An excerpt, as promised.
“I have decided,” the Princess announced to no one in particular, “that something must be done to prevent this marriage.” She looked over to where the maids were studiously ignoring her. They were heartily sick of this conversation and line of reasoning by now.
“Does any of you have any ideas?”
No one replied. The Princess continued pacing the room.
“There are, after all, many things much more important than marriage. I suppose if I decided on one of them, Father will have to allow me to pursue it instead of simply getting married to god knows who. The question, however, is what should I do?”
Continuing to talk to herself, she found her way into the kitchens where Magda presided over the huge cooking pot, wooden ladle in hand.
“Magda, you have to help me,” she said, standing in front of the pot and peering into its contents.
“What is it, sayang?” Magda replied.
“Father comes back from the Capital tomorrow and I need to find an excuse by then as to why I should not marry this prince.”
“Why do you not want to marry him?”
“Because I don’t know him, and I resolve not to marry anyone I don’t know. What if he is the youngest son of many and never amounts to anything much? I would have lost out on a greater match.”
Magda rolled her eyes. “As I have said, sayang, you should meet him first before you decide -”
“No, no, Magda. You cannot take my father’s side! He has no right to simply draft me into a marriage as if I were a soldier that he can force to fight on his side.”
“The Tun doesn’t do that.”
The Princess ignored her comment. “What if he is ugly or stupid or just plain unlikeable? No. I must find a way out of this.”
“All you can do is delay the inevitable, sayang, unless God himself wills it.”
“Ah! God!” A look of glee spread over the princess’ face.
“What? What is it?” Magda asked suspiciously.
“A pilgrimage! I should seek the face of God to find out if it is his will for me to marry this prince!”
“Do not take God lightly, my princess,” Magda said warningly, waving the ladle at her. “A pilgrimage is not something you can simply embark upon -”
“It is the perfect excuse,” the Princess interrupted. “I will avail myself to the service of God - by the time I journey to the Holy City and back, whatever urgency my father and this prince has to try to make a match will be over, and I can go back to my own plans.”
“And what if God does answer you?” Magda asked, narrowing her eyes. ‘What if the Almighty decides to call you into His service?”
The princess looked at her uncertainly. “Well, I highly doubt it, but I will cross that hurdle when I come to it. Don’t be such a sourpuss, Maggie dear. I’m sure God won’t expect me to do anything of the sort.”
She turned on her heel and flounced out of the room, ignoring Magda’s mutters.
Tulen stared at the princess’s retreating back with her mouth gaping.
“Oh, shut your mouth before a fly goes in, child. You look like a goldfish,” Magda grumbled.
“How could - why - I - I don’t understand,” Tulen said, flustered. “She - why?”
Magda grunted in reply. “The girl is need of a good smacking. Unfortunately, Magda doesn’t have the right to do so,” the old woman said, more to herself than in answer to Tulen.
“But will she truly - how can - punish her - won’t God?” Tulen tried again.
“Sayang, I can’t answer your question if I don’t understand what you’re asking.” The ladle waved in the air. “In order to ask a question, you need to put the words in the right order.”
“But…” Tulen gave up.
Magda chuckled at her. “Yes, the princess often has that impact on most of us. It is hard to fathom her mind, to understand the strange things that she does. But it is not our place to correct her. The Tun has made that clear enough to us.” She shook her head and waved the ladle upwards. “He is too lenient with her, allowing her to be headstrong in all the wrong ways. Her waywardness will be upon him, for he has allowed it. I have told him before and warned him, but he cannot find it in his heart to reprimand his precious only daughter.”
“Will he really allow her to go on a pilgrimage just to get out of this marriage?” Tulen finally found herself able to phrase a complete sentence.
Magda shrugged. “Most likely yes. If she phrases it in the right way, and oh, she knows the right way to wrap her father around her little finger, the he will grant her all that she wishes. I am quite surprised that he had not asked her permission about the marriage proposal in the first place.”
“Then will we - who will - I mean,” Tulen took a deep breath. “If she goes on this pilgrimage, who will go with her?”
Magda looked up at her sharply, taking in the breathless hope on her face. Her face softened. “Ah, I see. Well, that will really depend on what her father says. We shall see, Tulen. We shall see. Who knows, God may grant you your heart’s desire.”