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More Things in Heaven and Earth [WF's Canonical Lore-CLOSED]

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Western Fardelshufflestein
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More Things in Heaven and Earth [WF's Canonical Lore-CLOSED]

Postby Western Fardelshufflestein » Sun Jun 20, 2021 10:38 pm

Hello, there. I see you have discovered my lore thread, a series of canonical stories that take place in the past over the course of Alastair's and his families lives. The main purpose of this thread, of course, is to give me a place where I can write about Alastair's past in more detail. Although I usually write canonical prose in dispatches, I felt inspired to make a thread because my good ol' friend Brettenwald is made a forum thread for canon stories. ('Tis really good so far.) Like Bretten's thread, this thread is also CLOSED to anyone except myself, because this is meant to be for stories that are strictly WF canon. I am just writing this for fun, so please read and enjoy at your own leisure.

I'm probably going to jump around in the timeline, so I may have one post be in 1994, the next in 2001, and the subsequent in 1998.
This is basically just a lore dump/storytelling space with little rhyme or reason, and I don't want to confine myself to chronological order. I'll try to give it some semblance of a plot, but meeeeh.....we'll see how this goes.

Fare thee well, old sport.

Signed,
WF.


Chapter 1

Tuesday, 27 April 1993

He does not feel like driving to school today.

As he adjusts his uniform blazer for the umpteenth time, smooths out any wrinkles in his shirt, he thinks of the dull, gray classrooms and their rows of desks, worn down from years of use. The drab walls, the lifeless corridors. The same people he has known for over thirteen years.

He has no friends. There are only people he is willing to talk to, and people he avoids. He's tried for so long to be nice to them, but now he's given up, resigned to the fact that they have no interest in being around him. For years, they ceaselessly tormented him, and now they ignore him; he is an outsider, a quiet, awkward boy known for being overweight. He's not even that fat, not the way he was in the lower grades, but he is on the chubby side. He was 85 kilos at his doctor's appointment in March. His weight has actually been fairly stable over the last three or four years. Yet everyone still remembers him as the fat kid despite the fact that none of them are children anymore.

Alastair reaches down for his backpack and slings it over his left shoulder. If he waits any longer, he will be late to breakfast. He does not want to be late, though he wishes he could skip it, just once. He wants to pretend for a few minutes that everything is alright.

He arrives later than his parents and Wilhelm, who smirks as he enters. Breakfast is already laid out at the table: moderately sumptuous, but not too rich, with scrambled eggs, toast, freshly caught fish, some imported citrus from nations thousands of kilometers away. He chooses a seat across from his parents, leaving two spots between him and his brother, and immediately reaches for the nearest dish.

"Good morrow." Mother smiles at him, the way she always does. She has already gotten herself food, but has not yet begun dining. Wilhelm, on the contrary, is scarfing down his fish. Ever since Papa died, he has gone out of his way to irritate Alastair.

He sets the dish down once he has finished serving himself. He has not really heeded how much food he got. Wilhelm notices, and his eyes widen ere he swallows. "Art thou gonna eat all that?"

"Wilhelm." Mother shoots him a warning look. Alastair glances at his plate; he's piled on several pieces of fish onto 't, more than he originally intended. More than he wants.

"Mayhap," he replies, lacing his fingers over his stomach. He might eat all of it now just to piss off Wil. "I might eat more. You never get second helpings anyway."

"Well, you're already fat, so I suppose 't does not matter to thee."

Alastair goes cold. He feels numb, like he has been doused in ice water. He can hear the pounding of his heart in his ears, the deafening silence of the room. His breath is almost nonexistent for his fear of making a sound.

"Seriously. You eat like a pig. Somebody ought to tell thee, since there is no way Mom and Father would dare say anything bad about their favorite son."

"Wilhelm Kehrer!" Father, who has been mute up until now, explodes. "Apologize to thy brother right this instant. Thou wilt not speak to him or any member of this family with such a despicable tongue."

Mother joins Father, her voice the higher and shriller of the two in their furious chorus as they lecture Wilhelm. Alastair tries to tune them out, but he can only hear over and over the words Wilhelm spat out with such conviction. Is he really--a pig? A mere animal that stuffs its face with all of the slop its stomach can possibly hold? His appetite is diminished now, gone alongside any will he has to slog through the day. If he eats, he is no better than livestock. Yet he must eat something, else Wilhelm will be appeased.

He starts tackling the topmost sliver of fish, a whitish, slimy, floppy thing that is nigh tasteless. Though he uses proper utensils, he is eating as rapidly as he can, for he knows 'twill show the little carbuncle.

The heated berating subsides by the time he finishes his plate. His whole family is gawping at him in revulsion. He cares little; he did 't to upset Wilhelm, and if his waistline pays the price for it later, so be it. As Wilhelm so eloquently blared, he is already fat.

"Was that supposed to upset me?" Wilhelm wrinkles his nose. "Because all thou didst was prove my point. You are a pig, and you can hardly control yourself." He shakes his head, probably to clear the worms from his brain. Gott knows what kind of parasites are feasting in there.

"Silence, young man," warns Father. Though he is generally calm, he can get steamed when either Alastair or Wilhelm, most often Wilhelm, is being a twit.

"I mean, you still have not gotten over the death of Papa. He died suddenly, 'twas sad, ja, ja, but we've all gotten over 't. Except thee, of course. Thou hast to mope around the palace like a big baby instead of just moving on with life. It happened three months ago. Get over 't."

Alastair's tolerance of Wilhelm's outbursts, which has been very low, finally breaks. He speaks, but with an unusually calm tone, because that is the opposite of what Wilhelm expects. "You know, Wilhelm, that I am driving thee to school today?"

Wilhelm scoffs. "After three months of not driving?"

"I can always leave thee here, Wilhelm. Let thee walk to school. Driving you is a gift that I am more than willing to take away."

Wilhelm goes quiet, his mouth sort of hanging open as whatever comeback he had in mind fades. Alastair does not wish to be cruel to his brother, not the way Wil is to him, but he can think of no other way to get him to shut up.

He stands, lifting his backpack again, feeling slightly nauseous from his breakfast but not letting on. "I will wait for thee in the car, and then I will drive thee to school. I have debate practice today, so do not be incensed when thou must stay afterward." He waits for Wilhelm to say something, a simple snide comment, but he does not. Apparently, Alastair's threat of making him walk to school is very harrowing.

His car is just as he remembers it: parked in its own corner of the private garage, separate from the two state limousines but still facing the same direction. A light silver Mercedes from two model years ago, gifted to him by his parents when he had just started learning to drive. In a nation where most automobiles are imported from Japan, the sight of a Mercedes is rare. Rarer still are the keys to the said Mercedes resting in the hand of a secondary school student. No normal parent would trust a teenager with such an expensive set of wheels, but Alastair does not have normal parents or a normal life.

He stops just short of the front door, his left hand slightly outstretched toward the handle. He hasn't so much as glanced in the car's general direction, let alone driven it, in more than three months. Standing before it, knowing he must face this obstacle and open the door, he sees how utterly powerless he is, how useless he is compared to the rest of his family. He cannot step into his own car because he feels like he is being sucked into a rubber tube. He's finding it harder and harder to breathe the longer he stands here.

Alastair hangs his head in shame and opens the door, slips inside. The seat is the same, oddly comfortable for a vehicle, the seatbelt fits the way 'tis supposed to across his chest and lap. Snug, but not cutting into his flesh.

He reaches out and brushes the steering wheel with the tips of his fingers. Part of him expects it to be ice cold, the temperature of that part of the room directly beneath an air conditioner in full throttle. Aching from neglect and abandonment. Yet it feels only slightly cool, and there is an indentation in the upper right he does not remember--his vehicle has been tampered with.

More fearfully, he runs his hands across the gauges to make sure the dials and knobs are all at the settings they should be. He does not fully recall what all of them are. But he still feels reassured knowing nothing is egregiously out of place sans the scratch. If everything is alright, if nothing is wrong, he will not...make a mistake. He will not be hit by anyone.

He sticks the key into the ignition, turns the engine on. The fuel tank is full. A palace employee must have gotten petrol for him after he'd decided he was going to drive to school again yesterday afternoon. That explains the indentation, but 't does not account for Alastair's fear.

He remains utterly still as he awaits Wilhelm's arrival. His mind blank, body numb. How can he really be doing this? Driving again? One mistake, and both he and Wilhelm could perish.

The slamming of a door and loud, clambering footsteps signals the entrance of his brother some minutes later. Alastair frantically twists to the right as Wilhelm yanks the passenger door open, stormily flops into the chair, snaps a gruff "I'm sorry," and slams the door shut again.

