Bohemas tiptoed down the creaking stairs. The youth grimaced as one of the cracked steps protested his brown shod feet. Downstairs, he could see the flicker of candles, and he tried to keep his breathing still in the silence. Despite being thirteen years of age, Bohemas was still expected to sleep at a certain hour, for he was his father’s assistant, and witch doctors were supposed have an early start each day.
Geralt, his father, was a heavy silent sleeper, but Bohemas could hear the old lady’s snores reverberating from behind and above him as he stepped from the last step onto the kitchen floor. As gypsies, the two of them took shelter wherever they could, and although pitching a tent was preferable, for once his father had accepted the offer a kind old woman’s offers to stay at her seaside cabin.
Bohemas rubbed at his large nose. It was a constant annoyance whenever cold and warmth gathered together, and a chilly winter night coupled with smoldering coals sitting at the hearth by the door made for perfect nose sniffle conditions.
The youth could hear the wind howl outside, coupled by the old lady’s dangerous sounding snores. Her name escaped Bohemas, for his mind was forgetful unless there was magical information at hand.
The kitchen’s clutter made the boy’s lips curl up in a smile. A long table with benches on either side of it bisected the space. Bohemas went to its cracked wood, upon which stacks of books elbowed a brass telescope, a few smooth pebbles with a brightly colored runes drawn upon them, and some feathers.
The boy sat before one particular brown tome, eager to peruse its contents, but a whiff of something caught his attention. It was a weak incessant smell of fresh mint.
Bohemas shook his mess of oily black hair to the side, before taking a look at the cauldron behind him. It sat suspended upon its coals, and as Bohemas peered into its brown murky depths, he tried to remember if their earlier dinner had contained any mint. Sure that there shouldn’t be any mint in the small house, the boy grinned, turning back straight in his seat.
Bohemas lifted his right hand, blew on it, and then curled his fist, leaving a hollow within. His index finger remained loose, with each subsequent finger curled tighter and his pinky creating a peephole. Bohemas peeked through that makeshift spyglass.
At first he saw little out of the ordinary, but Bohemas kept turning in every which direction until something green and white caught his eye, sitting on the edge of the table.
It was a tiny man-like thing, with small flightless wings and a ruddy nose. Green hair and beard gave the bunkle away, however.
Bunkles were harmless spirits, and often blessed homes with extra warmth in exchange for a delectable morsel. This particular spirit seemed stuck on the table, Bohemas saw, unable to get down. It shook its little fists at the cauldron behind the boy, exclaiming nothings in a tiny voice.
The bunkle turned to the right and saw Bohemas looking at it through his spirit spyglass. It panicked, squeaking and grabbing at its beard in apology for the disturbance, as was customary for fairies and similar creatures.
As it did, Bohemas saw a green cloud poof off the being, and the smell of fresh mint became apparent once more.
The youth bowed to the spirit, softly saying, “I’m sorry the coals are still hot, mister bunkle.” Even if the being could get down, it wouldn’t be able to reach their dinner. “How is your evening?”
The bunkle answered, and the boy could hear its high pitched voice go up and down in tone. However, the boy couldn’t understand bunkelese just yet, for he was rather fond of horse-like magical creatures, and so had asked Geralt to teach him their languages first.
The boy could recite poems in unicorn and converse with pegasi, but such things were little help when sitting in a candle-lit kitchen with an annoyed bunkle. As it talked, the small green haired, thickly bearded creature pointed at the cauldron again, and Bohemas nodded.
“May I get you some?” he asked with another sniffle. “It’s fish stew. Snapper, I think.” Geralt had always told him to be polite to his elders, and Bohemas almost always listened to his brown caped, mild mannered father.
When the bunkle nodded, the boy put his hand down, causing the creature to disappear once more. Bohmeas got a small bowl and ladled some of the still warm mixture into it, then placed in a wooden spoon. He then set the bowl down on the table and looked through his hand again.
