The moonlight shone through the leaves of the grand old fig trees which had stood strong and tall in this very garden for hundreds of years. A gentle breeze rustled their leaves and the scent of night jasmine filled the air.
A lonely boy, no older than 11, and his faithful canine companion sat on a stone bench looking up at the trees. Moonlight reflected off his pale white skin while the leaves and branches moved ever so slightly.
The boy’s name was Kiyoshi; he was a citizen of Newcara, a small Kingdom which had become prosperous and bountiful under the rule of King Erik and Queen Annabelle, his parents. Kiyoshi was the one and only Son of King Erik and Queen Annabelle and the heir to their throne, which was a huge responsibility that sometimes Kiyoshi wished he did not have to fulfill.
Kiyoshi was small for his age, shy and always had trouble making friends and talking to others. He was only comfortable talking to his parents, his minder Saxon and his faithful companion Seto, a loyal dog with short brown fur, a square head, golden eyes and a muscular body.
Kiyoshi would often walk in the garden at night with Seto trotting beside him, tongue hanging out and a goofy smile on his face, as the walks and Seto's company provided him with solace. The walks made Kiyoshi feel free and unhindered by the responsibility of being a Prince. He was in the garden later than usual this night as tomorrow would be his 12th Birthday and a masquerade ball would be held in his honour. This meant Kiyoshi would have to give a speech and talk to strangers, and his palms sweated at the thought.
As Kiyoshi was sitting on the bench deep in thought, Seto suddenly jumped off the bench, his ears facing forward. His nose sniffed the air and his tail started to move slowly from side to side.
“What is it Seto?” Kiyoshi whispered.
A stick cracked close by.
“Who is it?” Kiyoshi yelled, panic and fear etched his voice.
A shadow emerged from the trees. Seto ran up to the shadow, his tail wagging uncontrollably as a hand reached down and gave him a rough pat on the head. Saxon’s deep voice pierced the comfortable silence of the garden.
“Prince Kiyoshi! I have been requested by the King and Queen to escort to your room, they say it is past your bedtime and you have a big day tomorrow.”
Saxon was a serious man in his 40’s with salt and pepper speckled hair. He was tall and had a distinctive scar on the right side of his face. He was once a great soldier and was chosen by King Erik to be Kiyoshi’s minder as the King was impressed with Saxon’s battle experience. King Erik felt that Saxon would be the perfect minder and protector for Kiyoshi. Kiyoshi sighed. There was no point in arguing with Saxon, he would always win.
“Okay, fine, do you always have to be so serious Saxon?”
Saxon smiled slightly and gave a quaint nod.
“Yes, your highness” Saxon replied.
Kiyoshi called Seto to his side and they trudged their way along the garden path towards the castle.
Kiyoshi pushed on the heavy double doors to his bed chambers, and found his night clothes folded neatly at the end of the bed. He peeled off his heavy robes and slipped into them. The silk night clothes felt heavenly and light against his delicate skin as he yawned widely and crawled inside the covers. Seto jumped up onto the end of the bed and went around in a few circles digging at the covers as he made himself comfortable. Kiyoshi was just starting to drift away into the world of his dreams when Saxon knocked on the heavy doors and entered the room.
“Your highness, why must you insist that Seto sleep on the bed with you?”. Kiyoshi rolled his eyes and sighed. Saxon would always complain about Seto sleeping on the bed. Slightly annoyed Kiyoshi replied;
“Because he likes it, and remember the last time you made him sleep in the stable? He kept the servants up most of the night howling and disrupted the horses.”
Saxon sighed and nodded in agreement.
“Yes you are right, Young Prince. It is getting quite late. You need to rest up, for tomorrow’s a big day. Good night your highness and I bid you sweet dreams,” he said with a slight bow.
Saxon blew out the flickering candle on Kiyoshi’s bedside table and marched out the door, closing it softly behind him. It was Saxon’s turn to watch over Prince Kiyoshi tonight. After twisting and turning uncomfortably Kiyoshi finally succumbed to a restless sleep.
The next morning Kiyoshi was awoken by bright rays of the morning sunlight leeching through a gap in the heavy curtains that covered the large windows of his room. Seto yawned exposing his perfect white teeth. Today was Kiyoshi’s 12th Birthday and tonight would be the ball. He shuddered at the thought.
As Kiyoshi slowly adjusted to the morning sun there was a faint knock and he heard the bustling of skirts. It was Veronica, Kiyoshi’s handmaiden. She was there to prepare his clothes for the morning.
“Good Morning, Your Highness and Happy Birthday” she said as she bustled around Kiyoshi’s room, opening the curtains and shaking his clothes. Once she had finished she held them out for Kiyoshi to get dressed. Kiyoshi took off his bed clothes and got into his Princely robes. Veronica continued excitedly.
“The Cook has prepared a hearty breakfast for you this morning. The King and Queen will be waiting for you to join them in the dining hall, so we need to hurry as to not keep them waiting.”
With a slight click of her tongue Veronica straightened his robes out neatly.
“You are ready” she said with a smile.
Kiyoshi set off with Seto trotting happily behind him as they made their way down the long hallway to the staircase leading to the dining hall. He arrived outside the doors and pushed them open.His Mother and Father were seated at the long mahogany table waiting patiently for Kiyoshi. When Kiyoshi approached the table his Mother got up out of her seat graciously, wrapped her arms around him and whispered
“Happy Birthday Kiyoshi,” she said as she lovingly squeezed his shoulders.
