tagRomanceThe Chocolate Rose

The Chocolate Rose


There is no sex, it is a soppy romantic fairy story for adults wanting to warm the cockles of their heart.



Prince Arrik peered out of the Palace tower window, his breath misting the thin plate glass. As far as the eye could see, and he could see a long way over the flat terrain from this high up, the ground lay white in a thick layer of freshly-fallen snow. More thick soft white flakes gently floated down from a still leaden sky. His mother had forecast the snowstorm yesterday, so he shouldn't have been surprised by it. She was so wise and he had yet to learn such wisdom.

Every morning lately when he arose, he was sad. Something was missing from his life. He knew what it was, of course, but felt powerless to do anything about it. It all stemmed from that cursed Chocolate Rose. He first heard about it two months ago, was curious about its existence, followed it up and within the space of a single day his life had been completely turned upside down.

Before the chocolate rose episode Arrik's life was simple, ordered and safe. He could have been killed during the adventure and now he was virtually imprisoned, though not physically, but his heart felt constricted as if it was bound in heavy chains.

"In three months' time I will be crowned King Arrik, the most powerful man in my kingdom. But I am alone and friendless without the princess of my choosing to share my crown, powerless to change my unhappiness."

He spoke to himself, alone in his isolated chamber. He had been doing a lot of that lately, as well as sleeping alone. He felt the absence of his cousin more than he thought possible.

Every morning recently he had to fire himself up to face the day. He had so much to learn, and so many people, a whole nation, who depended on his being able to hold court, make fair and far reaching decisions that affected the wellbeing and happiness of all he ruled. It was a big responsibility and it was important to project confidence and a positive attitude. Despite his misery, any cutting himself off from his family, advisers, subjects and appellants was simply not possible.

The only relief to his constant misery came unexpectedly last night when his other cousin, Princess Loquaria, to whom he had been engaged for over three years, threw herself into his arms, overcome with happiness and joy at his decision. Her actions surprised him, but made a welcome change.

Today there were no lessons, no hours of court sitting, no queues of advisers clamouring to press their point of view. The day was his to do with what he wanted. His mother the Queen was his teacher in matters of state now and, after she had forecast the first lowland snow of the winter, she had given him the day off.

"Right, Connie," he said out aloud as he dressed himself, preparing to leave his modest lofty chamber, "you better have the bacon on!"

He laughed now, determined to pretend to the world that he was cheerful, as he gathered his skis, delivered from his old home only a week earlier. He remembered the last time that it snowed as thickly as this. In the mountains it was, at the hunting lodge that had been his refuge and home since he was six. He had left the mountains just two months ago. How much had changed in a matter of weeks.


Two months ago.

It was cold and the young man had his face pressed so close to the tiny thick glass window that his breath instantly froze on the surface and he had to use the sleeve of his night shirt to see out through the slightly greenish, imperfectly bubbly, glass.

"It's the first snow of the winter!" he said, more to himself than anyone else. A groan from the second single bed in the chamber meant that someone else was disturbed by his excitement.

"What are you up for Rik?" the second voice, deep and gruff with sleep, said, "it's barely light and there's no school for you today. Your lucky tutor has gone to warmer climes for the winter."

"That makes it even better, Tom!" the first young man said as he jumped onto his friend's bed, "come on lazy bones, get up, wash, shave and dress, it's been snowing all night!"

"Let me sleep, you monster, I hate the snow, I hate the cold, I hate it here in the mountains most of all!"

"Ha! Look, there are fresh tracks up the track from the village, I bet the butcher's been and Connie's cooking our breakfast, because I can smell bacon!"

"You can always smell bacon. I don't know where you put it all. You eat like a king but you are as thin as a beggar! It's not fair. I only need to smell bacon and I start bloating up like a pig."

"Fiddlesticks! You are as fit as any knight of the realm that I know."

"And just how many knights do you know, O mighty Prince Arrik, to be crowned king of this fair land in the spring, upon his 21st birthday, whilst still so wet behind his ears?" his friend mocked.

"Only you, cousin," Arrik admitted, running a hand through his long thick tousled blond hair, "but you are bigger than all the guards and half a hand taller than me."