"Don't--shut the door so hard--"

"Whatever," Wilhelm mutters, clearly disinterested.

Alastair starts the car and slowly pulls out of the parking garage. His stomach starts to ache, mayhap from breakfast, but his hands are cramping and the steering wheel is slick from his sweat. He inches out slowly, slowly. Yet he is somehow going too fast, he is overdoing 't, he could turn too quickly or not quickly enough.

Wilhelm, for once, does not mock him for being so cautious. Some of Alastair's fright must have wafted over to him, for he is sitting straight as a rod with his eyes fixated on the road before them. He says nothing when Alastair goes out of the way to avoid the intersection they have all come to despise. And, as soon as they arrive and Alastair parks the car, Wilhelm leaps from the vehicle and heads determinedly into the building without so much as a thank you.

His knuckles are white on the steering wheel from gripping 't so hard. The car is turned off; he has arrived in one piece; he is shaking and sweating, determined to never subject himself to this again. He cannot calm down enough to make himself move, to enter the school and pretend all is well. He replays the events of that day over and over in his mind, of that dreaded phone call and that futile rush to the emergency room and Papa's body, lying cold and still, mangled almost beyond recognition, in the morgue.

He steels himself against the rising bile in his throat and forces himself to exit the car. He locks 't, tucks his keys into the front zipper of his backpack. Heads into the building with the rest of the kids trickling into the student parking lot. Nobody says hello to him or bothers to offer him more than a judgmental stare. He's used to their ogling by now. They never do more than watch him, and they never will do more, because that is all he is worth to them.

Classes are dull, stretched out, the teacher's voices bland and his fellow students cold and distant. No one greets him in the corridor between classes or looks him in the eye. Does he look as ghastly as he feels? He must. At luncheon, he sits alone, consuming all of his lunch despite not being peckish in the least. 'Tis no wonder that Wilhelm teases him.

Debate meets after school in an English classroom. Of the pool of students who are old enough to join, around 500, only eighteen are part of the team. Such a small number diminishes Alastair's position as co-captain. The other captain, Martin Decker, is a wiry, bespectacled politician's son whose face is ridden with acne. He's far more aggressive than Alastair, more mean, whereas Alastair simply likes debating for the fun of it. Perhaps that was why he was given a leadership position; he enjoys debate for what it is, not for the thrilling rush of victory.

Wilhelm is just outside the classroom door, twiddling his thumbs in boredom and annoyance because he does not have his Walkman. He'll keep out of trouble on school grounds, but Alastair knows he will offer unwarranted opinions as soon as they pass through the school doors.

Debate practice is precisely what Alastair needs after a day in the doldrums. He values his time here, although the people never talk to him outside practice barring debate-related questions. He gets along well with the team, finds his and Martin's personalities compatible, appreciates the input from the teacher in charge of the entire operation, Mrs. Danton. Debate is where he is at peace, because nothing else in his life matters or has to matter. He does not have to fret over his weight or what other people think of him. He just has to discuss, deliberate, lead.

Much to the chagrin of Wilhelm, he is required to remain for thirty minutes after practice is over to review plans for the next practice and competition. The final tournament is fast approaching; although there is another tournament before that, the final is the one that attracts undivided attention because it is a national competition. As of now, only Alastair, Martin, and Timon Anderson are qualified to participate. Alastair had been looking forward to 't all year, envisioning scanning the crowd and finding his parents and Papa in the audience, up until January. Today, he hardly cares at all.

When the meeting finishes, he exits swiftly and stops right in front of Wilhelm, who is half asleep with his mouth hanging open. "Hey." He snaps his fingers once, fails, resorts to shaking his brother's shoulder.

Wilhelm opens his eyes suddenly and lets out a sharp cry. "What!"

"I'm finished. Time to leave."

"Finally..." Wil makes an exaggerated eyeroll. "I thought I was going to be stuck here all evening."

"Wil, 'tis the same duration every week. Stop being such a worrywart and come on." He tries to hide the annoyance in his voice.

Wilhelm reluctantly pulls himself to his feet and casts Alastair a look that could shatter stone. "I don't want to wait for thee every single time thou hast some sort of stupid meeting."

"'Tis not stupid just because I do 't."

"No, 'tis stupid because I don't feel like waiting all the time." Wil lets out a snort. The two of them begin walking down the corridor toward the main portal of the school, Wil insistent on complaining every thirty seconds about how he loathes having to tag along to Alastair's activities.

When the exit is in sight, he stops short and turns to Alastair. "You know, I don't really care how thou think of me. I've never really thought much of thee in the first place."

Alastair knits his eyebrows together. He's hurt, taken aback, and mildly flummoxed; where is this coming from? Why now? Why all of these nettling remarks?

Grief. He should have seen 't before. Wilhelm is grieving. He's taking his pain out on Alastair and everyone else around him because it is easier to deflect his own emotions. He's never had to handle such strong negativity before because their lives have been so sheltered; because, whenever Wilhelm has one of his blasting fits of rage, their parents immediately rush to his side and console him instead of disciplining him. He has less control over his feelings than he should because he's never learned how to regulate them.

"Why art thou staring at me like that?"

"Huh?" Alastair wipes his nose with his pointer finger and thumb. "Oh. I was just thinking about something." He says nothing more and turns away from his brother, heads out the doors without checking to see if Wil is following him. He's tired of pretending to play Wil's game, and he's not going to try and interact with someone who clearly doesn't like him.

He isn't a belligerent person. He isn't going to lash out on Wilhelm and rail against his misery by taking it all out on him. 'Tis not his nature. He'll just ignore Wilhelm as always, wait for his abrasiveness to eventually die down. He'll treat this the way he's always treated Wilhelm's blowouts.

Wilhelm meanders toward the car two or so minutes later, and he's still rambling on about random things he hates. He must know that Alastair isn't listening.

Alastair does not acknowledge Wilhelm in the least throughout the drive and continues to avoid him after he's removed the key from the ignition. He has nothing to say that Wilhelm doesn't already know. So he plods into the living quarters of the palace and drops his backpack at the foot of a couch, then makes a beeline toward the nearest kitchen so he can get an afternoon snack.

At first, he thinks himself to be alone. There are no staff members in this part of the palace, as it is primarily a pantry; there is no space to cook anything here. But a faint rustling noise makes him realize that someone else is present. Tentatively, he takes a few steps forward so he does not disturb whoever else is here. It could be Wilhelm scouting the cupboards for anything Alastair might like so he can hide it, or someone from the staff, but not--

"Dad?"

His father is rummaging through a cupboard, murmuring intently to himself with his glasses sliding crookedly down his nose. He's disheveled, his shirt wrinkly and his tie tucked oddly into his waistcoat. Hearing Alastair, he freezes, his fingers suspended in midair centimeters from something he finds enticing.

"Art thou alright?" Alastair bites his lip, nervous.

Father nods in Alastair's direction and gives him a gentle smile. "Ja. I'm fine. How was your day?"

"Alright. I guess." He heaves a noncommittal shrug.

"Wilhelm giving thee a lot of trouble?"

"Um..." His lack of eye contact says it all. Father approaches him, concerned, and Alastair leans into his side and rests his head on his shoulder. He's at least as tall as his dad now, but he still needs his father.

Father envelops him in a hug and kisses the side of his head. "'Tis going to be alright. Thou wilt be alright. Thy mother and I love thee very much."

His throat tightens ere he searches for the right words to say. "I just--I guess I just miss him." His voice cracks at the end, pitifully.

"I miss him every second of the day." Father pats the small of Alastair's back in a gesture that is meant to be loving but comes off as empty. "Every day. I--still feel as though I will round the corner and see him, but I never do." He gives Alastair a brief squeeze and loosens his hold a bit, peering into Alastair's eyes. "You shalt get through this. Thou hast been so strong."

He makes a move to let go, but Alastair stops him. "Please," he croaks. He isn't ready to leave the safety of his father's embrace quite yet. "Don't--don't leave me."

"I'm not going anywhere, Allie," Father assures him, cradling Alastair in his arms.
Last edited by Western Fardelshufflestein on Thu Jun 24, 2021 9:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Western Fardelshufflestein » Tue Jun 22, 2021 8:32 pm

Chapter 2

Sunday, 12 August 2000

The jet lag is still killing him despite his having been here for two days, though that may be due in part to the reverse in seasons. Back at home, 'tis the dead of winter; here in Massachusetts, the heat of summer is suffocating. After having spent almost two months with his family, he's used to the cold, to long sleeves and alight hearths and mugs of hot tea in his hands. Wearing a polo with short sleeves feels wrong somehow, and he's grown unaccustomed to feeling the high temperature swirling around him, against his skin.

