I can’t remember the last time I’ve left my room. And that’s the first thing Samson says as he bursts in through the door.
“Theo, it has been days, perhaps even a week since you’ve been seen out and about in the castle. Many of the servants just assumed that you had gone off on some adventure or hauled up with some girl, but you know that I know better.” Samson says in his deep, baritone voice.
The servants always had some farfetched idea about where I was when I disappeared for days at a time. They couldn’t be further from the truth, but it’s best they think that Prince Charming is doing something with his life.
I look up at Samson, looming over my bed. As the Captain of the Royal Guard, he’s a rather impressive and intimidating man. Not that he scares me in the least. I’ve known him for far too many years. A few years older than myself, we grew up together and I watched as he made his way up the rankings to become Captain. The youngest one we’ve ever had.
“Now, I know how much you would love to continue to hole yourself up in your tower, but I thought you would like to know that there’s a hunt about to leave. I figured you would like to get out, and even if you don’t, you’re still going.”
I actually smile as I get out of bed.
If there’s one thing my father hates, it’s hunting. He says there’s no purpose to it. As a king, there are many more important things that need to be done than killing a boar or stag. For me, there’s nothing I like more than a hunt. I can’t say that I have actually killed anything on these hunts. I leave that to the boys, the only people I consider even close to friends. They may be in the kingdom’s service, but they were always willing to include me in anything they were doing, in the castle or outside its walls. They weren’t the kind of friends to me that I see between the baker and seamstress’ son, but their company was always better than constantly being alone. At least for Charming. As Theo on the other hand, well, I gladly use these excursions to leave the confines of the castle walls.
The men set out through the woods and I can still hear the dogs barking somewhere, baying some poor creature. I urge my horse in a different direction. The men don’t care that I leave and don’t tell anyone that I run off, as long as they get to have their fun and there’s a possibility of a feast in their future. While they’re off playing god, my horse walks casually through the trees, sun shining through the leaves. This is when I feel the closest to happiness. Away from anything kingdom related. It’s not that I don’t want to be king, which maybe I don’t, but in that castle I am alone. I’m playing the part rather than living the life. And the all-consuming sadness I feel takes over my mind and body more and more every day. But somehow, riding this horse atop the underbrush, looking at the world that spring is reviving, I just wish it could revive me as well.
I have not been riding long before I hear someone else not far off. Probably one of the men to come brag about their newest kill or to check on their prince. I softly kick my white mare into a trot to get out of the thicker part of the trees so they can find me more easily. Instead of seeing a familiar face atop one of the castle horses, I find myself stumbling upon a young woman.
Her sturdy looking dark brown horse grazes nearby as she crouches next to some bushes, probably getting flowers or herbs of some sort. Her long blonde hair falls across her shoulder in loose waves, slightly pulled back from her face with some sort of kerchief that luckily gives me a perfect view of her porcelain skin. She had not heard my horse approach as I could hear her humming and singing from across the meadow. Her voice instantly filled my head. It was a wonderful sound, an old tune. A song that parents sing to their children that allow their imaginations to flow. I barely remember my own mother singing it to me at bedtime. I felt it stirring in my heart, making me eager to hear it again and again.
She was obviously from the village, based on her look and dress. But I barely even noticed that. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. She was easily the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. I envied her, able to come and go as she pleased. Having that kind of freedom. And I could tell through her voice her happiness, her confidence and ease.
I start to ease my horse back towards the woods so I wouldn’t scare the poor girl, but I don’t get far.
“Well, are you going to just stay there like a spying child or are you going to introduce yourself?”
I’ve been caught.