“The Kingdom of Mada’in Saleh will live on in the memory of King Sayid.” Eli paused to choke back emotion, then pressed forward through the remainder of his prepared eulogy. “We were fortunate to have had him serve our people for many years.
“Since before any of us were born, his throne has been contested. So much so that even now we are unclear who claims the right to the Crown.
“All of our sons, or daughters, who may attempt a claim to that right, have declined. Should any one of them later challenge that right, I fear a civil war would begin.
“For this reason, my wife, Princess Savannah, and I will maintain the throne as king and queen of Mada’in Saleh as we assist the Saudi government to absorb our tiny kingdom. We will serve until at which time we are taken from this earth.
“I have fought all my life for this kingdom, that we might have peace here. I have fought to uphold laws where there was no punishment for crimes. I have watched my kingdom be destroyed by men and women who thought themselves to be above the law.
“I desire that this kingdom should be a land of peace, that all who dwell here will enjoy freedom and liberty, that all people will be equal, that all people will abide by the laws and be punished if they will not.
“King Sayid was my great-grandfather. Prince Marcos Sayid and I are his closest living relatives. As has been agreed upon, Prince Marcos will perform the sacred duty of placing our king’s crown upon my head as a symbolic transfer of power. I will then place Queen Saliana’s crown upon Princess Savannah’s head, naming her as my queen.” Eli stepped back and bowed regally to his cousin.
Prince Marcos, wearing the crown that had been his since his coronation at the age of twenty, the crown that represented the king’s successor, stepped to the front of the marble platform. Eli lowered himself to one knee and bowed his head. With his eyes closed, he felt, rather than saw, his cousin remove the crown from his head and in his mind’s eye envisioned the crown being placed in its velvet and mahogany box to remain forever.
Eli visualized Mark lifting their great-grandfather’s crown from its nest of velvet and felt certain this is what the king would have wanted. All his life Eli had been told his bloodline was inconsequential because he was not the Crown Prince. And now, in the end, the named successor was irrelevant. The mantle now rested on the man least likely to have been given this honor.
“By the power vested in me by the Kingdom of Mada’in Saleh,” Mark said with conviction. “I do hearby pronounce Prince Elmer Sayid, King of Mada’in Saleh until at which time his body is laid to rest.”
King Sayid’s crown was heavier than that which Eli had worn all his life, and yet the weight felt right and true. Without realizing emotion had broken through his carefully maintained façade, Eli felt a tear fall from each of his eyes as he lifted his gaze to his cousin. Mark also had moist eyes but neither of them reached a hand to wipe their faces. That would show a sign of weakness.
“Arise, Your Majesty,” Mark whispered. “And crown your queen.”
Eli rose from his knee and lifted his chin with confidence. “Thank you, Your Highness.” Eli turned to face his wife.
Savannah stood before Eli with a confident yet humble expression, ready to begin this next phase in their lives. Eli was simultaneously reminded of Queen Salaina’s prediction that Savannah would take on a higher calling than princess, as well as his vision during their wedding of Savannah wearing the queen’s crown.
“Princess Savannah, are you prepared to take upon yourself the title of queen and are you prepared to accept the responsibilities, rights, and duties of that title?”
“I am, Your Majesty,” Savannah whispered. She lowered her head, presenting her crown to her husband and closing her eyes. In one confident movement, as he’d done countless times, Eli lifted Savannah’s crown and placed it within its velvet and mahogany box for the last time. He clasped Queen Salaina’s crown, noting the difference in weight, just as he’d noticed the difference in weight when the king’s crown was placed upon his head.
“By the power vested in me as King of Mada’in Saleh, I do hereby crown you, Princess Savannah, Queen of Mada’in Saleh.” Eli lightly rested the crown on his wife’s head and the ring of gold seemed to fit perfectly as if it had been fashioned for her. He took one step back. “Arise, Your Grace.”
Savannah lifted her gaze and Eli fought the need to pull her into his arms and kiss her with power and hunger and passion and life. Oh, what the heck. He was king. He could do whatever he wanted.
Eli pulled his wife forward and took her in his arms. She wrapped her arms around his neck and their lips came together in a kiss that rivaled that which they’d shared at their wedding. The solemn crowd erupted in cheers and catcalls, a celebration of this new age of their kingdom and their new king and queen.
Reluctantly, Eli pulled away from Savannah and joined in the celebration, hugging his cousin, Mark, his son Ethan, his daughter, Miranda, his advisor, Kadin, and anyone else who was brave enough to come forward in congratulations.
The funeral and coronation shifted into an evening of music and dance and celebrating. The young princes from America flirted and danced with Princess Miranda under the watchful eye of her older brother, Prince Ethan. The adults laughed and hugged and smiled as they celebrated the promise of youth. All was well in the kingdom. At least for one night.
(Tomorrow I will share the Epilogue to Prince Eli's story which transitions into his son, Ethan's story, which I call The Last Prince - temporary name, as to be expected with this Top Secret Project! -Julie L. Spencer)