The bunkle bowed in thanks and leapt into the bowl head first, eating the food with astonishing speed and without using the spoon. It then belched with a squeak.
Satisfied, the small creature walked over to Bohemas and waved a finger. Suddenly, his nose didn’t bother him so much. “Thank you,” he said in a low tone.
With a click of its finger, the bunkle disappeared into thin air, leaving the kitchen smelling pleasant.
Still careful not to wake his father, Bohemas settled in his seat, eyeing the brown leather tome with hunger. It was an appendix on magical creatures.
Next to the tome lay a forlorn piece of paper, text crossed out in angry red. It was a demand from the local king, Metas, that the “Gypsy warlock” leave his land at once. Bohemas snorted, at it, for Geralt never left a place until his healing skills were put to practice. Besides, they weren’t warlocks.
When the local villagers and poor didn’t need their help anymore, the two would move on to the next place, for Bohemas and his father lived the life of wanderers. No king could interfere with their travels.
Bohemas ignored the piece of paper, settling on the faded leather tome. Its cover was a smooth leather, and threaded twine bound its spine in a complex, magical weave. This book could only be read by those of a unique disposition. To anyone else, its words would be incomprehensible.
He opened it to the first page, as was ritual, and bright blue letters appeared on the front page. Greetings, Bohemas, they spelled.
“Hello, Mathilda,” he replied pleasantly, if still in a low tone. “Please don’t tell dad I’m reading this late.”
Geralt would be proud, the words appeared slowly, as if in confusion.
“I know, but it’s night out here.”
Very well. This was a conversation Bohemas and the book had often, for it wasn’t entirely sentient. With that done, the boy pulled a nearby candle in closer, so as to better read. He flipped through the pages in wonder as words appeared on them in bright blue, showing illustrations of magical beings and telling him tidbits. Since he could hear the ocean nearby, that was what Bohemas focused on.
Moltensores swam up from the depths to fight against whalers, and they had silver fins which were discarded and replaced after each attack. Their screams sounded like angry men, and they enjoyed eating seaweeds.
Mullen were ancient fairies who had the ability to keep souls in the world after their hosts died, and were worshipped by many, although a glimpse of their golden glow was rare. They were nomads, like him and his father, travelling across the oceans to seek new lands.
Satyrs were goat men with bushy beards, and were enamored with music and naval travel. They always made friends with any groups of four children, especially if they came from magical closets.
With that information, drowsiness began to overtake Bohemas, and the boy noticed that his reading candle had almost burnt to the base. A small bit of wick was left, but wax filled the little saucer the candle had been placed on. He rubbed at his eyes and sniffed once more, knowing that the bunkle’s minty relief was short lived.
Bohemas bid the book, Mathilda, a good night and tiptoed his way back upstairs to his room, which had earlier belonged to the snoring old lady’s youngest son. That son was a man in his own right, and had moved away, she’d told them wistfully.
Bohemas wished the young man would come visit his mother more often. Geralt’s youth and strong muscles remained unfazed, but Bohemas had begun to notice gray hairs cropping up here and there on his father’s long black mane. As the boy curled up into his musty bed and pulled a quilt over himself, he imagined taking care of a much older man and drifted off.
A few weeks later, Bohemas strolled along the sandy, pebble strewn beach. This particular pocket stretch of sand was only inhabited by the old lady and her stout cottage. It was why Geralt had agreed to seek shelter with her, for the gypsy witch preferred to avoid crowded places.
Bohemas found quiet whilst looking for seashells suitable for magical rituals. He walked along the wet sand, thinking about little nothings.
The shells he sought would have seventeen ridges, and would transition from white to pink at the end. Those were the best, he knew.
Bohemas could see his father in front of the cabin in the distance, chopping wood in his brown cloak. His leather boots and gloves had white runes scribbled upon them, and the strong yet thin man wore many necklaces, each serving a magical purpose.
