Ronduin stepped out onto the balcony. It was strangely quiet now that the chickens had moved to the courtyard. The last glow of the evening sky provided enough light for Ronduin to find his old, gray blanket lying in a heap near the railing. A cool breeze brought Ronduin a sudden chill, so he wrapped the blanket around his shoulders. Then, still wearing the blanket, he walked to his room.
Here he sat cross-legged in the darkest place in his dark room, his cave-like, covered, curtained bed.
“I wonder whether Mirabel and Rowan recognized me,” he worried. “I recognized them, but I know they were the runners. They were so far away. If I had not known it was them, I might not have guessed it was Mirabel and Rowan.”
Ronduin heard footsteps in the hallway and then a knock on his door. “Ronduin are you in there?”
It was his mother’s voice. “Yes,” said Ronduin.
She burst brightly into the room carrying a flaming torch which she placed in a sconce on the wall.
Ronduin spoke from his dark cave. “Mother, do you think Mirabel and Rowan recognized me?”
“I don’t know,” said the Queen. “The light was dim, and they were far away. It’s hard to guess whether they would recognize you.”
“If they did recognize me, you you think Roland would tell them that the boy they know as Ronduin is also the boy who was once the sickly prince?” asked Ronduin.
“You asked all the castle workers and Roland to keep your secret. I know Roland is good at keeping secrets because, long ago, he kept a secret for me,” answered the Queen.
Ronduin took the grey blanket off his shoulders and stepped off the bed and into the room lit with a flickering flame. “I’d like to hear about that,” he said.
“Sit down,” said his mother, pulling a chair from the wall for Ronduin and seating herself on the wooden box that usually held the gray blanket. “It’s a long story.”
“One spring, long ago your father and I planned to marry. Your father was not yet king and he would travel by horse to visit me in the Mountain Kingdom. One day I decided to visit to the village to meet the people of the Lowland Kingdom. I wanted to get to know people before they knew I had any connection the future king.”
“So, when my Uncle Cedric was packing his cart to travel during the warm months, I asked him to give me a ride to the village. I wanted to arrive by myself without the future king and I wanted to go home on my own too. I felt the same way you did about going to school. I did not want any deference that might come from people who knew I would join the royal family. This way, I could introduce myself, and get to know people in a natural way. Nobody would bow to me as the future queen.”
“I decided to go on market day, so I could meet many people selling food and homemade crafts. Your father understood why I wanted to get to know people before I joined the royal family. He was very helpful. He made a plan to help me get home. He asked Roland to give me a ride up into the hills in the cart that he brought to market.”
“So Roland learned you were the future queen, and he kept your secret?” asked Ronduin.
“He did, “said the Queen. “That first market day was a great joy for me. I loved the people I met and I liked the colorful booths selling so many things: bright scarves, bird whistles, wooden bowls, pottery and all sorts of iron ware from chimney cranes to tongs.”
“At the end of the day, I met Roland at his booth where he sold carved animals that parents bought for their children. When I told him my name and mentioned that I lived in the Mountain Kingdom, he asked whether I wanted a ride part way home. Since a few shoppers were listening, he and I both acted as if we were coming up with this plan on the spot.”
“Later that day, we laughed as we traveled together in his cart along the river. Your father met us at the landing where I imagine your friends stepped out of the green boat earlier today. My husband-to-be had a gift for me. He was on a grey horse and he was leading a raspberry colored mare. Right away I named her Raspberry.”
“After that I visited the market almost every week. Your father would meet me at the stable in the foothills. I would leave Raspberry there and ride with your father on his horse as far as the landing. Here, I would meet Roland and travel to the village in Roland’s cart.”
“At the market I became friends with a young woman named Julia. She sold wool that she had dyed and spun. I would sit in her booth and spin wool for her. We chatted happily. I told her I would be married soon, but didn’t give her details. She told me about her life on the farm. When the market closed for the day, Roland gave me a ride to the landing and your father, leading Raspberry, met me there. Our journey to my home took us through the bowl of flowers. We often stopped there to eat our dinner and enjoy the flowers. When we arrived at my home, it was dark and your father would spend the night. I was always tired, but he stayed awake playing chess with my father.”
“Did you ever tell the villagers that you would someday be Queen?” asked Ronduin.
“Your father helped me make the announcement a couple of months before our wedding. One day he came to the market and he brought with him a trumpet player who made a great sound that called everyone together. When everyone gathered in the village square, his parents made the announcement that the prince would soon be married and I was introduced as his future bride.”
“So, did that change everything? Did your friends stop being your friends? Did they think they should not be friends with a future Queen?”
“I told them right away that I wanted our friendship to stay the same. And I was delighted that my friends stayed my friends.”
Ronduin smiled when his mother said this.
Now the Queen continued, “You know, Ronduin, I think the time is coming soon for you to tell everyone that the sickly prince grew up to be a strong prince. You might think about how to announce that they already know Prince Ronduin.”
“Do I have to bring a trumpeter?”
The Queen laughed. “Of course not,” she said. “However, you might want to tell Mirabel and Rowan before you tell the rest of your school mates.”
Ronduin stood, took Apple out of his pocket and threw the bean bag in the forever pattern. His mother watched and after awhile, said, “You are reminding me of something.” She reached into her pocket and pulled out a yellow beanbag that was the same size and shape as Apple. “I think it’s time for Apple to have a friend,” she said, handing the new bean bag to Ronduin.
Ronduin smiled broadly. He said, “I hereby name you Pear.”
He set Pear on one knee and Apple on the other.
“Apple, I now introduce you to Pear,” said Ronduin.
“Pear, it’s good to meet you. I now introduce you to Apple.”
Ronduin then stood and placed the two beanbags on his pillow.”
“Pear is very young, like a newborn baby. He needs rest and he needs to get to know his new friend, Apple,” said Ronduin.
“Then I should tiptoe out quietly,” whispered the Queen.
“Good night,” whispered Ronduin.
“Good night,” whispered his mother as she gave him a hug.
Here is the portal to Chapter 43 https://childrengrowing.com/2020/08/19/the-secret-prince-chapter-43-barley/