He leans back into the park bench and takes another sip from his smoothie. He's trying to eat healthier as per his parents' encouragement. His first instinct was to get ice cream, mayhap a milkshake, but he successfully bested his temptation and got something that was supposedly less bad for him.

'Tis a medley of berry flavors: raspberry, blackberry, blueberry, strawberry. It tastes of summer, something foreign to Alastair after missing half the season. A vibrant purplish-pink, so intense he thinks he can taste hints of the color itself. Or mayhap that is the excess sugar that goes into every single portion of American cuisine.

American food is so sweet. Artificial flavoring in everything, colors too vivid to occur naturally. Oddities stacked amongst their towering shelves in their ridiculously large stores. Alastair gave into his desires, of course, and tried everything he could within reason.

That was the first thing his parents had asked him about after they'd greeted him and asked him about school. The food, and why he'd put on weight. He knows they care about him deeply, that they've been concerned about his wellbeing more so than normal because he's been so far away, and because Wilhelm has essentially cut off contact with their parents.

Alastair has written some letters addressed to Wil's apartment on Georg Kehrer University's campus over the years. He's only gotten a reply once. He saved the letter, although 'twas abrupt and fairly rude, because 'twas the first time Wilhelm had acknowledged him in two years.

He's fairly certain Wil discards his letters without reading them. Since Wil's snappy outburst, Alastair has started scanning his letters in a copy machine and sending Wilhelm the copies in cheap envelopes. He doesn't want to waste perfectly good pen ink on someone who does not give a damn. And there may be a time in the future when Wilhelm might actually care about someone other than himself.

He smirks at the thought, but 'tis a bitter one. He has no idea, really, how Wil turned out this way. He's spent the past winter/summer dwelling on it. 'Tis not worth obsessing over, really, when he has to focus on completing his final year in law school. Well, he got his J.D. last spring, but now he's working an extra year to get his L.L.M. He's staying in a house with a couple of guys he's gotten to know through the past four years. School is more important the Wilhelm or his health or anything else in his life that is bugging him. His priority is academics, not the mess of his personal life.

Alastair takes another swig from his smoothie, savoring the flavor of it, the sweetness. Why does anyone care what he does to himself? His parents smothering him and pestering him all winter, fretting over his health and the amount of stress he was under. He's 25; he doesn't need his parents to baby him. To incessantly question his whereabouts and closely monitor him to make sure he was eating right.

And he didn't, not really. Because he is not a child any longer, and no one has any control over what he does.

He'll just revert to his old habits once he gets over feeling groggy in a few hours: drinking beer with his friends, snacking on too many of those American bagged corn chips, conversing about nothing into the wee hours of the morning. Complaining about how hungover they are in the mornings as they take their steaming mugs of coffee and sunglasses to their classes. Focusing solely on his studies during the day, relaxing during the night. Trying to prove to others how well he can hold his liquor.

'Tis not like he has a drinking problem or anything. He knows what he's doing, knows the risks of alcohol and the signs and symptoms of alcoholism. He's not a malmsey-butt. He can monitor himself, keep track of how much he's drinking and how often.

Naturally, Mother and Father were not made aware of his weekend hobby. They had no reason to. He was on his best behavior the whole time, working hard during the days interning at a local law firm. Spending his evenings reviewing his books and relaxing by fencing with Father or playing chess with Mother. Mostly keeping to himself, or attempting to, because of how much they hovered.

His clothing fits less snugly now, he'll give them that. But he'll gain it all back within a few weeks. He's had these poor eating habits all his life. Why would anyone think he'd magically change?

The next sip of his smoothie tastes bland, almost as though his negative thoughts sucked away all the flavor. Like 'tis missing something, like...

He shakes his head to clear those thoughts away and takes another sip. Such thoughts would suggest he does have a problem; he does not. The smoothie is perfectly fine without any alcohol in 't. Besides, he's young. His body can handle more liquor now than it will when he's, say, 50, so he might as well enjoy it while he can. He isn't dependent on it or anything, he's not overindulging too much. Not any more than his friends anyhow. And he obviously knows better than to show up drunk to professional events or classes and put his whole future on the line. There are designated times for leisure and times for work.

He shuts his eyes, lets the sun warm his face. Soaks in the rays and the heat. Smoothie in hand, satchel at his feet, the pure bliss of knowing his parents aren't around to nag him about trivialities. Knowing he is so close to finally achieving his dream. The ambient noises drifting into the background as he lets inner peace take him away, his future rushing toward him from the heavens with freedom at its wing.
The Constitutional Monarchy of Western Fardelshufflestein
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The Western Fardelshufflestein Sentinel | 12 March 2022 | King Celebrates 47th Birthday | I blocked all TGs because I pretty much just get WA TGs, and they're annoying. | Putin Announces Fear of Liechtenstein

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Western Fardelshufflestein
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Founded: Apr 21, 2020
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Postby Western Fardelshufflestein » Mon Jun 28, 2021 8:32 pm

Chapter 3

Sunday, 8 August 1993

Alastair's rudimentary "disguise" to enter university campus unnoticed consists of his father's faded garnet sweatshirt with the hood drawn over his head, his black windbreaker, a two-part security detail in civilian wear, and a pair of dinky plastic sunglasses he may or may not have nabbed from Wilhelm's room. Not that they'll do much in the weak winter sun, partially occluded by flattish slate gray clouds attempting to puff up like cumulus ones. But Western celebrities often dawn shades in feeble attempts to hide their identities, and Alastair has always wanted to try that. Mayhap he'll be lucky and get his picture snapped by some paparazzo from the Sentinel.

Georg Kehrer University is situated right along downtown New Hamletberg, position along the river with the outermost pathways stretching out toward the coast. The central campus is tucked into a a stretch of green surrounded by a ring of trees, the main campus building standing fortress-like with its cobbled stone and main tower rising five stories into the air. Standing outside the main entrance, the building appears to be a standalone quadrilateral, the main façade serving as the front-most face. Yet there is a corridor protruding from the main wing, running perpendicular to the primary sector. It takes up the entirety of the left edge of the campus from the entrance to the back of the structure.

This is the primary undergraduate building; most classrooms in subjects spanning literature, world languages, mathematics, and even some of the quote unquote soft sciences are housed here. All of Alastair's classes will be housed within these walls. If he chooses to pursue law school here, he'll be relegated to the law building on the northwest corner of campus. He is not fond of the law program here; 'tis too limited, too domestic. 'Twill not be as effective in giving him the tools he needs to one day run the nation.

He parks his bike, a standard charcoal thing designed for the streets. Bike design has a very limited range in Western Fardelshufflestein; most everyone has the same model, with color and size being the two primary modifications. The same style of handlebars, same seat, two choices in wheel type: either the standard wheel that he sees on foreign television programs, or the thinner type that is meant for use on roads. Alastair's bike uses the thicker wheels that allow him to cut across the grass, primarily at fields surrounding the palace that is his home. Sometimes he likes to ride toward the woods that ring the palace grounds, stare into the horizon, imagine what it would be like to live a normal life in one of the several hamlets that are scattered across the nation. What are their lives like? How would Alastair feel to move into one of those provincial villages, even just for a little while, and pretend he could escape the woes of princely life?

Ere he moves into his dormitory, he must check into the main office at the ground floor and collect his student identification and schedule. Even though he's moving in a week early, he'll have to wait in a line, blend in like a normal student until he gives his name and the kids behind him overhear.

The lights are bright enough inside the building that keeping his sunglasses on is almost normal. But nobody normal wears sunglasses inside, so he takes them off, hangs them from the neck of his hoodie. He likely looks like a cretin, a mediocre slob pretending to be cool, but someone will recognize him.

The line is only six people long. Alastair steps behind the final person to become the seventh. He studies the backs of everyone in front of him to see if anyone from Stratford is here. Most of the kids in his grade matriculated here; a handful opted to go to Wittenberg instead; two are going abroad to New Zealand. He's bound to run into a few of his old classmates, the ones who spent their entire tenure in school either tormenting or ignoring him.

A few more kids get behind him as the line moves forward, none of them recognizable at first glance. That's as much as he allows before he returns to keeping his head down. Blending in.

When he reaches the front of the line and the person behind a desk, a bored-looking upperclassman drones, "Name." She looks up at Alastair above tacky purple reading glasses.

