A thick gloomy essence hung above the five of us. The tension in the air was immense; so much that I was tempted to grab my knife, cut a piece out and swallow it whole. I'd trade any edible substance for the ones placed in front of me. Even grass; it probably wouldn't do my body any good but at least it would taste better. I shouldn't complain though, there are people out there who don't even have food to put on their plate.
We ate dinner in subtle silence as we usually do with a few words spoken here and there. As tradition in the royal family, all able members were to be present for the evening meal. So here we are; my father, the king, at the head of the table, my mother; the queen, who sat to his right. My brother; the high prince, as tradition sat on the kings left. My sister the princess of course sat next to my mother and I sat on my brothers left. This particular dinning table was rectangle. I strongly dislike like rectangular tables, they always end up leaving someone out if there's and odd number; either one at the head of the table or on one of the sides. This time; like all other times that have ever passed, my mother sat at the head with my father, pushing my Siblings to the sides of the table allowing them to face each other and forcing me to stare across at an empty space. Sometimes I imagine I had twin and she would sit in the empty space and kick me under the table. She would look just like me and fancy everything I did. We'd be joined at the hip and would play and study together everyday. When I was younger I had this wild idea that we would get married. Now that I'm older I realize that that's absurd, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.
Unfortunately I do not have a twin, and I'm still stuck in an uncomfortable chair in uncomfortable clothes staring either at a space; because I had already memorized every detail of the tapestries that adorned the walls on either side of the table, or at the disgusting food placed in front of me.
If I had to speak of a single good thing about the food I'd have to say that I'm glad they come in small portions. Evening meals are always composed of one plate with ridiculously small portions that take ridiculously long to eat because whether or not we're with guests we have to eat with patience and dignity; just a fancy way of saying manors.
"Delmus" my father called out my brothers name using his usual strong voice. "How are your biometric studies coming along?"
Turning slightly, my brother; Delmus, spoke clear and precise with a voice that rivaled my fathers in strength, just as it should.
It took a moment for me to collect my thoughts and remember what in the world biometrics was. It was the study of recognizing people by behavior and looks or something like that. That means that Delmus must be learning the faces and battle strategies of our enemy's and allies.
When I drew my focus back to reality the conversation topic had already moved on to my sister's studies. I tried to look past my brother to get a glimpse of my father but it was improper to lean and my brother was just too big. With a little disappointment I settled for admiring my brother's figure; which I often do. He was tall; much taller than me. His sharp features and long nose made any maiden swoon. He was smart and muscular with brown hair tied loosely at the nape of his neck with purple string. His long limbs and straight back make every move he made graceful and elegant. His eyes were soft brown and his ears came to a short point. I wanted to be like him. I knew that I never could be and never would be, but sometimes it's nice to imagine that I was. Though, his burdens are heaver than mine could ever be; carrying our family's honor on his shoulders and the royal name upon his head he must lead our country through thick and thin pointing the way with a sword only as strong and as pure as his own heart.
Lilia; my sister who was twenty-three, sat straight with her stomach barely touching the table. Her hair was jet black and flowed freely down to the middle if her back and gently tickled her sides as she moved. My sister's face greatly resembled that of my mothers, soft smooth skin, grey eyes and long pointy ears. You see, my mother is elven; as are half of the people in our country. This also gave our family an advantage. Each distinguished elven family had their own special power, above that members of the elf race had a higher potency for magic, making it easier for us to learn it. In this world anyone can learn to use magic but it tedious, much time and effort must be put into it for it to become successful, because of this most give up or lose interest.
Unlike my brother, my sister and I were gifted. We inherited most of our genes from or mother and the raw magic that naturally hangs in the air clung around us just as if it wanted to be seen in our presence; me more than my sister. My magic came almost effortlessly and I was able to master many things quickly, though my studies mostly focus on the elements. On the other hand, my sister found many aspects of magic difficult and hard to control, eventually she found an area of work which she fancied; herbs. Till this day she continues to study the different herbs which compose antidotes and poisons, ones that heal the sick and ones that give off pleasant odors and tastes. When ever she's with plants she seems happier than I have ever seen her.
