Prince Edward had wild brown hair and blue eyes. They were fixated on his father this time, and his mouth was twisted downward in a frown. He didn't like the way things were going at this current point in time, and was defiant in all ways possible. He thought he would show it by cursing at his mother, his grandmother, and the doctor who came to call upon him. “What are you doing in my room!” he snarled. “I beg of you to be gone!”
The man loomed over him threateningly. “You know you are not to curse at your mother! How many times do I have to tell you that!” He shook his head. “I have a half-mind to send you to a boarding school, you no-nonsense, egotistical boy!”
“I'm not a boy.” He straightened his shoulders. “I'm nine.”
“Nevertheless, you are my son,” he replied. “I must protect you from the bad things that are out in the wild, in the world, in the great vast unknown that permeates this land. The kingdom is becoming more and more civilized. The next time you act out in public, may be your last.” His eyes gazed down on him, and the boy shivered. “Mark my words.”
He turned and left the room, slamming the door behind him.
The boy jumped up on his bed and howled at the night. Outside, a wolf howled along with him.
In the morning, the king's messenger pigeon was found dead on the ground, buried by a snowdrift. He didn't think a wolf had something to do with the pigeon's death, but wolf tracks were around the bird and he had plucked away some of the feathers before skirting into the night. The wind moaned. The sky was dark and cloudy above them, and everything looked surreal in the fallen winter light. It was mid-morning, and the archers were getting ready for practice. Prince Edward was not ready. He was eating a piece of baked bread in the kitchen, sprinkled with pumpkin seeds. The butcher had gone to the vegetable patch and had gotten a pumpkin and brought it to the cook, Mildred. She was an overly large woman, and had large, glassy eyes and a wide, smiling mouth. Her nose was long and crooked and she had been hit in the face with a ball when she was seven-years-old.
“Hello, youngin',” she said pleasantly. “Whatever are you doing, eating that bread, for? Your archery class is about to start.”
“I don't want to play right now,” he replied.
“But the king...”
“The king is my father,” he said firmly. “I do not have to listen to what he says all the time. Unlike some people.” He sniffed, and shook his head. “Really, Mildred, I think you ought to have more sense, listening to my father like that.”
“He does pay me,” she reminded him with the tiny hint of a smile.
He shrugged his bony shoulders. He was small for his age. Most of the boys in his class at school were heavier, and had bonier features. “I'll pay you from now on!” he vowed.
She couldn't help it. She burst into peals of laughter. Tears squeezed from her eyes and she wiped them away with her apron. “You know, you are a bright lad, but you don't have much sense!” she gasped, doubling over in pain. “You go on now. Go outside. You don't have to play archery, but I have to make dinner for the soldiers coming tonight. They are going to be a hungry lot.”
He raised an eyebrow. “I never knew you to follow the rules, but all right.” He picked a cookie off the plate and scurried out of the door. It slammed shut behind him. A gust of wind nearly blew her over.