"Well, I'm five years older. You're still growing, and you'll fill out more too, if any of that bacon ever sticks to your ribs. Damn it, Rik, now I can smell bacon, too!"

"Well, first one in the kitchen gets the better rashers!"

Prince Arrik first heard about the chocolate rose from Connie the cook, when he sat down in the kitchen at the mountain chalet. This wooden building was no palace but an extended hunting lodge, which had been his only home since shortly after his father the King died fifteen years earlier, when Arrik was a boy only five or six years old.

He had begun to gulp down his breakfast, of bread, bacon and eggs, as quickly as he could, keen to get out and enjoy the fresh fall of thick white snow. The snows had come early this year, even in the mountains it was considered so. Perhaps it foretold the coming of a hard winter. Arrik was eager to don his skis and set out into the fresh air and onto the slopes while the virgin snow was still crisp and fresh.

The cook was in conversation with the butcher, who was warming himself in the kitchen after delivering fresh bacon and meat for the evening meal. He'd had to carry it up from the nearby village. He said that all the talk in the village, in fact the whole kingdom, was of nothing else but the miraculous chocolate rose.

Count Condran, Prince Arrik's uncle, the brother-in-law of the late king, had ruled the kingdom as Regent, following King Bygord's death in a chariot racing accident. Prince Arrik was expecting to be crowned in the spring. His mother, Queen Etherida, was married to the Count soon after being widowed, to "secure the throne", but was almost immediately banished to the Castle on the Lake "for her safety". The Count continually warned that the borders were under threat from the other four kingdoms, hence the difficulty of importing goods like chocolate. The Queen was forbidden to see her son as it was unsafe for both to be in the same place at the same time. Arrik had immediately been taken to the isolated hunting lodge, high in the mountains and difficult to get to. All the horses and carriages used by the ever changing guard were kept stabled in the village.

The Queen and Prince had to be content with writing to each other. Arrik was the first prince in his lineage to be taught to read and write.

The Count's first wife, Finnella, the King's sister, had died in childbirth just months before the King's fatal accident, the girl child apparently stillborn. The Count's eldest boy, Sir Tompty, a knight and prince in his own right, was five years older than the Prince and was Arrik's best friend and constant companion, as Captain of the Prince's guard. The Count's youngest child, Princess Loquaria, was now nearly 16 but had been promised to the Prince as his bride-to-be and future queen since she was twelve and would become his bride on her 16th birthday, just weeks prior to his enthronement. The Princess had lived with the Queen since her mother died.

In this isolated mountain hunting lodge, where Arrik was kept "for his safety", he had only met his betrothed cousin once, brought to him at the time of the summer betrothal three-and-a-half years earlier. Arrik kept his low opinion of the shy, nervous maiden to himself.

His ears pricked up at the conversation he heard between Connie and the butcher.

"What is this talk of a chocolate rose, Connie?" the Prince asked of the cook. Even crown princes rarely had the treat of chocolate in these difficult times.

"It is so curious, Your Highness," Connie the cook replied, always conscious to address him correctly in mixed company, "It's been the only subject of gossip down in the village for nigh on two weeks now. A chocolate rose flowered down in Newmarket town and it is said to be not just petals flavoured like chocolate, but really rich dark crunchy, melt-in-the-mouth chocolate."

"No!" Arrik laughed, "That's impossible, even at the Castle on the Lake, the warmest spot in the kingdom, all the roses have withered and died two months ago, Mother wrote about her sorry garden at the time. And chocolate doesn't grown on rose bushes you know!"

"Well, everyone believes in the chocolate rose, Sire," piped up the butcher, bowing slightly, as he prepared to take his leave. "I must be off, it looks like more snow'll fall afore long."

"I suppose everyone wants to believe in some magical rose, made of chocolate." Arrik said quietly as if to himself. "I wonder what truth lies behind this weird tale?"

"What are you thinking, Rik?" asked Tompty, who overheard his friend's words.

Arrik said quietly to his cousin. "I'd like to find out more about this phenomenon, how could anyone confuse a flower with some object fashioned from chocolate?"

"It must be some kind of hoax. I will ask father if you can investigate. It is about time you stretched your royal wings and saw something of your kingdom other than this chilly corner."

