Chapter One - Prince (a)
There is one thing I have in mind: FREEDOM.
The freedom of speech, of expression. To be able to enjoy life as it is; to meet interesting people. Most importantly, the freedom to love. Freedom of finding someone you want to be with for the rest of your life. To be able to marry the one you desire.
Unfortunately, the hope of finding love is considered a luxury.
As the sole heir to the kingdom of the Western Wind, I have everything a person could possibly ask for. Yet, my life is my own prison and one of the things that keeps me shackled is my marriage arrangement. Somehow, I’ve learned to accept the standards of living the kind of life I was given. However, not a single day has passed that I wished I could marry the person I’m supposed to fall in love with.
The reason why I’m in an arranged marriage is for an alliance with the kingdom of Middle Earth. My marriage to their princess was considered the best way to show the world that our kingdom is growing; something to watch out for.
Marrying an absolute stranger isn’t the worst part of it all. Although we’re arranged to be wed, we have yet to meet. Our too-traditional parents agreed not to let us see each other until the official announcement of our highly-anticipated engagement. They said it’s to challenge our patience and loyalty to one another.
We’ve been sending both friendly and formal letters to one another and through her words, she seemed sweet, kind, a gentle soul. Despite all that, I can’t stop asking and thinking: could her beautiful tone be the same as her face?
I’m not the type of person who bases another’s true colors through their physical attributes, especially in one’s way of writing a letter. But as a future king, marrying a hideous queen would be embarrassing, don’t you think? Most especially when the realm of Immortals will be expecting an heir.
Finally, at the age of twenty thousand years, marriage hasn’t crossed my mind.
My ocean of thoughts was disturbed when someone knocked on my door.
“Who is it?” I asked as I sat up on my humongous bed.
My page entered and bowed. “It’s Sir Gonzalo, Your Highness.”
“Let him in.”
My page nodded and fetched for Gonzalo. I’m not quite sure what Gonzalo’s role is in the castle. He does almost everything from entertaining guests to handling my needs. My father has instructed him to focus on me for reasons unknown.
Gonzalo finally entered my well-lit yet silent room and walked directly towards me. My room was never in a mess because I made it a rule to myself and to the servants that having an unruly room isn’t pleasing to the eye of anyone. An untidy room doesn’t help me think clearly as well and I need to have a clear mind all the time. He stood by the foot of my bed, bowing as he greeted, “Good morning, Your Highness.”
“Good morning to you too, Gonzalo,” I nodded slowly.
“Your breakfast is ready, young prince.”
“I would like to have my food brought up here as we usually do,” I stood up from my bed. “I have a lot of reports to go through and I need to do, somehow, half of them today.”
Gonzalo replied, “Forgive me, Your Highness, but I’m not allowed to do that.”
“What do you mean?” my brows furrowed.
“Her Royal Majesty has requested your presence,” Gonzalo answered. “She said she would want you to join them for a family breakfast. She has forbidden us to deliver food outside the kitchen and dining hall.”
“Gonzalo, you do know you can always use the dumb-waiters in the kitchen to bring food up to my room. My mother wouldn’t even concern herself with them,” I smirked.
“Unfortunately, His Majesty has guards placed by every dumb-waiter for Her Majesty’s request,” Gonzalo explained with care.
I let out a sigh as I shook my head. “They’re forcing me to go downstairs, aren’t they?” my mood shifted.
Please don’t be mad at me, Your Highness,” Gonzalo immediately bowed his head, his hands stiff by his sides. “I am only following orders.”
“I’m not angry with you, Gonzalo,” I reassured him as I settled myself on my lounge chair. “Please tell them that I’ll be joining them in a while.”
“Of course, Your Highness,” he bowed.
“Thank you. You may go,” I let out a nod.
He bowed once more and went on his way.
Most of the time, my parents would leave me alone since His Majesty implemented independence in the castle. However, once my mother gets involved, they expertly work my nerves. As much as possible, I don’t want to see them when I’m not in good shape - both physically and emotionally — for I fear that I could lose my sense of respect for them.
I arose with a sigh and started to prepare for breakfast.
“Elizabeth, I’d like for you to go with your mother to her activities today. After all, it’s her responsibilities that you should be learning from,” I heard His Majesty speak to my sister as I put an ear at the wooden door of the dining hall. This habit of eavesdropping is something that I often did to gauge the kind of atmosphere that I’m about to get myself into.
“I’d be more than happy to do that, Your Majesty,” my sister replied with her usual cheerful, soft voice. “It would be wonderful if we could spend more time together.”
“Focus on what you can learn, not on the pleasures involved,” his tone became firmer, immediately dismissing her tone of hope, of delight.
