Prince Taryn restlessly wandered the corridors of the castle with a lowered head, hiding his face behind a curtain of long hair. His entire demeanour spoke of a haunted and defeated soul. New years had come and gone, and the child became a teenage boy. His dark eyes held a pain unlike anything his parents had ever felt, and they worried about their son's health. As an attempt to bring back some normalcy to the castle, and lightness to their child's heart, they arranged a ball for his sixteenth birthday. Princesses from near and far had been invited in the hopes that if he found a beautiful girl to kiss, his spell might be lifted, and he would be free, but they couldn't be sure. How many times had the queen kissed her son in the hopes to break the spell? Motherly love was love too, she had reasoned, but every kiss had been in vain. It made her act even more solicitously towards her only child.
The once happy prince was now known to have a bad temper. Little things made him snap. The light he had once carried in his heart had been replaced by pain, and in the high walls of the castle, rumour had it that the prince's soul was becoming as ugly as his face and as dark as his eyes.
Taryn looked at his reflection in the mirror. He didn't do it often, but he knew that he was a man now. He looked it too, being tall and build. He let his frustrations out by chopping wood or helping out in the staples. At first it, the king had not been pleased, but he soon saw that those earthly jobs were giving the grieving prince some peace at heart. He turned to look at his shoulder. The veins were dark and swollen, but at least he was in no physical pain. Part of his face was hidden behind a leather mask. The material chaffed his tender skin, and the scar was red and uglier than ever. The Prince took a deep breath, squaring his shoulders. Deflating, he turned away and put his shirt and mask back on. He needed some more physical exercise before he was ready for that night's spectacle. He was anxious to see so many people. And to be seen by them.
Gone were the times when Taryn was only ever seen with his nose buried in a book. Times had changed. He trotted downstairs, where his mother was giving instructions to the servants and made the last adjustments to the flower arrangements. When the queen saw her son in a dirty shirt, she scolded him, but now without a smile on the lips. She reminded him of the ball and tried to ease her son's nerves. She saw how tense he was. She was too. Reluctant to leave his mother, the prince went to get properly dressed for his birthday party.
To his surprise, a young man waited in his apartments and not his beloved nurse. The valet held out a letter to Taryn who broke the seal and read:
You are a man now, beloved son. And that is why we have a special gift for you. Meet Tiernan. He is your age, and from now on he will be your personal valet. He is to help you get dressed for the ball and will be at your side the entire time to fulfil any wishes and cravings that might arise. Your loving parents, the King and the Queen.
Taryn blinked a couple of times and looked back at his door. How long had he been gone from his rooms? Certainly not more than ten minutes. He didn't know what to do. The valet did the same, but then he cracked a smile at the Prince and introduced himself: "My name is Tiernan," was what he said in a deep hoarse voice. Taryn was confused but took the proffered hand. For the first time in a long while, the prince's thirst for knowledge roared in the back of his mind, and he wanted to know more about his new servant. Tiernan.