"That would be great, Tom, but first, we must get our skis, we can't let all this snow go to waste!"

The cousins were relaxed in each other's company, as they were with the hunting lodge domestic staff, after all they had known them since they were both small boys. Tompty knew how curious Arrik was about everything. Tompty couldn't read well, as befits a knight and prince, but Arrik had learned early from the tutors provided for six months of the year and he read everything that the lodge's tiny library had, plus any books that Tompty was able to smuggle in from the dusty Palace library near Newmarket town or the Castle in the Lake when he visited his sister and aunt.

The Count's express orders regarding Arrik's education were that he was not to be taught to ride, wear armour, or to handle a sword. He was never to put himself in harm's way, like his father had. He was to spend his school time in book learning, the arts and sciences, gentle pursuits in readiness for the throne. And Tompty knew how good Arrik was at book learning. Arrik was strong, too, being his father's son. Although he had not been taught how to ride, wield a sword or draw a bow, the boy could ski better than anyone, climb mountains as well as any goat and was a deadly game hunter, extremely accurate with a slingshot. Tompty laughed at the thought, his father the Count said nothing about the Prince using such toys, even if it was only to discourage birds from raiding the kitchen garden, or supplementing Connie's stockpot.

"Where do you two think you are going then, masters Tom and Rik?" Connie called out sharply, tapping her foot on the stone flags, as Tompty and Arrik headed for the kitchen door, "when there are goblets and bacon and egg pans to clean and put away where they belong?"

Connie had always made sure that the Prince learned that his extra treats and the privilege of being allowed to eat in the warm kitchen, rather than the draughty dining hall, was a benefit he had to pay for, by doing some simple chores. She smiled, as Arrik readily returned with his own handsome if sheepish grin before walking to the sink to wash up. Connie loved him even more for being the wonderful young man and worthy king that he was growing into. In the absence of both the boys' parents she had mothered the pair of them all these years as if they were her own brood.

"I must see to the setting of the guard," Tompty said hastily, by way of excuse, and ran out of the kitchen, slamming the door behind him.

'Mmm,' Connie thought to herself, 'I'll let it ride this once, but that Tompty won't get away with that little trick again.' She turned to see Arrik juggling the huge heavy cast iron pan and a copper pot in the air under the vaulted kitchen ceiling, shaking water drips everywhere.

"Dent any of those pots, Master Prince, an' I'll tan your young hide, so I will!" Connie threatened, trying hard to suppress a smile.

"Don't worry, Connie, this is the best and fun way of drying pots that I know!"



The gardener, who was rumoured to have grown the chocolate rose, had been arrested a week before and thrown into a cold dark dungeon, deep below the Palace.

He was questioned by the Count himself, "Did you grow this reported Chocolate Rose?"

"How can such a rose exist?" the gardener replied evenly, though strapped and unable to move on the infernal rack.

"The kingdom is awash with this ridiculous tale of you growing a flowering rose in mid-winter, and it not only tasted of ... chocolate, but had the exact feel and texture of chocolate. So, how did you grow or fashion it?"

"But isn't it impossible to have any kind of rose flowering at this time of year, fast approaching mid-winter?"

"Of course it is!"

"And surely only a very rich man could afford to pay a chocolatier to fashion a rose from chocolate, not a humble gardener?"

"Ah hah! So, you were in collusion with a chocolatier, huh? Which one?"

"Why would a skilled chocolatier make a chocolate rose for a humble gardener as some kind of joke, and not use such an exquisite object to advertise his skill to sell more chocolate?"

"I don't know why. Tell me where this rose cam from."

"What rose?"

"The chocolate rose that is said to have been grown in your garden!" The Count was starting to lose his temper, and he was never on the longest of fuses at the best of times.

"Who told you I grew a chocolate rose?"

"Everyone, all over the whole kingdom, is talking about this confounded chocolate rose."

"Including the Prince?"

"What!?" Count Condran snapped.



Tompty had managed to pick up the basics of reading and writing, at least enough to cope with the official to and from messages from his father, without the need of a scribe at the lodge.

