Chapter 2: THOMAS' HEAVY HEAD
Prince Thomas did feel over his head from the second he got up. Not much had changed, except it felt like everything had. With his grandmother’s ring on his finger, a ring that was seemingly a family heirloom and passed down to every other generation, he was the unquestionable ruler of the kingdom of Springborough. According to legend, a Lishens several generations back had escaped with his life from a killer dragon, only by removing the dragon’s eye. Once doing so, he encased the eye in a gemstone, and mounted it on a ring and from that day forth, the Lishens ruled Springborough, and whomever wore the ring, was the Kingdom’s protector. However, when Thomas had put the ring on, he did not feel any more powerful. But it was quickly apparent that he held more responsibility.
He wondered if when his parents came back would he have to give the ring over to his father, or would it just be assumed as politics go that his father would rule and Thomas was next in line? Or was Thomas actually the ruler of the kingdom despite his parents presence or not? How odd would it be for him if he was also in charge of the King and Queen? What things would he have them do? What things would he be able to get away with?
The simple thought of childhood recklessness was enough to snap Thomas back to reality that he was as adult now as he was ever going to be, with adult responsibilities. No more drawing mustaches on the empty knight armor statues in the castle hallways. He would have to take down the “KEEP OUT” sign from his bedroom door as he was now expected to be at the kingdom’s beck-and-call whenever problems arose. He would now have to attend his lessons regularly, and with proper rest, so as not to be falling asleep in them. Thomas grew tired just thinking about his new life as he let his dressers circle around him, placing royal robes over royal shirts which covered royal undergarments.
The new ruler wondered what his older sister Kyrstin was up to at the moment. She was supposed to be the one wearing the ring. He had no doubt that she was probably sleeping in, subconsciously laughing at her brother for taking the responsibility as she dug her cheek deeper into the pillow and sighed a relaxed sigh.
He felt like such a sucker.
Somehow it seemed that everyone in the castle simply new that he was the new man in charge. Typically, he got away with whatever he wanted to do, but this morning, as soon as the sun crested on the horizon, his room was a flurry of activity. Nobody woke him up directly, no, that would have been rude, but instead, they simply did not walk gently as they pitter-pattered around doing inane tasks that Thomas knew, without a doubt, was under the intention of arising the young Prince. Did all of his clothes need to be pulled and rehung this morning? Did his carpet need to be lifted, swept under, beaten, and placed back at the foot of his bed? Did Jasper, his favorite attendant, have to keep pouring goblets of water on the sill to wash the bird droppings off there? These things did not have to be done this morning, as they were usually done, he guessed, when he was not in his room, since he had never seen them done before.
So, he didn’t fight it. He got up, sighing, feeling as if his blood was thicker than usual and his joints needed a little more oil. He felt stiff, and still tired, and just generally not as good as one should feel when getting out of bed. Thomas must have slept horribly, although he didn’t remember anything about the past eight hours, ever since he directed his guests be shown to their room and he checked on Patrick, his younger giant brother who was going through a growth spurt, and thus, stayed outside with his new pet, a great, big brown bear named Lucky. Thomas offered the ring one last time to Kyrstin half-serious, half-joking, even so much as almost taking it off his finger and handing it over to her. But, Kyrstin smiled, waved him off, and patted him on the shoulder.
“You’re the ruler now,” Princess Kyrstin said, her exhaustion weighing on the skin under her eyes.
“It’s just a ring. I don’t even think I believe in it like you do,” Thomas has said, staring at the ring, which was pure green, watching to see if the dragon was ever going to open its eye again. Kyrstin had said she saw the eye move, but Thomas never had. He knew he’d be watching, though. This ring was going to be a distraction for him. “Do you really believe the girl? That girl, Brynn, and how she says that she can see spirits?”
“You believe she sees the spirit of Grandma?” Thomas asked, leading the questions to the one he really wanted to ask.
“Yes. She has told me things only Grandma would know.”
“Has she said anything about Dad or Mom?”
Thomas couldn’t meet his sister’s gaze as he felt his own clouding up with tears. The new ruler shouldn’t cry so easily, but every time his thoughts of his parents escaped his mouth a ball of emotion returned to his throat, his stomach pitted, and he couldn’t help but let the fear cloud his eyes. Was it fear? He couldn’t tell that either. Whatever it was, there was a deep sensation of longing that he couldn’t bear to let his sister see. He wanted his parents back, and if that couldn’t happen, he would settle for word that they were safe.
