Alastair is bored, and a little restless.
It's not a strange occurence; he often feels as if there's nothing to do, even when that's clearly not the case. In fact, he's been given a very specific activity, but it's one he very much wants to not do.
Violin is a beautiful instrument, but Alastair's certain enough that, if he weren't a prince, someone would've thrown him out of the palace for how terrible he is with it. Unfortunately for everyone in the palace, the King is very insistent that Alastair learn to play.
So, instead of inflicting the sounds of what might as well be a yowling cat on whichever servants happen to be nearby, Alastair is lying on the chaise longue in his room and wishing he were out in the gardens.
He stares out of the wall-to-wall window — it's ostentatious, but he likes it, unlike most things in his room. No one asked him, 'Alastair, what would you like your room to be like?'. His father simply decided for him. Though, then again, he is the King; deciding things is basically his job. And Alastair's room isn't awful, it's just a little boring.
Outside of the window, he can see all of Lumine — it's a beautiful city. Not that he's ever really seen it up close. As the prince, he's in danger any time he gets close to the people, so he's been mostly confined to the palace grounds for all of his... seventeen years. But it's fine, the palace is ridiculously big, so it's not like he's really all that stuck.
He'd like to see the Library, though, at least once. It sounds almost magical.
Alastair sighs, pushes himself up off the chaise longue. His hair's a mess now, he's going to have to brush it. He walks over to the closet; he'll probably have to appear in court today, so he should wear something suitably princely. Of course, he could always get a servant to help him, but he doesn't like to bother them too much — they do a lot of work for him already, there's no reason to add to their load.
A knock on his door.
"Come in," he calls.
"Your Highness." The servant who opens the door bows to him. "Your illustrious father has requested your presence at a banquet tonight."
Alastair pauses, staring at the servant. "Uh... please inform him that I will attend. Thank you."
The servant bows again, and leaves.
That is... odd. Did he do something wrong? There aren't a lot of reasons his father would invite him to a banquet. Maybe the King has decided to marry him off — that would make sense, however much Alastair doesn't want it to be the case. Or maybe he's finally being allowed into the city? Unlikely, but he can dream.
No matter the occasion, he'll need to dress fancier than he'd expected, but that's no trouble. It's quite a few hours until the banquet will begin — he can probably fit in a trip to the gardens.
...Though he will have to brush his hair. Damn.
Alastair grows a lot of things in the little plot of land the gardener has set aside for him — roses, nasturtiums, various salad greens, some tomatoes. It's really quite pleasant, if he does say so himself, and he loves it. Especially in harvest season, when he can enjoy the literal fruits of his labor.
Right now, he's just watering the plants — rote work, but it needs to be done, especially now; Chandelle barely ever has substantial rain during the summertime.
"Your roses look happy."
Alastair startles, but it's just the gardener, Tezuka Jun. She's an ex-Corsair of Dusk, in her late forties, and has extremely green thumbs (often literally).
"Ah, thank you!" Alastair beams, turning to her.
Jun smiles and cocks her head to the side. "I heard you're going to a banquet tonight?"
Alastair nods, puts the trowel in his hand on the ground. "Yes, my father called me. I'm... not sure why."
"Kings work in mysterious ways!" Jun laughs. "Listen, you take good care of yourself, alright? I think I might know what this is about. And if I'm right, you're going to want to figure out your loyalties."
Alastair raises an eyebrow. "That's not concerning at all."
She shakes her head. "It's just a hunch. Don't take me too seriously, honey."
"Your hunches are always right, Jun."
"I doubt it!"
Jun, still laughing, walks away and leaves Alastair to his own devices.
He shakes his head and sighs, but fondly. Jun is one of his best friends, and he cares about her, but she's infuriatingly cryptic sometimes. 'You're going to want to figure out your loyalties' — what is that supposed to mean?
For now, he'll just keep tending to his plants. He can 'figure out his loyalties' later.
Unlike with his room, Alastair actually quite likes his study. It has a nice atmosphere; it's cozy, and it feels like his. No one else comes in here, except for servants bringing messages, so he doesn't have to keep up appearances with it. The color of the wood is nice, as well, mahogany and cherry.
He has a few letters he has to go through, some from tutors, some which are almost certainly marriage proposals that he'll ignore (he isn't even of age yet), and some from acquaintances/almost friends — including a letter from one Demelza Lockridge.
Demelza is the eldest daughter of a powerful duke. She's almost certainly who his father plans to have him marry once they're both of age, but while she's pleasant enough, she's nowhere near his type. They keep up regular correspondence nonetheless. (Her handwriting is impeccable, he has no idea how she does it.)
Your Royal Highness Prince Alastair,
I'm quite well, thank you. Yourself?
