Chapter 8: Onward to the Future...or Not
So, you might be wondering what's been going on with King Cloud and Queen Aerith all the years they didn't have Jaqulin in their life, right? Well, despite the kingdom preparing for the celebration of Jaqulin's sixteenth birthday, there wasn't exactly much happiness among the two of them. Of course, that was the thing; Jaqulin was supposed to bring that happiness, and so much more, to both of their lives. But when Maleficent came and placed her curse upon the young princess, they were forced to watch the light of their life leave them at the first sign of trouble. As hard as it was to accept, Belle, Flonne and Reminy's plan was the surefire way to make sure Jaqulin wouldn't meet a grisly end too soon. So, Cloud and Aerith had to endure sixteen long, lonely years without the daughter they had longed for. They DID watch John Smith and Pocahontas' son grow up before their eyes, but it just wasn't the same.
At this moment, Cloud was leaning against the windowsill in the dining hall, looking out at the sunset. He glanced down at the courtyard, and sighed deeply. It was at this moment that John Smith came up to Cloud, a concerned expression on his face.
"You're still worried about her, aren't you?" Smith asked.
"Yeah," Cloud nodded. "I'm sorry about being such a downer tonight, Smith. But it's just that...Jaqulin should've been back by now. I've been looking forward to this day for so long; you know how much she means to me."
"I know, Cloud," Smith patted the king's shoulder sympathetically. "I guess I should apologize as well."
"For what?" Cloud asked.
"Well...how should I put it?" Smith said. "Pocahontas and I have talked about this quite a few times over past few years or so. You've been gracious enough to let the three of us live with you in this castle...yet we were raising Carter while you had nobody to call your own. Pocahontas noticed it in Aerith's eyes...and yours, for that matter. We know that watching Carter grow up isn't like seeing one of your own do the same. And for that, the both of us want to offer you and Aerith our deepest apologies.
"In any case, you should have faith in the Mages of the Rose. We haven't heard from them in sixteen years; that, to me, tells them that they've done their part, and Jaq's still alive. They'll be back with her before you know it."
Cloud slid off the windowsill and looked Smith in the eyes. A soft smile spread across his lips. "Thanks, Smith," he said. "That means a lot to me, it really does."
"That's the spirit, Cloudy," Smith slapped Cloud's back heartily. "Now, come on, what do you say we celebrate this evening?" Smith gave a sharp whistle; in an instant, a bald yellow-skinned man named Homer Simpson came running in with a bottle of sherry, two wine glasses, and a lute. "Tonight, we toast to the future with a little something I've been saving for the past sixteen years," Smith grinned. "They say this stuff tastes better with age." Smith uncorked the sherry and poured a glass for himself, and for Cloud. "Here's to the future!"
"To the future!" Cloud repeated heartily. Homer took a sip from the bottle and hiccuped before launching into playing on his lute. The two men then sang out...
Smith: A toast to this night...
Cloud: The outlook is rosey,
Smith: The future is bright!
Both: Our children will marry, our fam'lies u-nite...
Homer chugged from the bottle again, hiccuping again. "Mmm...sherry," he drooled.
Smith took a quick swig of the sherry and exhaled deeply. "Just like I said," he sighed. "Better with age. Now, how about one for the new home?"
"Home?" Cloud repeated quizzically.
"Kids need a place to live after they marry, don't they?" Smith asked. "Granted, this is a fine castle, but nobody wants to stay cooped up here forever."
"That's true..." Cloud said unsuredly.
"Already talked it over with some of your royal advisors; they're on board with it," Smith continued. "So, to the home! Skumps!"
Home took up his lute again and strummed the same tune as before.
Smith: A toast to the home...
Cloud: One grander by far than a palace in Rome!
"Lemme refill that glass," Smith chuckled as he refilled Cloud's wine glass with more sherry. "That one was just foam!"
Oddly enough, even after the two men finished singing, Homer continued to solo on his lute. What made it even stranger was that he was doing it well...while drunk. That all came to a stop when one of the strings snapped. "D'oh!" Homer grunted.