“Brynn or Grandma?” Kyrstin asked, but Thomas was too much fighting a fit of crying to reply. “No. Neither has. But, we shouldn’t take that as good news. The rules, as they say, are that spirits are close to the remains of the body. If our parents are dead-“
“-Don’t say that,” Thomas replied, his teeth clenched. “They’re not dead.”
“If anything has befallen them, I don’t imagine it’s anywhere close. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Thomas remained, staring at the ground.
“And pray, dear brother,” Kyrstin said, her hand on his shoulder, feeling his shoulder slump and go limp. Not the same shoulder that would carry a sword, she thought to herself.
With that they parted, Thomas, the Ruler of Springborough, back to his bedroom with tears in his eyes, passing a knight of armor with a charcoal mustache he had immaturely scrawled on it just a month ago, and a sign written crudely “Keep Out” on his door which he ripped off, and crumpled into a ball in his hands, throwing it on the floor. It is his assumption this morning that one of his servants had thrown out the crumpled sign this morning, or threw it in a fire for kindling. Kyrstin proceeded down the hall to her room, which was the largest bedroom in the castle other than her parents’, and she closed her heavy wooden door as well. Afterwards, the castle seemed to all sleep soundlessly.
That is, until, the world decided for Thomas that it was time to wake.
“Do you want your schedule for the day, your majesty?” Jasper asked Thomas, securing a sash across his chest with the Lishens’ royal colors, green and gold.
“I’m afraid to know,” Thomas replied.
Jasper was just slightly younger than Thomas, but at the time, felt several years older. The boy had the kind of face that held all of the innocence of the world even as his eyes seemed to carry all the wisdom of it. Thomas never felt he had anything to fear of Jasper, and so he took to him immediately. Where other attendants could be caught giving awkward glances, or sneering in envy, Jasper attended to his duties with a sort of second-hand nature, all the while never falling into a routine. In fact, when Thomas was having difficulty with his studies, it was Jasper he turned to as Jasper was able to not only understand the problems but he was able to describe it in such an adolescent way that Thomas was able to understand.
Other than Corson, Jasper was the only non-Lishens that Thomas trusted.
“You will have your sword training with Corson this morning. He demanded it saying that yesterday was a waste, what with you failing to show up with a sword to sword training.”
“But, I don’t have my-“ Thomas began, looking over, to see his sword hanging, shining on the wall where it should be. It was his sister stealing his sword yesterday that led him to chasing after her into the woods, which lead to the bear, and the being kidnapped by the Village of Fortis, and the taking of Brynn and Jage prisoner, and so on and so forth. He swallowed the thought that most everything in his current present was the fault of his sister’s waywardness.
“Princess Kyrstin had left it in the Grand Hall. I had it sharpened and shined for you, your majesty,” Jasper said, securing a sheath around Thomas’ waist.
“Does Corson know I’m the new ruler of Springborough and I don’t just have to come to sword training because he asks?”
“I think Corson is well-aware of the fact that you are the ruler of Springborough in your parents’ absence, but he’s also the one your parents put in charge of everything before they left. If you want to dispute the politics of Kingly demands and royal jewelry, that is up to you. It is not a conversation for me. But, I think you should attend your sword training as your first true decision as an open-minded, hard-working, compromising ruler.”
“I hate sword training,” Thomas declared as the rest of the attendants, seeing their ruler now fully dressed, left the room to attend to other castle duties.
“I know you do, your majesty.”
“They’re gone, Jasper, you can call me Thomas.”
Jasper smiled, and turned, and brought the sword down off the wall, handing it over to Thomas, one hand on the blade and the other on the handle. The prince took the sword from him, and held it up, seeing a partial reflection of his face in the blade.
“I hope I never have to use this thing against someone,” he declared. “I don’t believe in blood shed.”
“Perhaps that is why Princess Kyrstin made you the ruler,” Jasper whispered, knowing he wasn’t supposed to be giving the young royal advice, and didn’t want the other attendants thinking they possibly could. “Because she had already brandished your weapon several times yesterday, mainly against a bear, a great beast that was lunging at her. But still, if she had her way, your brother Patrick’s pet would be a rug, and who knows with his strength and his tantrums, what condition the castle would be in now.”
Thomas thought about it and shrugged. He still didn’t want to be the owner of a sword; of a weapon.
“What’s after my sword lesson?”