Hey all. Life got in the way last week and I feel bad about not getting the Friday Flash Fiction up. To make up for it, I’ve decided to give you all a little extra treat this week. Here is the current draft of the first chapter of Prince Phillip. Enjoy.
The hall was colorfully decorated for the party. Golden banners intertwined with red were strung across the walls. A merry din echoed off the stone surroundings, a mix of happy voices and the plucking of a psaltery filled the air. Everyone was in a joyous mood. After all, the infant princess had just been officially presented to the lords and ladies of the court.
There was one present, however, who was only mildly interested in the baby being celebrated. Prince Phillip had little concern for the child. After all, what use did a baby have to a five-year-old prince? He was far more engrossed by the various foods and punches that were available. The thought of the return trip home was also weighing on his young mind. It took ages to get to East Thuringia and it would take ages to return home. Frowning at the thought, he attempted to wash it away with another drink of punch.
“Phillip, my boy. Come here.” The sound of his father’s voice cutting over the noise of celebration pulled Phillip from his thoughts and the lad moved towards where his father was standing with Stephen, the king of East Thuringia.
“What do you think of Rose my lad?” Hubert looked down at his son with an expectant eye. Phillip knew the look. It meant his father was waiting for a certain answer, though the boy often did not know which answer his father wanted.
“I don’t know father. She doesn’t cry much.”
Hubert slapped his large belly with a hearty laugh, his face turning a slightly deeper shade of red than his tunic. Phillip smiled, thinking he answered the question well enough. After all, he didn’t have much experience with babies outside of those the castle wet nurse helped care for.
“What do you make of that Stephen? A high compliment from a young lad I think.”
Stephen stroked a jet-black beard in quiet thought for a moment. “I am not sure what I expected, but there is plenty of time for them to get to know each other.” The East Thuringian king was soft-spoken, a stark contrast to his father’s boisterous demeanor.
“Then it is settled?” Hubert raised a golden brow at the taller king.
“Yes. It is settled.” Stephen turned from Hubert to address the hall. “My lords! If you will please settle yourselves.”
The hall quieted down and Hubert pulled his son to the side, holding the lad in front of him.
“My lords,” Stephen continued. “Tonight is a great night. We have many things to celebrate. Not only do we have the chance to officially present my daughter Rose on her first birthday, but we also have a very special announcement. We announce the betrothal of Princess Rose to Prince Phillip of Thuringia.” The hall broke out into a loud cry of approval at the news. Stephen smiled for a moment before lifting his hands for silence.
“With this pending marriage, the kingdoms of Thuringia and East Thuringia will be forever joined in bonds of brotherhood, and we shall grow together to soar like the Thuringian eagle with the strength of the East Thuringian boar. May God look with favor on this union. Minstrel! Music!”
The sounds of the psaltery once again filled the hall as Hubert pulled Phillip towards his mother. Many lords and ladies began to make their way towards him to congratulate him on the announcement. After what seemed ages of uncomfortable conversations with adults he did not know, Phillip was finally given a reprieve when attention shifted backed towards Stephen.
A funny looking man came striding forward clothed in the yellow of East Thuringia. With a high pitched but firm voice, the steward called out the name of one of the lords. At the sound of his name, the lord came forward and pledged some portion of his harvest to the king. When that was over, the steward called another lord who did similar. This continued for some time with each lord pledging some service or commitment of resources.
This display meant nothing to Phillip and he found his mind wandering. He needed to remember to ask his mother what a “betrothal” was. It seemed important. Maybe it had to do with his father’s and Stephen’s friendship. The two had been close for years. Phillip had to stifle a chuckle when remembering one of Hubert’s stories of a childhood adventure. Maybe that was what a betrothal was, a chance to grow up and have adventures with Rose.
The young prince was pulled from his thoughts by the announcement of the Thuringian fairies. Twelve women came floating past the doors of the hall and towards Stephen. Phillip’s eyes lit up at the sight of them. His nurse had told him stories of the fairies who lived deep in the Thuringian forest. Those stories had fueled his young imagination, but it was completely different to see them in person. Each fairy glowed with a soft light and bright colors. It was like watching a rainbow move across the hall.
