The Would-Be Prince

The feast had begun. Servants were coming forward to serve plates filled with the finest delicacies; platters heaped high with rare meats cooked to perfection, the best wines were being poured for each guest, and the room resonated with the sound of elegant silverware meeting the most exquisite china dishes as conversation buzzed along the length of the richly decorated banquet table. It was a feast fit for a prince. Only the prince wasn’t there.

The countess drummed her fingers on the table in an impatient, unladylike manner unbefitting for her rank. He should’ve been here by now. She had counseled, lectured, cajoled, and threatened, yet he had still failed to make an appearance. She sighed under her breath. She knew why her nephew would not appear at the banquet tonight, and it made her feel a mixture of both compassion and frustration.

Leaning over to the count to whisper her intentions, she stood to her feet and begged the guests excuse her for a few moments. Those in attendance accepted her leave serenely, but a few glances were shared, and sly smiles were hidden behind bejeweled hands. 

“What do they know,” the countess thought grimly to herself. “They wouldn’t understand.”

Upon leaving the room, she ascended the ornate, marble staircase to his luxurious suite of rooms. Ignoring the servant standing stiffly outside, she rapped her knuckles gently on the door.

“Patrick,” she said softly. “Are you in there?”

There was no reply, so she let herself in. Of course, he wasn’t there. Turning about, she surveyed the spacious room and noticed his freshly pressed suit laid out untouched upon the large bed. The countess set her lips together in a firm line. She hoped he would be here, but she knew where she would find him.

Turning swiftly, she marched back down the stairs and entered a side door to a passage she had barely seen a handful of times in her life. Following it through several rooms, she eventually arrived at the palace kitchen. The staff were in a flurry of activity, but half of them stopped, almost running into one another in shock as they saw the countess, elegantly dressed in her evening gown, long white satin gloves, and her perfectly coiffed hair draped in a netting of pearls standing in the doorway. She brushed their concerns aside, waving at them to continue in their duties. She was there on another matter. 

“Where is he?” she asked of the kitchen overseer. 

The man, his face discerningly masked, simply gestured towards the pantry doors. 

“Try the cellar,” he said.

She made her way brusquely towards the pantry and ignoring the curious glances of the servants, pulled open the door and turned sharply down the steep steps to the right of the doorway. As her feet found the bottom floor, her hand groped along the wall until she found what she was looking for. Her fingers flipped the switch deftly and the room was flooded with light from a single lightbulb suspended from the low ceiling. 

Obviously the kitchen didn’t need the cellar anymore. With today’s technology, there were massive deep freezers and refrigerators close at hand in the expansive industrial kitchen. Yet the cellar still made for a handy place to keep wine bottles, potatoes, bread, and other pantry items that would benefit from the cooler space. Which was why she wasn’t surprised to see a young man hastily hide the slice of bread in his hand and shrink guiltily against the shelving as the light came on.

He was dressed in nothing but a faded shirt, and torn jeans—he obviously hadn’t parted with the clothes he had been discovered in—his shock of dark hair was ruffled, complimenting the frightened and suspicious spark that flashed in his brown eyes. Despite his initial guilt, those eyes stared back at her with a mixture of defiance and resignation.

“You know, there’s a feast and a lot of people waiting for you up there,” the countess said dryly. 

“They’re waiting for someone who doesn’t exist,” came the gruff reply. 

“No, this is who doesn’t exist.” She flicked a contemptuous hand at him. “The son of my brother—once the king—is not a scared rabbit that sneaks into a cellar to steal a loaf of bread. He is a—”

“He is not a prince!” His loud retort exploded in the confined space, reverberating off the close walls. 

The countess took a slow breath. “Patrick…”

“That’s not my name.”

“It was when you were born.”

“So?” the young man’s hands were shaking. Noticing, he clenched them into fists. “When I was kidnapped as a baby I failed to remember some key details. The only thing that really mattered was not being beaten by the blaggard I was sold to, and making sure I wasn’t caught when I stole food.” Cynicism dripped from his every word, each one intended to cut deeply. 

His aunt let her eyes close in pain for a moment. It didn’t matter how many times they talked about it, the truth of her nephew’s mysterious disappearance remained a deep and wounding regret within her. If only she had known… if only she could have prevented it…

She opened her eyes. “Nothing can change what happened to you, no matter how much that fact grieves me,” she spoke quietly. “But,” an edge came into her voice, “what happened to you does not change who you were born to be.”

