Given that the third book in this series The Prince of Prophecy Vol. III: Changing Tides will be making its publishing debut this fall, I decided to put up the first chapter of the first book again. This chapter will be available to read from now (I’m not taking it down from this blog like I did last time). So please feel free to read the first chapter, and, if you like it, the FIRST and SECOND books are available now at Amazon.com.
Der Kleine Prinz
The Little Prince
It is quite common for stories to begin with ‘once upon a time’, especially those involving chivalrous princes, beautiful maidens, and daring feats of bravery. Most are drawn to these stories because they know it will end with ‘and they lived happily ever after’ or something similar. However, in case one did not already know, princes are not always gallant, maidens are not always sweet, and good does not always prevail—despite its best efforts.
This story does not begin with ‘once upon a time’, so it is best that one eliminate all preconceived notions of how stories should commence and conclude immediately. This story begins with a very tardy crown prince, and running.
Destan Gustav Von Diederich streamed down the hallway, past befuddled guards, advisors, and servants alike, clutching his text books tightly to his heaving chest. He was late for his lessons again, and he knew from previous experience that his tutor, Herr Christof, would be anything but pleased. But it really hadn’t been his fault this time! It was such a lovely day outside that he’d fallen asleep in the garden, beneath the shade of a tree, whilst reading a Greek mythology book. If anything was to blame, it was the warmth of the sun and the softness of the grass. Besides, he was a twelve-year-old boy—people could not expect him to be mindful of his schedule all the time, could they?
At the very least, he did not bother with toys, or games, or reading silly fairy tales as other children his age did. He was trying to mature quickly, but apparently that was not good enough for some. The circumstances were not at all ideal, especially since the current king—his grandfather—was so old, and Destan was so young. The prince would never admit it aloud, but he was just as frightened as everyone else at the prospect of him becoming king. But what could he do? It wasn’t his fault that his parents—the former successors to the throne—had died of a mysterious disease nearly six years earlier. It wasn’t his fault that he was the last descendant of the Von Diederich family bloodline. It wasn’t his fault that, despite his best efforts, he was still only twelve.
Destan raced up the stairs to the third floor, and skidded to a stop outside the door that led into the library. He stood there for a moment, trying to catch his breath, and wiped the sweat from his brow. He brushed back his wavy, golden blonde hair, and tightened the ribbon that secured it at the base of his neck. Though told that long hair was a sign of nobility, sometimes he did wish he could just cut it all off. The prince straightened out his satin court clothes and pushed back his shoulders. Taking one last deep breath, he opened the library door, and marched into the room.
“You’re late,” said the tight faced, bespectacled, young man who stood in front of a library desk, holding his pocket watch. “That’s the third time this week, Prince Destan. If this tardiness persists, I’ll be forced to alert the king of your negligence.”
The prince sighed, his shoulders slumping forward once more. “I’m sorry, Herr Christof. I lost track of the time.”
Christof Loewe was a tall, slender man who always wore a disapproving expression—at least, he did whenever Destan saw him. Now, Christof’s dark blue eyes narrowed behind his round spectacles, his eyebrows drew downward, and his lips pressed into a tight, white line. The prince knew that look. That meant that Christof did not want to hear any of Destan’s feeble excuses.
“You lost track of the time, did you?” Christof asked, lifting his chin a little higher. “You must be the most absentminded boy I’ve ever heard of. You carry a pocket watch, does it ever cross your mind to check it every once in a while?”
“It does, just not at the times that I should be checking it,” Destan said with a sheepish smile.
Christof rolled his eyes before motioning to the seat beside him. “Never mind. Just have a seat so we can begin today’s lesson.”
Destan sat down at the desk, and set his books upon the table as Christof began his rather dull geography lesson. All of Christof’s lessons were rather dull, in fact. As usual, Destan’s attention began to drift away. He found himself thinking about subjects that were infinitely more interesting; for instance, the nearing spring season, or why Roman Gods were so much more popular in Europe than their Grecian counterparts, or why Christof always parted his tidy, chestnut-brown hair on the left side—what was wrong with the right?
The prince’s gaze drifted toward the window as his tutor droned on and on about the continent of Asia. He wished he was back outside, beneath the shade of that tree, reading his Greek mythology book. He shut his eyes, imagining the breeze tousling his hair, and the smell of the flowers intermingled with the scent of pine. Now, he could almost feel the warmth of the sun upon his skin, and hear the gentle gurgling sound of the fountains that were scattered around the palace gardens. That was the most perfect scene he could bring himself to fantasize about. That was attainable.
