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The Prince's Decision


by fallingdaybreak

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No one had spoken to him. So far, so good.

     Dinners at the castle always started with the same lecture from his father: “Sit and stand up straight, speak in a loud, clear voice, do this, do that.” It was always the same lecture every time, so much so that Jerreth had grown numb upon hearing it. It was almost as if he was being set up as a good example. But in every lecture, Jerreth explicitly remembered a singular phrase his father repeated: “Try not to embarrass me.”

     Jerreth sighed silently upon remembering it. Every time he said those cursed words, it sounded as if every move Jerreth made was an embarrassment. He would never please his father, nothing would ever be good enough for him.

     Just who was he trying to please? He certainly wasn’t pleasing himself - he was never happy during these kinds of feasts. He’d rather be in his room, getting lost in one of his favorite fantasy novels or out in the gardens, admiring the greenery and flowers. He was never too sociable, even among his brothers or the castle staff.

     But he didn’t have a choice but to stay. His father was, after all, the king of Brightvale.

     “King Hagan, I hear that your youngest son is coming of age soon,” a lanky yellow aisha spoke. At the end of the table, Hagan only gives him a silent nod.

     “I assume that he is more than capable of leading your kingdom, correct?”

     Hearing the question, Jerreth felt all eyes fall on him, and he does his best to avoid looking away. He had recently turned twenty, a more-than-suitable age of leading Brightvale.

     “Of course,” Hagan answered. “He is groomed to support the people and of course, preserve the proud legacy of this kingdom.”

     The proud legacy. Those words stood out to Jerreth in particular. The way Hagan said it, coupled with his rather stern voice, was a side of him that only Jerreth and his half-brothers knew. Underneath his judicious and wise front was a ruler who wanted the kingdom of Brightvale to prosper and reign superior. To that end, he had many children from many consorts, all in the hopes of producing the perfect heir. However, this obsession with Brightvale’s prosperity came at the cost of King Hagan ignoring the feelings of those closest to him, even his own brother and his children.

     But Jerreth could never let his discontent with his father or the decisions he made be known. Instead, he gave the aisha a small, yet forced nod. But underneath that nod, his unhappiness only continued to fester.

     - - - - - - -

     The dinner was thankfully over, and night had fallen over the kingdom. Jerreth was alone in one of the castle’s stretching halls, admiring the stars behind the lovely stained glass windows.

     The dinner had gone well for the most part, but the aisha had pulled King Hagan over for a private meeting. What Father and the aisha were talking about, Jerreth could only guess. In the back of his mind, he had a feeling that whatever it was, he wasn’t going to like it at all. But he pushed the thought to the back of his head as he stared out the window, admiring the white flecks in the darkening sky.

     “There he is,” a smug, yet teasing voice called out, interrupting his moment of solace. Jerreth turned around, and a rather unpleasant sight greeted him.

     “What do you want, Orion?” Jerreth narrowed his eyes at the sight of his half-brother.

     “Nothing in particular,” the bori answered, folding his arms as he leaned up against the wall. “Just checking on our future king after dinner. Do you like what Father has in store for you?”

     Jerreth turned away in a huff. “Why doesn’t Father groom you or Ezekiel to be king? You’re both older than me.”

     “I wonder about that, too. I guess Father sees better potential in you than either me or Ezekiel. Talk about bad luck, huh?” Orion couldn’t hold back a laugh.

     “Does it look like I’m suited to be king?!” Jerreth practically shouted as he turned back to his haughty half-brother. But his anger did little to remove the amused smirk from Orion’s face.

     “I don’t know what kind of potential Father sees in me! I’m not special at all! I keep to myself, I’m not nearly as confident as you or Ezekiel, I-I…!” Jerreth found himself fumbling over his words as he found himself looking at the ground, until he spat out a single, frustrated sentence.

     “Does Father care about anything aside from this stupid kingdom’s future?!

     Orion shrugged, appearing indifferent. “Beats me. But it’s pretty obvious to me that Father doesn’t care about what you want. And don’t expect me to bail you out.” The bori then turned to walk away. “Tough luck.”

