Laughter filled the halls as two children dashed through, wooden dragons in hand. Phil and Corey had no cares in the world as they flew their toys around in the air, only the smash into each other with louder laughter. The two finally collapsed into a pile of giggles as they exhausted themselves. Their youthful chatter was boastful and imaginative, and soon enough, they had their second wind.
From a nearby study, a father smiled as he listened to their shouts of glee. He looked down at the boring work required of a king. With an unhappy sigh, he returned to his task. He felt that he never had time to be a part of his son’s life of late. So many petitions to decide upon, and so many nobles breathing down his neck, waiting for him to die of sheer dullness so that they could pay off a regent’s favor.
He returned to his dull work, and it felt like only hours before a servant came to tattle on the boys. They were rolling in the hay of the storage barn with maids. He felt old as he looked down at the two adolescents, who grinned shamelessly. He knew a beating would be ineffective. He took them both by the shoulder and instead sought out the maid in question.
“Boys, look this beautiful woman in the eye.” he urged. “Now, tell her how you will care for a child, if your activities with her happen to bring one about.
The boys began to sweat as their minds frantically searched for a solution.
Prince Corey finally looked away after several moments of agony. Phil kept the girl’s eyes locked in his own as he finally spoke.
“I don’t know.” he answered, his tone helpless. “I’m sorry.” he managed.
The girl simply smiled. She was simple-minded, and a common enough target for boys because of her beauty. “It’s ok, Phillie.” she urged with a carefree voice. “I will take a potion that makes babies go away before they are born.”
Corey’s face shot up. Horror was etched into his face. “I… No!” he shouted. “I… Father, don’t let her do that!”
“Why not? It is her body.” The king answered. “Should she really be subject to the rigors of pregnancy and lose her job because two idiots decided to bed her?”
Corey’s head dropped again. “But… there are families who have no children.”
“And so they will remain. You and your friend have created a child in this way, and the child will die before it sees the sun.” He frowned. As much as he did not like it, it was the way of the world, and this punishment would be far more effective than a beating.
From that moment on, he set aside a few papers every day, and instead spent time with his son and Phil. They were more somber after their shaming, but it put steel in their spines. Corey was more careful in how he treated people, and Phil became a very brave lad. He often went to the local chapel to pray for guidance, and came out resolute.
Both boys were becoming far more than men. They were becoming true nobility. Corey was a true diplomat. He thought not only of his own needs, but those of the crown, the country, and others. Phil stood up to those who treated others unfairly. The king was proud of them, and told them often.
Despite their new-found strengths, both boys avoided the kitchen, where the maid worked.
As the years went on, both men wed, and the king was fortunate enough to witness the birth of three grandsons and a granddaughter before he passed the crown to his son.
On a balmy summer’s day, during King Corellion IV saw someone unusual enter his throne room during an audience. The woman was thin and haggard, and led a child of twelve forward. The child had a direct gaze, and looked the king in the eye. While the woman bowed, the boy did not.
“Rise.” Corey urged, and the woman rose. There was something unsettling in the boy’s eyes, and he frowned in puzzlement. “What is your wish?” he asked after a few moments.
The boy spoke, rather than the woman. “I wish my birth to be legitimized.” he demanded, his tone even and cold. “I was conceived in a barn by King Corellion and a kitchen maid.”
Corey stared, then looked away. He did not answer for a long time. His own children were being trained specifically to bear the crown, and this boy was not. He could not give him a patent of nobility, either. His mind raced as he thought. He stood and crossed the room. “Let us speak in private, before any decisions are made.” he urged.
The boy stood firm. “No, father. I demand to be kept waiting no longer.”
The king stood before the boy, his back straight as he looked the child in the eye, then looked to the woman. It was not the maid, but someone far older. “Very well. I acknowledge you as my first son. I will ensure your education. You will move in to the childrens’ wing.” He felt a weight settle on his shoulders. “What is your name?”
“My name is Roy.”
The gathered people gasped. Such a name was normally never given to a child, for it usually led to megalomania.
Roy laughed. “My mother thought being named after a king would be grand, although we all know that she was a stupid woman. I will accept any name my father wishes me to have.”
Corellion laughed. The boy was bold, but knew when to back down. “Roy is just fine. You’ve had it this long, haven’t you?” He smiled and extended a hand. “How is your mother?”
“Simple as ever, and quite happy for it. Likely, she is moreso than when you met her, for the potion almost killed her and destroyed her mind. The kitchen staff thought it best to not let it be known, however.
The king sobered. “I will arrange for a doctor to tend to her. He nodded. “Who is this lady by your side?”
Roy sighed. “Mother insisted I not come alone, so grandmother brought me.”
The king nodded, then kissed the old woman’s hand. “Thank you.” he murmured. The old woman blushed. “For now, court is dismissed. I wish to know my firstborn better.”
From beside the throne, the queen sat silently. Her back was rigid, and her face was impassive. Slowly, she rose. “I also wish to know my husband’s first son.” she said, then smiled at the boy, who smiled back.
Once the room was emptied of courtiers and petitioners, the king sighed and led the boy and his wife into his bedroom, through a secret passage. He tossed his crown and cape onto his bed, then looked at the boy who haunted him. “Roy, I will be honest. I don’t know what to do with you. It is my duty as your father to care for you, but your younger siblings have been trained for the throne since birth.” He closed his eyes. “I do not know what sort of education you have. I do not know what alliances you have.” The man frowned.
Silence reigned for several moments before the first born spoke. “Father, I do not want the crown. My grandmother wants it for me. I want to become a soldier.”
Both king and queen were shocked.
“This works perfectly.” the king murmured. “I will put you into the army after I give you an education. If you have talent for it, you will climb through the ranks. Eventually, I want you to serve my son. He will be young, and will need someone strong at his side. I think you two will get along well.” He smiled. “Do you want this?”
The boy looked thoughtful. “Actually… I want to earn my way among the guards.” he decided. “They protect people more, because everything is really peaceful, except for the drunks.” He grinned widely.
“Yes, that will work wonderfully. I expect you to climb high, and to do your grandfather and grandmother proud.” He chuckled, then looked to his wife. “Your thoughts, beloved?”
The woman was beaming with relief. “This is more perfect than I could have wished. Our son gets the throne, and your eldest child will become his right hand, to protect the people. A more poetic and beautiful pair, I cannot imagine. I will introduce him to his siblings.” she offered as she took Roy by the arm and led him away.
Corellion was left alone in his room, and once they were gone, he sank into a chair and trembled. Never before, even in the face of a near-coup, had he experienced such terror.