Ice and Fire

Sunlight, shining in through the domed roof of the throne room, reflected off the wealth of gold set about therein, which in its turn made the rich gold of the girl’s hair seem even brighter. She knelt before the king, her anxiety showing in the trembling of her hands.
The king smiled down at her. “Lady. Do you fear me?”
Her eyes rose to his, wide and awestruck. “Fear and reverence are much alike, your majesty.”
“Reverence I demand of all my subjects, but fear I desire not from any but my enemies,” replied the king. “I must ask something of you.”
“That is your right, my king,” said the girl, but her voice choked.
“My son must marry. He must find a good, well-born bride – and I wish you to be that bride.”
She knelt still, stunned. The prince. The king wished her to wed the prince?
“I see a great deal, Lady, and I have seen your face when my son enters the room; I have seen your eyes when they look upon him. I know my son, and I know well that none but the greatest love may melt his heart. ‘Tis my belief that you possess such love, and thus will succeed where so many have failed.”
“The prince…” her tongue refused to obey her. “Your majesty… I believe the prince views me merely as a companion to the princess his sister.”
“Then he must be brought to see you with new eyes.”
She dared not contradict her king, but she had no such confidence. The prince… the prince was beautiful, and he would always have her heart, but he was all ice, like the carved statues she had seen in the great hall last winter, and of what use would it be to invite an ice sculpture to love? None at all.
And yet – and yet, still within her warm heart lay the small, half-dormant seed of the hope that one day he might turn to her, with a smile on his lips and a glow in his eyes, and she would know that just as she had always been his, he was hers.