Mother inserted herself into the conversation, “James, let’s not overwhelm them with matters of the crown. They’re still young, after all. There’s plenty of time for them to learn.”
“Amelia, sooner or later, they’ll be stepping into our shoes as ruling monarchs in their own rights,” His Majesty — James — contradicted Mother’s statement. “They need to learn how to handle their future obligations.”
I stepped away from the door as I’ve heard quite enough to know what kind of mood will be welcoming me this morning. I turned to face the guard on my right. “I would like to be announced.”
He nodded and began after clearing his throat, “His Royal Highness, Prince Robert Edward Dex.”
The doors swiftly swung open as my name was announced. As I made my less than grand entrance into the room, the delicious aroma of food greeted me, the sun radiated through the tall windows. The heavy, red curtains were moved to the side, giving way for the natural light to enlighten the dining hall. Even if James was in this room, the dining hall was giving off a happy ambiance. The reason could be because of my mother’s gentle soul. She always seemed to carry kindness and gentleness on herself.
“Good morning, Robert,” Mother greeted me with her radiant smile as I dragged my feet as I approached her.
“Good morning, Mother,” I placed a gentle kiss on her forehead when I reached her.
I then promptly addressed my sister who was sitting one chair apart from her. “Hello and good morning, little brother.” I pecked her cheek.
“A lovely morning to you, my Elizabeth,” I replied as I sat in between Mother and her.
“You’re late, Robert. I wonder what the reason is,” James entered our lighthearted conversation with an icy approach towards me. This is the reason why I always hated being in the same space as him. Peace becomes some sort of myth whenever we’re near one another.
“Good morning to you as well, James,” I retorted as I started to dig into my plate, ignoring his rhetorical question. Calling James by his name was part of the norm within our family dynamic. He instructed my sister and I never to call him by any salutation that can label him as a father figure. He explained that he will be gone someday, and he wants us to be independent at all times.
Isn’t that just the best example of being a father?
“A future king shouldn’t take long in preparing himself for any kind of meal or celebration,” he continued with his harsh approach, his tone got firmer. “What took you so long to look decent for a simple family breakfast?”
“James, dear. It’s breakfast...” Mother intervened with caution.
“What does that have to do with everything?” he answered Mother, sarcasm in his delivery.
“Darling, why don’t we have a peaceful feast together?” she responded, still being the gracious woman that she is.
“Not after I discipline your son,” he answered, looking directly at me.
I threw my utensils down on the velvet-covered table. “Mother,” I stood up as I wiped my face with my napkin, frustrated on how everything turned out. “I’m not finishing my food.” I then settled the napkin on my plate that still contained the remaining food from my meal.
“Sit down, Robert,” James ordered.
“You’re not my father,” I said as I looked directly into his eyes. “You were never and you never will be.” I stormed away from my chair and started to make my way to the door.
“How dare you disrespect me!” he shouted with blazing fury as I heard another chair move which was probably his. “I’m the head of this family! I am your father!” he shouted to shout his claims up to the high heavens.
“When were you a father to me? To Elizabeth?” I asked, not even bothering to turn around.
“I’m a Dex and so are you. Thus, you should start acting like one,” he replied, frustration could be heard from his tone.
“I’ll start acting like a part of this family if you start treating us like your family,” I answered. “We’re not your servants that you can just give orders to and expect a specific outcome whenever you want.”
Silence arrived in the dining hall and James didn’t say another word. I let out a deep sigh and left the room, heading back to my room.
Ah, the slow, gentle morning breeze always has a soothing feeling when it caresses my face. This is why I love spending time here on my balcony. Its space is wide enough for me to walk around and think clearly. Beautiful vases with fragrant flowers added color to its bland, gray cement. It calms my mind and helps me forget about stressful matters... such as James.
A soft knock came upon my door. “Who is it?” I asked without turning around.
When the door creaked open, fast-paced footsteps approached me. “Your Highness,” my page spoke from behind. “Princess Elizabeth is here to see you.”
I faced him as I heard my sister’s name. “Please send her in.”
He bowed and rushed to the door. My sister has always been welcomed in my room or my study. No matter what kind of concern she has, I never closed my door on her. A few moments later, Elizabeth appeared before my sight.
“Is this a bad time to visit, young brother?” she asked with a soothing voice as she walked towards me, her hands folded in front of her elaborate skirt, fashioned with frills that lead from the torso down to the hem of the dress. Elizabeth has never failed to dazzle and catch the attention of various men in the court. She never shied away from the glamour of the court.
I, on the other hand, have always been content on how I present myself. During the usual days, I would let my brown, wavy hair free as a contrast to a stretched and firm hair whenever a ball is being held in the castle. I would prefer to wear loose shirts that my mother has made over the posh and overdone suits that’s needed for festivities.