What the Heart Wants

She had been dreading this day for the last few years now.  Princess Ellinore had known for a long time that one day, her mother would give her the talk; about how she would soon have to marry someone she didn’t truly love in order to continue the royal line.  Now that she was finally of age, she knew what would come, and that it would not be pleasant.

It didn’t take long.  After she had gotten cleaned and dressed for the day, a messenger informed her that her mother, the queen, was waiting for her in her private study.  Ellinore sighed remorsefully.  On any other day, she would enjoy spending time in the queen’s study, but knowing what was coming drained all joy out of it.

Ellinore made her way to the queen’s study, as quickly as she could while maintaining a lady-like stride.  She knew better than to keep her mother waiting.  The queen was sitting in her favorite chair, her hands folded in her lap, when Ellinore finally arrived.

“Good morning, mother.  I trust you are well?”  Ellinore said as she caught her breath.

The queen rose gracefully from her seat.

“Ellinore, my dear.  Thank you for arriving so promptly.  I have something very important to discuss with you, regarding your royal duty as the crown princess.”  the queen said.

Here it was.  This was the moment that Ellinore knew was coming.

“But we can’t talk here.  Come, we must speak in private.”  the queen said.

The queen pulled one of the wall sconces, and the queen’s chair slid back, revealing a staircase leading down.  Ellinore was shocked.  She never knew that there was a hidden passage in her mother’s study.  As the queen started to descend the staircase, she turned to her daughter.

“Hurry along, dear, and mind your step.”  the queen said.

Ellinore, still in shock, hurriedly followed her mother.  They walked in silence for what seemed like hours, as Ellinore began to wonder just how far down they were going.  When they finally reached the bottom, there was a long and narrow passage before them.

“You’ve always been told that, in our nation’s long and proud history, that we have never been invaded or threatened by any enemy.”  the queen said as she led the way.

“Yes, I am aware of that.”  Ellinore said.

“What we never told you is the reason why.”  the queen said.

At the end of the long passage was a round chamber that was almost completely empty, save for an altar in the center of the room.  Floating above the altar was a giant golden heart.

“There is the reason that no one has ever dared to threaten our kingdom.  The Heart of Hearts.”  the queen said.

“The Heart of Hearts?”  Ellinore asked.

“Yes.  The physical embodiment of love itself.  For as long as our kingdom has existed, we have been the caretakers of the heart.”  the queen said.

Ellinore stared at the golden heart in wonder.  It was the most beautiful thing she had ever seen.  “So the reason that we don’t get invaded is out of respect.”

“As much as I wish that were true, I’m afraid that most stay away out of fear.  They probably fear that if they were to try to take our kingdom, that we would destroy the Heart out of spite, destroying love in the process.”  the queen said.

“Mother!  You wouldn’t!”  Ellinore said.

“Of course I wouldn’t, but you know how some people think; always willing to assume the worst about others.”  the queen said.

Ellinore shook her head.  This was definitely not the conversation she was expecting to have with her mother this day.

“Why are you showing me this now?  What does this have to do with my ‘royal duty’?”  Ellinore asked.

The queen’s proud head dropped.  “Over time, the power of the heart fades.  If it were to ever fade completely, then love would be lost forever.  That is where you come in.”

The queen turned to Ellinore, unable to keep the sadness from her face.  “When dawn breaks tomorrow, you will be led out beyond the borders of our land, in order to embark on a quest to rejuvenate the power of the Heart.”

“What kind of quest?”  Ellinore asked.

“A quest of love.”  the queen said.

“What?”  Ellinore asked.

“You must go out into the world and find someone that loves you, and that you can love in return.  When you find this person, you must return here to the Heart with him.”  The queen said.  “Or her.”  she quickly added.

“But…what if I fail?  What if I never find someone to love?”  Ellinore asked.

“Please, don’t say that!  If you do not find someone, then you will never be able to return.”  the queen said.

This was a lot to take in.  Ellinore’s head was swimming.

“So I have to go out into the world and find someone…anyone…and get them to fall in love with me?  Do you really think I can do that?”  Ellinore asked.

“There is no doubt in mind that you will succeed.  You have my brains and beauty, and you have your father’s spirit.”  the queen said.  Then the queen knelt down and, for the first time in many years, hugged Ellinore tightly.  “But I will miss you greatly.”

“I’ll miss you too, mother.”  Ellinore said, holding back her tears.

And the two of them stayed in the chamber for as long as they could, holding each other, before Ellinore would have to start preparing for her fateful journey.

 

*****

This was an interesting experiment.  For my first Valentine’s Day blog post, I wanted to try my hand at a story about love that wasn’t necessarily a romantic story.  I may go ahead and make a sequel to this story next year.

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