"Alastair Kehrer." His talks so quietly that 'tis almost imperceptible.

"Al--oh." The administrating student's eyes widen a little. "Alright. Give me a moment." She rifles through the filed box of student packets labeled "K" and selects one after a few moments, withdrawing a large plastic bag filled with assorted items. "In here you will find your class schedule, the list of materials you need, and a map of campus. You also have a copy of your dormitory assignment." She holds up the bag for Alastair to take it, so he does. 'Tis heavier than he expected. Turning it around, he finds within a small paper sleeve with what must be a room key. "And that would be a copy of the key to your dormitory room. Do not lose it or 'twill cost you."

"Tha--"

"NEXT!"

Alastair awkwardly stumbles to the side so the person behind him can get their packet. He doesn't need the university map; 'tis a small campus, and he's biked around it numerous times. Both his parents went here, as did his grandparents, as did royals in his family for the past several generations. This place is steeped in royal history.

His parents are not accompanying him to his move-in. For one, 'twould attract too much attention because of who they are. For another, they want him to do this himself. They practically kicked him out of the palace so he would live on his own, gain some independence. He needs to learn how to be on his own.

He makes his way from the main building to the north, where the boys' dormitory is situated just beyond the line of trees ringing the main building. Rather than riding his bike, he simply walks it, his orientation packet stuffed unceremoniously into his backpack.

His guards are the ones dealing with most of his luggage. 'Tis not a fact he is proud of. He wishes he could carry it all himself, but he knows he cannot handle it. He is not of great physical strength. He left his car at the palace, knowing he will not need it for the duration of the semester, because campus is so small that everything is within walking distance. Besides, he needs the exercise. And the nippy weather will push him to go faster, so he might burn more energy, drip a kilo or two. If he needs to go into the city or visit the palace, as he will in three days for Wilhelm's thirteenth birthday, he'll use his bike. (And he'll return the sunglasses Wilhelm has probably not noticed are missing.)

At the dormitory's entrance, he's stopped by a young administrator, another student. Male this time, with a rocker T-shirt likely imported from the States, a slight beer gut, and tattered, baggy jeans. A pair of sunglasses rests at the bridge of his nose. "Name," drawls the student, pushing up his glasses. Were Alastair to guess, he has a hangover.

"Are you actually a student worker, or art thou messing with the incoming students?" Alastair highly doubts this guy would be chosen to represent the boys' dormitory in such a disheveled state.

"Little bit of both. I'm watching the place while the actual greeter runs to the lavatory. He's my friend." The student shrugs. "I was hoping no one would come along, but you're the fifth so far. I'm keeping track."

"Uh..." Alastair glances at the boy's hands, notices they're empty. He doesn't have a clipboard to keep track of the names. "I'll just...I can just wait for thy friend." He heaves a sigh and steps aside for the next hopeful who might be rash enough to trust this ruffian.

"Who are the two people behind you anyway? Brothers?"

"They're my cousins," Alastair replies with a completely straight face. If the rocker recognizes Alastair, he does not let on.

"You're making your cousins carry all of thy luggage?"

"They volunteered." This part is true. He shifts from foot to foot, suddenly uncomfortable in his own skin, his bulging, flabby stomach, his royal heritage. He doesn't really like anything about himself. His hair is a dull brown, his teeth are too crooked, his feet are flat, he gets frequent chest colds. He has to be careful in every situation with food because he's deathly allergic to shellfish. He's boring, not really the type of person who can hold a conversation of much interest unless he's in the midst of a debate. He hasn't gotten over Papa's death seven months ago. He's pathetic.

The rocker is distracted with another boy now, a kid a few centimeters shorter than Alastair who appears to be accompanied by his parents. Fortunately, they don't notice him. They probably think he's just another fat kid counting down the minutes to lunch.

Finally, the person who is supposed to be here arrives. He relieves the rocker of his temporary post and pastes a smile on his face. Unlike his friend, he's dressed sharply in an Oxford shirt and blazer, and he is definitively not hungover. He has a clipboard tucked under his arm (he'd better not have brought that with him into the actual lavatory), and, after asking his buddy a few questions, checks off some names on it and turns to greet the other kid.

Once they're inside, the greeter turns to Alastair. "How now, old sport. Robert give thee much trouble?"

Alastair frowns. "Um. Old sport?"

"The Great Gatsby. American literature. I'm an English student."

"Oh...oh, alright."

"Anyway, enough about me. May I have thy name."

"Um." Alastair swallows. "Alastair Kehrer."

There's a flash of surprise across the student's face, a flipping through of the papers on his clipboard, a scan in a page somewhere in the middle. "Ah. I see thy name on the list." He gives Alastair directions to his room on the third floor, sticks out his hand for Alastair to shake. "My name is Kasper Enck. Welcome to Georg Kehrer University."

Alastair nervously takes his hand. "Thank you," he stammers.

He takes time climbing the stairs to his room. He must memorize the route, the way it looks, while reciting the directions Kasper gave him. Fortunately, his room is not located far from the stairwell, but 'tis a bit far from the lavatory in the center of the corridor. He walks the distance to the lavatory, surveys it, walks back, does this again a couple more times to see if 'tis really that far.

You need the exercise, he reminds himself, looking down at his stomach. But he's really just repeating what Mother and Father assured him. His sweet, overly protective parents have been so worried about him, and for good reason. He's been eating way more than he should. Yet he needs to go away, off to university, just outside their loving reach.

Okay, Alastair. Alright. Just focus on unpacking and getting situated in thy room. He needs to stop thinking about all his personal problems and just enjoy himself.

He gets right to unpacking his clothes, organizing them in the side of the wardrobe closest to his bed, which he subsequently makes up. He then organizes all of his other things, his notebooks and papers and writing utensils. It takes about two or three hours to complete. He insists on doing it all himself, since the security guards have helped too much already. When he finishes, he leans back to catch his breath; he's peckish but too anxious to eat. He knows the boy he must share this space with, Rudy Berger, is moving in some time tomorrow, meaning he has one day to himself. One day to figure out what to do with his newfound independence.

He won't get into any trouble whilst on campus; he knows that. He must restrain himself so he does not pick up more unhealthy habits. And his studies supersede all of his personal desires, stuffing himself with food and all that.

He'll skip luncheon, he decides, and mayhap supper, as well. Just for today; just this once. He'll feel a little better about himself for curbing his eating.

He sits down on the side of his bed. It creaks beneath him, and he winces at that, wishing he could be lighter, less of a slob. He's tired of being like this, being fat, and he's humiliated that he lost control over himself over the winter, that he let himself gain 7 kilograms and become too large to fit into his clothing. And he let Wilhelm berate him, constantly, because he's just a useless schlub and Wilhelm is right. He should have moved on by now, should have taken control over his own emotions, should have stopped to think about what he was really doing, why he was subjecting everyone to his own pain.

His door is closed; his security team is outside, standing at attention in the corridor. He can safely curl into a ball on his bed, bury his face into his elbow. Spontaneously, he starts sobbing. Tears pouring from him much hotter and faster than he can control. Tears of remorse, of grief, of self-loathing and disgust and disbelief. He wants his parents. He wants Papa, alive and well and ruling the country; he wants his grandmother, who perished prematurely when he was eleven; he wants to be a small child again, innocent and happy and not yet beaten down. He wants someone to love him and shield him from the evils of the world. He wants to be ignorant of what those evils are, to have no concept of what evil is. To be small enough to be held in Mother's arms, cradled in Father's lap, tiny and carefree and not yet first in line for the throne. Too young to understand death, too young to have been affected by it. So small he's still given baths by his parents, who lather his hair and let him play with bubbles, who dry him off with a towel and dress him in his pajamas. Every act toward caring for him an act of unconditional love. Wilhelm not hating him but hugging him, looking up to him and parroting his every move, playing the same games Alastair plays because he wants to be like his older brother.

Why can't anyone hold him like they did back then? Why must they...why must they let him go? Abandon him through death, leaving him to grieve? He wants to hear Papa's voice once, just once, hear his grandfather say the words "I love you" and give him a smile and a hug.

Please don't leave me alone, he repeats, over and over, a mantra in his head that blares as he cries until there are no more tears left.
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Postby Western Fardelshufflestein » Fri Jul 30, 2021 9:26 pm

Monday, 9 August 1993

Come noon, and Rudy has still not arrived yet, which is alright with Alastair. It means he is free to visit the mess hall and order a larger portion of mashed potatoes than he should, a sort of last supper before he has to display his more refined table manners. Also, many of today's options feature shellfish, severely limiting what he can eat in the first place. So he goes for a more comforting option, a blandish pile of mush he can sprinkle with pepper and salt and mix together. Potatoes do not grow as well in WF as they would in other places, but they can be cultivated domestically; as a result, they are a primary staple local cuisine. Then again, some form of potato has been present in many foreign nations Alastair has visited, so WF is in no way unique in this regard. Its oddities lie less in its food and more in its culture, but a lot of that was quite literally pirated from the English or simply evolved from the mindset of HRE-era Germans.