As Geralt noticed his son looking at him, he waved his staff at Bohemas in a threatening manner. Bohemas laughed, for his father was making fun of King Metas’ representative, whom the witch had scared off a while back. The man had told them their presence in his liege’s kingdom was a curse, and that they had to leave. Geralt had threatened him with his staff, which he could use along with a sword to devastating effect. They’d made fun of him all week.
As Bohemas walked along the beach, he let his mind soak in the details: The grey sky above acted like a canvas, for clouds interlaced and created patterns on it. A chill bit into his skin in the most welcome way, and coarse sand mingled with the intermittent pokes of stone. Waves roiled to his right, foamy crests racing towards him. His nose seemed to be on one of its foul moods, but Bohemas didn’t mind too much, for the salty air brought peace with it.
The boy and his father had gone through many lands during their wanderings: Forests, towns, sinking plains and reaching mountains. Nothing had left an impression on Bohemas like the ocean, for it was vast and moody yet still kind. He pushed a strand of black hair away from his eyes, gathering his blue cloak around himself against the cold as he kept the search for shells.
Just then, Bohemas heard a shout. He looked ahead, and saw his father wave to him. “Bohemas! Come here!” he roared. Geralt’s voice was usually calm and buttery. Hearing such an edge to it caused Bohemas to break into an immediate run towards him.
Brown shod feet thudded against the sand as he went to his father, who had an urgent look on his clean-shaven face. Normally clear brown eyes looked muddy at that moment, and he immediately took his son by the hand, pulling him along.
“What’s wrong, dad?”
“Everything, everything,” Geralt murmured, the other hand holding on to one of his necklaces, one of a spiral shaped rock. He paused for a second in front of the cabin door, and Bohemas knew his father was listening to the future’s uncertain whispers. “Damn,” he cursed finally before opening the door roughly.
Directly inside was the kitchen. The old lady stood startled by the table, in the middle of cutting some carrots. “Ma’am,” started Geralt politely as she wiped her hands on a dirty apron, “I’m sorry, but trouble is brewing, and it isn’t in your stew. I leave you all the gold in my bags. Please hide that book under the floorboards, along with the rest of my artefacts and scrolls. That one is the most important, so wrap it in something to keep the mold away.” He pointed at Mathilda, the brown tome. “My son will be taking your boat. Thank you.”
Without another word he went to a corner, buckled his shortsword on, took a satchel filled with magical artefacts, and pulled Bohemas by the hand out the cabin. He turned only to bow and close the door.
“Dad, what’s happening?” the boy asked, alarmed. His father had always been supremely confident. Such behavior was unlike him.
“I underestimated King Metas and his hate. Maybe fear; I can’t tell the difference. He is bringing soldiers to kill us.”
“But you can take care of it, right?” Bohemas asked nervously.
“Not with that many,” replied Geralt. “I am a witch, my boy. A healer, dabbler in potions and spells. This many soldiers are beyond me. Now listen!”
“Listen! I love you. I am proud of you. What does that make you feel?”
“I-“ They stood by the shore, next to an old creaky boat. Sluggishly, Bohemas thought it might fit two. Thunder roared, and the boy looked behind to see dark clouds in the horizon behind them. Lightning danced its chaos. “I feel good.”
Geralt said, “Excellent. Warm? Happy? Kind?” The boy nodded, and Geralt gripped his shoulders tightly, brown eyes glistening. “I will put you on that boat and send you into the ocean, alone.” At that, Bohemas felt his stomach flip.
The boy kept his eyes focused on his Geralt’s many necklaces: A spiral, a silver chain, beads, rune carrying stones. They struck one another. Bohemas could hear galloping horses in the distance while his father spoke. “I want you to keep that warmth in you. The ocean is vast and uncaring. It is a conduit to despair. Fear can freeze a man, numbness can take his heart, and anger can burn it. There are a thousand things that will smash against you, my boy, but that warmth can keep you safe. It is love, like I had for your mother, ma- never mind,” the man shook his head. “Keep the warmth of love in you. I love you, my child, and that is the ultimate secret of the world.”
