Walking through the gardens in the late afternoon was young queen Hennike’s favorite pastime. It had been like this since she arrived to the palace twelve years prior.
At first, the flowers reminded her of the countryside, of home. It hadn’t been easy adapting from living on the borders of Patras, used to the wilderness, to found herself living in the busy city of Arles. But now, the queen had long settled on the capital as well as on her reign; carrying naturally with the responsibilities that came with being the sovereign of a nation as large as Vere.
Still, she continued walking religiously every afternoon through the gardens to have so much deserved time for herself. Her reserved nature craved for solitude and space to think. Specially while dealing with politicians on a daily basis.
That day though, the queen was on her usual stroll when her routine was interrupted. The queen wasn’t particularly bothered though since the interruption came in the form of her three year old son who had somehow wandered outside, toddling almost regally.
The little boy was a mirage of Hennike, his light hair and chubby cheeks were like miniature versions of his mother’s golden locks and defined cheekbones. Both her sons resembled her, but Auguste had inherited his father’s broad back and dimpled smile. Laurent, well, he could as well have been Hennike herself pulled out of moment buried in the past.
The mother stopped her wandering to wait for the boy to catch up to her, amused at the seriousness the three year old’s face possessed.
When he was born, she had been worried she had ended with a problematic kid. His wrist only bore five tally marks. It was not a terribly low number, but still astounding given the generous marks that adorned both his parents’ and elder brother’s wrists. Normally, kids who had few marks tended to be violent, rebellious and volatile; all of those characteristics undeserving of a prince.
Against all odds, Laurent was a sweet kid. He observed people instead of interacting with them, but he never got into fights and mostly kept to himself. His curious nature was already developed at his tender age, making him problematic only for his nannies who had to keep track of him.
Laurent met his mother and flashed her a smile. Silently, he demanded the queen’s hand to hold and she obliged. The kid knew how to speak and was pretty eloquent for his age. However, he preferred to communicate with subtle gestures and body language whenever he could get away with it. He resembled his mother’s preference for silence which made them work easily, being that they understood each other instinctively.
Like this, they continued their walk peacefully, enjoying the still warm air of autumn, and the ocre colors around them. Laurent touched with his free hand everything within his reach, cataloguing the world around him, mind working fast behind his blue eyes. Hennike observed him, imprinting the mannerisms of her son on her memory, smiling softly at the boy. The royal gardens were a perfect picture, framing the domestic scene of the mother and the son in various tones of gold.
It would have been a perfect evening, thought the queen when her stroll was once again interrupted, though this time the distraction was welcomed with considerably less warmth. Theo, one of the knights on the King’s Guard intercepted the pair, causing Laurent to stop his carefree wandering. The boy got nervous, which caused him to retract instinctively back into his serious demeanor.
“Your Highness” adressed the guard respectfully, aware that his intrusion was met with annoyance. “There’s a matter requiring your immediate attention. The king demands you to meet him at his study as soon as possible.”
“I will go as soon as I get Laurent settled inside” answered the queen formally, her voice stating what she tought of the kings *demands*.
“I’m sorry my lady,” he answered “but the king asked for you to go to him the moment you received the message. I am also instructed to take the prince to his quarters”
The queen was annoyed at the antiques of her husband. The king knew better than to disturb her on her afternoon walks, which made his summoning all the more infuriating. Also she knew Laurent didn’t feel comfortable around the guards, clinging always to his brother or to her, and she refused to be relieved of her duties as a mother.
But ultimately, she appreciated Theo, who had been in the King’s Guard since before she became queen. She decided not to cause him an unfair problem with her husband, putting her duties as a leader before her personal feelings, and conceded.
“Laurent,” she turned to say as she crouched to pick up the toddler “ I need you to go with Theo to your rooms.” Her voice was soft, but also a command that couldn’t be ignored.
The child seemed unhappy, she could tell. She ignored him and placed her son in the arms of the knight. Even if she was equally displeased, she was still the queen and she wouldn’t bow to pouty toddler lips.
When they arrived at the doors of the castle, Laurent suddenly started squirming in Theo’s arms and trying to reach something that had caught his attention. The older man let himself be led in the direction the toddler pointed and smiled softly at the little giggles Laurent gave. Between all the guards, he was the most patient with the young prince’s antiques. The boy had captured a dandelion.
It was rare to find one this long after the summer had dawned but there it stood proudly between the little boy’s fingers. His first instinct though, wasn’t to gape in wonder at the flower or to blow on it, but turning to his mother and handing her his prize.
Hennike smiled tenderly at Laurent while she grabbed the flower.
It was only because she was staring at her son’s hand that she saw what happened. Of Laurent’s marks, the one that crossed the other four slowly faded to a dull gray. The boy scratched at his wrist, most likely feeling a weird tingle on it and then turned away, suddenly more curious in getting back to his rooms.
There were legends of tally marks disappearing after a sincere demonstration of love, but she had never seen it happen or even heard of it. Her eyes teared up as she saw Theo disappear around the corner with the boy in his arms. She glanced at the dandelion in her hands and it was right there that she knew for sure Laurent would be fine. He was not flawed for being born with only a few tallies, but perfect in his unique Laurent way.
As she blew the dandelion she wished for her son to find someone who would match him in the purity of his love. It was a mother’s sincere desire to the fates who could have or have not been listening to her.
Either way, she turned in the direction of the king’s study and walked away.