He finds a table buried in the far corner right beside a window. Sitting toward the end, his back to the panes of glass, he is delightfully isolated from the rest of the students. He still has his winter coat on, and the hood of his sweatshirt is pulled over his head. Unlike the one he wore yesterday, this one is not his father's. This is one he bought for himself a few weeks ago because his clothes had stopped fitting him. 'Tis a size or two too large, meaning he can hide behind it, and there is extra room in case he keeps overeating and putting on weight. He hopes he doesn't. But he apparently wants to, because he eats his entire plate of mashed potatoes past the point where he begins to feel sick.

He heads back to his dormitory room after he finishes. Dragging his feet as he trudges, fighting back nausea that will go away in a few hours. Convincing himself he eats when he's hungry. That he doesn't eat because it comforts him and gives him an escape.

Nobody greets him as he passes by, which suits him well enough. It gives him personal space, something he gets too often yet not frequently at all. And he wants to enjoy however much time he has left until he must live in the same room as somebody else.

He flops onto his bed and lies facedown into his pillow when he reaches his dorm. He hardly has the will to shut the door behind him. He's known the name of his roommate for a couple weeks, when the university sent him his room assignment and tentative schedule, and he has communicated with Rudy a few times since then over email. Rudy knows who he is, and his parents probably do, as well. Alastair can only imagine how they must feel knowing their son has to share a dorm with a prince. A pathetic one, at that. He should do his best to make a decent first impression on them.

Suppressing a moan, he gets up and removes his sweatshirt. As comfortable as it is, 'tis not befitting for a semi-formal introduction like this. His t-shirt, too, is overly casual, and the material is not thick enough to hide his stomach. His body is in no condition to be visible to anyone; he's unattractive; he's too embarrassed about himself. Better to conceal his silhouette behind layers of clothing than to face scrutiny from virtual strangers. He changes into a fresh undershirt and throws a button-down over it that is still somewhat big on him, meaning he has to smooth out the wrinkles whilst tucking it in. He leaves on his jeans, because those are fine, really, and they're not worn or anything. As for his shoes, who gives a damn?

For close to an hour and a half, he waits. He paces, bites his thumbnail, starts drafting a handwritten letter he'll send to his parents. He can always call them, but he likes writing letters. They are more intimate and formal than an email from a computer monitor. There is more room for error in letters because pen cannot be deleted the way a mistyped word can, so he has to be more deliberate in what he writes.

He plans to tell them everything, how he feels, what he thinks whenever he catches his reflection in the mirror or encounters another student. He has only been here a day, yet he already senses he'll be out of place here because of who he is and what kind of personality he has. Were he anyone else, he'd fade into mediocrity. No one would ever have a reason to so much as look in his general direction. He'd just be another lowlife to ignore. He wants to write this down so at least they would know, but he cannot. All he comes up with is a brief spiel about how he already misses them. He does not want to see the words take shape with his pen. That would only make his thoughts all the more real. Sharing your troubles is supposed to give them less power, yet Alastair has always seen it the other way: when you have never spoken those things aloud, and suddenly you're confronting with having to share them, you make them more solid just by opening thy mouth. He is, admittedly, mildly terrified of writing about what he feels for this exact reason. So he puts 't off, leans back in his chair, deciding instead to concentrate on the rise and fall of his chest whilst drifting into that sort of half sleep achieved through idleness.

The opening of the door arouses him, makes him leap to his feet and spin around so his back is to the far window. He straightens his posture so as to appear less slovenly and keeps his arms resting at his sides, holding his hands perfectly still.

The kid who enters his room is shortish with a shock of dark brown hair, hefting a plastic bin in his arms. From what Alastair can see of his face, he's pockmarked, and he's thin, almost too thin. Filing in behind him with more luggage are his parents: ordinary middle-aged folks one would have difficulty picking out in a crowd.

Rudy practically drops his bin onto the floor and leans over, panting heavily. Alastair, who is not averse to helping other people despite what others might expect from royalty, approaches him and, chewing on his lower lip, asks Rudy if he needs any help. Rudy looks up at him with wide brown eyes, studying Alastair's face, no doubt, and gives a brief nod.

"Ja. Sure. 'Twill go by faster with more of us unpacking at once."

"Alright. Just tell me what to do and where to put things, I guess." Belatedly, he realizes he hasn't formally introduced himself. What happened to his manners? He awkwardly sticks out his hand for Rudy to shake and sputters, "I'm Alastair. I forgot to introduce myself."

If Rudy thinks Alastair's way of greeting is odd, he doesn't show 't. He takes Alastair's hand and gives it a firm shake. Why this gesture exists here, Alastair is not fully sure; he strongly suspects it has to do with the outpour of American and British media from their televisions. WF had picked up quite a bit on American mannerisms and customs since the rise of modern technology, and, while they hadn't adapted most of it, they at minimum had a rudimentary understanding of how Yanks and Brits worked. It made visiting those nations less of a culture shock, at least.

"Rudy. Those two weirdos behind me are my parents." Rudy grins to show he's merely joking, revealing a set of teeth at least as crooked as Alastair's. Orthodontics are not as widely available here as they were, say, in the West, and although Alastair can more than afford to get braces, his teeth are not so bad that he needs them. Yet they are bad enough to make him insecure about his smile, as if he was not insecure enough already about everything else.

Alastair greets Rudy's parents in the same manner, relieved they do not act surprised at who he is. Rudy must have told them what to expect. The oddest part is their introducing themselves by their given names, Viola and Michael--they're treating Alastair as an adult although he barely is one. He's used to addressing adults by their former titles, sticking "Minister" or "Legislator" before the surname of a government official whom he has crossed paths with at a formal banquet or in the palace corridors. Being around people who call him his first name is something he much prefers, though those people are limited to his family and the students and staffers at school. Granted, he spends most of his time at school and home, so he is not always addressed as "Your Highness," but 'tis often enough that he finds it tedious.

He isn't that helpful in unpacking Rudy's things. Rudy delegates most of the work between himself and his parents, likely because he does not Alastair to do any extra work. And who would want a near stranger rifling through their personal belongings? Still, it only takes about an hour for Rudy to complete everything and another ten minutes of Rudy hugging his parents and the three of them exchanging their farewells. Alastair returns to his letter and rereads what he wrote earlier during this time, not wanting to encroach upon a family moment. He finds his words to be absolute drivel. At the time, they'd felt empty, but now they seem impassioned and heated by chaotic fervor.

He crumples up the paper and tosses it into the nearby wastebasket. His epistolary skills were never that good to begin with. Why would he think they'd be alright now? He lets out a groan and digs his fingernails into his scalp, slouching in his desk chair. His parents won't...they won't care how good his writing is, but he does. He doesn't want to seem like his sanity is slipping.

I should just do it later. Rudy is finally here; for once, Alastair might have a chance to make a friend.

"So..." Alastair cranes his neck so Rudy is in his sight. "What should we do?"

"Um...? I don't know...?"

Alastair runs his tongue along the inside of his mouth, thinks for a moment. "Nor do I."

"We could...get to know each other. Or talk about rules for sharing space. What to do and what not to do."

"I suppose." Alastair sits up in his chair and hoists himself into a standing position. When he turns to look at his roommate, it occurs to him how he's never before had to share quarters with someone like this. Not even Wil. On their travels, they've always gotten separate rooms in their suites. The closest he's ever been to a boys' dormitory is falling asleep on the private jet with his family. He does not know how to be in such a small place with someone else. How what he know what rules they should establish? "Um. I'm not fully sure what rules we should have."

"Oh, right...." Rudy heaves a sigh. He doesn't sound irritated, just tired, probably because Alastair is essentially putting all of the responsibility on him. "Well, we should write this down. Got a pen and paper?"

"I'll write 't," Alastair offers, half mumbling. He needs something to do, right?

"Okay. I'll suggest some basic ideas, and then you'll write them down once we both agree. Sound good?"

Alastair shrugs. He does not have any reason to disagree.

In the end, they come up with fourteen rules, until Alastair reads it over and realizes that rules 8 and 11 are more or less the same thing. So he scratches out number 11 with his pen and hands the paper to Rudy.

