The Maiden's Request (Part 7)

Henrik and Frederik stood in the middle of the royal court, waiting for the emperor. They were surrounded by palace guards, and their ropes had been replaced with iron shackles and chains.   “You look pretty good, all things considering,” Henrik said. “But I still think you are an idiot.”   Frederik chuckled as he rolled his shoulders but then winced. “It hurt more to transform this time.”   “That was probably the impact with the wall.”   Frederik looked down. “Couldn’t you have grabbed a man’s robe?”   Indistinct yelling could be heard from the hall outside the room. The doors behind them slammed open, and the emperor stormed to the throne. “Are these the foul scum?” he bellowed.   The empress and Jing entered the hall and came alongside the wall. Jing’s eyes were red. She looked like she had run out of tears. The empress gently held her shoulders as they stayed in the far corner.   The emperor paced back and forth in a rage. He sized up Frederik and had a new look of hatred for Henrik. Finally, he broke his furious silence. “How dare you enter into my daughter’s chambers! You will both be executed for your crimes against the crown.”   Lady Nevena entered the hall. Her blue robes glowed brighter in the hall as the servants were still rushing to light candles around the room. “Dear Emperor, I believe you should hear them before you continue.” Her demeanor was calm, but there was radiant authority behind her statement. It was not a request.   “Hear them? They will be executed! Traitorous thieves who were caught with my daughter!”   “I snuck into the palace,” said Frederik. “He tried to stop me.”   Henrik shushed him.   The emperor’s face leaped between the brothers, his family, and the fairy. After a moment of swirling glances, he let out a quick huff and turned to sit on his throne. He motioned for all to take chairs along the wall. The empress and princess took their places in the smaller thrones at his side.   “I will hear you, as requested by Lady Nevena.”   Frederik stepped forward, and the guards drew their swords to keep him in his place.   “Most honorable Emperor, my name is Frederik. I am the son of King Ulrik and Queen Caroline, Crown Prince of Rikenvatten.” He swung his shackled hands to his right. “This is Prince Henrik of Rikenvatten, my younger brother.”