"Ceric" I drew back my attention from the deep reaches of my mind to look up at my father. "And how is your archery?"
"Quite well" though it pained me, I spoke with a lady's softness; A tone much lighter then that of my mother or sister's. It was tradition. I was the youngest so I had the least amount of say in anything, therefor the least amount of authority in my voice.
The title of high prince means that my brother is next in line for the throne. This title is only used when there is more than one prince. It's tradition. I always thought this was troublesome. My brother is currently twenty-six; and still engaged, that would have made him thirteen when I was born. I can not imagine what it'd be like to have to suddenly change titles just because of a un wanted baby boy. That's right, unwanted.
The king and queen had planned on only having one boy and one girl. For royal families this was typical and highly desired; the ideal Nobel family. It was to show that they didn't need many children because they didn't need people to work on the family farm or in mines. A boy to carry on the family name and blood, then a female to marry off to strengthen bonds between business partners, rival families, or if she was graceful enough, to even help raise the families status. My parents had never wanted a second son, but they were blessed with one, and quickly got over the thought of giving me up. I was a royal child; not a child born from a concubine, but one born from the queen. They love me now as much as my brother and sister, but they can no longer execute activities like they did with my older siblings. No special burdens were placed upon me, nor was I given a fiancé at birth like my siblings before me. I am forever to remain tied to this castle. It's tradition.
My disappointment of myself didn't just come from being the unlucky third child; it also came from my appearance. Compared to others I'm very short and thin, I have weak muscles and can barely lift a sword, so my physical training was reduced to other things even though all I really wanted to do was to train with my brother. Unlike my siblings, I had the most elf genes; though I unfortunately got my height from my father, my hair was blonde with natural waves that licked my eyebrows and tickled my short pointy ears. Bright green eyes and soft pale skin completed this horrible look. Personally, I didn't mind it, I thought it looked nice, but that didn't mater. My father had always favored long hair, he said it adds balance to the soul and weighs down your thoughts so you keep you head out of the clouds. He also hated blonde hair, so much it started to hurt his mind and he avoided my mothers touch. Just for him my mother dyed her hair brown with special berries. Before I was born there was an incident that killed my father's brother; my uncle who was also blonde. Ever since then he never liked blonde hair and I've never seen my mother's true hair colour. I would have dyed my hair long ago if I wasn't too young to, apparently these berries will scar your skin if you use it on young ones. So instead I decided to grow it out, till I had a fight with my sister and she cut my hair. She may be nice but she can bite if she wants to. I had to start growing out my hair all over again and now it lies as shag on my head.
After a moment of silence my father declared the end of the evening meal, stood and left the table. As we waited for the king to leave the room; followed by my mother, Delmus noticed the half eaten food in front of me. With concern in his eyes he smiled, leaning down to whisper in my ear.
"You should eat more, maybe you'll grow taller" he teased me. I waited a moment for the sound of our parent's footsteps to disappear.
"Don't tease me" I frowned and pushed him away. Even though he was skinny, my brother had many hidden muscles so instead of pushing him I just pushed myself away. He chucked and leaned his elbow on the table while resting his head upon his hand, watching me. "What?" I questioned the smirk on his face. As Nobles we were never supposed to relax like this at the table, but because either nobody's watching or nobody cares, we can.
"Oh nothing" he blink slowly and watched me with glassy eyes. He once told me that he enjoyed watching my youth-ness, later I found out that wasn't a word. I believe the proper term for this was pedophilia. My sister rolled her eyes at us.
"Well if you're not going to eat the rest of it at least give it to me" my sister held out her hand expecting me to place my dish in it.