He's suddenly feeling the urge to run from the dormitory and return home. Nobody here will remember him, right? He looks too plain to be royal. He's too mediocre. He's nothing.

He bites his lip and looks at Rudy. "What, uh...what do we do now?"

Rudy looks just as lost. "Get to know each other? Walk around the university grounds? There's a park betwixt here and the coast, I believe."

"That's fine." He still feels nauseous from lunch. And he doesn't know how to befriend someone, let alone hang out with them. They could get to know each other whilst exploring, right? He isn't a pushover for agreeing with that? He's not...making some sort of mistake by agreeing?

They leave their dorm after checking to make sure each of them has his key. Rudy is the one who turns the luck and breathes the sigh of freedom, giving Alastair a smile. He doesn't seem to notice the two guards standing on either side of the door. And he looks so at ease, like he's not worrying about making a good impression on Alastair the way Alastair is worried about making a good impression on him. On hiding how much of a schlub he really is.

He's heard black is slimming, maybe on some American show, probably Seinfeld. He wishes he was wearing a black shirt now. He might switch to wearing all black until he's dropped some kilos. Not that he'll tell Rudy about this, or tell anyone, because that will expose him to judgment. His parents know about, well, about the majority of it, and Wilhelm is part of the reason he started eating so much, but there is no one else who can know.

The park behind the university buildings is replete with winding stone pathways and ancient trees Alastair presumes were imported from Europe. There are some students thereabouts, sitting in clusters amidst the roots that have thrusted upward from the earth or strolling along the paths, though people cut through the dull swathes of grass without a second thought.

"Want to follow this one?" Rudy gestures to the path right before them that meanders toward the beach a couple kilometers away.

"I don't care." Alastair shrugs, then realizes he sounds too harsh, backtracks, and sputters out a pathetic apology.

"Why art thou apologizing? You didn't do anything wrong."

"I--"

"Is something bothering thee?"

He shakes his head. "What? Nein, no, nothing is bothering me. I'm fine." He needs to ask Rudy a question, be friendly, but he does not know how to start.

They start walking, Alastair's hands stuffed deep into his pockets. Being out here is a mistake. He is a mistake. And he lets Rudy do most, if not all, of the talking, and he just listens, because Rudy probably knows everything he needs to about Alastair just by looking at him.

Rudy hails from a town near Hamburg, on WF's western side. His parents run the local café, and he's worked there since he was fourteen, but he's always had a passion for science, specifically chemistry. He has no brothers or sisters, he's never left Hamburg province before now, he doesn't fence, his two cousins on his father's side both work in an auto repair shop that his uncle ran before he sold the business. His life sounds so normal that it almost makes Alastair tear up, because 'tis the life he wishes he could have had, not this posh lifestyle that has only given him material wealth and zero friends.

Rudy is interested in what being royalty is like, and Alastair is not so dejected that he cannot give answers. He describes the inside of the palace, with its tapestries and priceless art and its paintings, the sumptuous corridors and endless rooms all filled with furniture. How his perception of space has been altered by living in it his whole life.

And he tells Rudy about the private jet and limousine, how they feel normal to him although he knows they are not. He does mention how he can drive himself, and that he has his own car, but not the make of it. He feels disgusting enough already. He talks about the official events, the parties, the meetings with government staff both domestic and foreign, the conferences with the country's two Olympians. He feels obligated to talk, because Rudy asked him so nicely and because there is nothing else about him that is interesting, and it makes the time go faster. It burns calories.

They end up wandering around the general vicinity of the park, never making it down to the coast. Rudy eventually gets over the whole Alastair-being-royal thing to ask him other questions about his life, his interests and things, and Alastair learns that Rudy has only seen the Star Wars films once, whereas he grew up obsessed with them. But both of them like reading books and staying up late, which will work well when the term begins, and Rudy promises Alastair he will not force him to take drugs or anything. Not that Rudy himself is into drugs. Besides, all of that is illegal, save for alcohol, but neither of them has an interest in getting drunk yet.

"We could go out for beers tomorrow night," Rudy suggests, giving a flippant shrug that makes Alastair think he does not care either way.

Alastair, despite having turned eighteen this past March, has not gone drinking yet. He's had no reason to. "Um...I don't know...I do not...really want to."

"'Tis fine. I'm not so sure what all of the excitement is all about. It seems excessive to me."

"And expensive," Alastair adds, as if finances are a problem for him. "The import taxes and the vice taxes alone are enough to erase a week's pay."

"There is that as well. And 't doesn't seem like it tastes very good." Rudy keeps his head down, Alastair notices, not quite meeting his eyes. Does he know someone who.... "It sounds like a bad idea to go out for alcohol, to be honest. Not when we're about to start school."

"Ja...the Americans, at least, have a minimum age of 21. I wish we had that here." Alastair frowns, his mashed potatoes still churning in his stomach. Gott, he hates himself.

And I wish Papa were still alive.
Last edited by Western Fardelshufflestein on Fri Jul 30, 2021 9:27 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby Western Fardelshufflestein » Sat Nov 13, 2021 5:34 pm

Chapter 4

Saturday, 5 January 2002

The street café is relatively deserted despite the warm, pleasant January sun that shines through scant clouds. 'Tis not so hot as to be uncomfortable, but 'tis almost certainly too warm for a cup of heated afternoon tea. Only three persons occupy the outdoor seating area demarcated by metal rails coated in thick, black paint, two of whom are patrons. The first, a slim, dark haired young woman of mixed European and Maori ancestry, sits in the middle table along the row closest to the street. As the wiry metal tables are not equipped with umbrellas the way they might have been were the café in the States, she wears a Western baseball cap and cheap plastic sunglasses behind which reside vibrant cocoa eyes lined with mascara. The eyes, observant behind the shades, are fixated on the traffic that races along the street beyond the ample crowd of pedestrians.

In her hands is a ceramic cup of black tea laced with two sugar cubes that emits steam into the laconic summer air. She sips it as she people watches, silent yet content, her seashell pink nails tapping the eggshell surface of the vessel. The nearly still wind is too lazy to toy with the Dutch braid stretched past the center of her back, though static electricity has caused much of it to fray, and it appears to be on the verge of coming undone

She hails from the village of Lear, a fifteen-minute drive from the New Hamletberg center. On weekdays, she makes the drive twice per day to and from an engaging job cataloguing artifacts in WF's national archives. She studied history and statistics at the University of Wittenberg, and had recently completed her graduate degree at Georg Kehrer; she'd honed her passion for data by helping to input information into the new computer filing system, an activity that was far more enjoyable than she had initially expected. Upon receiving her degree, she applied for a position in the archives and had, miraculously, been selected as the top candidate.

Passers-by who glimpse her pale skin will assume 'tis strictly from genetics, and would scarcely detect the trace Polynesian heritage from her mother's side. Her maternal grandfather had been half Maori, and, whilst her complexion and facial features more so resemble those of her blond father, she has developed a pallor from spending so much of her time inside. Her two younger sisters are swarthier than she, with broader shoulders and bone structures that better reflect their subtle multiracial background.

When she was small, she used to suspect she was adopted. She'd deemed her appearance too European-like, and lived with a pervasive terror her parents would abandon her at any moment. Constant reassurance over the years had caused her fear to dwindle by now, though threads of it still remained, still prompted her to obsessively appraise herself before mirrors on occasion.

The other patron slumps in the corner with his head tucked into his chin, hands clasped in his lap as he awaits his order. At one pm every day, he heads to this café and orders a pastry and black coffee, which he supplements with a splash of whiskey from a flask he carries for this very purpose. Pasty and notably overweight, he could have passed for a typical New Hamletberg male were it not for the buff man behind him--a stolid individual who, in spite of the temperature, is attired in a well-pressed suit with shades.

Despite his unassuming exterior, the young man is a prince: Crown Prince Alastair Laertes Amadeus Ludwig Kehrer IV, to be exact. A talkative but socially awkward figure, he emanates mere wisps of a royal presence, and comports himself in a rather casual manner. He's eight months fresh from a four-year tenure at Harvard, where he completed his law degree, and has not quite adjusted to the comparatively bucolic life of his native culture.

He heaves a sigh and shuts his eyes for a second, focuses on breathing deeply. He has not had a drink for almost two hours; he is beginning to feel anxious, and his hands shake. He grips his knees beneath the table, squeezes the flesh, digs into the spaces around the bones, but his hands inexplicably continue to desperately tremble.

"Here you are."

