As children Prince James and I played in the courtyard together. We were unlikely friends, the second born son of a king and the only son of the castle sorceress, but we spent every day together since we were scarcely out of the nursery. He, as a second son, had few royal responsibilities, and I often dipped out of my mother’s magic lesson as often as I could to aid in my friend’s games. As we neared adulthood, I was named James’s valet. Despite my official status as a servant, our friendship didn’t change. He remained as loyal a friend, and as grounded a prince as ever.
“Henry!” James called across the crowded courtyard above the clamber of the castle guards at their training. He quickly navigated around the sparring men to my side.
“What is it, Highness?” I asked, careful of listening ears who may report a less formal greeting.
“How many times have I told you to just keep calling me James, as we did as boys?” James laughed, roughing my hair.
“Alright, highness James, how am I to assist you today?” I replied, attempting to duck out of his reach.
“You and I are to report to the council chamber for a meeting. Father has an important matter to discuss.”
It was early in the day, a time when James was usually occupied with his former tutor discussing reports about some new ideas called “Science”. This left me a few hours to myself or to help my mother with her practice. To be called to the council room before noon meant that the matter was indeed important.
James and I made haste to the council room, where the King, crown price, and the king’s steward, and a few favorite advisors were already waiting.
“My son!” King Friedrich greeted as James took his seat, and I took my place standing behind his chair. “Now that we are all gathered, let me announce the grand news. King Konig of Sonnigeebene has accepted our suit for a marriage alliance!”
A general cheer arose among the advisors. Prince Hans looked shocked and pleased, and James was still. Sonnigeebene was a large and wealthy kingdom, and King Konig was a powerful man with no sons, but 3 beautiful.
“Settle down men!” The king’s voice rang over the din of excitement. “This is a great opportunity for our kingdom, and my boys. King Konig asks that I send one of the princes to the kingdom so that the engagement can be formalized, dowries settled, and the weddings arranged.”
Again, excited talking broke out across the room. King Konig was known for his generous nature and his deep love for his daughters. The dowries he would gift to his new in-laws was likely to be a boost to our own kingdom’s modest treasury.
“Yes, yes. This is an exciting day for the Kingdom of Waldgebiet!” King Friedrich called above voices once more. “And I can think of no better man to lead this mission than my boy, Prince James.” The king smiled at his son before turning to his advisors to begin planning. James, however, stiffened in his seat until the meeting was adjourned.
“Congratulations on your first official mission, little brother.” Prince Hans offered as the room emptied. “Just make sure you choose a bride worthy to be my Queen, a another bride worthy to be your Duchess! Remember, we marry for ourselves and the people of Waldgebiet.” With that, Prince Hans clapped his brother on the shoulder, and exited with his own valet.
We were left alone in the room. For the first time since the announcement was made, James finally spoke.
“Henry, I don’t think I can do this. I’m not ready for such an important task.”