“I love you too, dad,” Bohemas heard himself say. He was surprised to hear how calm his voice was, but his father nodded approval. Still speaking, the man pulled out the boat, pushed it into the water, and put his son inside, along with a bag filled with food.
“To be loved is to acquire strength, and to love others is to master it. You will lose nothing by giving that emotion, even if you were to direct it at the whole world. If you survive, come back here and claim your inheritance. Good bye, my boy. We won’t meet again.”
With that, Geralt pushed the boat into the waves, and Bohemas noticed a small doll placed in with him. The boat began moving against the tide, as if drawn away.
Bohemas thought of all the things he could say. It terrified him to be away from his father. During all of their travels, the only constant had been Geralt. There had been no home, nor family, nor constant friends. He was a leaf on a stream. Fear gripped his heart, but the warmth kept it at bay.
“Try to stay alive!” Bohemas shouted to Geralt, and the man laughed long and true.
“Aye,” he replied, waving his staff just as horses appeared above the small grassy cliff beyond the beach. There were perhaps fifty riders, all dressed like soldiers and wearing black and yellow colors at the elbows and on their banners. Geralt turned to face them, and Bohemas sat down in his moving boat, pulled away from his parent.
An old, crown wearing man with a bald head and a blonde beard sat on a massive horse. “My newborn son died because of you,” Bohemas heard the man say.
“King Metas, I assume. I’m a healer, not a murderer,” replied Geralt, and the boy’s face flushed.
The king spat, “Lies! A noble’s advisor warned me of you… soldiers, get him.” With that, the man sat back, and his next words were lost to Bohemas as his boat was rocked by increasingly violent waves. The boy held on to the boat’s rough sides so hard that splinters went into his hands. Lightning flared and wind roared.
As he watched, Geralt drew his short sword to face off against the soldiers, who grimaced at him. He threw a vial against the ground and it shattered. Geralt then ran towards his would be assailants as brown flames leapt across the wet, stone riddled sand with staff in one hand and sword in the other. His unorthodox, rogue style of fighting was valiant, all stabs and spins, and Bohemas cheered for his father in his heart.
He slashed at one soldier, blocked the other’s strike with his staff, and then blew magical dust into a third man’s eyes. The gypsy then twirled away, gesturing with the staff as two more men fell to the ground. Just then, a strike went past his guard, biting deeply into his ribs. The man’s gloved hand went to his side, but he fought with the other, taking two more foes down. Finally, one man waved the others away and managed to cut Geralt down with a rapier. Bohemas cried out in dismay.
Despite being a distance away, the soldiers heard the cry, and in horror the boy saw them begin to load crossbows in his direction. Waves rocked Bohemas from side to side as the first few projectiles flew towards him, landing harmlessly around him.
The boy drew his blue cloak about himself as if in protection. He did not know the spells needed to harden the material, and so simply cowered in the rain and the wind, fearful for his life. Fear ate at him, and anger burned his heart. Bile rose up his throat, and his stomach churned as the cold rain poured onto him. He could feel the thuds of arrows striking his boat as it went out to sea, but the boy’s hearing was taken by thunder. He felt like child curled under a blanket, sheltering from the monsters.
Still the arrows came, and on the third volley he felt two bite deeply into his shoulder and side. The boy yelled his pain, leaping from under his cloak out into the black maelstrom of rain and wind. Just then, an unfortunate wave struck the boat and it capsized, sending the boy into the freezing, almost greenish depths.
Saltwater entered his mouth, and Bohemas tried to swim to the surface. Pain blossomed in his shoulder, preventing such attempts. He could see the pitter patterns of rain on the water above him, and then flashes, and the grey sky. Still Bohemas sunk down into the depths. Despair and anger battered each other within him as the cold dulled his senses.
Geralt was dead. There was no pillar to stand on. He was about to die too, betrayed and struck down. Why had they saved so many people? None of them had helped.
