by Zac Butler
A servant boy and a prince find romance in a far off land... but it has to stay a secret.
| Once upon a time, there was a magnificent castle that overlooked a far off land. In the castle lived a beautiful prince and his parents, the king and queen. The king, queen and prince had many servants, and because the servants worked all the time, their children stayed in the castle with them.
Jacob was one of these children, of whom there were five. Jacob had spent his entire life in the castle, being born the child of the cook and a sweeper. Despite this, however, he had never spoken to any member of the royal family. To them, he was only a poor servant's child. Many a time Jacob had admired the prince from afar, knowing that he would never be anything more than a shadow in the background.
Jacob, more than anything else, loved to sit in his quarters. The room, though small, had a wonderful view of the grounds, and, more importantly, Prince Tyler's favorite place to be alone. The prince sat on the stone benches watching as the water birds skimmed across the fountain. From five stories up, Jacob watched, silent and hidden, as was his only duty. The prince was almost heartbreakingly beautiful, the perfect example of every one’s perfect prince charming. His bright and lively blue eyes and black, smooth hair, and not to mention a toned body from archery and swimming practice, were all exquisitely formed.
When Jacob looked at himself in the mirror, he was disgusted by his appearance compared to that of the prince. His wiry dark hair and frail body were nothing to the features of Prince Tyler.
Jacob had feelings for this prince, this perfect example of beauty, but had always known, somehow, that he must keep them hidden. However, this didn't stop Jacob from imagining having a conversation, or even kissing the prince while he lay in bed. The thought that Prince Tyler would eventually find a princess whom he would marry and live happily ever after with saddened him, though.
In his mother and his shared bedroom, his mother had dragged in an old upright piano with the hopes that Jacob would learn to play. He had. Because they had no sheet music, Jacob had composed his own pieces. Occasionally, Jacob would lurk outside of the parlor room, where the grand piano was kept, and listen to the composers from the city perform for the king and queen. He would then attempt to adapt these pieces into his own.
One day, Jacob, now fourteen years old, and the prince sixteen, decided that he was going to play on the grand piano, and imagine that he was performing for the King and the Queen and, of course, the prince. It was extremely daring, he knew, but at the time, he wanted it more than anything else in the world
Jacob stood outside the parlor doors, listening to see if anyone was there. He creaked open one just enough to see inside. The room was empty. Slowly and trying to make as little noise as possible, Jacob opened the door enough for him to get inside and closed it gently behind him.
The room was enormous, it's floors, like most of the royal family’s living areas, were made of marble, with intricate murals painted on them. The ceiling had an enormous crystal chandelier that twinkled in the mid-afternoon light. The ceiling too, had paintings of clouds and of angels. The grand piano sat in the center of the room, with three beautifully upholstered chairs close by. Jacob wanted to touch the one he imagined Prince Tyler to be sitting in, but remembered that that was not why he had come.
Jacob sat at the piano. He played a note, and then watched the door to see if anyone would enter. The door remained closed, and the hallway outside free of footsteps. Deciding that it was safe, he began to play. He barely paid attention to what he was doing, his fingers flying across the notes as if they had minds of their own. He closed his eyes and imagined that Prince Tyler was listening to him play.
"That was amazing." Came a voice behind him. Jacob jumped, horror-struck. When he turned around he found Prince Tyler standing at the doorway watching him.
"I'm really sorry your majesty, it's just- I just..." Jacob couldn't speak, looking into the prince's aqua blue eyes, he became at a lost for words, "I didn't mean anything by it, I just wanted to play on the piano."
"Well, by all means, don't let me stop you." the prince said, laughing, and taking one of the seats by the piano. Jacob sat back down at the piano, uncomfortably aware of the prince's eyes on him. He had almost gotten enough courage to play when another voice came from the door.
"Jacob! What on God's earth are you doing?" his mother exclaimed. Now, Jacob felt a feeling of fear almost greater than that of which he felt when Tyler had discovered him. Jacob suspected his mother knew something of his obsession with the prince, and this was the last thing that she needed to see.
