Chapter Two- cont.
His father patted him on the head and smiled magnanimously. After all, they were in public. The show had ended and a new one had begun. During this show, the prince was still the center of attention; however, he had a contender, an opponent: his father. The catch? If one outdid the other, the show would fall to ruin and punishment was sure to follow for the young lad.
The prince was the only child bestowed upon the King of the East and was considered a national treasure, any subject of the East would die for him, some would even kill for him, but they would all protect him in the name of the King. Ah, and there’s the rub, the unfortunate condition.
Even if the prince was always the center of attention in a room or crowd, the King had the power to disperse the crowd. The King could take all of that away and lock the Prince in his room for eternity. The King was the epitome of truth and virtue in his people’s eyes. He was absolute. That was the thought that scared the prince the most: the King is absolute.
The King and a collection of nobles from smaller, inferior nations had been chatting away, talking without really saying anything, as per usual.
A gold dressed fat man, most presumably from the moderated Egyptian reserve, asked, “How’s the wife?”
“Still ill, I’m afraid,” his father would reply.
Another man, seeming to be from the French-Portugese reserve asked, “Your mines seem to never run out of resources! How do you do it?”
The prince knew the answer to this. He knew exactly what his father would say, “I’ll tell you, friend! I tell you, it’s all about location, location, location!”
“Did you hear about the heretic?”
Oh, this would be interesting.
“What an idiot. He must’ve known that the King’s law is absolute!”
Great, a bootlicker. Dad’s gonna love that.
“What did you do to him?”
Hm, his father would joke about the execution to assert his power.
“I beheaded him, of course!” Yup. And, of course, they all had a jolly good laughing fit at that.
The prince took his seat on the carpet and begin eating, he was late. He was also disgusted. These men were all silently competing, trying to shame the other in front of his father and trying to claim that each was more prosperous and respected than the other. It was entirely futile. Just by being present, his father had beat them all. There was just something about his demeanor and, the prince thought, it was not to be admired.
They’d never see the King’s true colors.
That ate away at the prince. His mother was not ill, she was dead. The mines were not limitless, they were stolen and the miners enslaved. The people were poor from the King’s taxes, they were starving and suffering, yet they would do anything in the name of the King. The prince began to sneer at his plate, anger rising from the pit in his stomach. It wasn’t a heretic that was murdered by his father. It was a man, a living being, who was standing up for his family. His father had laughed at that, scoffing at the poor man’s enthusiasm for family, as though such deep, unconditional love could exist. As if love itself didn’t exist.
The prince knew that it wouldn’t for him, ever, because of his place in life, beside his ruthless King. He thought back to a time when his father wasn’t so ruthless. Back to when his mother was a live, to when they would talk walks in the garden and father would play his flute, to when they would visit the peasants and bring them gifts. Back to before, when conquest wasn’t the goal and mother was alive. When mother was alive. When he felt loved.
He couldn’t take it anymore, the jibes, the lies, the forced laughter. His palms slammed on the table as he stood, more to release his anger than to make a statement.
Unfortunately, however, it didn’t go unnoticed. His eyes widened. The prince realized he’d made a fatal mistake.
His father turned to him, feigned concern, tenderly ruffled his hair, and asked the prince, “Son, are you alright?” His father gripped his arm tightly, most likely leaving a bruise. The gesture seemed to be a way for his father to say, “You’d better answer appropriately if you value your life.”
“Of course, father. I suppose I just need some air,” he acted meek and politely blushed, dissembling deference and reservation. Hopefully, the nobles would think the outburst was just exhaustion seeping through.
The prince exited the tent, fearing the night he had loved just moments before.