Ice and fire fought for Bohemas and his heart. Nausea filled him, but still the boy felt something else inside as he sank deeper and watched the fearsome beauty of nature above him.
Geralt had loved him. That warmth still remained, and the boy couldn’t bring himself to hate anyone. He wished King Metas had held as much love for others in his heart as for himself.
Beyond the ripples of rain on ocean, the roiling of foamy waves, Bohemas suddenly saw something strange. They were golden glimmers, shooting across his vision. As he watched, one of the glows stopped, and the boy felt a lurch. He felt himself rising above his own body upwards until he broke the surface and floated above it, suspended before a golden woman.
She was made entirely of light, but her eyes were pitch black irises with no white. She stood on the water as if there was no storm nor waves. Behind her, other golden forms were skipping playfully eastward, making what Bohemas knew was a nomadic voyage. These are Mullen, he thought, the ones who can keep the dead alive.
“Correct,” the mullen said with a smile.
One of her companions stopped too, looking back at his friend. “Circe? Are you going to save that child?”
“I think so,” she called. “He has such purity. Look, Sozil.” Both mullen went quiet, and then the other laughed.
Sozil said, “He does. That’s impressive. Alright then. We’ll see you in the next continent. Be careful after you transfer, it’s cold out. Maybe use the cabin over there for a few days.” Without another word, the other mullen left, skipping off after his far off friends in leaping bounds. She’ll use the lady’s cabin? thought Bohemas.
“I will,” said the mullen. “I see you’ve lived there. I shall leave a note for you. A short letter telling you this is real. We mullen, as you call us, cannot bring one back to life. However, we can inject one’s soul into a different, recently diseased subject. There is a suitable one nearby, and I like you. If it’s you, my child, your life will do much good. Close your eyes.”
Bohemas, floating before this golden figure above a roiling stormy ocean, knew there was little he could do but obey. He hoped for the best and closed his eyes.
“…and open. Goodnight and good luck, darling.”
Bohemas opened his eyes only to find himself lying in a comfortable bed with something white draped over it. He could hear people crying and murmuring sadly. The boy listened cautiously for a few seconds, but then his curiosity became too strong. He tried to lift his hand and remove the cover over him, only to find that moving was incredibly difficult.
At best, he could clutch his fist and move his left arm to the side. What more, the boy was shocked to see how soft and small his hands were. He tried to sit up, but was unable to. Then he tried calling out for help, but was only able to say “aah!”
He heard a gasp from the side, and then the cover was thrown away to reveal a teary eyed woman with a harsh looking face. “Your majesty! Lady Genive,” she exclaimed, “He’s alive!”
In a fuss, people came to look, all overwhelmed by joy. Bohemas had, by then, realized that he’d been reincarnated into a baby’s body. It came as a shock to him, and a part of the boy wondered if everything was quite real.
The child was carried around what looked like castle, until he was placed in the hands of a sickly, blonde haired woman who lay on an enormous bed. Her face was freckled, but the gladness in her tired expression warmed him up.
“I am so happy to see you,” she said, “my boy, Aldren! Your father will be thrilled. He thought you’d been cursed to die.”
In about an hour, there was another cacophony of noises. Bohemas, who’d been reflecting on the day’s terrible happenings in his mother’s arms and began to feel a baby’s natural drowsiness come over him, was startled by the sound of heavy, armored footsteps. Genive rocked him.
“Don’t worry, my sweet Aldren, it’s just your father. Here, my husband, take him.” Bohemas could not look around, and so was forced to wait in nervous anticipation for this new man’s arrival. He didn’t want another father, other than Geralt.
Then he was lifted and turned to face the man. “You!” he tried to scream, but was only able to gurgle.
“My boy,” said King Metas, kindness apparent in his blue eyes, “I had despaired of your life!” He was in armor, a black cape sat on his shoulders fastened by a golden chain. The man looked tall and strong, but the murderer had let others strike Geralt down like a coward.
