either realised it, night had fallen, so they made plans to meet the following day. They met not only the next day, and the next, but every day for several months. Now the young lady was not only a teacher, but an apprentice to a doctor (the significance of which plays an important part of our story).

After about four months, at around the time the prince (who was a rover) began to realize that he was coming to love the young lady, fate stepped in. Word came of a city far to the north, upon which a plague of wyrms had descended, and he was their only hope of total elimination of the problem. So it was with a heavy heart that he set out for north, yet he promised to return.

Weeks passed, and turned into months, and a year later (almost to the day he had first come to the town), he returned. Well we know that there was only one person he was looking for, but he could not find her. So he asked around, and found out that she, and the doctor, had left for a land far to the east, and had, in fact, left the day before he had arrived. Now if the prince (who was a rover) had not been crown over spurs in love with the young woman (who was a princess, but did not know it), our story might have taken a very different track. He was, as previously stated, very much in love, and, thus, very motivated to find his love again. So it was that after he had ascertained their destination, he set out after them.

You may envision a wild chase by horseback as he galloped madly after them, but you would be mistaken. They had left by sea, and no horse ever born could gallop across the ocean wide, for under the sea is the province of mermen. Instead, the prince (who, as you may remember, was a rover) boarded the next ship headed towards that land (if you remember it lay far to the east). Now a ship ride across the bounding main could (in those days, as it can now) be fraught with danger. There was always the danger of sirens, or kraken, rogue waves, even pirates. I can see you thinking that rescuing his lady from pirates would make a grand story, but that would be an entirely different one, for this trip was entirely uneventful. Unbeknownst to the prince (who was a rover), his ship had passed the other, thus causing him to arrive earlier than expected.

Having reached the port, our intrepid hero found none who spoke a tongue he knew (which made communication difficult, to say the least). After three days he finally ascertained that the village he sought was several weeks walk away. Over the mountains, through a jungle, and across a desert, which even for a rover is a long walk, especially if one does not have a horse, and he did not.

Now the doctor and his apprentice arrived the day after the prince (who was a rover), and without much difficulty arranged transportation for the final leg of their journey. The doctor had much less trouble communicating, for he spoke the language of the land fluently. Soon the two were on their way down the road, which would have made the prince's journey shorter, had he known of it.

The prince packed up his supplies in his backpack, and set out following an old trail, that almost no one used any more. Now I could describe the journey, and what he saw, but that would be long and only interesting to a cartographer, or an entomologist, so I won't. Suffice it to say that he walked until he fell from exhaustion, then made camp there. For days beyond number he kept this pace, and had he been a lesser man, it might have killed him, but it didn't.

After two weeks he reached a desert; it was vast, bare, and forbidding. The sand glittered like gemstones in the sun, and occasionally there were the bleached bones of some luckless animal. When he had been in the desert for two days, he came across the first oasis he had ever seen, and having the sense that rovers are known for, he camped there for the night.

The very next morning, the prince (who was a rover) started back on the trail. Six days later, having seen no more oases, with his water-skins completely dry, he left the desert. It is said that a man can last many weeks without food, but only three days without water. Hunters returning to their village found him, having tracked him for several miles. By the staggering and weaving way he walked, they knew he was either drunk or suffering from dehydration; betting it was the latter they set out to ease his suffering.

When the prince (who was a rover) awoke, he found himself surrounded by giggling children. One ran off to return with the doctor a short time later. The doctor looked him up and down, “You got lucky son, a few more hours, and even I couldn't have helped you. They found ya out on the edge of the desert.”

“How long have I been here?” the prince (who was a rover) asked.

“Six days,” the doctor replied, “but that does not explain what you thought you were doing, crossing the Sea of Fire without water.”

“I traveled from a sea port, across a mountain range, through a jungle, and over the desert. However, four hours after the fourth day from the oasis, I drank the last of my water. So I kept on going along the trail, until your hunters found me.”

“Why did you not just take the road, it would have been much faster?”

The prince (who was a rover) opened his eyes wide in amazement, and exclaimed, “Road, what road? It took me three days just to find out about the path here, and no one ever mentioned a road.”

“But why have you come here, far from your home, to a land you have only ever heard about in legend?” the doctor queried.

So the prince (who was a rover) told him of the young lady, and the reason for his quest. The doctor, who was a great romantic at heart, gave the suggestion that he should tell the young lady (who was a princess, but did not know it). So she was summoned.

When the woman arrived, the prince (who as you may remember, was a rover) told her his story, he told her of his travels, of his travails, and of his love. Now I wish I could tell you that they got married and lived happily ever after, but not only would that be a lie, but that sort of thing only happens in faerie tales. What actually happened was that the young woman told the prince two things; first, she told him that he paid her too much honor, and second, that his love was in vain. She told him that she could not see them as being any more than just good friends.

When the prince (who was a rover) heard what she had to say, his heart fell within him. As any prince knows, there is always hope outside of outright defeat. So he told her that his love was true, that he could wait for her, that he only wanted her happiness. So he began to wait...

Perhaps he is waiting still.

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