The entire hall drew to a respectful silence at their approach. Even though the Christian God held dominance over religion, the old ways were still strong. As young as he was, even Phillip knew better than to make a lot of noise or squirm too much Not that he could if he wanted to. He was enthralled by the appearance of the fairies, so much so that he was not paying attention to the gifts that they were offering the baby princess. All he was aware of was each fairy gliding up to the princess and a gentle glow surrounding the baby before being replaced by the next in line.
The blue glow of the final fairy began to fade as she stepped back. Just then, a sudden wind burst through the doors of the hall. As it swirled around the walls, the fires in the hall flickered and roared angrily. A clap of thunder caused Phillip’s hands to shoot to his ears and his eyes to squeeze shut. When he opened them again, the hall was dark save for a faint green glow in the center of the hall. The light grew in intensity to reveal a tall, pale woman standing in its aura. She was clad in a dress as black as midnight and seemed to tower over everyone else in the hall. On her shoulder rested a raven, its head cocked to the side as it observed the lords and ladies.
“My my. What a fine gathering you have here tonight Stephen.”
“T..Tebofe.” Stephen stood rigid on the dais as he stared at the newcomer. “No! Stop!”
Two guards came running from the back of the hall with their spears leveled at the woman in black. She smoothly lifted her arm and flicked her wrist towards the charging men, causing them to fly back through the air and crash into the far wall with a sickening thud. The woman, meanwhile, let a pout appear on her red lips. “Stephen. I am disappointed at my welcome. First, I do not receive an invitation to such an important night. Then you have your guards attack me?”
“It is not like that Tebofe.” There was a slight tremor in Stephen’s voice. He took a step back and lifted his arm as if to protect himself, his hand trembling in the air in front of him. “We would never disrespect you in such a way.”
“I see.” Her pout turned to a smirk as she watched the king. While she had never moved from the center of the room, her presence seemed to close on the dais. “My invitation must simply have been lost then.” At last, she moved forward, swaying with all the grace of a serpent as she approached the cradle. “What a beautiful child. I think I know the gift I shall offer her.”
“Please Tebofe, you do not need to do that.” The color was gradually draining from Stephen’s face.
“Nonsense. I must.” Tebofe straightened and turned her head towards Stephen. “You deliberately ignore me and attempt to keep me from your celebration while allowing my sisters to attend. Your guards charge at me like I am a common thief. I must repay your actions in kind.” As she spoke, each word became colder and more clipped. Stretching a skeletal hand over the crib, Tebofe and Rose were surrounded by a black aura.
“Your daughter will grow to be a fine woman with all the grace and beauty promised by my sisters. When her beauty has ripened and she has reached the age of eighteen, on that night she will prick her finger on a spinning wheel and die.” Tebofe let out a laugh at the look on the king’s face. “Do not worry my dear Stephen. I am not without my mercy. She will be untouched by the ravages of time. Her beauty will be preserved forever.”
The dark fairy laughed again as the black aura grew. The laugh filled the hall, mingling with the caw of her raven. The shadows grew to surround her before disappearing suddenly. The fires and torches sprang back to life, but Tebofe was no longer in the hall.
Silence lasted for several seconds before erupting into a loud commotion. Stephen began shouting orders to his guard while the attending lords began to call for their personal troops. Phillip was startled by his mother shaking him by the shoulders. He had not moved the entire time, but he was covered in sweat. His breath was short and ragged. His mother grabbed him by the arm and dragged him from the hall and back towards their rooms.
The remaining two days were a blur. Phillip was rarely allowed to leave his room and never without a guard when he did. Several times, he went into his parents’ room only for them to suddenly stop their conversation. He did not understand all of what he heard, but the young prince did hear that the Princess Rose had disappeared following Tebofe’s curse. The following night, Phillip saw a great fire started in the courtyard from his window. No one would explain what the fire was for, but soldiers continually arrived at the castle with wagons to toss more things on it.
The fire was still raging on their final morning in the castle. As Phillip sat in the back of the carriage, he watched the thick, black cloud of smoke drift high up towards the heavens. Long after the castle was out of sight, Phillip could still see the smoke slithering up like a snake in the morning light.
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