Once upon a time in a far away land, a king and queen were blessed with a beautiful baby boy. His innocent, sky blue eyes gleamed with happiness and joy when he first gazed up at his exhausted mother. Child babbles passed through his lips and his tiny arms lifted toward the woman, seeking her comfort and love. The Queen gave a tired smile as she held her newborn son close, happy tears streaming down her cheeks. One hand rested on the child's head against fuzzy, blonde locks and the other on his back that was dressed in a soft blanket. He was curious and already predicted to be a strong ruler. The Queen and King were never happier than when their heir was born. As the King held his son for this first time, he declared his name to be Alfred Franklin Jones. Once the Queen and King were rested from the tireless hours of birth, a celebration was thrown to announce the arrival of the kingdom's new prince. The festivities lasted for the whole first week of July, the joys of summer blessing the kingdom to the fullest.
The prince of the kingdom was not the only child born in this first week of July. In fact, another child was born to a loving mother and father the very same day. The child had shimmering blue, almost lavender eyes that held kindness and the same curiosity each newborn possesses. Wavy, blonde locks covered his head and were soft as silk. The mother was overjoyed when she held her son, giving comfort to his first cries and uncertainties. Though both parents were relieved and delighted that their son was born healthy and was there at all, they still worried that they may not be able to afford to take care of him. To assure him good fortune and a prosperous future, he was given the name Matthew Williams, meaning the gift of God.
Alfred would grow up to be a prince, learning his royal duties and studies so he may become the best king he could be. The castle will be his home and he most likely would never leave it. There was room for him to play, to run around, and to live his life how it should. There were libraries, court yards, vast hallways, and dozens of guest bedrooms to explore. But no matter how much room there was at the castle alone, the young prince will explore it all and by himself at that matter. The Queen debated if she should bear another child so that Alfred would not be so lonely growing up, but by the time she reached an answer the King, her loving husband, had passed away. Struck by grief, the Queen never remarried and went to rule the kingdom alone. Despite her own loneliness, she still wanted her son to have someone to grow up alongside of. The solution came when a family of servants came to work at the palace, a mother, father, and their son Arthur, who was only a little bit older than Alfred. The two children quickly became friends, going on imaginary adventures and explorations. Even when they got older, the remained close and were hardly separated.
The same cannot be said for Matthew however. His parents would work all the time to pay off the debt they had, to a point of exhaustion. When Matthew was old enough, he would work alongside his parents wherever he was needed. Before long, his parents had worked themselves into their own graves, leaving their son alone as well as their debt to be paid. Ever since his parents' passing, Matthew had taken up two different jobs to try to pay off the debt as quickly as possible; he couldn't make money of his own until then. He made friends with the people he worked with and were in a similar case as himself, that being the case none of them could afford to give him food and board. It's those who have no money who have a kind heart he soon found out as the years went by. His favorite place to be was when he worked in the bakery; though the rules were very strict and his boss was a bit of a tyrant, Matthew enjoyed the sweet smells and the beautiful things that he and his fellow baker created together.
Living very different lives, it was unlikely that the two 'twins' would ever meet. Seventeen years have passed since their fated birth without one knowing the other. Matthew knew of Alfred of course, he was the prince of the kingdom after all. But beyond that, the two boys remained in the place others called their home.
However, a few months before their eighteenth birthday, a crisis struck upon the kingdom. The entrance to the mines in the East of the kingdom suddenly collapsed, blocking anyone from entering or exiting. The resources from these mines, coal, gold, and semiprecious stones, were now unable to be extracted. The kingdom's economy heavily depended on the goods produced from the mines and with them gone, the Queen predicted that the kingdom would soon go bankrupt. How would she be able to take care of her people? If they were unable to make money, they could not buy food and other goods from other kingdoms. She was in a daze and did know what to do about the given situation. She sighed heavily as she walked through the halls of her palace, gazing upon the portrait of her dearly departed husband. "Oh... what in heaven's name am I going to do Franklin? The kingdom can only last so long off of our lumber industry... without those mines... we are surely going to be done for."
