From his throne on the lowest platform of the marble risers, Eli could see his cousin, Prince Marcos, step into the doorway, his advisor, Alexander at his right side. They seemed to be whispering to one another and Eli felt a sense of déjà vu. Many things had changed since the first time they entered this throne room, and yet much was the same.
The royal family on the marble platforms held almost the same people as the first time Prince Marcos arrived five years prior, but there was no grand reception. Most of the room was empty, including the throne where Eli’s brother, Prince Jared would have sat.
Eli was disgusted at the morbidity of leaving Jared’s throne on the platform. They’d also allowed Ahmed to enter this room as a member of the royal family knowing he murdered Prince Jared.
Eli fought the need to narrow his eyes at his father’s former advisor, who now sat at a place of honor beside his young bride, Princess Nimrah.
Mark maintained a stoic expression as Alexander fell back from his prince’s right shoulder. No fanfare or caller announced their entrance. Prince Marcos and his wife, Princess Hazel stepped forward, her hand tucked in the crook of his arm. Mark carried their baby and Hazel held the hand of their little three-year-old, who lifted his chin with confidence as if he’d been coached.
Hazel was every bit the elegant princess. Her hair piled high in cascading curls perfectly complementing a golden jeweled crown. Her dress was high-waisted and pleated to enhance and celebrate the growing life within rather than attempt to conceal her extended belly.
Mark wore a very formal suit and his full crown, and his boys wore little matching suits. Their progress was painstakingly slow, keeping pace with Prince Aaron’s little legs.
Alexander was accompanied by a beautiful woman in a tastefully elegant evening dress. He tucked the woman’s hand in the crook of his arm, leading her into the throne room like a lady and gentleman entering a formal ball.
A photographer hovered to the side waiting to capture a rare multi-generational photo of the entire living royal family.
As Mark approached the marble steps to the stand, Mark handed his baby to Hazel and gently brought little Aaron to his side. Prince Marcos lowered to one knee and helped his son lower to his knee. They’d likely practiced that move ahead of time.
“Your Majesty, and Your Grace,” Mark called out in a clear and confident voice. “May I present His Highness, Prince Aaron and His Highness, Prince Owen, along with my wife, Her Highness Princess Hazel. I am also joined by my advisor, Alexander Cohen-Stephenson, and his bride, the lovely Krystina Clark.”
“Welcome,” King Sayid called out, holding his hand out formally inviting them to join him on the stand.
Mark helped Aaron to his feet and rose from his knee. Before they ascended the stairs, he lifted baby Owen out of Hazel’s hands and offered her his arm to help her up the stairs.
They made their way to the top of the marble stairs, Alexander and Krystina a few steps behind. Mark bowed to the king, as did little Aaron, then kissed Queen Salaina’s hand and coached Aaron to kiss his great-great-grandmother’s hand. Mark held out baby Owen for the queen’s inspection, and she took his little hand in hers, making funny faces at the little prince.
Hazel and Krystina each curtsied to the king and he kissed their hands, then they curtsied to the queen and she spoke quietly to the ladies. Eli couldn’t hear what was said.
Mark held out his hand to help Hazel down a step to her place of honor on a throne directly to his left, and Prince Aaron stood to his right, one hand on the arm of his father’s throne, chin lifted like a confident little gentleman. Mark continued to hold baby Owen on his lap as he lowered himself to sit beside Aaron.
Alexander helped Krystina back down the stairs and led her over to one of the chairs near the edge of the room, then ascended the stairs again and took his place behind Prince Marcos’ throne to the right of his shoulder.
With no more preparation than that, the entire royal family faced forward as the photographer took many shots from different angles, requesting minor changes here and there. One person needed to turn their head just so, another needed to move a hand to an arm rest or folded neatly in their lap. Finally, after dozens of shots, the photographer left the room and the mood in the throne room shifted.
King Sayid was the first to rise to his feet and he leaned down to help Queen Salaina from her throne. From somewhere off to the side, an assistant quickly approached to work with Sayid to help her down the stairs where Salaina was immediately lowered into an ornate wheelchair that was quite literally fit for a queen.
As soon as his wife was comfortable, the king turned to the rest of the group and called out, “Let’s adjourn to the dining room, shall we?”
Sayid shooed aside the assistant and took the handles of the queen’s wheelchair, personally guiding her into the dining room.
Prince Marcos, Hazel, and their boys followed closely behind. Alexander retrieved his bride and took his place behind his prince, ahead of everyone else.
Eli’s father, Prince Omar, turned and met his gaze, shoulders slumped in resignation as once again the king had made his wishes known to everyone in the room.
No matter who had claimed the title of Crown up through that moment, the message was clear. Prince Marcos Sayid was recognized by the king as his successor.