Allie opens his eyes on cue as the server, Ella, sets a freshly baked cinnamon roll and cup of coffee at his table. "One cinnamon roll and one coffee. Is there anything else you need?"

"'Tis perfect, thank you," he replies. He eagerly picks up the fork and knife to begin slicing the tip of the pastry. Although he has a tendency to eat voraciously, he has refined table manners that not even the United States could expel from him.

As he takes his first gooey bite, a female voice swears loudly. "Shit! Motherf*&ker!" His head jerks to the side and beholds a young woman on her feet with tea spilt down the front of her t-shirt and shorts, a shattered cup on the ground.

He sets down his utensils and rises to his feet, acutely conscious of the flask buried within his shorts pocket. Snatching a fistful of napkins from his table, he hastens over to the mess, passes the napkins to the woman, gets on his hands and knees to collect the pieces of ceramic off the ground.

"I swear to Gott, I had it in mine hands--thank you--."

"I drop things all the time," Alastair assures her. He cuts himself on the edge of a fragment whose sharpness he had misjudged, curses under his breath, studies the bloom of blood that glistens darkly across his skin. "Or cut myself, allegedly."

As he stands, Ella hurries to the scene with a broom and dustbin, which she promptly sets down upon noticing Alastair is bleeding. "Put those in the bin," she directs, gesturing to the pile of shards in Alastair's cupped palms. He obeys, his ocean eyes puppy-like. "I am going to get a bandage. Here--" she passes him a napkin--"Staunch the bleeding whilst I get thee a bandage." She sprints back into the café, the broom and dustbin carelessly left behind.

"Thank you," the woman growls, her tone acerbic. "I have the gracefulness of a damn steam engine."

"'Thou'rt welcome," Alastair sputters. He's not quite sure how to talk to women, let alone in awkward situations. "Dost thou need me to get thee some clothing? I can run to the nearest store--"

"I'm fine. I do not live far from here."

He stiffens. He's said the wrong thing, and his mouth is dry, in need of water in addition to coffee and alcohol. "Art thou sure? 'Tis no issue for me financially--."

"I'll be alright. I've had worse." She scowls, then breaks into a wry smile.

Alastair jumps slightly at her unexpected comment. "Uh," he fumbles," your arm's off!"

"What?"

"Monty Python and the Holy Grail. When the Black Knight gets his arm cut off and says 'I've had worse.'" His tongue is thick in his mouth and rather useless.

"Oh." The corners of her mouth raise slightly. She has on lipstick, Alastair notices, that is a darker shade of the pink on her nails. "I was confused because thou gotst the order of the lines wrong."

"Oh, did I--oh, Christ, I did!" He groans. "My bad. Well, to set things right..." He proffers his injured finger. "'Tis but a scratch."

She scoffs. "Still out of order, royal boy."

His reaction must be entertaining, or utterly idiotic; likely, 'tis both, for she chortles at him for a good thirty seconds. "Like I didn't know thy face from the moment thou satst down," she snorts, triumphant in her leverage over him. "'Tis all over the Sentinel and FNN. I'm not daft!"

"I never suggested--"

"I'm messing with thee, don't worry. 'Tis a habit that arises from having younger siblings."

Alastair perks up slightly. "How many?"

"Two sisters. Thou hast one brother, right? He causes quite a stir in the paper. I religiously read the gossip column each week because of him."

"Ja. He's...I haven't talked to him in quite some time." Within his stomach, a tight pain emerges that he almost has the strength to ignore.

The woman's face falls. She's busy scrubbing the front of her clothing with napkins, but the stain is irreversible without a thorough wash; she will need to go home and change.

"I send him letters each month, but he never replies. I do not expect him to, honestly. We haven't been on the best of terms for years."

Ella returns with a Band-Aid and some ointment that she applies to prevent the infection of Alastair's wound. She offers to apply the bandage herself, but Alastair declines despite the cut's location on his dominant hand. Once she scampers away a second time with the promise of replacing Marie's tea, he adds, "I wish more than anything we were not so distant. But I cannot control him, and he must make his own choices in life."

"He should at least send thee one letter, even if 'tis to tell thee to f#*k off," counters the woman whose name Allie still does not know.

"I would frame that letter in my bedroom were such an event to occur." He cracks a halfhearted smile. "And...not to be rude, but...I am afraid I do not know thy name...which is awkward, since thou knowest mine."

"'Tis Marie."

"Well, Marie, I am pleased to meet your acquaintance." He bows jokingly, which makes Marie snort again.

"I am going to toss all these napkins away, if thou dost not mind." Marie indicates the pile of shredded, wrinkled napkins dampened by trace amounts of tea.

"Of course. And I...shall return to my seat. Thou mayest sit with me, if thou wantst."

Marie nods and gathers the napkins in her arms.

Upon returning to his seat, Alastair covertly removes his flask from his pocket and pours its contents into the cooling coffee. He swirls the mixture with a spoon for a few seconds, blows away the translucent puffs of steam, takes a sip. Within seconds, the alcohol reaches his brain, and he immediately feels calmer, more grounded in reality; four swigs and two minutes later, he is sufficiently relaxed and resuming the consumption of his cinnamon roll.

Marie alights in the wobbly chair across from him, fresh cup of tea in hand. She is visibly peeved about the tea-spilling incident, but not so much that she refuses Alastair's invitation, for which he is more than a little grateful. "So." He inserts another mouthful of cinnamon roll into his mouth. "What brings thee to New Hamletberg?"

"I work in the archives," she responds rather flippantly, "but not today. I am here to enjoy myself."

He wipes his mouth with a fresh napkin not mottled by tea or blood. "The national archives? Cool. Didst thou study history in university?"

"And statistics. The latter was a far smaller field than the former."

WF, despite its relative prominence in the field of English literature, is not renowned for its scientific or mathematical contributions. The medical system here is quite excellent, but the physicians are not researchers of nearly the same caliber as those in the States and other wealthy nations. Statistics is merely a course a university student might take as part of a broader mathematics or scientific curriculum, but the field itself is puny compared to the English sector.

"I studied political science and pre-law. Went to law school in the States. Just got my LL.M last year, actually." More cinnamon roll.

"What's an LL.M?"

"An additional law degree. Law school typically lasts three years, but one can study a fourth year and obtain an LL.M. I have a fantastic job now, so I would say the extra year was worth it." He shoves more food into his mouth, washes it down with his concoction. Already, his hands have ceased shaking.

"And I believed myself to be mildly insane for continuing my graduate studies."

"America is...different, I will say." He smiles a little. "The law students there are far more aggressive than they are here. Law in WF is, well, 'tis more about solving problems via debate that may or may not be civil, but in the States, 'tis built upon assertiveness and can be more argumentative. Lawyers may get in trouble with the magistrate during adjudication there--'tis wild."

"Oh?" Marie raises her eyebrows.

"I went there for my degree because I felt the program was better--no hate on our universities. We have an incredible law school, but I had the opportunity to study abroad and went for it."

"I've never been out of the country." Marie sighs wistfully and gingerly sips her replacement tea. "I've always wanted to go to Poland, though. Not quite sure why."

"Poland!?"

"Ja. It seems like an interesting place. And I went to school with a girl whose mother was Polish--Hannah, her name was. Her middle name was Polish." She shrugs nonchalantly. "But 'tis a story for another time. Tell me about America."

"Oh, where do I start? 'Tis the craziest country on Earth!" Alastair grins and wiggles the fingers of his right hand. His pointer finger is stiff from the bandage round it, but no matter; he'd rather that than risk it becoming infected. "The buildings in the biggest cities rise dozens of stories into the air, and thou hast to tip the waiters at fancy restaurants, and they have cans of fake cheese--"

"Ew! That's digusting!"

"It is. I had quite a bit of it anyway, but I will not miss it." He pats his stomach. "Excellent snack food, too...bags upon bags of chips in stores with more options I thought possible within the span of a lifetime, all in impossibly bright colors. And there are advertisements everywhere--on television, the radio, in magazines, and, I swear to Gott, along the major highways. They're obsessed with advertising over there. Attend a sports game, and at least one major brand is sponsoring the entire thing. Speaking of sports, they have something they call football, but 'tis not actual football. 'Tis more like a watered-down version of rugby, methinks. Very violent, but a very lucrative business."

"What do they call football, then?"

"Soccer. S-O-C-C-E-R. Like, 'She hit me! I'll sock 'er back!' It truly makes no sense."

"What?" Marie smirks almost self-righteously. "That is idiotic! Are they as stupid as the world makes them seem?"