However, what he truly longed to do was venture outside the palace gates, and into the forest beyond. He and his mother used to go out all the time when she was alive. They would explore the woods, and visit the nearby village of Gründorf nearly every other day. He remembered walking with her hand in hand down the forest path—her clear, bright blue eyes shimmering in the rays of sunlight that managed to filter through the thick tree canopy above. He remembered lying beside a stream as she stroked his hair, and told him fairy tales. He remembered how the soothing sound of her voice would lull him to sleep, and make him feel safe.
He could almost hear her voice now … “Sleep well, my darling, and if your dreams should turn into nightmares, remember how much I love you, and use my love as a weapon against the awful things that plague your sleep. Love conquers all, little one.” He’d believed in her words before he discovered that fairy tales, and ‘the power of love’, was just a bunch of rubbish. He loved his parents with all his heart, and yet, it had not conquered their illness.
Thoughts of traveling out into the woods were lovely and nostalgic, but his Grandfather had long since forbidden him to venture outside the palace gates. It was safe at the palace, and illness seldom plagued its residents. In order to keep the prince safe from the disease that killed his parents, Destan had been confined to the castle for almost six years. At first, he had been content with this ruling, but now his heart had grown restless. The palace gardens were no longer enough to satisfy his craving to experience nature in all of its wild and unpredictable glory.
Destan felt a sharp tug on his pony tail, and he jerked his head up to see Christof glaring down at him. Realizing that he had just dozed off, he smiled tensely. The tutor’s expression did not soften in the slightest.
“You are really trying my patience today, your highness,” Christof snapped.
“Well, that can’t be. In order for me to try someone’s patience, they must have it to begin with,” Destan said, trying his hardest not to smile.
The tutor scowled. “I used to have patience.”
Destan chuckled as he rubbed the sleep from his eyes. “If you want me to pay attention, why don’t you try making your lessons a little more stimulating?”
“I am not your jester, your highness, I am your tutor. I am not here to entertain you, I am here to teach you,” Christof said. “Now sit up. We’re going to take a break from geography for the meanwhile, since it is obviously too early in the day for you to comprehend a word of my lesson.”
Destan yawned and stood up, giving a great stretch. “That would be much appreciated. So I’ll meet you back here in about an hour—an hour and thirty minutes perhaps?”
“Nice try. You are going to stay right here while I read you a story,” Christof said, as he removed a large book from one of the library’s many shelves.
“Are you trying to trick me into listening to one of your history lectures again?” the prince asked, making his way over to the seat beside the window.
“No, this is an actual story. It’s a fairy tale, in fact,” the tutor said.
Destan made a face. “A fairy tale? You know I despise those. I’d rather the dull history lecture.”
Ignoring the prince’s protest, Christof opened up the book of fairy tales. “Once upon a time,” he began in his usual monotone, “there was a sad, little prince. He did not understand why he had to learn about dull politics all day.” He shot Destan a knowing look. “He did not understand why he could not play with the other children outside the castle walls, who always looked to be having such fun. But most of all, he did not understand why he always felt so dreadfully lonely, whilst constantly being surrounded by people who adored him.
“He felt himself frown every time his advisors told him who he must be and how he must achieve it. ‘Perhaps I would like to be someone else,’ the little prince said sadly.
“His advisor would say, ‘You may wish to be someone else, my prince, but this is the role that was assigned to you by a higher power. We mustn’t question nor want for more. Besides, you are given everything you desire, what more could you possibly long for?’
“‘What more?’ the little prince would mutter to himself. ‘There is so much more that I want.’ He wanted the wild flowers that grew outside the castle walls. He wanted to roll around in the mud with the children of the village. He wanted to play hide and seek in the forest. He wanted to have fun. He wanted a reason to laugh and smile. He wanted the entire world beyond the castle, but alas, it was simply out of his reach.
“The little prince agonized over his impossible dilemma, until finally he gained the courage to sneak out of the castle. However, when he reached the other side of the gates, where the village should have been, there was only a dense, dark forest. He wandered into the forest, figuring that the village must be just up ahead. He walked for days in search of the village, but to no avail. For what the little prince did not know was that the images he had seen beyond the palace gates were only illusions. Aimlessly, he wandered the endless forest, searching for the village until the day he died, never knowing that the inside of the castle had been the entire world.” After he was finished, Christof shut the book, and called to his charge, “Prince Destan.”