Bohemas attempted to fly at the man’s neck. Fury was his ally, but he could do little. In the end, Bohemas settled for bellowing his anger in what appeared to be a normal child’s cry.
“Aww, poor thing,” chuckled the man. “He must be hungry. Coming back from old man scythe can do that to you. You’ll make a fine warrior king, my son.”
The next month of Bohemas’ life was terrible. He retained all the knowledge and memories of his past life, but was stuck in a baby prince’s body. As Aldren, he needed to re-learn how to crawl and roll. He did his very best to cry whenever King Metas was in the room, sending the king away. Due to his inability to summon tears at will, Bohemas was nicknamed “Tearless”. He could not stop himself from nodding off from time to time.
Bohemas found his new life frustrating, and began to understand how a child’s primitive memory could be an advantage. The simple boredom of trying the same thing many times almost drove the boy insane.
When he crawled for the first time, however, Bohemas felt a great sense pride, and Genive almost wept. Soon, she was putting toys in the distance and urging him to crawl across the lavish red rug towards them, only to pull him back. He’d fix her with an angry look whenever that happened, but she’d only laugh happily. Something about it pleased the boy, especially when she then carried him and rocked him to sleep. Genive was a good queen, and cared for him deeply. He was rarely left with the maidens, and her care gave the child comfort.
Bohemas also spent much of his forced free time contemplating things. Thoughtfulness became his constant companion, and the boy felt something in his perceptions change slowly.
One day, King Metas cursed. “Ah, I’ll just stay away,” he raged, “the child won’t stop crying at the sight of me!” At first, this small victory brought the youth a measure of relief, but it gave way to pity at seeing the bald headed man’s hurt features. Bohemas couldn’t bring himself to hate the man, and so he eventually allowed the king to be in the room and even hold him on especially good days.
And so slowly the boy grew. Learning to speak was easy, once his tongue wrapped itself around the motions, but he pretended to advance only at a slightly faster pace than usual. Bohemas began to run around the stone corridors into the king’s throne and halls.
Usually, an older maid by the name of Telly accompanied him, for Queen Genive was sickly. The maid’s face seemed to prefer the mold of a grimace, but she was kind enough, and especially good at singing nursery rhymes. He would sit in her arms next to the throne and watch King Metas bring pride to his yellow and black banner.
It came as a shock to Bohemas to discover that king Metas was a fair if ignorant ruler. The large man found it difficult to truly appreciate hardship, Bohemas thought, but the king tried to be as kind as possible.
Taxes saw regular decreases as the man scratched at his golden beard, thinking hard about farming methods. He added bridges, gave farmers the means to buy better equipment, and even hired scholars to invent better fishing techniques in tandem with those workers living by the coast. There were no new wars, and people grew relatively content, if not outright happy.
Still, King Metas believed royalty were special, and so his castle grew more lavish each year. New yellow rugs were brought from the north. Banners flew high and parties were thrown for the nobles.
Bohemas was six at one particular party, where he was paraded in a navy blue suit by Genive. He listened to people as he walked unnoticed, and realized that the kingdom would belong to the nobles after Metas died.
He was introduced to one noblewoman just as she was telling her companion something sinister about peasants. The boy resolved to offend her.
When the child managed to annoy enough nobles for him to be rushed off, he was handed to Telly. As they walked out of the extravagant ballroom, the boy felt something strange. He made a spyglass with his hand and looked through it, straining against Telly’s pull, for he’d kept up with his training. Bohemas spotted a Jinqs in the hall’s upper left corner, and he winked at it.
Telly took him to the kitchens, where people were hard at work. It was a frantic mess. Cooks scurried to and fro, but the maid left Bohemas to his business, for she knew him to be a remarkably reasonable child.
Bohemas kept out of the way, mostly, although he and one of the cook’s sons played a game called “hide the onion”. Bohemas tried not to win against Tem every time.
