Marry! She is Garolina in the flesh! I could never say no to those green-blue eyes. And her love for the people of Amnos Os is only surpassed by her mother's. She makes my heart bleed, young Annise. My baby girl. Though she is more womanly with every waking moment.
Albert is sweet on her - any blind man could see that! He's a gentleman, no doubt, but is he worthy?
Is he worthy?
He certainly isn't a prince. Born of Garolina's maid-servant. She was unmarried and little more than a child herself. There were complications during birth, and she died that night. I took pity on him. He was such a happy child, unaware of the circumstances of his birth. Sir Freowine raised him to the Knights' Code.
He isn't a prince, but he is a gentleman.
But he isn't a prince. No royal blood flows through him anymore than a chicken!
Nay, he is not worthy. Nought but the highest of kings is worthy of Annise!
"Father, I am going with Albert to the courtyards." A flurry of emerald green skirts and honey blonde hair storms into my library.
I look up. She stops just in front of my desk, and her face softens into a childlike grin, the seal of her jests.
"Please, do I have permission?"
I carefully consider my choice of words. After my decision, I cannot let them together alone until I speak to him.
"'Tis a strange thing that you should ask. I have nearly finished my duties for now. I myself shall be seeking the fresh air." Her face drops. I can tell she wants time alone with him. "Pray, wait and I shall join you both."
"Thank you, Father." But she's saying something else with her eyes.
We walk by the lake. The late afternoon sun dyes the ripples gold, and Annise, her keen eyes shining with a fire, must sing of it. Albert walks silently on my left. I have been strategically seperating them both. Annise doesn't seem to mind too much, but Albert is rather unsuccessful at hiding his sulking emotions.
"Is not the day fine?" Annise's melodic voice rings out. "Father! Albert! The sky is bright, the grass is fresh. Does not the breeze kiss your face?" She laughs and runs ahead. Then she stops abruptly, spinning on her heel. "Come, be merry!"
I look at her, slightly shaking my head. A partially surpressed chuckle escapes. She half-heartedly skips back to us, but the fire has left her eyes.
"You are both being awfully sullen." She falls back into place and is silent. I look back at her.
"Sweeting, you know well I cannot run as a young buck anymore. I have matured into a magnificent stag, but I do not run."
She remains silent. It seems she inherited her mother's stubbornness as well.
But it is not long and she's singing again. She speeds up, and spins back to face us, continuing her pace backwards.
"Albert, at least you may join me." I glance across at him. His sour expression is melting into his charming smile, as he abandons me for my daughter.
I can still see them. They caper up the path, almost in a dance.
Maybe he is worthy of her. There is only one way of finding out.