"Mrs. Potts, it's my fault, I asked him to." Prince Tyler said to her,
"That's very kind of you, your majesty, but Jason needs to learn to pay for his own decisions." Jason's mother said, "Go up to the room, there'll be no supper for you tonight."
Jacob stood up and walked towards the door, taking one last glance at Prince Tyler. He wore an apologetic expression on his face.
That night, Jacob cried silently into his pillow, knowing that today he had had his first and last interaction with Prince Tyler. Now, looking back on it, the events had almost seemed surreal, like a dream. He thought about all the things that he should have said to the prince, instead of standing there stuttering.
The next day, Jacob's mother put him to work with scrubbing down the hallways of the castle. It was painstaking work, as some of the spots required hours of scrubbing to get off, but it was also fairly mindless, allowing Jacob's imagination to run free.
"Jacob! There you are, I've been looking for you." Said the prince's voice, making Jacob jump. He looked up to see Prince Tyler's smiling face.
"I'm sorry, I didn't mean to startle you," he said apologetically, "I wanted to give you these,” he said as he held out a stack of books and papers,
"It's sheet music, for the piano," he explained, "I was supposed to learn, but I never really got into it, you might be able to do something with it though."
Jacob looked at the stack of books, wondering why the prince was being so kind to him, trying to make himself speak,
"Thank you, your majesty, but I don't know how to read sheet music." Jacob said, not looking into the prince's eyes, he felt awful that he had to decline such a wonderful gift, "Besides, my mother would never allow me to accept a gift from the prince."
"You don't know how to read sheet music?" the prince asked, surprised, "But you played beautifully yesterday, where did all of that come from?"
"I made it up." Jacob replied,
"Wow... that's really great." the prince said, sounding genuinely amazed. He looked down at the pile of books in his hands, disappointed. Jacob looked at them to, upset that he had disappointed the prince and that now the prince was going to go away again.
"I really wanted to do something nice for you." Prince Tyler said. He thought for a moment, "I know! We could go to the library! Do you like to read?"
Jacob didn't respond for a moment,
"I never learned how." He said, ashamed, “Well, my mom tried to teach me once, but it was a long time ago.”
"That's okay, I'll teach you." said the prince, "Come on," he said, taking Jacob's hand and leading him down the hallway. The sudden contact startled Jacob, but was an amazing feeling. It almost made Jacob forget about his duties,
"Your majesty, I can't leave my work, I'll get into a lot of trouble."
"You're with the prince of the castle, you can do whatever you want." said Prince Tyler said,
Jacob, deciding it best not to argue the point, allowed himself to be dragged along by Prince Tyler's strong hand.
Eventually, they came to a set of large double doors. Prince Tyler opened them and led Jacob into the room.
The library was breathtaking. It was almost bigger than the ballroom downstairs. The bookshelves went all the way up to the ceiling, with three stories of balconies encompassing the entire room. Although Jacob knew little of books, he could appreciate the beauty of them and the room they were kept in. In the center of the vast room were various couches and chairs.
“This is where I keep my favorite books.” He said, leading Jason over to one of the lower level shelves. He took a book off it.
“I like this one the best,” Prince Tyler said, holding the book out for Jason to see, but he couldn’t read the title, to him, it was only the letters of the alphabet, not words. Prince Tyler probably realized this and explained, “It’s called the Prince and the Pauper. It’s about a prince and a commoner who switch places.”
The prince sighed, “Sometimes I wish that I could switch places with a normal person.”
“Why? Your majesty, you have every thing that everything that you could ever want.” Jason said,
“Not everything.” The Prince responded, sitting down on one of the couches, “being a prince isn’t everything that it’s cracked up to be. Sure I get to go hunting with the king, and lounge around the castle, but everybody’s always expecting you to be perfect; expecting you to make all the right choices.” He said, “and expecting you to marry princesses.”
“You mean that you don’t like princesses? Why not?” Jason asked, the news excited him,
“I just don’t. They’re all spoiled little girls who sit around their castles all day asking to be fed.”
