The Harem

The_Harem_Copyright_Anthony_Gayton

THE PRINCE’S HAREM

A long, long time ago in a distant land there lived a lonely prince. He was not unloved, and was lacking neither in desires nor conscience. He simply found himself victim of an age and situation where marriage equalled political stability, and the function of sex was less habitual recreation than regimental procreation. Trouble, one might say, was in the heir.

The King, defeated and dismayed by the Prince’s constant evasion, consulted his court magician. The wise old man cast the King a crooked glance at his request to ‘Find him a healthy girl who can breed’, but humbly admitted that, though his ways were not those of popes or politicians, it did lay within his power to discover the Prince’s one true love: ‘His Highness the Prince shall rise at dawn and let the pail three times into the courtyard well. On drawing the water the third time he shall find within a frog. Upon kissing this frog, it will transform into his Heart’s True Desire.’ Ever obedient, the Prince followed the magician’s instructions. He rose at dawn, let down the pail, and duly found his frog. With a heavy sigh he slipped her into a little cage, cleverly prepared in advance for fear of someone accidentally squashing her before the ceremony.

The wedding was swiftly organized and the Prince bore the proceedings with as much dignity as the circumstances allowed. His frog-wife was borne on a velvet cushion, lavishly attended, and if not exactly dignified, then remarkably composed for a well-dwelling amphibian. The compact yet vociferous crowd paused to hold a communal breath as the Prince lent forward, and nobly placed a kiss upon the frog’s sweating brow. The intake of breath hung suspended, as heavy as pendulous rain-clouds; an unbearable, unbreakable silence caused by the transformation of an innocent frog into a most elegant and nakedly smooth-limbed young man. The Prince, eyeing him swiftly, gave an embarrassed chuckle, and all hell broke loose.

Swearing to the truth of his methods (and fearful of losing his head) the magician begged the Prince to repeat the process. And ever-dutiful, he did. In order to avoid any further public embarrassment, the Prince was this time ordered to kiss the frog prior to the actual ceremony. To the surprise of all but two onlookers the frog transformed once more into the exact same boy. Outraged, the King naturally blamed the magician, yet demanded that the Prince should rise at dawn every day and fish for frogs until he finally hooked himself a bride.

The ‘Prince’s Harem’ had become quite a curious sight, though few were honoured with the privilege. Bathing in pools, lounging on cushions, smoking in corners, the multitude of youths who filled the luxurious, scented rooms were indistinguishable from one another down to very last mole.

The Prince was finally forced to wed the original maid of honour, as custom held. This lusty lass would dutifully sire future heirs, fathered for the most part by the music master.  The Prince was progressive, and indeed grateful, enough to acknowledge that education could quite efficiently compete with genetics in the manufacturing of kings. For all their declarations, the female populous soon transfered their attentions elsewhere, and none but a single heart was ever to suffer. Only the Prince’s groom, his faithful servant of six years standing, had noticed on that disastrous wedding day that the elegantly-limbed lad causing such an uproar was in fact an immaculately-conceived carbon copy of himself.