When he was sent off to his room, Bohemas sat on the edge of his bed in the darkness as moonlight streamed through the window to his right. He focused hard on his astral form. After a few heavy breaths, he snapped his ring fingers three times, sending the sound’s spirit as far as it could go. Within a few seconds, a poof of smoke emerged next to him, and out of it coughed the Jinqs, giggling quietly.
Jinqses were mischievous beings. They stood at about knee height, and were entirely black, except for large white grins and pale round eyes. This one waved its long, sharp fingers at Bohemas. The boy said, “Hello, sir. I hope you’ve been having a good night?”
The creature nodded and laughed. It tried to tell him something, but Bohemas shook his head. “I’m afraid I mostly only speak Pegasus and unicorn, although my night-marish is passable.”
It shook its head, sitting on the ground.
“I’m sorry to hear that, but it’s alright. I just need a small favor. I think the lady I made fun of at the party is planning something terrible. Do you remember her? Oh, good. Then, if I’m right, can you please show it to the king in a dream?”
The jinqs nodded, still bathed in moonlight. It then cocked its head to the side, and Bohemas understood its question.
“I remember that your kind likes, oh heavens, what was it? Apples? Carrots?” The jinqs nodded at the second. “I will tell the cooks to bake a carrot cake each day for a week. Deal?”
It rose, laughing manically. Bohemas thought such mirth was rather excessive for the prospect of carrot cake.
The next day, Lady Malide was put in prison. She confessed to conspiring against the crown, and the incident led to the capture of many of her co-conspirators, who were trying to whip farmers into revolting. Bohemas was satisfied and went playing with Genive in the wide gardens that day, where they ate carrot cake, and he crumbled some by the large orange tree.
The next year, Bohemas began to take formal classes. These ranged from arts to sciences. He even started fencing lessons with a strange old man who wore his hair to the small of his back. The man taught Bohemas the standard royal duel style with rapiers, but said, “Your own tendancies seem to be unorthodox, prince Tearless.”
His science mentor was particularly impressed with his skills in herbology and potion making. “Such raw talent,” the man had exclaimed. “Could have been taught by a potion maker, you could have!” Moreover, teachers praised his grasp of geography and logic.
Despite his generally terrible memory, Bohemas never forgot his origins. No matter what prince Aldren learned, the boy knew he would be the same old Bohemas underneath it all. He lived his life in anticipation, building on the craft his father had taught him while still taking the good from his new life. He became well-loved in the castle for his kindness and intelligence, although there could be no doubt that the young prince Aldren could be eccentric. For one, he was exceptionally kind to those beneath him, as if he were a commoner himself. Also, he had a habit of sniffing, as if he had a perpetual cold.
Out of everyone’s sight, Bohemas would befriend magical creatures wherever he found them. One time he even saw a unicorn by the gardens, and for once was able to have a conversation. That week, King Metas had complained about his joints, and so Bohemas received a gift from the unicorn: a single hair. “Slip that into some of his food while the cooks are working. As long it stays in for a minute, he should feel better.”
“Thank you, oh wise sir,” Bohemas had replied, tapping his feet onto the ground to emphasize his thanks. In exchange for the hair, the unicorn asked him to scratch its flank, which the youth found strange.
“Only a certain kind of person can treat a unicorn’s itch,” it explained, “so it’s actually quite rare, even for those who know how to see.”
A few years afterwards, tragedy struck, for King Metas fell terribly ill along with his wife. Doctors and wizards tried their best to heal them, but it was to little avail. Even Bohemas was called on to assist, for his herb lore was well respected in the castle. As he looked the king and queen over, the boy sighed in sadness. “We can’t do anything,” he concluded.
One day, the youth was called to his liege’s quarters. Fourteen years after Aldren’s birth, king Metas owned a beard nearly grey, for he and the queen had tried for years before that single success. During that time, they’d lost love but remained civil.