Patrick’s eyes darkened at her words. “I know nothing about being a prince. All I know is how to serve a master, and keep my head down. I’m a slave—” his voice cracked. “—and that is all I’ll ever be. No amount of fancy clothes and fine company will change that.” He dropped his gaze to the floor. “You can’t change what’s inside of me.”

“That’s the problem,” the countess’ eyes sparked with a fire. Tearing one of her long gloves free, she stepped forward and grabbed the young man’s arm. “The lie is in your head, but the truth is in the blood that flows through your veins,” shaking him a little, his gaze came up to meet hers. Aunt stared nephew in the eye, the intensity of her gaze seeming to ignite the air between them.
“ In your head you may have lived as an orphan,” she said at length, “but you were born a prince. And nothing… nothing can change the truth of who you are. You just have to believe it.”

He winced a little, and the countess realised she was gripping his arm like a vice in her fervour. She loosed it, and instead gently took his hand in hers. There was a moment of silence between them, both deep in thought. 

“I don’t know how to believe; to change,” he muttered at length.  

“It’s okay, I’ll teach you.”

“I’m afraid.” he whispered hoarsely. Tears brimmed in his eyes, and his aunt’s heart felt it would burst with the depth of love and compassion that swelled suddenly within it.

She reached out her ungloved hand and tenderly cupped his cheek. “I’ll be with you, son. You don’t need to be afraid of what you will become; of who you were destined to be.”

He lowered his eyes, and the countess noticed the clenched fist, still holding tightly to the stolen bread. She reached down and uncurled his fingers from around it and removed the crushed slice from his grasp, tossing it across the room.

“You are not a slave anymore,” she said in explanation. “You don’t need to beg for what is already yours.”

She put a gentle finger beneath his chin to turn his face towards hers. “You are loved, Patrick. You are a child of this house, with free access to everything the King has made available to you. Why do you fight so hard to be an orphan, when you were destined to be an heir?”

She could see the confliction reflected in his eyes. “Being a slave is all I’ve known,” he admitted.

“Just because it’s comfortable, doesn’t make it true. It’s not impossible to learn who you are meant to be.” 

“It just feels…” she watched him searching for the right word. “Prideful. After where I’ve been… what I’ve done… to call myself a prince…” he floundered to a stop. The countess smiled inwardly. He didn’t know that this coming to the end of himself—facing down the lies he had believed for so long—was actually the most humble thing he could do.

“True humility is accepting the truth of who you are.” She said gently. “Nothing more, nothing less. Pride is to simply refuse the truth, whether that is by exalting one’s self importance beyond reality, or refusing to acknowledge the reality in the first place.”

“So… denying I am a prince is, actually pride.” The words were accompanied by a dawning gleam in his eyes.

His aunt smiled. “Right.”

Patrick nodded slowly. He watched thoughtfully as his aunt rubbed her thumb across the blue arteries on his wrist. 

“Our experiences, and the lies we attract through them, do not dictate what blood flows through our veins.” She said quietly.

The young man’s gaze moved from her thumb, past her hand to where her own wrist eventually disappeared into her sleeve. It was only then he noticed the scars there, peeking from beneath the lace cuff. He stared for a moment, before looking up to her face for confirmation. 

She smiled again, nodding. “We have a choice. Believe the lies, or trust the truth.”

It was then he smiled, and as he did, peace flooded his features in a way she hadn’t seen for a great many years. He reminded her of the baby she had once known. A prince. Now the image of him swam before her, as her eyes were suddenly flooded with tears. 

“I think I might be ready for that banquet now,” he finally said.

Quite suddenly overwhelmed with emotion, the countess pulled her nephew into a tight hug, standing there in the palace cellar surrounded by wine kegs and bread loaves.

“Welcome home, my prince.” She managed to choke out around the lump in her throat.

It didn’t matter that the young prince turned up at the banquet and announced his return in a faded shirt and tattered jeans. Everyone could see the resemblance to his father. No one could doubt the way he carried himself: sure, and newly grounded in believing the truth of his heritage. If people commented on his tardiness and sloppy presentation, he chose not to let it bother him. 

Because truth be told, what does it matter when you carry the blood of a king?


"Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God."
Gal. 4:7

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  1. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing this, it is powerful!

    1. Thankyou for reading, Ariel! I’m so glad it spoke to you.

  2. do believe we are that aunt, and that prince.

    1. I agree. Sometimes we feel more or less either one.


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