Destan continued to gaze dreamily out the window, once more lost in his own thoughts.
“Prince Destan,” Christof called more insistently this time. “Did you enjoy the story?”
Finally, the prince glanced back at him. “It was alright, I guess. Couldn’t you read a tale with a happy ending, Herr Christof?”
The tutor narrowed his deep-set eyes, his lips tightening into a tight white line once more. Christof really could not stand Destan’s cheeky remarks, and Destan knew it. Despite this, the prince enjoyed pushing his tutor’s buttons.
Sighing heavily, Christof brushed a few stray hairs out of his face. “I read what I deemed appropriate.”
“But I know there’s a village beyond the castle walls. I’ve been there! You can’t tell me there is no world outside of the castle,” Destan replied with smirk.
Christof scoffed and got to his feet, moving toward one of the many bookcases that lined the large library. “That wasn’t the moral of the story, your highness.”
“Then what was the moral?”
“The moral was that discontented, little princes should not bother themselves with things they cannot change,” the tutor said curtly. “They should be happy with the lot they were given.”
Destan turned his gaze back towards the window, where he could just make out the village market place far off in the distance. “That isn’t a very good moral.”
With another tired sigh, Christof set the book of fairy tales back on the shelf, and returned to the desk to open the geography text. “What sort of moral would you have preferred?”
“Hm … something more positive,” Destan paused to search his thoughts. “You know, like ‘Love conquers all’ or something.”
“It doesn’t,” Christof retorted as he set the new book down, and flipped to a page in the middle.
The prince pouted, his eyes trailing to his mother’s rose garden. “Then ‘you won’t know unless you try’?”
“You can know without trying if you take note of other’s mistakes, and avoid making them yourself.”
“I wasn’t exactly talking about mistakes. Have you no spirit of adventure?”
“What is an adventure, but accidents and mistakes? I prefer to make neither. You should adopt my way of thinking, your highness,” Christof said, although he was sounding less interested in the topic with each passing moment.
“You sound so arrogant,” Destan said, his smirk widening. “Besides, if I were to adopt your way of thinking, I’d be so boring I wouldn’t be able to stand myself.”
“Perhaps, but at least I would be able to stand you.” Christof then peered over the top of his glasses, and said, “Now come away from the window so we can continue with your geography lesson.”
Destan grudgingly left his seat beside the window to join his mentor at the desk. Christof turned the book around so he could see the maps. The prince instantly frowned. “We’ve already gone over this part of the world. You’ve tested me on it.”
“This is Rosenstaat, your kingdom,” Christof explained as he tapped the page. “It is imperative that you know your kingdom as well as you know the back of your hand.”
Destan blinked, lifting his right hand close to his face to examine it. “I don’t know the back of my hand all that well. Surely, I know my kingdom better than I know the back of my hand,” he said, laughing.
“Can’t you take anything seriously?” the tutor asked with a scowl. “Honestly, you’re exhausting.”
“If I exhaust you so, perhaps we can take a break from my lessons?” Destan asked in a tone that was much too sweet to be genuine.
“You just had a break.”
“I don’t consider you forcing me to listen to that terribly depressing story, ‘a break’.”
Christof breathed in deeply through his nose as he considered the idea. “Well, since you insist on being so trying, I suppose we can continue your lessons tomorrow. But, you must work twice as hard, do you understand me?”
Destan nodded. “I understand, Herr Christof!” He then jumped up from his seat, and quickly left the study.
It was a warm day for February, but Destan was glad for it. The gentle warmth of the sun had compelled flowers to bloom again, and made the castle grounds the lush green that the prince loved so much. Destan would often stop to look at the many beautiful flowers that caught his eye.
Spring was now fast approaching, and soon the palace gardens would be flooded with many vibrant colours. The prince always looked forward to this time of year—it was one of the few times he could relish in freely. He could remember all the warm spring days when he and his mother used to sneak off into the forest with a picnic basket, and lie in the cool grass beneath the shade of the trees. His mother would teach him about all the varieties of plants that grew wild outside the confines of the castle, while they ate their simple lunch of wild berries and bread. Those were good memories that he would revisit when he found himself missing her.
