In the courtyard of a sunny estate, King Cedric and Queen Catelyn Arnos of Carlisle reclined under the shade of a growing apple tree as their son, Michaelius, happily scurried about the mazes of flowers.
“Today is a beautiful day.” King Cedric says, sighing contently as a light breeze blew against his skin. His wife agrees, “God has granted us some relief from the latest of storms.”
“Die! Die! Die!” Michaelius shouted, thrashing his small toy knights about. King Cedric let out a hearty laugh, “He will make a good King someday.”
Queen Catelyn smiles, “He has your spirit.”
“But he has your beautiful features, my dear.” King Cedric says, taking an admirable glance between his son and his wife.
Queen Catelyn, whose lips had pursed into a thin line, nods, “I’m afraid for him Cedric.” She says, “The tensions, they’re building. A war is on the horizon.”
Another breeze blew, sending tufts of dandelion flock into a swirl. Michaelius chased them, crushing the tufts into his young hands. King Cedric watched his son happily collect dandelions as he pondered his wife’s words of warning.
“If there must be a war, then so be it. I will not begin it, I will simply participate.”
“But our son, Cedric, what of him? He needs a father.” Queen Catelyn says sternly, looking into the deep brown eyes of her husband.
King Cedric looks into her steel-grey ones, “Master Abel has informed me that Michaelius has taken a favor for watching the knights train. He says it is a distraction from his teaching.”
“Do not change the subject Cedric, he needs a father. Master Abel will not be your substitute.” Queen Catelyn said firmly.
“As King of Carlisle, I cannot ignore my allies! If Westray declares war against Islesbury then so be it…”
Queen Catelyn slumped, and she looked to her son. The boy blew dandelion fluff into the wind, desperately attempting to crush them between his fingers.
She looked back to Cedric, “What does Westray want from Islesbury?”
King Cedric pulled on his ring with some uncertainty. His handsome and angular face becomes clouded with worry.
“King Alphonzo of Islesbury was murdered in his own chambers whilst hosting some of King Chadwick of Westray’s advisors. Accusations are being tossed to and fro, no one knows who or what killed King Alphonzo but there has always been tensions between the two.” The man plucked a few stray twigs from the ground and tossed them into the gardens.
“It’s not your fight Cedric.” Catelyn says, “It is none of your concern.”
“Westray has already notified me that if war does break out, I am to assist with myself as a general and an army.”
Catelyn, discouraged, looked at Cedric with pleading eyes, “But our son! He is growing, he needs a father.”
“And he will have one, I will do everything in my power to remain his father! Let the boy grow, let him realize who he is.” King Cedric said strongly, “Let him be what he pleases, but never let him forget that he will be king someday, and to never let the crown pass to anyone other than him!”
Queen Catelyn, somewhat assured, nodded, “You know I trust you Cedric, and I love you, but please- don’t make their fight yours.”
“I won’t my dear.”
“King Cedric!” Someone called, “A letter!”
The King rose from the grass, dusting himself off before approaching the calling voice.
“Where’s father going?” Michaelius asks as he walked up to his mother, who sadly watched her husband walk away.
She sighed, “I don’t know Michaelius.”
Queen Catelyn had not seen her husband for the remainder of the day. Michaelius, now tucked into bed, slept soundly as she paced her own chambers.
King Cedric approached the doorway and stopped, seeing his anxious wife pacing. His tired eyes only saddened upon her visage.
“Who was it?” Catelyn urged, “Was it Westray?”
The King nodded, “We are at war with Islesbury as of late last week. At dawn, I will be setting out for Westray… Along with forty thousand troops.”
Catelyn felt herself go numb, forty thousand troops was a number she never encountered.
“Why so many?” She asked as Cedric entered the chambers and shed his many rings and cloak. The man decorated himself with three rings daily. He wore his signet ring, his wedding ring and the family heirloom. There was no chance of seeing him without any of those rings, he valued them with his life and would never give any away without good reason to.
