Disclaimer: I do not own Царевна Лягушка or any of its foreign counterparts… Which I have never actually heard or read, but I am told they exist. Hurrah for Russian fairytales!
Chapter One: Just Shoot Me!
Irving was not very old at all. In fact, he had only just reached his sixteenth year. However, he had already learned a thriving Kingdom's how-to's and how-to-not's (although that last was very likely grammatically incorrect, Irving had never paid much attention to his Grammar Tutor).
For one thing, observation had taught him that being a King was not at all easy if one was to do it properly. However, he had never seen it done properly, as his father was a rather terrible King.
For another, there was such a thing as too much power and influence for a King. Tragically, his own father had most likely crossed into that territory and beyond.
And finally, Irving had noted, with great interest, that it seems that no matter what kind of King one is, one must always marry one's sons off, so that they have more sons to be Kings after them.
It was the continuation of this grand scheme for a steady stream of male progeny that prompted Irving's appearance in the grand throne room with his two older brothers. It was the first two lessons he had learned that made him so miserable, as he heard his father's scheme laid out.
Daniel, his eldest brother, who was twenty years of age, tried not to look as shocked as he felt when he heard his father's plan for finding a bride. Eric, the second-oldest at eighteen, was not as sophisticated as Daniel and had let his mouth fall slack as he listened to the task that was being explained.
As for Irving, well…
"So, what if we shoot somebody by accident?" he asked his father the King, sucking his teeth and crossing his arms.
King Dorian the Third shrugged his shoulders indifferently, as if to say, "Accidents happen."
"Well, what if… uh…" Irving frowned as he searched for the right words. "Well, let's say the wind should get the better of me and the arrow doesn't fly as far… only into Daniel's back, for example. Will I have to marry him?"
Irving raised his eyebrows to show his sincere interest in the answer to this question. Had Daniel been a dragon, metaphorically speaking, Irving would have been burned to a crisp. As it were, he only let some metaphorical steam rise from his flaring nostrils in Irving's general direction.
"Prince," King Dorian the Third said through clenched teeth, with all the dignity he could muster as he answered this remarkably stupid question, "You will shoot an arrow into the sky and the country where it lands will provide you with a princess to make your bride." There. Simple enough.
King Dorian the Third was rather proud of this idea. It would show his influence in the surrounding nations, strengthen his bloodline with powerful princesses, and perhaps be the start of a merger with other nations. Plus, he also loved the expressions on his sons' faces as he explained the scheme. That was always the best part of this sort of thing.
"But what if the princess is put off by a courting ritual of shooting arrows into her window and refuses to marry one of us?" Irving asked, perking up now that more foolish questions were coming into his head. As much as his father loved to shock the three of them, Irving loved to irritate his father.
"Enough, Prince Irving," the King said warningly, his nerves on edge.
"And what if you accidentally shoot the only princess in—?"
"SILENCE!" King Dorian the Third boomed, rising from his throne.
Nobody made a sound, except for a few birds that were flying by outside of the window, and King Dorian the Third even shot them a dirty look.
"Now, have you two understood?" he asked, after a long pause in which he rubbed his temples.
"Yes, Your Majesty," Daniel and Eric chorused.
"Then be off to fulfill my express desire, and take this fool with you," he moaned, indicating Irving with his forefinger.
"Jolly good, Your Majesty," Irving managed to say before his brothers quite literally lifted him from the floor and half-carried, half-dragged him from the throne room. "I suppose this is what they mean by hunting for a wife!"
It was a very good thing that Irving had not been in the throne room after he said that, because he might have found himself on the receiving end of an angrily-hurled scepter.
As it were, the closing door was the only thing that suffered the King's anger, and it didn't really mind much either way. Watching it splinter, King Dorian the Third wondered whether or not his idiot son would die soon by doing something incredibly foolish.
"He won't inherit," was the thought that kept him sane when he was reminded of why he never called Irving in for a chat. "He won't inherit."