Check out Part 1 here, then read on…
Once safely away, Chowming and Horn changed into the clothes of common travelers, and set out for the coast. There was only one minor incident along the way, and the Prince has asked me to keep it quiet out of respect for Lord Horn’s dignity.
“Tell me again your intent?” Horn asked, as they neared the town.
“I will find someone to marry on my own,” said Prince Chowming, “and then perhaps that horrid Princess Hatchet will trouble me no more.”
Horn was doubtful, both of the plan and of Hatchet, but said nothing. As princes went, Chowming was easy-going—but there were limits, and the aforementioned minor incident had mostly depleted that deep reservoir of goodwill. So they reached the seaside town, and Chowming revealed himself to the mayor.
“Majesty,” said the mayor, bowing enough to strain his back, “how may we serve you as you grace our presence?”
“I am looking for a wife,” said Chowming. “Tell me, who is the most beautiful maiden in your lovely town?”
“That would be Butay, daughter of Lee and Ki the boatbuilders. But—”
“Is she betrothed?”
“No longer, majesty. But—”
“Then direct me to her home, mayor. I thank you for your help.” Chowming waved away all further objections, and the mayor gave directions.
Lee and Ki were surprised to see the Prince at their door, but were shocked and dismayed when he told them, “I wish to see your daughter, Butay, to ask her hand in marriage.”
“But, majesty,” said Lee. “She is asleep.”
“Then I shall wait for her to awaken.”
Ki wept. “Our daughter has been asleep for a week,” she said. “None have been able to waken her.”
I wonder if Hatchet got to her first, he thought. Aloud he said, “May I see her?”
Denying the Prince anything was unlawful, but he was so polite and well-spoken that the boatbuilders would not have objected had they dared. And so, they led him to her room and left him there to ponder the sleeping Butay.
“She is indeed beautiful,” the Prince whispered. “I only wish I knew what to do.”
“Take her, then marry her,” Lord Horn suggested. “She is in no position to object.”
“Certainly, my prince. This is an opportunity of a lifetime. A wife who does not naysay, nor nag, nor—”
“That seems hardly sporting,” said Chowming. “She cannot object, but neither can she consent.”
“You’re the prince! Look. I’ll go take her parents to dinner or something. You just do what comes natural, then we’ll carry her home. If you insist, we’ll have the local priest bless the union or whatever.”
Chowming stood alone, looking at Butay. “This is so wrong,” he muttered. He slid the bench from her vanity across to her bed, then sat on it and took her hand. “If I have to marry at all,” he told her softly, “I would just as soon it were someone like you. I don’t know you, but your parents seem like honest folk. If you’re anything like them…” He took a deep breath. “Butay, daughter of Lee and Ki, will you marry me? If you do not object, I will take that as a ‘yes.’ And I swear, I will—”
“What did you say?” Butay’s eyes fluttered open, for asking for her hand in marriage was how Hatchet’s spell was broken.
“I said, will you marry me?” Chowming gasped. “Butay! You’re—you’re—”
“Um… who are you, and why would I want to marry you?”
“I’m Prince Chowming.”
“Ohh. You must be loaded. Sure, I’ll marry you.”
“Oh, happy day!” Chowming bolted from the room and out the door, calling for Lord Horn and Butay’s parents.
“So I would like to marry your daughter,” Prince Chowming told Lee and Ki. “I know she’s not a princess, but I can fix that with a royal decree—”
“But she is a princess,” Ki said quietly. “The night before our wedding, King Grabaz came to me and demanded his privilege.” She turned to her husband. “I’m so sorry, Lee. I was embarrassed, and I hoped that… well, now I hope you’ll forgive me.”
“Well, this is awkward,” said Chowming. “That means you’re my sister. Dad was such an asshole.”
“Figures,” Butay grumbled. “Can’t seem to get a break. Or a wedding.”
“But you could still come back to the castle,” Chowming insisted. “Since you’re my sister, you have access to the royal credit card. I was only looking for a wife to help stimulate the economy. Do you like to shop? Bring your parents, too. We’ll give them a nice retirement, wing in the castle, servants, the works.”
“Er, sire,” Lord Horn mumbled. “There’s the matter of Princess Hatchet.”
“Oh, dear, that’s right,” said Chowming. “I can’t go home until she does.”
“Princess Hatchet’s at the castle?” Butay scowled. “That was her who gave me that drugged wine, like as not.” She rolled up her sleeve and clenched a fist, hard and knobby from a lifetime of building boats. “I’ll see to her.”
And so, they returned to the castle. After a most entertaining smackdown, a battered and bruised Hatchet fled home with the tattered remnants of her entourage. Princess Butay and her mother stimulated the economy quite well with their shopping, and the people of the Dominion once again prospered. As for Chowming, he decided to take that golfing tour after all. All was well in the Dominion, and they all lived happily… for a while, at least. Until the next thing happened.
After all, this is the Strange Lands.