My family are as insufferable as always; it seems the word 'no' is foreign in their household. I told them that I did not wish to have a political marriage. My mother looked at me as if she was deciding which asylum I was to be sent to.
Of course, you and I both know that they have no idea what they've got on their hands if they decide to push it. I will fight tooth and nail if it comes to that. (Father says I should not be so stubborn, as it does not become a lady such as myself. I personally believe my stubborness is one of my more attractive traits.)
Aside from that, everything is quite pleasant here in the manor. Claudia's cat scratched up poor Timothy's bed the other day, naughty thing. Mother was furious, I was sure she was about to kick the creature out, but Claudia did her little pleading face and suddenly all was forgiven. I know not what magic she possesses, only that it exists.
The ivy is slowly but surely creeping up the walls. I fear that, one morning, I'll try to open the window and it will be overgrown. My friends from the city assure me this is not the case, but I doubt them.
On that note, how is your garden? I remember you promised me a cutting of the white roses. You'll keep your word, I'm sure.
Alastair smiles. It's true, he had promised her a cutting, he'd taken it from his garden today. The distance between Drachen Palace and the Lockridge manor isn't too great, so he'll enclose it in the envelope with his next letter.
Demelza,I keep telling you, you don't have to write my full title. But I'm well also, thank you for asking.
That sounds unpleasant. I admit, I have not discussed anything like that with my father. I'm hoping he won't ever mention it, and I can just slip out of it. Unlikely but a man can dream.
Certainly Lord and Lady Lockridge will have a difficult time of it if you decide they should. (I must agree with you on this one. I'm hoping that by the time I'm King your father will be long in retirement as he sounds an unpleasant man. We'll take the court by storm, you and I.)
Oh dear. This is the second time in as many months, isn't it? Surely something will have to be done sooner or later. Your sister certainly sounds as if she's some sort of sorceress; I recommend spraying her with water. That usually works with cats, I've heard.
Your city friends may be right in this instance, I'm afraid.
My garden is quite lovely. As to the promise, I'm sure I don't know what you mean — I never intended anything of the sort. You shall have to satisfy yourself with the memory of my pristine roses.
Something a little odd happened to me — my father the King invited me to tonight's banquet, and I can't for the life of me figure out why. I suppose by the time you reply, I will already know, but you're welcome to give some suggestions.
Alastair takes a deep breath, and opens his eyes. Staring back at him from the mirror is— well, himself, dressed appropriately for a political dinner. Which he supposes this is, even if it's in his own country.
The closer he's been getting to this banquet, the further he's been spiraling into confusion and nervousness. His father the King barely ever makes any communication with him, so for him to do something like this out of the blue is worrying, to say the least.
Alastair shakes his head. It's fine, he'll be fine. He'll never go if he keeps obsessing like this, so he needs to just... make his way to the dining hall.
So he does, trying his best to not think about all of the terrible things that could have happened, to make this his reality so suddenly.
Eventually, after what could be minutes or years, he finds himself in front of the dining hall door. It's imposing — he almost never eats here. Despite how fast his heart is beating, he pushes open the door, takes a step inside, and bows.
"Alastair," King Dominic says, "you may rise."
Dominic Valiquette, sitting at the head of the table, looks like the kings in fairytales — broad-shouldered and tall. He has long hair, like Alastair, though he keeps it in a golden clip instead of a hair tie, and a short beard.
Alastair does, opposite from his father. There is no one in the other chairs, and the table is not set for anyone but the two sitting at it. It feels somehow eerie.
Servants file into the room, carrying dishes of things Alastair couldn't name but which smell heavenly, setting crystal water jugs onto the table, and placing food onto the plates. It is a banquet, truly, and Alastair and the King will never be able to eat all of it by themselves. It feels almost decadent.
"You may begin."
Alastair does, cautious. The food is delicious, as it always is, and when he finishes anything, the servants refill it immediately. He glances around, wondering what the point of all this could possibly be.
They eat in silence for a while, but then:
"The Star-Blessed King of Najahashi, Rurik tan Nazta, has cordially invited me to this year's Fire Festival," Dominic says in his deep baritone, each syllable carefully considered. "I will not be attending."
"What?" Alastair blurts out, then he catches himself. "Ah, that is to say, would that not... be rather rude?"
Dominic nods gravely, and does not say anything more.
Alastair starts fidgeting nervously with his hair. There is something more to this, but he's going to have to work it out himself. (He hates these games.)
Another long silence as they eat—
"You will be attending, Alastair."
Alastair nearly chokes on water. "I— what!?"
Dominic smiles, and the weight of his expressionless gaze is suddenly lifted, if only for a moment. "You're similar in age to him, and it is long past time you are formally introduced into court."
"I..." Alastair is almost speechless. This is... How is he supposed to react to this? "Thank you, Father. It's an honor."
The smile disappears. "Indeed. You're dismissed."