"Sometimes," Alastair admits, "but not always. And thou knowest the red plastic cups on American television programs? Those are real, and they typically have bad alcohol in them. Most law students cannot afford to purchase the good stuff."

"What? I thought those were a myth! Like 'high school.' Surely, that cannot be real."

"Oh, it is. But 'tis not as socially stratified as television makes it seem, according to mine American friends."

"Weird...so 'tis their Upper Level, correct?"

"In a way. They divide their school system into three categories...the youngest kids, then the preteens up until Grade 2, and then Grades 3 through 6 are in what they call high school."

"Why not just split it into two parts?"

Alastair finishes his coffee. He stares at the interior of the cup for a bit, at the dusted ground suspended in the final crescent of liquid. He's tempted to request more. "Because Americans are strange and rather illogical. They don't even use the metric system."

"Seriously? How--"

"Nein, but here is the best part: they use it in science, but not in day-to-day life. I know not how, since their system is so illogical. But they also have cans of cheese, so 'tis not unexpected."

He finishes his cinnamon roll, discovers he's still peckish. He excuses himself to order a second one and obtain a coffee refill. Upon his return, it occurs to him he should offer Marie a pastry, and he does so; she declines.

"I had luncheon earlier. All I wanted was tea." She runs her hand along her braid. "And, well, my outing has been cut short. I'm not about to visit a book shop in stained clothes."

Then why art thou still here? he wonders absently. Not that he minds her company. She's fairly sociable, at least compared to him, and not as intimidating as he'd expect. "If I need to get thee some attire, I--"

"No. I am genuinely alright." She huffs irritatedly. "I appreciate the offer. But nein, thank you."

Allie clutches his hands, which have begun to shake again. He must not have added the proper amount of whiskey to his coffee. Over the past few years, his hands have begun to tremble when he goes too long without a drink. The symptom concerns him, as 'tis usually accompanied by nausea and a headache when he awakens each morning that subsides only after he has consumed his morning coffee-whiskey beverage.

He usually has one cup in the morning, and then a glass or two of scotch with his coworkers during his midmorning break. At luncheon, he'll have a beer, and then whiskey in the evenings when he returns home from work. He'll have a few glasses of wine at supper until he feels fuzzy and a bit loopy, but the amount he's needed to obtain that sensation has increased in the months since he's been home. A few hours later, right before he retires for the night, he'll watch television with a drink in hand to unwind and stave off a burgeoning headache. He loses track of how much he drinks at night, and he's awakened on several occasions with no memory of the programs he watched or any idea how he ended up in bed, sometimes still in the previous day's attire.

Is it possible he...has a problem?

But he's perfectly functional. He's 26, and he can hold his liquor quite well. His days are strenuous but exciting, his new career is going well, he's content with where he is. And now he's conversing with a lovely woman who could become his friend.

"Art thou doing well? Thou wast staring into the distance for a moment."

He blinks, nods. "Ja. Just thinking." A frown creases his forehead and plump cheeks. "My brother...anyhow. When is thy birthday?"

"6 December. Why?" Her self-righteous smirk returns.

"I want to see which of us is elder and therefore more mature."

"Well, it depends...I was born in 1974...."

"Gottverdammt!"

"What?"

"I was born in 1975!"

"HA!"

Ella reappears to serve Allie his second cinnamon roll, complete with a fresh set of utensils. She refills his coffee and collects his dirtied plate, then swiftly dissolves into the cafe's indoor area.

"I'm older than thee! I'm more worldly wise!" Marie sticks out her tongue, a long, pointed thing that is fairly standard as far as tongues go--i.e., deep pink and unsightly.

"And I'm teeming with the vigor of youth!" Alastair sucks in his gut and flexes his arm muscles.

"Well, in my infinite wisdom, I declare thee a nincompoop!"

They lightly converse over the next forty minutes, long after Alastair's second cinnamon roll is finished and their cups drained. Their discussion hops from their ever-significant age difference to the art of tea spilling, segues into the rowdiness of Americans, and from there shifts to more benign topics including the positive correlation between male nose size and age and the absolute uselessness of the Internet. Around 2:30, Allie feels anxiety simmering within, and concocts an excuse about needed to return home.

He resides in a chateau some kilometers east of New Hamletberg along the river. 'Twas built by his ancestor King Georg III, a miserly and humble man who named the abode after himself. Then again, he spent the majority of his reign horrendously drunk, so his decision-making was not always sound. Yet the brick building is picturesque, nestled amongst low-lying hills in a gap betwixt two deciduous forests. Its front facade is marked by twin turrets arcing over a gate, which leads to an petite internal courtyard that is merely a brick path framing a statue-fountain of the mad king extending his right hand toward the sky.

He opted to move into Georgian House to have his personal space upon returning from Harvard. His parents, when he'd visited them over the winter in 2000, had been overbearing, partially because they'd missed him immensely, and partially because Wilhelm had essentially disowned himself and refused to communicate with them. Allie still visits his parents around thrice per week, and he enjoys being around them, but their concern over his weight and physical health is irksome.

"Wouldst thou like to exchange phone numbers, mayhap emails?" He braces himself for her declining his offer, which he completely understands. Not everyone is eager to befriend a prince and get swallowed by royal drama.

"Is that alright with thee? I mean, thou'rt a prince."

"'Tis permitted. I just have to be mindful of whom I send my contact information to." He wears a playful countenance, but his symptoms must be visible by now no matter how much he attempts to conceal them.

"I could give thee my number, but I am afraid I do not have a pen or paper...."

"I can fetch them." He is already on his feet anyway, swaying a bit in the sunlight. His cheeks and nose are probably rosy now for how easily he burns. The staff member behind the counter (Peter, the sixteen-year-old son of the owner) is more than willing to loan him what he requires as long as he returns the pen and pad of paper intact. He thanks the kid and scampers outside, the sweat from his palms already seeping into the paper.

He half expects Marie to be gone, to have eschewed him for her more competent friends and stable life. Yet she remains, her arms crossed over her stained shirt and her body hunched over, and that characteristic smirk upon her mouth.

Alastair passes her the pen and pad first so she can write down her information. Or, if she has second guesses, she can politely inform him she has changed her mind and return the materials. She does not. Marie diligently scrawls her number with the cheap blue pen and tears off the sheet, passes it to Allie. He folds it and slips it in his other shorts pocket, where the half-empty flask is not. On the next sheet of paper, he writes his number, taking time to make his numbers legible. He hasn't the best handwriting despite decades of practice.

"When wouldst thou like to meet up again?" he inquires, left shoulder pointed toward the door. "Later this week? Tomorrow? Next Saturday?"

"How about I call thee on Monday and see what they schedule is? Or tomorrow?"

"W-would tonight work? If not, I can wait until tomorrow--."

"How about I call around 1 or 2 pm tomorrow? I'm spending tonight with my family."

"A-alright." He wipes his palms on his shorts. He should not be so shaky, so sweaty. Is this how it feels to befriend someone as a fully fledged adult? "I shall talk to thee tomorrow then. Have an excellent day." He waves, does a mock bow, and exits the café through its interior.

As soon as he makes it to his car, he snatches his flask from his pocket and unscrews the top. 'Tis lighter than he thought it would be, almost too light--horrified, he brings it to his lips and tilts his head back, expecting the acrid liquid to pour into his gullet, but nothing comes out.

He tilts his head all the way back, a wave of panic clutching him, but not so much as a drop graces his tongue. His flask, which he'd filled almost to the top before departure, is empty.

He poured the entire serving into his coffee.

Yet he trembles as though he has drunk nothing all day, and his head swims, pounds. His hands are slick as they turn on the ignition and clutch the steering wheel; he can hardly look at his aloof bodyguard in the passenger seat. As he pulls out of the parking space and into the New Hamletberg street, his flask beside his lap with the lid unscrewed, he cannot dispel the notion there is something direly wrong with him as his desire for more whiskey bellows inside his chest.
Last edited by Western Fardelshufflestein on Sat Nov 13, 2021 8:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
The Constitutional Monarchy of Western Fardelshufflestein
Always Has Been. | WF's User Be Like | NSG is Budget Twitter | Yo, Kenneth Branagh won an Oscar
Tiny, Shakespeare-obsessed island nation northeast of NZ settled by HRE emigrants who thought they'd landed in the West Indies. F7 Stuff Somewhat Not Canon; RP is in real time; Ignore Stats; Still Not Kenneth Branagh.
The Western Fardelshufflestein Sentinel | 12 March 2022 | King Celebrates 47th Birthday | I blocked all TGs because I pretty much just get WA TGs, and they're annoying. | Putin Announces Fear of Liechtenstein


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