"You can actually eat this stuff? Do you even have taste buds?" I gave her a look of disgust, then stood, reaching over the table with effort to place the dish in her awaiting hand. My brother tried to cover his childish laugh with his arm as I sat back down and gave him the skank eye. I didn't have to ask to know what he was laughing at. My arms were too short to reach my sister, there for I had to stand and lean.
"Don't say that Cer. People work very hard to make this food just for us, so don't complain" she chomped down hard; with no manors at all, on her fork full of gunk.
"Don't worry your highness it's quite alright" Nelson, the master chef, walk up to the table surprising me. Quickly and gracefully my brother pulled himself off the table and smiled.
"Thanks for the wonderful meal" Delmus said.
"Well I'm glad you liked that crap" Nelson smiled and Del; my brother, was taken aback by his sudden informality.
Nelson was one of the kindest workers currently employed at the palace. He knew how much I disliked the food specially prepared for the evening meals and always treated me handsomely to a snack after dinner. When ever he had the chance he would speak to me informally; he always said that too much adult behaviour was never healthy for a child. Nelson was a centaur; the top half resembled that of an elf, while the bottom half consisted of four legs and four hooves, your average horse body. He often carried me around on his back so I wasn't in the way and he could still talk to me as he worked in the kitchen.
Picking me up effortlessly under my arms, he gingerly placed me sideways on his back and handed me an apple.
"Now I believe it's time for you two to leave" he addressed my siblings "We wouldn't want you breaking tradition now would we" Nelson placed his hands on his hips while raising his eyebrows at the two young adults. With a smile my brother stood; giving my hair a ruffle he left the dinning room. This was the only time I see my brother. I probably wouldn't see him again till tomorrow evening when we once again gather for a meal.
Looking back to the table I saw my sister bring the plate to her lips while scraping the food into her mouth. Placing the plate gently down, she ungracefully wiped her lips with a napkin, smiled and walked out. Even though it disturbed me I'd have to say that without a doubt my sister is manlier than I am.
I took a large bite of the apple and chewed happily. I watched as many workers flittered in an out gathering dishes and washing tables. Some of the older ladies gave me smiles as they walked by, but the younger ones completely ignored me. Younger servants are always watched to make sure they don't forget there place in society and also to insure they don't mess up. Our servants were not slaves; we didn't believe in slavery, but we had to keep our laws strict so people behaved in front of nobles and to prevent foreign spies from entering the palace, punishment for the servants was to be whipped;. I never liked watching it happen but my father always made me open my eyes. Whippings rarely happened but it always scared the staff to behave and made the new ones stiff around important people. Most times when people break the rules it's never reported. Anyone who sees Nelson talk to me would never report him. His talent is a huge asset to the kitchen and he has such a kind personality; that and he also gives out left over goods to the staff.
"So, what have you been doing lately Cer?" Nelson walked back into the kitchen with me on his back and began measuring out cups of flower. Swallowing I licked my lips and told him of how I had gotten better a shooting arrows. I plucked the stem of the apple off and popped the core in my mouth crunching loudly. Nelson cringed and laughed.
"I don't see how you can eat the core like that" I shrugged and wiped my sticky hands on my pants. "You know if you keep eating all those seeds an apple tree will grow in your stomach" I watched him crack eggs into a wooden bowl, and I swallowed hesitantly. Was he serious? I mean, is it even possible? There's water in your stomach and I've seen a seed grow without soil. No. it's impossible. Right? I thought. I laughed nervously and punched his back lightly.
"Hey I'm not a kid you, uh, pfft don't tease me like that it's, uh…" I stuttered heavily and Nelson cracked up laughing.
"Have no fear Cer, I was only joking" he began to knead dough and my body swayed with his movement. Nelson was so nice to me; I bet he was making me a cherry danish, one of my favourite things after a horrible meal.
I was about to inquire whether or not it was the makings of a cherry danish when a young woman walked into the kitchen carrying a bag of sugar. I watched her place it next to the other bags filled with an assortment of ingredients. She wiped her hands on her apron then placed them on her hips. She was tall and elegant. Her large muscles and tanned skin could be seen as she rolled up her sleeves and began to wash her hands. What intrigued me the most was her unusual red hair. It hung just below her shoulder blades and curled only at the ends.