He fell into bed, “One of Westray’s spies informed King Chadwick that Islesbury possesses almost one hundred thousand troops, and the number must be growing by the day. I, along with three other kingdoms in the alliance are contributing everything we have.” The man shed his boots and rubbed at his tired face, “I went to every nobleman I could manage today, informing them of our current predicament. Forty thousand men is not possible without drafting the peasants, and it was something I did not want to do.”
Catelyn, careful not to raise her voice, said, “You drafted the peasants!”
King Cedric groaned, “I know, it’s not the right decision but if I was assigned to give forty thousand men, then I must, otherwise I would be called a traitor and the war will be on us too!”
Catelyn’s eyebrows knit together at her husband’s frustration. He would be away from her, and most importantly from Michaelius.
“Michaelius is only ten, how will you explain to him that you’re going to war?”
The man let out a frustrated breath, “The boy needs a father, but not one that lies. I will tell him as it is.”
“He is ten Cedric! He adores you, he will be devastated to see you go.” She continued to pester.
“And you won’t be saddened to see me go?” Cedric asks, his voice just as strict as his wife’s.
Catelyn, lost for moment at his remark, scoffs, “Of course! I am your wife!”
“Then as my wife, and the mother of my son, you will help him.” He says, his eyes filled with fire.
Catelyn nods and she came to lie next to him. The night was silent, filled with only the tired snores of her husband. She stayed awake, thinking about their son, and of her husband… Who will leave them at dawn, and maybe never come home.
“Why are we waking up so early?” Michaelius complained, rubbing the sleep away as his mother helped to button his shirt.
“It’s not that early.” Catelyn coos, buttoning the last button and ushering him down the stairs to the main floor.
King Cedric stood alone in the foyer of the modest castle, waiting for his son.
Michaelius, happily skipped down the steps to greet his father in the early morning hours, but stopped at the first step and stared with bright eyes.
“Why are you wearing that?” He asks, his eyes absorbing the shining armor, banner and heavy fur cloak.
King Cedric came up to his son, kneeling down to look up into the boy’s eyes, “I’m going away, Michaelius… For a long time.” He said sadly.
Michaelius’ head nodded, “Where are you going?”
“I’m going to help my friends fight some really bad people.” Cedric said, careful of his word choice as to not incline Michaelius to start a fit, “I need you to be good to your mother, to Master Abel, to everyone in this castle.”
Michaelius’ eyes saddened, “When will you be back?” He said, his voice cracking as tears threatened to fall. King Cedric knew that for any boy, it’s hard to see their father go- especially on short notice.
“I’ll try to visit for Christmas, I promise to send you owls with letters-”
“But Christmas is so far away!” The boy whined and King Cedric’s heart had finally realized what he was leaving behind- but there was no turning back.
He mustered up the power in his voice to calm his son, “Listen to me Michaelius, even when I’m gone, you will stay here and protect your mother. Be a good son, listen to everything she says and I promise, I will be back very soon.”
Michaelius had stifled a hiccup of grief, he nodded to his father with eyes full of tears.
King Cedric, defeated, thought of how to comfort the boy under the circumstances. He folded his hands and looked at his fingers. The family heirloom, a weathered gold ring with the original Kingdom’s banner from generations past, shone brightly in the rising morning sun.
The King did not hesitate to pull off the ring and place it into the young hands of his son,
who looked at it, then to his father.
“But this is yours…” He said quietly but King Cedric shook his head.
“This has been in the family for generations, every Prince like you wore it, and when they became King, they gave it to their sons. I am giving you this ring because I want you to remember me, and I want you to know that as a prince, you will someday become King like me.”
Michaelius’ tears had dried and he nodded, “Yes father, I promise not to lose it.”
King Cedric, now holding back his own emotions, ruffled his son’s black hair, “That’s my
Boy, the man who would be King.”
Catelyn stood in grief, content to see her son mature enough to understand his father’s leave. The boy, rewarded with a family heirloom, should never forget what custom had already decided for him.
“I’ve arranged for Captain Elfric to be you and Michaelius’ protector whilst I’m away, I will send an owl as soon as I can.” King Cedric said. He looked over his shoulder to see one of the assistant generals waiting to accompany their journey.
The King embraced his wife and son, promising good things and left without another word.