"So, care to see what the place looks like?" Smith asked.
"Um...sure, why not?" Cloud shrugged.
Smith snapped his fingers, and on cue, Homer removed a rolled-up piece of parchment from his pocket. He unfurled it, revealing blueprints for what looked like a lavish mansion-like home; Cloud had to move along with Homer swaying about drunkenly.
"Well, what do you think?" Smith asked. "Forty or so bedrooms, a dining hall...nothing entirely fancy. You'd say it's almost like a honeymoon getaway."
"And you're already building this?" Cloud asked.
"Already BUILT it is more like it," Smith grinned. "The kids can move into it tomorrow."
"Seriously, they're not even married yet!" Cloud protested.
"That's why the wedding's tonight," Smith replied as he poured another glass of sherry. "To the wedding!"
"Now, come on, Smith," Cloud said, forcing Smith's hand down and making him put the sherry back on the table. "I haven't seen Jaqulin in nearly 16 years; I don't want her taken away from me again!"
Smith looked at Cloud strangely. "Easy there, old friend," he said. "Don't you want to see your grandchildren?"
"I do, but..."
"Than we've got nothing to worry about! To the wedding!"
"Wait!" Cloud was getting more and more nervous by the minute. "We need to be reasonable here, Smith. I mean, Jaqulin hasn't even SEEN Carter yet. It might come as a shock to..."
"What're you saying?" Smith cut Cloud off immediately.
Cloud looked confused. "Wh-what do you mean?" he asked.
"Are you saying your daughter won't like my son?" Smith growled. "If that's the case, maybe your daughter won't like my son!"
"Why you...!" Cloud shoved Smith hard in the chest, forcing him back into the dinner table. Smith noticed a smoked marlin at his side.
"So that's how it is, eh?" Smith grinned. He picked the marlin like a sword and putting the marlin's other name to good use.
"Of course you realize, this means war!" Cloud grabbed his old Buster Sword that was sitting nearby; the old hunk of metal's bandages may have been tattered, but it still had a good shine to it. Smith swung the fish violently at Cloud, who blocked it with his sword.
Meanwhile, Pocahontas passed through the dining hall. "John!" she called. "I was wondering if you...?" Pocahontas stopped short at the scene that was going on before her eyes. Smith was swinging a marlin onto Cloud's sword. She didn't know whether to intervene, or just let them fight to the death. Then again, that's the kind of reaction most people would get if they saw a scene like this one.
After a few good whacks, the marlin went limp. Smith looked at the marlin, and then to Cloud. The two men then looked to Pocahontas, and back at each other again. They burst out laughing, Cloud putting his Buster Sword down. Pocahontas could only roll her eyes. 'Boys will be boys,' she thought to herself.
"What was that all about, anyway?" Cloud chuckled.
"Nothing at all, my friend," Smith said. "Forgive and forget, right?"
"Right," Cloud said. "And besides, they're bound to fall in love with each other eventually."
"Yes sir," Smith said.
"I'll see to it that the woodcarvers work on a cradle for our grandchildren first thing tomorrow!" Cloud said confidently.
"King-sized?" Smith asked.
"Yeah!" Cloud nodded as he filled up his own sherry glass. "To the woodcarver's guild!"
The two men were about to burst into song when they heard a strange crescendo noise with loud snoring mixed in. They looked to see Homer passed out underneath the tablecloth, the lute over his head, and an extra bottle of sherry in his hand. Cloud and Smith looked at each other quzzically.
"His royal highness! Carter Smith!" Kronk's voice echoed from outside.
"He's back so soon," Pocahontas said to herself. "Come on, John, let's go see him."
"Er, right," Smith nodded as he followed his wife out of the dining hall. "Wait here, Cloud, we'll be right back."
"I'm tellin' ya, man, they're not gonna like this," Joe said nervously as he and Carter rode on Altivo's back. "Can't we just, you know, pretend like it never happened?"
"Stop worrying, Joe," Carter rolled his eyes.