The months after his parents’ deaths were the most painful for him to recall. There was one memory from that dark time that stood out the most: one particularly cold winter’s day. It was the day after his parents had been laid to rest in two marble caskets in the Von Diederich family mausoleum. On that day, the little prince went outside, for no reason in particular, and looked up towards the sky. He could still remember the feeling of the snowflakes kissing his cold cheeks. He could remember thinking that he should cry, but his stubborn mind had refused to relinquish its hold on the possibility that his parents would return. Thus, he stood there in silence, with his head tilted up towards the sky as the snow continued to fall. He had been unable to cry, and unable to face the reality of the matter.
On that cold December’s day, Destan had not wanted to believe that his parents were dead, and would be gone forevermore. Thus, he chose not to believe it. That was how he had kept his sadness at bay.
Later, he would come to hate the snow for taking his parents from him, but, just then, he didn’t mind it so much. Then, it had reminded him of happier times—times when he and his parents would joyfully laugh, and play in the snow until their fingers became so numb from the cold that they were forced to go inside.
On that rather bleak day, the skies had been grey, and flurries of snow swirled about him. He stared up at the sky, trying as best he could to convince himself that his mother and father would soon return to him. His mind was so far away from the place where he stood, that he almost didn’t notice her.
He remembered that she was a tall, slender, and graceful woman, though she looked to be chiseled from ice. She was dressed in a long cloak and hat made of soft, white fur and delicate snowflakes. Her long, snow-white hair danced effortlessly in the cold wind that surrounded them. He could remember her face so clearly. He could never forget such a beautiful, wise face in all of his life. And her eyes! Her cold, blue eyes burned so brightly. Destan swore that they must have been stars plucked from the heavens. However, there was no peace in those lovely eyes of hers. All he saw was loneliness. Perhaps she saw the same in his eyes.
Destan recalled the woman kneeling down, placing her hand softly upon his cheek, and staring deeply into his eyes. She did not speak a word and neither did he. He knew what she wanted. She wanted to banish her loneliness and he wanted the same. She told him without saying a single word that she wanted him to come with her. They would have each other, and they would be lonely no more.
But they’ll be back, he had thought to himself. Mummy and Daddy will be back, and they’ll worry about me if I’m gone.
Slowly shaking his head, Destan backed away and the lovely woman stood up once more. He knew she would not force him. Not today. Thus, she gave him one nod of understanding before turning her back to him, and disappearing into a flurry of snow.
That woman, Destan had convinced himself, had purely been a product of his overactive imagination—a figment or a cold induced phantom at best. Yet still, he had kept the memory fresh in his mind, and he revisited it often, though he did not know why.
Now, as Destan strolled along the sunlit path in the garden, it was clear to see that winter was disappearing swiftly, making way for spring. It was not the time to be thinking of the snow. Soon, the land would be warm, the flowers would all bloom, and he would not have to revisit those winter memories for a long time.
While busy thinking of the past, his feet absentmindedly took him down a garden path he had wandered so many times before. His mother’s rose garden was thriving, even without the care of the gardeners. King Gregory, his grandfather, had ordered that the rose garden be left unattended after his daughter died. Destan supposed his grandfather just wanted his daughter’s memory to finally be put to rest, and that would be altogether impossible as long as the rose garden still survived.
But even without sufficient care, the rose garden flourished. Large white roses bloomed effortlessly year round despite the gardener’s attempts to abolish them. Although Destan loved the garden, he did not blame his grandfather for wanting it destroyed. Deep down, he wished for the destruction of the rose garden too, but as long as it stood, he was going to enjoy its beauty. The prince sat down on a stone bench in the middle of the garden and watched as butterflies fluttered about the roses and greenery.
Since his parents’ demise, Destan’s life had become very restricted and even overwhelming at times. His responsibilities as successor to the Rosenstaat throne weighed so heavily on him that he would have liked nothing better than to just run away from it all. But he never did. In truth, he lacked the courage to run away, or even tell his grandfather that he was unhappy. Of course he wanted to live his life as he wished to, but only he could succeed the king.
Why did his thoughts always drift to his responsibilities? Even here, in this beautiful garden where there were much more pleasant and wonderful things to think about, he could not avoid it. Maybe this was what growing up was about—casting aside fanciful thoughts only to have stress and worry take their place.
Life was not a fairy tale that he could live in forever, unchanging. Life was cruel and ‘happily ever afters’ were scarce. He would remind himself of that painful fact whenever he found himself beginning to entertain even the very slightest of juvenile fantasies.
Thinking of this, Destan’s expression hardened as he stood and left his mother’s rose garden, fragrant white rose petals following in his wake.
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