When that impudent whelp completed all twelve trials, the King was forced to grant him the Princess's hand. His last trick was announcing, "By all means, marry my daughter."
No one knew it even was a trick until he objected at the ceremony.
"I object to these vows under the pretense that he has not married her by all means," said the King. “They can marry in the cloud castles, in the neighboring ruins and on my tropical islands. The setting is part of the means, and clearly they have not all been had. They can have the wedding she’s always wanted, the wedding I always wanted to see her have, and the wedding her dear departed mother would have wanted. Of course, we cannot know exactly what she would have wanted, so we will rely on the interpretations of all of her sisters, and her flower maidens, and her best friends, and her priest, and myself – individually. Perhaps at the pace of a wedding a day? By all these means, and by every other conceivable means of marriage, they must marry or never see their marital ceremony complete.”
“And we might elope,” muttered the princess, who had waited too damned long for her dashing, strapping young groom as it was.
“Yes, eloping!” Her royal father exclaimed. “And eloping to the countryside, and eloping to the country in the north, and eloping to the chapel just outside Barrenhaven. But don’t get any ideas about consummating that elopation, children, for it won’t be official on just the first try, and the punishment for deflowering an unwed princess is capital.”
His highness’s shameless literalism was beyond reproach to his royal status and his support for capital punishment.
They went through the rigors. He had them wed by means of mailing in paperwork from various districts. He had them wed by reciting various vows, and when they thought they had completed them all, had them wed by means of those same vows in sign language. The groom peevishly asked if they would have to say their vows by smoke signals, and got his foot stomped on by the bride right before the king ordered kindling.
Day after day went by, but their love was annoyingly strong. They continued to wait and go through new means. In turn the king hired writers, philosophers and puzzle-makers to come up with new means. The young couple married on the night of the full moon and on the night of no moon. They married at sea and on every island in the kingdom. They were wed by every priest, lawyer and nutjob the king could persuade out of an alley. The best was an obscure regional ritual of mediation with the Quakers of the countryside, forcing the couple to convince them of their love, which the princess likened to, “the Chinese water torture of marriage.”
Their love remained annoyingly strong as the king descended into brothels to calculate a final desperate means. As usual with his great policies, a concubine inspired him.
And so at the first day of winter they were married in different regions with surrogate partners standing in for the real lover. The princess married a surrogate groom, and the whelp married a surrogate bride – who happened to be a model for those top-shelf magazines, and had a fondness for clever whelps. Apparently the princess and the whelp mixed their signals, for while she immediately hit the road home, he took his surrogate on a two-week surrogate honeymoon.
They decided to see other people while he was prying the princess’s stiletto out of his forehead.