"Nelson, I brought the sugar. Is there anything else that…" She stopped speaking after she turned and laid her eyes on me. Her curious gaze made the hairs on my neck tingle. I shifted a little so most of my body was behind Nelson's torso; hidden from her gaze. "I didn't know you had a child" her voice dripped with confusion; mostly because she thought I was Nelson's son but I didn't have hooves.
I felt Nelson's muscles tense up underneath me. He paused for a moment and I looked down. Nelson did have a son. Well, he had one. He died of a sickness when he was five; he would have been 12 now; same age as me. Nelson broke the silence and cut off my thoughts about the past.
"He's not my son Cheryl; can't you see the absence of horse parts?" We all laughed at his bad humor. Nelson wasn't part horse; no centaur is, centaur is a race on its own, not half of one thing and part of another. "Let me introduce you to this young boy. Cheryl this is Ceric. Ceric this is Cheryl."
"Hello" she gave me a small wave and smiled. I leaned further behind Nelson.
"Nice to meet you" I whispered using the same tone I had at dinner. To my surprise she blushed and slapped her hands to her cheeks.
"Oh my! You're so adorable! I could just hug you right now! I'm jealous of the girl that will someday be your wife" She gave me a large grin. I blushed and I'm sure my ears turned red. Why would she bring that up? Are all middle aged women like this? Nelson let out a hearty laugh then laughed some more when he looked back and saw my face. He laughed so hard he had to stop kneading dough. "It seems I've embarrassed him" she smiled at me once again.
Nelson cleared his throat and resumed kneading. "Don't worry Cheryl, he's just shy" he lend back to admire his work on the dough. "Cheryl can you please hand me that bowl of cold berry jam" Cheryl quickly strode to the bowl and picked it up.
"Nelson this jam isn't cold" she watched as Nelson frowned.
"Darn. Well it looks like I'm going to have to make something else" as much as I had hoped he was making a cherry danish he wasn't. Then I got an idea. Getting a firm grip on Nelson's back I twisted around and very ungracefully jumped off his back. Carefully I speed walked towards Cheryl; because you're not allowed to run in the kitchen.
Cheryl giggled as I neared her "Ceric you're even cuter up close. How tall are you; four feet?" For a moment I actually considered running back to Nelson. I convinced myself that I was too far gone to turn back and motioned for Cheryl to bring the bowl closer to me; as in lower.
"Here, let me" I said then she leaned down and offered the bowel to me. I let her hold it as a placed my right hand just above the jam.
I called upon the magic with my mind as I have done many times over. Slowly I cooled the air around the bowel. The cold might hurt Cheryl's hands; which were holding the bowl, so I have to control the temperature and be careful; that and I didn't want to freeze the jam completely. Cheryl gasped as soon as she felt the cold roll over her fingers. I watched her eyes widen with surprise and amazement. Water and ice are my favourite elements. I have always enjoyed the shiny crystal like texture of ice and how the cold tingles my skin.
Withdrawing my hand I released the magic and smiled. "There you go. Cooled berry jam"
"Oh Ceric stop being a show off for the lady" Nelson teased me some more.
"Wow that is amazing Ceric. Are you elven?" I nodded at Cheryl's question. I thought it was obvious, maybe she was just making sure.
"Are you human Cheryl?" it was a rude question to ask but I could just blame it on my curiosity.
"Why yes I am. Why do you ask?" I followed her as she handed the bowl of jam to Nelson.
"I was just curious. I have never seen a person with red hair before" She looked generally surprised at this.
"Really?" I nodded. We stood there for a moment; her looking down at me, me looking up at her, Nelson minded his own business but listened intently to our conversation. A sly grin grew on Cheryl's face. "Do you want to touch it?" she crouched down and pulled her long hair in front of her. I inhaled deeply.