     Hearing his half-brother’s complete nonchalance was the final straw for Jerreth. Clenching his teeth, he sprinted towards Orion and grabbed him by the shoulder, turning him around to face him. With a clenched fist, Jerreth punched Orion across the snout, sending him stumbling until he hit the wall with a very audible thud. When Orion stared at him in disbelief, he hardly noticed it, as anger clouded everything in Jerreth’s sight, threatening to blind him. Frankly, he had enough of everything. Enough of Father, enough of Orion, he just wanted everything to stop. Turning around, Jerreth quickly sprinted away, shoving past several castle maids and staff, but he didn’t care.

     Everything just needed to stop.

     - - - - - - -

     “Leave me alone, Mercedes.”

     Jerreth’s voice was muffled as his face was buried into his pillow. At the bed’s feet, the white gallion let out a whine, clearly worried for her master. She had tried to jump up and cheer him up, but her short legs wouldn’t allow for such a jump. Alas, her efforts were in vain. But she couldn’t just leave him to wallow.

     Letting out another whine, she pawed Jerreth’s tail, which was hanging off the edge of the bed.

     “Mercedes, I said leave me alone!” The annoyance in his voice was clear, which made the gallion shrink and lie down in worried submission.

     “Jerreth?”

     A gentle voice echoed from behind his door, which made the usul’s gaze go to the door. Moonlight poured through his large windows, and his bed cast a long shadow that nearly reached the door. A desk sat to the left while a large bookshelf stood to the right of the room. His room was fairly simple in terms of layout, unfitting of a prince of Brightvale.

     He recognized that voice. It wasn’t like King Hagan or Orion, stern of annoyingly haughty. It was a voice Jerreth was frankly, relieved to hear amidst everything that happened.

     “It’s me. May I come in?”

     “...You may.” Jerreth moved to sit up as the door opened with a creak, revealing a blue elephante. It was Dorothea, one of the older castle maids. She had practically raised Jerreth like her own after his mother passed away. She carried a look of slight uneasiness as she approached the usul, who only stared at the ground bleakly.

     “Are you feeling alright, dear? I heard what happened with Orion.”

     Only silence filled the air at Dorothea’s question. It took Jerreth a good minute to realize that he was being rude in leaving her in silence.

     “I’m not,” he finally spoke, his voice sounding defeated. “Nothing is alright, Dorothea.”

     From her position, Dorothea slowly moved to sit on the prince’s bed, next to the usul.

     “Do you...want to talk about it, perhaps?”

     Once again, Jerreth was silent. Could he really confide in one of the castle maids? It was an outsider looking in, and as much as he trusted her, Jerreth wasn’t sure if she could truly understand the gravity of the situation.

     But he had no one else to talk to about it.

     “I just…” For a moment, he struggled with his words. “...I don’t know what to do anymore. I can’t keep living in this prison knowing what’s in store for me. Father doesn’t care anymore. Orion and Ezekiel only pester me further about my inevitable future. I don’t want any of it, Dorothea. Not anymore.”

     “So you’re unhappy as a prince?”

     “Yes,” Jerreth answered. “I’d give anything if it meant escaping from this future Father has planned for me. But...I don’t know what I can do when it’s set in stone.” Jerreth clenched his teeth, further frustrated at his inability to escape from his fate. But amidst his frustration, he heard Dorothea’s voice again.

     “Why don’t you run away?”

     Jerreth looked at the elephante. “W-What?”

     “You heard me, Jerreth. Run away. Leave this place. Find a new place that will make you happy. I won’t tell another soul.”

     “I-I can’t do that, Dorothea,” Jerreth answered anxiously. “What would Father think?”

     “I know it’s risky, but I can’t stand to see you like this. You’re like my own son, and your happiness is mine.”

     Jerreth didn’t know what to say at that. Ever since his mother’s passing when he was nine, Dorothea became his mother figure. Attentive, kind, and certainly a better parent figure than King Hagan.

     “I…” Jerreth found himself at a loss for words.