“They can’t all be like that.” Reasoned Jacob,
“But they are, though,” said the prince, “And my parents want me to marry this one from the next kingdom over so that they can build up an alliance.”
“What if you don’t?”
“I don’t have a choice, my parents are planning an arranged marriage.” Said Prince Tyler, Jacob could see that his eyes were beginning to well up; Jacob wasn’t sure what to do,
“Please don’t cry your majesty.”
“And don’t call me that!” the prince said, almost shouting, “ We’re just friends, I’m not ‘your majesty’ this or ‘your majesty’ that, my name’s Tyler, allright?”
Prince Tyler’s sudden outburst scared Jacob, he had never seen the prince get emotional before. Then again, to be fair, he had never been within one hundred yards of him before yesterday. Tyler’s expression changed, suddenly aware of his temper,
“Jason, forgive me, I shouldn’t have gotten angry at you, it’s not your fault.” He said. Jacob still stood in front of Tyler as he sat on the couch with the book in his hand. “Why don’t you sit down?” he requested, patting the spot next to him. Jason shook his head ‘no’.
“I don’t want to get it dirty.” Jason replied,
The prince laughed, “You won’t, it’s okay.” He motioned again for Jason to sit down. Jason sat slightly away from Tyler, but Tyler moved closer so that their bodies were almost touching. It was a wonderful feeling, being so close to Tyler, it was something that he had always dreamed of, but never imagined would happen. Without being able to control himself, Jacob moved even closer to Tyler so that their shoulders were touching. Slowly, Tyler put his arm around Jacob. It was comforting, being in Tyler’s embrace. Somehow, Jacob felt protected, and like everything was going to be okay. Tyler and Jacob began to wrap their arms around each other, the warmth of the other’s bodies drawing them closer.
For the next couple of days, whenever Jacob’s mother would send him on a job, Tyler came and took him to the library. There, they talked about their lives and sat close to one another, sometimes hugging, sometimes with Jason’s head on Tyler’s lap. Tyler told Jacob that they had ran no risk of being discovered, because he was the only one who used the library. Occasionally, Tyler would pull a book off the shelf and read it aloud to Jacob. Jacob loved the stories, they set his imagination reeling, taking him to far off lands and on dangerous adventures, while still staying safely in Tyler’s arms.
“What do you think your parents would say if they found out about you… about us?” asked Jason on one of the days that they were in the library,
“I don’t know, but sometimes it scares me to think about it.” Tyler replied, “What about your mom?”
Jacob shook his head, “I don’t know either.”
It wasn’t until the fourth day of their doing this that Jacob’s mother took notice.
“None of the tables in the castle are clean and I sent you to work four hours ago!” his mother exclaimed, “What on earth have you been doing?”
“I- I was with Prince Tyler.” Explained Jacob, stuttering
“He was teaching me how to read,” Jacob replied, which wasn’t completely lying,
“What would a servant boy want with reading books?”
Jacob didn’t reply,
“Look around this room, Jacob; do you see any books?”
He didn’t, “No, mam’,”
“And look around the castle, there are tables that need dusting and oil lamps that need replacing, and what are you doing? You’re sitting around reading books with the king’s son.”
“But he wanted me to, mum, he’s my friend.”
“A servant boy friends with a prince,” his mother scoffed, “I’ve never heard anything more ridiculous in my life.”
“But it’s true, he said so himself.”
“That’s quite enough, now go get back to work, I don’t want you to be around the prince anymore. Anymore behavior like that and we might just be kicked out of the castle for not staying in our rightful place.”
For the second time that day, Jacob found himself with a bucket of soap and a cloth on the floor. This time, however, Jacob was crying. He was crying because it was unfair that he had finally gotten what he wanted, and then had it taken away from him. He was crying that Tyler was not there to comfort him, and because he never would.
Over the course of the week, Jacob did not see Prince Tyler at all. His mother had been sending him to do jobs in obscure parts of the castle, undoubtedly to keep him away from the prince. Already, though, Jacob had begun to formulate a plan to go see the prince. He was going to sneak out of his room at night and go up to the prince’s bedroom.