"Woah there, son! Slow down!" Smith called. Altivo slowed to a stop as Sonic screeched to a halt right next to him. "Now come on, get yourself cleaned up and ready! It's almost time to meet your future bride!"
"Already done, dad," Carter smiled.
"Wait...you saw her already?" Smith arched an eyebrow. "Where?"
Joe hopped down from Altivo's back and stood next to Sonic. "Ten bucks says John's not gonna like what he hears," Joe said silently to Sonic.
"You're on," Sonic nodded.
"Why...once upon a dream!" Carter swooned as he took his father into a tight bear hug and started to sing "Once Upon a Dream" and dance with his father.
"Carter! For pete's sake, put me down!" Smith grunted. "Carter! C-come on now, Carter! Hey!"
Pocahontas looked concerned. She turned to the two boys, lowering herself to their level. "Boys?" she asked. "What's going on with Carter?"
"It's a long story," Sonic scratched the side of his head. "Basically, the three of us were out in the woods because Carter wanted to clear his head before the wedding, and we wound up meeting this cute girl and her friends."
"Who stole our stuff!" Joe added irritably.
"So they talked together, danced together, had a little exchange...and just before we could find out her name, she left," Sonic said nervously. "Long story short, it was like something out of a fairy tale."
"Oh, my," Pocahontas gasped.
"Should we worry about how your husband's gonna react to this, Ms. Smith?" Sonic asked.
"Yes..." Pocahontas said, looking to Smith who was trying to pry himself loose. "He's been looking forward to this wedding for the past month now. He'd hate to see it go to waste..."
Smith was finally able to get himself out of Carter's grasp. "Phwah...finally," Smith gasped for breath. "Alright, young man...what's all this dream nonsense about?"
"It wasn't a dream," Carter said. "I really did meet her!"
"Princess Jaqulin?" Smith asked in shock. "Well, now we can..."
"No, no, not her," Carter shook his head. "It was someone else...a peasent girl."
A long silence hung over the small family for a few moments. Smith looked to Sonic and Joe, and asked, "He's kidding, right?"
"We kinda wish that he was, sir," Joe shrugged.
"Carter, you can't be serious," Smith said, putting two firm hands on his son's shoulders. "You're willing to give up a place in the kingdom for some...some...nobody?!" The others could clearly tell that Smith wasn't buying any of it. "No, I'm not going to allow it! You've been betrothed to Jaquin Strife, and by jove, that's who you're going to marry!"
"Dad, you're living in the past," Carter took his father's hands off his shoulders. "This isn't the fourteenth century anymore! These days..."
"THESE DAYS, I'm still your father!" Smith thundered. "Now, I want you to snap back to your senses!"
"And marry the one I love," Carter said with a smile as he got back on Altivo's saddle.
"Yes!" Smith said, unaware of the goof he just pulled.
"See you guys later!" Carter shouted as he rode off, leaving Pocahontas, Smith, Sonic and Joe behind.
Smith then realized what just happened. "Wait...marry the girl you...oh, no," he studdered. "Carter! Hey, wait, stop! Get back here!"
Pocahontas sighed deeply. "This wasn't supposed to happen," she shook her head.
"You want us to follow him?" Sonic asked.
"Please do," Pocahontas nodded. "I want to be sure that Carter's not getting himself in any sort of trouble..."
"We're on it," Sonic saluted. "C'mon, Joe, Henshin-A-Go-Go and let's go!"
"Aww, can't we grab something to eat first?" Joe groaned, his hand on his stomach. "I'm starving!"
"Later," Sonic grumbled as he grabbed Joe by his v-watch-less arm and bolted off into the distance, following Altivo's hoofprints.
"Oi...how am I going to break this to Cloud?" Smith groaned, his hand covering his face.
Pocahontas put a gentle hand on Smith's shoulder. "Let's tell them together," she said. "Maybe they'll understand."
Smith sighed deeply. "You're right," he nodded. "We need to at least try."
So the couple retreated back into the castle, hopeful that their lifelong friends would understand the situation.
End of Chapter 8