     Beside him, Dorothea wrapped one arm and her trunk around his shoulder, pulling him into a hug. Jerreth could feel a gentle warmth envelop his body as he heard Dorothea’s voice again. At his feet, he felt Mercedes nudge him as she laid down next to his leg.

     “I won’t force you to run away if you don’t want to. But if this castle no longer feels like home, then you should find a place that does. Whatever makes you happy, dear.”

     - - - - - - -

     After a week of thought, he made up his mind.

     Night had fallen again over the kingdom of Brightvale, and all was quiet in the castle. But in Jerreth’s room, he threw a brown bag over his shoulder. It held only the most essential of things: a change of clothes, a map of Neopia, and a bag with 150,000 neopoints. A short sword hung at Jerreth’s side in the situation that he needed to defend himself. His clothes were simple as well, consisting of a green tunic over a white shirt with brown boots and pants. Nothing on his person would give away his lineage of being a prince of Brightvale. At his feet, Mercedes looked up at him with curious eyes.

     Since his talk with Dorothea, the idea of running away kept coming back. No matter how much he tried to push the thought out of his head, in the end, she was right. The castle wasn’t home anymore.

     There was no turning back from here on out.

     Jerreth took in a breath and opened his window as quietly as he could. But before he could step out, the door to his room opened, and panic shot through him instantly.

     To his relief, Dorothea quietly stepped in, a green tarp wrapped over one arm as she closed the door as silently as she could.

     “Dorothea? What are you doing? You could get caught!”

     “No need to worry. I made sure that no one saw me.”

     “Why?” Jerreth asked. “What is it?”

     “I wanted to give you this before you left.” From her arm, she grabbed one end of the tarp and held it up before Jerreth. It was a long green cape lined with golden accents near the collar, and Jerreth realized just what he was looking at.

     “This used to belong to your mother,” Dorothea explained. “I wanted to make sure you had this before you left.”

     Dorothea helped Jerreth put the cape on, and sparing a brief glance at a nearby mirror, it matched perfectly with his green tunic. On one hand, it reminded him of his lineage as a prince, but on the other, it was also a reminder of his dear mother, whom Jerreth missed with all his heart. Even though it reminded him of a past he was about to run away from, at least it mostly reminded him of one of the only good things that came with it.

     “Well, I’d better get going.” He stared at Dorothea, and he felt a small tinge of sadness. “Take care, Dorothea. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for you.”

     Dorothea gave him a tender smile. “Of course, dear. And never forget, if you ever need family to come home to, you’ll always have me.”

     Jerreth could feel tears creeping from the sides of his eyes, but he quickly wiped them away as he gave the elephante one last hug.

     “Thank you, so much. For everything.”

     Dorothea nodded as the two pulled apart, and she pointed her trunk to the open window. It was time to go.

     Jerreth slowly took in a breath as he put one foot over the edge of the window and then his other. Pushing himself up, he leapt out the window, with Mercedes following close behind. As Jerreth dusted himself off, a dusky forest greeted him. The shadowy trees would serve well in concealing him and Mercedes.

     As he stared at the forest, Jerreth briefly turned around for the last time, and from the open window, Dorothea gave him a small, yet reassuring nod. With her trunk, she waved him one last goodbye before shutting the window, as if it had never been opened at all. Jerreth only watched as she turned out of sight, and his gaze went to Mercedes, who let out a small snort.

     It was just the two of them now.

     His gaze then turned back to the forest. It would be only a matter of time before someone spotted him. So he took one step, then another, and before Jerreth realized it, he was sprinting forward, away from the castle and towards the forest, with Mercedes following close behind.

     As he ran, Jerreth thought of looking back, but his heart insisted he didn’t. That castle wasn’t home anymore, just as Dorothea reiterated. It might have been the place he was born and raised, but that was in the past. King Hagan, Orion, and Ezekiel were strangers to him now. All he had to call family was Dorothea and Mercedes.

     Where he would end up, Jerreth had no idea. But the whole world was open to him. There had to be some place for him to call home. How long it would take, whether it would take days or even years, Jerreth once again had no idea.

     But whatever the future had in store for him, one thing he knew for certain - starting today, he was free.

     The End.

 
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