Author’s note: I’ll be posting two chapters today in advance, cause I’ll be out for two days (going to the Enchanted River tomorrow, then island hopping the next day woohoo~). I should totally update my travel entries soon~
Squeals and giggles of children could be heard echoing through the castle, yet the castle staff did not mind the noise. They would oftentimes even catch themselves smiling whenever they saw the little princess run away from her little knight who tried to catch her in a game of tag.
And of course, the Second Prince Alasdair was not too far behind.
“Stop running! No running!” Alasdair shouted as he himself ran after the children.
The squeals even reached the back garden where the King and Queen were leisurely having their afternoon tea with their eldest son, the Crown Prince Alaric.
“Mother, why are you not chastising Alenaire and Luce for running amok? You used to pull mine and Alasdair’s ears when we were younger, for misbehaving,” the fourteen year old Alaric could not help but comment.
“You needn’t ask such an obvious question, my boy! Your mother is obviously gender-biased!” The King replied as he looked at his wife with humor.
The Queen glared at him as she gracefully picked up her teacup. “No, I am simply too old to run after her. I’ve done quite enough running around when the both of you were children!” She pointedly looked at Alaric.
“You’re not a geriatric, mother,” Alaric said as he shook his head. “By the way, how old are you again mother?”
“How rude!” The Queen put down her teacup with a clang. “Remember Alaric, one should never ask a woman her age.”
The King leaned over his seat to whisper to his son through the corner of his mouth. “She’s thirty-two. Ouch!” The King yelped as his thigh was pinched by no other than his wife.
“Big brother!” They heard a little girl’s childish voice ring jubilantly in the air. They turned around in their seats to meet the three children.
“Little sister, how are you?” Alaric smiled softly as Alenaire dashed towards him to have her head petted. “How are you as well, Luce? Alasdair?”
“Good!” Luce replied happily.
“Hello big brother,” Alasdair said. He crudely went to the table to grab a handful of salted crackers.
“Manners, Alasdair!” The King reproached, but Alasdair didn’t heed him and kept eating the crackers out of his hand with a loud crunching noise. He also extended his palm out to Luce, who gingerly fished out a few crumbs for himself.
“Sometimes I wonder if I’m raising an ape instead of a boy,” the Queen said rather solemnly, but a certain fondness crept into her voice. It was difficult not to love your own children, even if they missed your expectations.
“Alenaire, come here my love,” the Queen said in dulcet tones. Alenaire complied, and sat on her mother’s lap with a smile.
“Tell me, love. Who do you love the most between daddy and I? Mm?” The Queen brushed Alenaire’s cheek with a back of her elegant hand. She then whispered into Alenaire’s ear, “Say mommy.”
“Mommy!” Alenaire repeated, giggling against her mother’s chest.
“Wha–! Alenaire, my princess, have you forgotten all about your daddy?” The King tried his best not to look so affected by his daughter’s words.
“Say, ‘Who are you?’,” the Queen whispered again into Alenaire’s ear.
“Who are you?” Alenaire repeated as she stared at her father innocently.
The King was devastated. Alaric hid his laughter by pressing a napkin against his lips, however, his trembling shoulders gave him away.
“What were you and Luce playing, Alenaire love?” The Queen asked after she had a good laugh at her husband’s expense. It was revenge for blurting out her age.
“Tag! Luce chased me around but can’t catch me!” Alenaire declared proudly.
“I did! But you cried!” Luce protested as he approached the Queen with Alenaire on her lap.
“I didn’t cry!” Alenaire wiggled her feet to be let down from her mother’s embrace. “Catch me!” Alenaire ran away, with Luce chasing after her once again.
“Four year old children are a handful,” Alasdair sighed dreadfully. “I’m getting grey hairs just looking after them!”
“You’re quite the histrionic one, Alasdair dear,” the Queen said. She motioned him to come closer so she could inspect his head. “Mmm…I see. This is your predicament. It’s not so bad. Why, I can count only five grey hairs!”
“Really?!” Alasdair looked back at his mother, his mouth agape. He was merely joking about his grey hairs, but to actually have them was absurd!
His family laughed as they saw his stricken expression. He was so easy to fool.
“Your mother is simply joking, son,” the King mollified.
Alaric lifted his cup of tea towards his brother. “Why don’t you join us for tea?”
Alasdair looked behind him to see the children still running about, not caring how their shoes were getting soiled from the earth.
“I’m busy,” Alasdair said smugly as he shook his head. “I have children to look after.”
“Alasdair you sound like an old man with ten children!” Alaric pointed out. His brother was so silly. “By the way, I’ve heard from the Royal tutor that you’ve piled up homework,” he added as soon as he remembered. He wasn’t going to let his younger brother get away with it just because their parents were kept in the dark.
“Alasdair! I know you love your sister a lot, but you should focus on your studies!” The King rebuked, his expression stern.
“Your father is right, Alasdair dear. In the future, you will be helping your older brother govern this kingdom. That is why studying is important. So you will learn–Alasdair! I was not finished!” The Queen’s eyebrows were drawn together as Alasdair quickly made his escape, using the children frolicking on the grass as the reason for his short attention span.
The King sighed as he placed a warm hand on his wife’s shoulder. “Just leave him be, Aiyana. He’s still nine years old. He’ll grow out of his immaturity soon…I hope.”
“I hope,” the Queen and the crown prince said simultaneously.
“Luce! You’re going to be Awi’s knight! You should know manners and sword fighting!” Alasdair said as he tugged both of the children out of the grass.
“Sword!” Luce pretended to swing an invisible sword in his hand as he stabbed and sliced the air.
“But you can’t learn those stuff until you’re seven, though. You’re too young. I think you can join in Awi’s Royal classes too at that age,” Alasdair said after much thought. “Mother said Awi’s classes will start when she’s seven. She’ll have homework like me!”
Alenaire raised her hands and started chanting gibberish. She pretended to be one of the mages she saw around the castle.
“Awi, I know you can’t talk properly yet, but your chants are scaring me. You sound like you’re trying to revive the dead,” Alasdair said as he lowered Alenaire’s raised hands.
Luce was still piercing the air with his invisible sword, and Alenaire seemed jealous. She followed his movements, clumsily waving one of her hands in the air.
“So you like swords too?” Alasdair asked as he looked on at the two children. Then he sighed. “I wonder when my words will be met with a proper response…”