Queen Annabelle was a gracious lady of 33, she was tall and slim, had grey eyes and dark brown hair. She was betrothed to Kiyoshi’s father even before she had met him, their families had decided on an arranged marriage as a way to show friendship between Kingdoms.
Throughout their marriage Queen Annabelle had given birth to three children, two girls called Yuki and Bella and her son Kiyoshi. Her daughters died at a very young age; Yuki died of a fever at age three and Bella suddenly stopped breathing when she was only two months old. As Kiyoshi was the last of her children, she only wanted the best for him and admittedly she had a tendency to spoil Kiyoshi a fraction.
Queen Annabelle let go of Kiyoshi and took a seat at the dining table. Kiyoshi found his place and sat quietly waiting for the breakfast to be brought out. King Erik gave Kiyoshi a warm smile and said
“Happy Birthday son.”
King Erik had a friendly face with dark green eyes and silvery blonde hair; he was 40 years old and was loved dearly by his subjects. He was a quiet man who was stern but fair and made decisions diplomatically and logically. He hated war and because of his diplomatic and logical way of thinking he was quite good at avoiding conflict with other Kingdoms.
A heavy Silence filled the room as they all waited patiently for their meals. King Erik spoke.
“So, my son, are you excited for the ball tonight?”
Kiyoshi looked down at the floor and paused for a bit contemplating whether to lie or tell the truth. He decided to come clean and tell his father that he was actually dreading the ball, talking to strangers and addressing the guests with a speech. His father was taken aback for a second, then a warm smile crept across his face, he turned to Queen Annabelle and said
“We know who he takes after don’t we?”. With a chuckle he continued
“Son you remind me of myself at your age, I was quiet and had trouble making friends just like you, but I learnt that to be a great future King, I needed to be able to make friends and talk to others. It took me a while to gain confidence to do so, but in the end I got over my fear and one day I just started to talk to others. I don’t expect you to overcome your social issues straight away but being social is an important skill if you intend to keep peace with your citizens and neighboring Kingdoms.”
Kiyoshi nodded defeated. He knew his father was right, but it was so hard for him to be able to do what was expected of a King. His Father’s lecture was interrupted by the servants starting to bring them breakfast; it was crispy bacon rashers, gooey eggs, crunchy bread and fresh milk. This was his favorite type of breakfast and as he shoveled it down his mother shot him an annoyed look and said
“Son, please remember your manners, you are a Prince, not an animal.”
Kiyoshi blushed and apologized.
After Breakfast it was time for Kiyoshi to participate in combat training with Saxon. It was required of all those who possessed royal blood to be taught combat training, firstly for protection and sometimes they needed the skills in times of war. In times of war, when the soldiers morale was low, and the war felt as if it would never end, Royalty would be asked to join the soldiers on the battlefield for a morale boost and to encourage the soldiers not to give up on their mission.
Saxon met Kiyoshi at the front of the castle where the lawns were short and green. While Saxon was teaching Kiyoshi some footwork and sword play, Seto would bound around them barking with delight, until he became side tracked by a bird which landed 2 yards away. Seto focused on the bird, immediately dropped on his stomach and stalked the bird.
The way Seto stalked the birds reminded Kiyoshi of the wild cats that lived in a faraway land; he often heard stories about them from his tutor who had once traveled to many different lands as a young man. Once Seto felt he was close enough to the bird he jumped up and ran at full speed. The bird flew away and Seto tried to jump up and catch it but was unsuccessful. Saxon and Kiyoshi would laugh at Seto and his escapades, they both enjoyed the foolishness that was Seto.
After combat training Kiyoshi was called to the Castle. It was mid- afternoon and the ball was due to start in just 4 hours’ time. Veronica rushed him into the bathing room and roughly stripped him naked. In a Hurried tone she said
“You need to wash well tonight. You are the host of tonight’s ball and you need to look and smell your best.”
After washing him and scrubbing Kiyoshi’s nails, Veronica handed him a towel, he dried himself well and snuggled into a soft silk robe as he walked back to his bed chambers.
When he arrived in his room a brand new dark blue suit was neatly laid out on his bed. Above the suit was a black mask shaped like a bird’s beak, there were tiny blue, green, and white gems in swirling patterns over the mask. Veronica gasped
“Your Highness, that mask is beautiful it looks almost magical.” She sighed and undid Kiyoshi’s bathrobe as she helped him into the new outfit.
There was a quiet knock on his bedroom door and his mother entered. His mother was dressed in a dark green dress; her dark brown hair was flowing freely in twirls and twists. She also had fresh flowers of blue and pink fastened throughout. Her mask was in the shape of a butterfly with amber and white stones on the wings. She reminded Kiyoshi of the beautiful gardens that surrounded the castle and she even smelt like them.
“Mother, you look beautiful tonight, you look like a garden.” he said.
Annabelle giggled like a little girl and replied,
“You, young sir, look amazing too.”
She came over and continued their conversation.
“ I have just come to check on you, the guests will be arriving shortly. How are you feeling?”
“I have a lump in my throat and I feel I might vomit at any time, but other than that I am well.” Kiyoshi replied
Annabelle touched his shoulder reassuringly,
“You will be fine, your father and I will be close by.”
She paused for a second and then continued,
“Kiyoshi please remember this ball is being held in your honour and it is your duty as Prince and as the host of the ball to give a speech and interact with your guests.”
Kiyoshi nodded. He had no choice but to comply. They talked for a little while longer, before Queen Annabelle farewelled her son and left him in his bed chambers, fighting with his thoughts.