A delicate string of saliva slowly oozed out the corner of the old king's broken mouth as he gently coughed. The page boy quickly dabbed it away with a kerchief. Taking a deep, rattly breath, the Godking opened his rheumy eyes leaned forward, resting a gnarled arm against an equally bony knee.
"Boy, the maidens are already singing songs about you," he wheezed. "Never have i ever seen such bravery. Foolishness, my knights would have called it, but thanks to you, my kingdom is once again safe. In thanks, i now grant you a boon: your reward is limited only by your imagination, up to the hand of my firstdaughter in marriage."
The throne room went quite still at this announcement. The courtiers where aghast. It was well known that the dowry of the firstdaughter was the entire kingdom. Several of the wealthier nobles had been angling for years to be in this boy's very position. This farm boy's position.
Throughout the pronouncement, the youth met the Godking's gaze confidently. Now he closed his eyes and took a slow, deep breath - which only shook the tiniest bit - and released it. His thoughts gathered, he opened his eyes and spoke in a clear, steady voice:
"King, i want you to know that what your seconddaughter and i did, we did not out of a sense of duty, or nationality to your great empire. We did not do it for fame and we certainly did not do it for any reward. We put our lives in harm's way because it was what was required of us. It was right. Therefore, i humbly relinquish any right to your boon and ask for nothing."
A lady in the gallery fainted.
The king blinked for several long heartbeats before beginning to violently rock back and forth. On the fourth attempt, the terrified page finally understood and helped the Godking to his feet. The old man began to rage, shaking his fist at the youth, foam spraying from his bared teeth.
"Don't be daft, you foolish boy! I offer you land the vastness of which you could not experience even if you devoted the rest of your life to travelling it. I offer you so much gold that you could not count it all before you perished. The hand of my beautiful firstdaughter is your's for the taking and you spit upon her?"
The young man did not respond as the king tired himself out and was helped back into his throne by the page. When the old man had finished coughing and sputtering into the page's proffered kerchief, the youth spoke again, and again his voice was clear and strong
"Sire, i do not wish you to think i spurn your generosity, for i do request something. My lord, i come to you now as a suitor and ask for your seconddaughter's hand in marriage."
Wispy sound of conversation began to drift down from the galleries as the king stared at the lad before him.
"My dear boy, you're not thinking clearly. My seconddaughter has no worth to you; you gain nothing by marrying her and you well know this. Now speak: tell me whatever your heart desires and that shall be the value of your reward."
The young man glanced beside him at the girl by his side, reached out his hand and took her's.
"I want whatever she's worth."