That night, he waited for his mother to go to sleep. As soon his mother’s breathing became steady, he got out of bed and put on his slippers. As he tiptoed across the wooden floor, every creak seemed like grinding, every snap like a crash. Somehow, though, he made it to the door and went into the hallway. The castle was almost abandoned at night. Candles marked every twenty feet or so, providing just enough light to make it through the castle.
Jacob, of course, had never been in the royal families sleeping quarters, so he had only a vague idea of where it was. He traveled up countless stairwells and hallways, until he came to the room he was sure was Tyler’s. Inside there was a deep breathing, which meant that he was asleep. He opened the door quietly and made sure that it was, in fact, the prince’s room. It was. Tyler lay sleeping serenely in a queen size bed, his shirt removed. Jacob closed the door behind him.
“Tyler,” he said, quietly, but he got no response from the sleeping prince. Jacob moved closer to the bed and tried again. Still no response. Jacob placed his hand on Tyler’s shoulder, and instantly felt that it was almost worth coming all this way, just to feel the warmth of the prince’s body. He tried to shake him lightly. Tyler opened his eyes,
“Jason?” he inquired, groggily, “Where have you been? I’ve been looking everywhere for you.”
“My mom’s been making do work in the western wing to keep me away from you.” Said Jason, Tyler took his hand,
“You’re freezing, come here.” Tyler said, holding out his arms. Jason climbed into the bed and Tyler wrapped his arms around him to warm him up. They stayed like that for what seemed like hours, then Tyler said,
“I thought that you had been avoiding me.”
“I would never do that, Tyler, believe me, if I could I would have gone looking for you.” Replied Jason. They stared into each others eyes, and slowly brought their faces close together until their lips were touching. It was everything that Jason had imagined and more. They were so distracted, however, that they did not notice the door open.
“Tyler, sweetheart? I thought that I heard voices in he-“ the queen stopped her sentence short when she saw Jason and Tyler in their embrace.
“What’s going…?” The queen began, sounding very confused,
“Mom um…” Tyler said, searching for away to explain what was happening, “This is Jason and… and I love him.”
The queen’s expression was difficult to read, but to Jason, she did not look angry or upset, in fact she almost looked like she was smiling. The queen sent Jason back to his room, telling him and Tyler that they would speak of this in the morning. Jason was unsure about was going to happen, and had trouble getting back to sleep.
The next morning, when Jason awoke the next morning, his mother wasn’t in her bed. Jason sincerely hoped that the queen had not told her anything about what she had seen last night. After he got dressed and walked through the rest of the castle, he found it abandoned. Only when he came to the kitchen did he find one of the other servants.
“Jason, there you are,” the other servant said, “There’s a huge gathering in the throne room and they requested you to be there especially.”
Jason rushed through the castle to get to the throne room. By the time he reached the throne room door, the sound of his own heart beating was deafening in his head. He went into the throne room.
What seemed to be almost the entire castle town was gathered in the room. The king and queen sat in their chairs, and Prince Tyler stood before them, his back turned to the entryway. The entire room seemed to turn and face him when he entered. Tyler turned around, saw Jacob, and smiled. The king and the queen, Jacob could see, were smiling too. Tyler extended his arm, inviting Jacob to the front of the room. Jacob walked down the long aisle between rows of chairs.
Jacob reached the front of the room and stood by Tyler. Tyler grabbed his hand. It seemed like an extremely risky thing to do, in front of all these people.
“I’d like to congratulate you, Jacob.” The king said. Jacob was extremely confused, and looked to Tyler for an explanation, but he did not return his gaze.
“Why, your majesty?” Jacob asked,
“Because you are now a prince of Vaelea.” The king said, then paused to see Jacob’s reaction.
“Only if you choose to accept it, of course.” The king said,
Jacob looked at Tyler, and Tyler smiled back.
“Yes. I do.”
And so came to an end the story of how the kingdom of Vaelea came to have not one, but two kings.