Metas’ previously strong form had withered with illness, and Bohemas pitied him. “Come closer, Aldren,” he bade in a weak voice. Bohemas complied, inching closer towards the large bed. Sunlight came in through a window behind the man’s lying form.
“I cannot pretend to understand what kept us from becoming as I wish, my child,” the man said, and Bohemas’ throat constricted. He’d long forgiven his father’s killer, but was never able to see him as a replacement or give him the son he’d wished for. He eyed the weak, bald old man who wheezed before him.
His long time enemy, the man who’d taken his father from him, lay exposed at his mercy. If Bohemas wished it, the youth could break him.
“What kind of king will you be?”
“One who understands the ultimate truth of this world.” Bohemas’ voice held iron in it, and before the king could ask, he pressed on, “To be loved is to acquire strength, and to give love is to master it. Love will not wane or be divided, even if it were shared with the world. King Metas,” he added softly, trying to ease the old man’s pain, “You may feel weakness and despair. They will batter you, but the ultimate strength is inside you. The warmth is there. Many in this kingdom love you…as do I. Please remember that.” He did not tell him what kind of love it was.
“Thank you, my son.” King Metas’ blue eyes glistened. “I… thank you.”
Bohemas patted the king’s face. Without another word, the boy left the room, feet clicking on stone, and tended to Genive.
Shortly thereafter, the king and queen were moved to the same bed, where they passed on together. Bells and men mourned their passing, and the kingdom hoped for the best from its new, golden haired monarch. Bohemas ordered that his coronation ceremony be small, and that its usual funds go to the poor instead.
A few days later, the new king stood outside a seaside cabin, salty air stinging his nose. A few guards had come with him, but Bohemas told them to wait outside. He knocked on the door, and an old woman opened the door. She looked like she’d snore even worse after fourteen years of aging, and the thought almost made the youth giggle.
“Yes?” she asked.
“You may not recognize me, ma’am, but I am here to pick up the inheritance of Bohemas, son of Geralt.”
“…Don’t know ’em.” She tried to close the door, but Bohemas gently stopped her.
“Ma’am, please. A few weeks before he died, you made a fish stew, and the day afterwards there was an extra bowl to clean.” At that, she let the door a little wider, backing away towards the familiar, messy table. He wasn’t entirely sure if the cauldron sat exactly where he remembered, for it was to his right.
“How did you know that?” she asked, and Bohemas himself wondered at it. Such details should have escaped him.
“I’ve been waiting for fourteen years, ma’am. Anxiously, may I add. It would have been too suspicious if I came here earlier, and princes are generally kept under eyes.”
“Prince?” she asked. “That bastard’s son? He murdered Geralt.”
“And did many good deeds, and apologized. I’m sure the gypsy would have had no issues with the matter. Anyhow,” the king made a hollow fist with his hand and put it at his eye, scoping the kitchen. A strange glowing pattern caught his eye, under a certain floorboard. “Everything is there.” Bohemas pointed. “May I go get it?”
“Ah, fine. I don’t understand it all, but you can have the things. Something tells me I should let you.” With that, the woman went upstairs, crying, “And put the boards back afterwards.
Bohemas pried away the floorboard to find scrolls, runes on stones, and a telescope beneath. Off to the side, he found his father’s cloak, staff, and rune-carrying leather gloves and shoes. Lastly, he found a faded leather tome, its spine bound in bright twine. That one he took to the table, cracking it open with sweaty palms. Within was a note that simply said:
It was all real.
The king removed that paper to reveal the book’s beginning pages. At first, nothing happened, then bright blue writing began to appear. Greetings, Bohemas, It has been long.
“Hello, Mathilda,” he replied in a shaky voice.
You are to be king?
“Yes. A king of love and kindness.”
Geralt would be proud.
The king put on his father’s rune- carrying leather gloves and boots, hoping they didn’t look too strange with plate armor. He thought about getting a brown, high crowned wide brimmed hat and placing his crown on it. He placed the tome under his arm, carried his staff, and left the cabin by the sea. He was ready for his new life.