A messenger was immediately despatched to the royal palace, informing his father that the Prince was curious about this chocolate rose that everyone was talking about and had expressed a keen interest in investigating the incident personally. Would the Count permit Arrik to travel to Newmarket town and question the gardener and any other witnesses to the appearance of this chocolate rose? He added that he was prepared to escort him incognito, with the bare minimum guard, so as not to risk attracting any attention.

Tompty had long been of the opinion that the Prince was never under threat and should have been allowed to live in the Palace with the Queen. Tompty remembered his aunt, the Queen, as a confident, vivacious and loving woman, not the timid fearful recluse that his father made her out to be. He had only occasionally seen her in the last few years, visiting his sister and a lady in waiting that he was particularly attracted to, and the Queen appeared to be as unchanged as she ever was.

The Count considered Tompty's request regarding Arrik's interest. The chocolate rose was complete nonsense of course, a stupid hoax. He had personally supervised the questioning of the simpleton gardener. He couldn't understand the high levels of public interest in what was fast becoming of legendary proportions. Even the Grand Council, full of the oldest, most soft-minded barons he could possibly appoint, were full of questions about the subject. Why not let Arrik waste his time and energies on this tomfoolery? What harm could it do? It also presented an opportunity that he had long been waiting for.

"Very well," he dictated to his clerk in writing to his son Tompty, "let the boy loose on the subject if you must. The idiot gardener is still unwilling to answer questions, however, so is pointless to be seen by Arrik. The fool's daughter is still at large as we have no proof she knows anything, so she is of no consequence. Arrik must be accompanied by you at all times and, as you suggest, he must travel incognito. It is imperative for the safety of the country that no one discovers who he is."

He dismissed the fool clerk to write out the missive in his best handwriting. Then he turned to the Captain of the Palace Guard.

"Dargo, I have a discrete little job for you. Gather three of your best men, ones who know how to keep their mouths shut. Once you have left the castle, change into clothing of the sort that desperate hooded highway robbers might wear. Oh, and make sure one of your men is the best archer we have."

So, it came to pass that the two friends set out on the whole day ride from the mountains to Newmarket town, which itself was less than a two-hour ride from the Count's abode at the Royal Palace. The Prince and Tompty travelled by coach, as Arrik was never allowed to ride on horseback, accompanied by two liveried coachmen. They stayed in a Newmarket town inn overnight and called on the gardener's daughter in the morning.


Maid Elvira

The rose garden has been dug up and everything bagged and sent to the Palace for expert examination. So Arrik was unable to gather any information, despite checking over the barren ground for any clues.

When Arrik was introduced to the daughter of the gardener by Tompty, it was as a foreign scientist, interested in investigating the phenomenon of the chocolate rose. He was instantly struck by her stunning looks.

The maiden, about his own age, was tall, only an inch or two shorter than he, and slender, with long braided black hair and the darkest brown eyes he had ever seen. Like liquid pools of chocolate, he mused. She was quite the most beautiful creature he had ever had the pleasure to meet, not that he had ever had much opportunity to meet young maids. At home, the daughters of the tradesmen often persuaded their fathers to take them up to where the handsome young prince lived. While some were pretty, none of them affected him as strongly as this maiden did.

"I am Doctor ... er Rik" he stumbled, trying to remember that he was supposed to hide his true identity from this beautiful young woman, "And you are Maid ...?

"Err-r-rick?" she asked in imitation of his clumsy introduction, clearly with a disarmingly amused smile playing on her face.

"No, just Rik," 'oh dear', he thought, 'This isn't going well', "and you are?"

"I am El, Doctor Rik," she answered, "just El."

"A very short name, Maid El, for one so tall," he smiled at the raven-haired creature, mesmerised by her eyes, which sparkled with lively intelligence, maintaining eye contact with him. She was erect, proud, confident and smart, unlike the shy unsophisticated village maids he was used to addressing, "may I be permitted to know your full name?"

"Maid Elvira-Coral Shacklefurthbury. I know, it is an awful mouthful of a name, which is why all my friends call me El."

"Then you are just the person I need to speak to, about the chocolate rose-"

"Oh, no, I am saying no more about the chocolate rose, I've been questioned up hill and down dale on that subject. I am heartily sick of it and I have nothing more to add. Please ask my father, who is being asked questions on that subject even now, by the Count's authority."

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