"Could I?" She nodded and I gently stroked her hair. It was soft and warm. I had heard of hair being funny colours because of people dying it but I never thought that hair could be naturally red like this. Beforehand I had secretly wanted to touch it but I never thought that I actually would be able to.
I stopped touching it and restrained myself from sniffing it. Cheryl stood smiling at how amused I was with her hair. Nelson chuckled and finally spoke. "Speaking of hair, why isn't yours tied up? Hmm Cheryl?" Cheryl apologized and quickly pulled a hair clip out of her skirt pocket and twisted her hair up. "So Cer, what kind of birthday cake would you like? Carrot cake? Asparagus cake?" I frowned at Nelson's sudden interest in weird cakes.
"Pardon me for answering a question with a question but do you really have to put vegetables and cake together in the same sentence?" Nelson grinned just as I had expected him to do.
"When is your birthday Ceric?" Cheryl had gathered her ingredients and was starting on her own project.
"It's next week" I was happy that she was taking interest in my birthday. Maybe she wanted to come; I would definitely invite her.
"What do you think the king's going to get you?" Nelson never referred to the king as anything other than the king when he spoke to me or anybody else.
I pondered for a moment. I had never really thought of what he might get me. "The king? Does he favour you enough to get you something for your birthday?" Cheryl interjected my thoughts. Favour me enough? What is she talking about?
"Well of course he favours me enough he's my father, why wouldn't he?" I frowned at her and I was sure Nelson shared my expression.
Cheryl stopped her motions and looked up from her work. "You're the Prince?" I raised an eyebrow and nodded. I knew she was new but I thought she would at least know who I was by now even though it's the first time we met. Cheryl stared at me with utter shock written on her face. Quickly she looked away keeping her eyes on her hands as she worked quickly. "Oh well pardon me, you were so kind and bubbly I thought…, I, I was unaware your highness. Please forgive me"
My face fell and I looked down. This always happens. I thought she knew, and because I was wrong about her knowing I made her think that I'm going to report her for not speaking to me properly. As soon as people know I'm the prince they never treat me the same as when they didn't know. I could never describe the look on her face in words. As soon as I told her it was like a huge secret was revealed, like I betrayed her. I've seen too many faces like that and sometimes it's hard for me to tell which one of us was hurt more. I took a few steps toward the door then quickly brushed the hair out of my eyes and smiled.
"Oh no worries it's quite alright you're forgiven. Okay well it seems I over stayed my visit and I must be heading to my archery lessons. Nelson we can speak about cakes another time. Until then I bid you ado" I gave a small bow and walked carefully towards the kitchen door which lead into the dinning hall.
"Wait, Ceric, what about your dinner?" I stopped at the door and plastered another fake smile upon my cheeks as I looked over my shoulder.
"Not to worry Nelson I had quite a big lunch" I left the kitchen, speed walked to the dinning room door, down the hall and as soon as I exited the palace I ran. I ran as fast as I could. This was a short cut to the sub-building that harboured my room.
Its days like this in which I sometimes wished I was poorer. Life wouldn't be easier, but at least I would be happier. I was glad I left. Things would have been worse if I stayed. I wasn't wanted after committing something like that. Being the Prince for me is nothing but trouble. With Nelson it's no different. He may know I'm the prince but he treats everyone the same. I'm not special to him. I'm just a nuisance; to Nelson and my father. There is no need for a nuisance in a royal family. Any and all nuisances are supposed to be disposed of. It's tradition.
A/N: ok so here is the first chapter. WOW almost 4500 words this is a record for me I doubt any other chapters will ever be this long. Please be mindful I am no grammar genius but I edited it to the best of my ability I appreciate it if you let me know and I'll fix it right away for you. And for those who would like to know how to pronounce some of the names here you are.
Ceric = see-er-ick. (Cer= see-er. Or she-er if you say it with an accent)
Delmus= dell-muss (pretty simple)
Lilia = Lilly-ah