With her husband's death, the Queen had appointed a family friend, Ivan Braginski, to be her royal adviser when complicated affairs arose. Now when he was most needed, the man was away on bushiness in his homeland. Until he returned, she was going to have to come up with a temporary solution. Her eyes caught sight of the window not too far from where she was standing and she looked outside to the garden inside the castle walls. There sat her seventeen year old son in the garden with Arthur, his trusted valet. The two blondes were sitting on the floor, practically in the dirt, and were looking at the different plants and insects while taking notes on what they observed. Then, an idea came to her head when she looked back inside to the empty throne of the king.
In a neighboring kingdom, there was a young king who was seeking a royal to become his queen. His kingdom, as the Queen knew, was well known for soil, farming, and making wine. Combing the two kingdoms and their industry and trade would surely save them from becoming completely broke. They had lived in near poverty for the past few months and the Queen was not going to wait around any longer to do something about it. In two weeks time, her son would turn eighteen and would have to marry by that time in the first place. It was a perfect idea. Right away, she went to write a proposal for the neighboring kingdom. She knew that this was the right decision, but she did not feel partially proud of having to take away her son's freedom without his consent or knowledge of the situation. She kept telling herself that it was all for the good of the kingdom and her people. Sacrifices had to be made from one time to another and this was the time for her son to learn that. In due time, the letter was sent to the neighboring king and a reply came within a few days notice.
The Queen was delighted to hear the good news of the king accepted the marriage proposal and that the wedding should take place in exactly one week from that day. She has not yet informed her son on the arrangement, now was as good a time as any. Resealing the letter in the envelope she made her way to her son's bedroom, hoping that he was awake by now. "Alfred, dear? Are you awake?" she asked, lightly tapping at the ivory door.
"Yeah! C'mon in Mom! Oh man Arthur! Check this out! You know that thing we found in the rock the other day? This one here? Well it's some kind of ancient fish thing! This place used to be an underwater ocean according to this book! How cool is that?!" Alfred's bubbly, excited voice was easily heard through both the door and the walls. He was always very enthusiastic about the things that interested him and also very persistent on getting others to share his enjoyments. Keeping the smile on her lips, the Queen ventured inside the room to stand by the very clustered desk her son was sitting at. It was filled with many samples of rocks, plants, and bones, piles upon piles of books and parchment, dozens of quills, and insects enclosed behind glass cases. The natural study and history of the world has always fascinated him and he always wanted to travel away to see more, but sadly, it would not get to occur.
"Alfred, my son, I have some news for you. Arthur, if you will give us a moment alone please," the Queen said gently, settling the letter on top of the book Alfred was focusing on.
"Of course your Majesty," the young man said with a bow. "Alfr- your Highness, I will return later on in the day when you need me." giving another polite nod, Arthur hastily left the prince's vast bedroom and went about to his day's chores and duties.
Waiting for the sound of footsteps to die off, the Queen spoke up. "Alfred, as you know already, am I getting old and the kingdom is in troubled times. I think now is the time that I hand the hand of rule over to you as you are getting close to the age of adulthood."
"Mom that's nice of you to think of me but you know how much I want to travel and see the world! I can't become king now! And I'll have to get married and everything too! This is all kinda last minute isn't it?" he panicked slightly, rubbing the back of his neck with uncertainty. "Can't this hold off until I get a bit older?"
His mother shook her head sadly, knowing he would react in this sort of manner. "Son, if you would please read the letter in front of you."
Alfred nodded silently and slipped the letter out of the envelope, his eyes scanning over the parchment with distress. His expression falling into sadness the more he read on. "Mom... how could you... I mean..."
"It is your duty as the prince and future king to make these sacrifices for your people. It is time that you grow out of being a child and learn these lesson Alfred. If this kingdom is going to survive, it is only vital that you marry this king. I knew that this would upset you but I also knew that I must push this onto you." she pulled her son from his sitting position into a hug, holding him close to her chest and gently stroking his short, blonde hair through her fingers. "I know that you are upset but I'm afraid this is how it must be. Please... enjoy this last week of the freedom you have my son. It will be quite sometime before you have much again."