The Rise of Richard Sullivan: Chapter I
Richard Sullivan ducked behind the large, colorful bush, trying not to breathe too loudly. He stayed like that for a minute or two, but in the end, his impatience got the better of him, and he poked his head around the corner.
He saw his playmate and prince, Lee Sanders, looking around the beautifully sculpted hedges, his brow furrowed in concentration. Richard had to put a hand over his mouth to stifle a giggle that suddenly rose to his lips. He was going to win this round, he just knew it. He just had to avoid Lee for another five minutes.
Five minutes felt like forever to a nine year old boy, though. He tried to sit as still as possible but he couldn’t help but to keep looking around the bush, searching for Lee.
He turned suddenly and realized he hadn’t been watching behind him at all. Lee had circled around and taken him by surprise. “Hah,” Lee repeated. “I win again. You’re not very good at this, Richard.”
“You cheated,” Richard said, even though it wasn’t true. He just hated losing. He always had. “You’re a cheater.”
“I am not!” Lee said, “I caught you fair and square, Richard. Don’t be like that.”
Richard wanted to storm off, his giggles completely vanished now. It mattered little that this young lordling was his prince and future king. Right now, Lee was just someone who’d bested him in a game that he thought he was sure to win. He kicked at the ground.
“Take it back,” Lee said.
“No,” Richard said. “I won’t.”
“You will,” Lee said, “or I won’t play with you again.”
It was on the tip of Richard’s tongue to tell Lee that he didn’t care; that he didn’t want to play anymore. Not with a cheater. In the end, though, he just shook his head. “Alright, I take it back.”
“Good,” Lee said. “Let’s play again.”
Before they got the chance, Lee’s governess was calling to him. The two boys hooked arms and headed towards her. She gave them both a frown of disapproval, “You’re out here getting messy when you should be studying,” she said to the prince, “What would your father think?” Her eyes darted to Richard, “and you should know better than to encourage him. That’s it, I’m separating the two of you. Richard, you can go work in the kitchens today.”
Richard wanted to complain but he knew better. He was just a servant boy in the castle, nobody important. He was often overlooked and forgotten. “Yes ma’am.”
“Come on, Prince Lee,” she said. “Let’s go back to your tutor.”
Lee shot Richard a sympathetic glance and suddenly Richard felt guilty for calling him a cheater. He sighed, and headed back into the castle. He’d lived there as long as he could remember. He didn’t know who his parents were, or what had caused them to abandon him to his fate at the Terifille court.
Sometimes, he imagined them coming for him, taking him away from this place, telling him that he was actually a prince, and awarding him servants of his own, that would cook and clean and tutor him. It was a foolish fantasy. If his parents were nobility, they never would have abandoned him.
Besides, his life wasn’t so bad. It really wasn’t. For the most part, he was Lee’s personal servant. He ran his errands and helped him with his archery and swords practice. They played together nearly all the time, and sometimes Lee would even convince his father to allow Richard to eat with them at the head table in the banquet halls.
He wandered around the halls for a bit before heading to the kitchen. It was clear that they didn’t need his help though; the head chef waved him off, mumbling something about how he’d be more in the way than anything else.
So he had a free afternoon. That happened often enough, and Richard was grateful for it. It meant he had time to read. He went to the servant’s quarters. His room was small and his bed took up most of the room. His bureau took up whatever space was left. He knelt down beside the bed, and pulled out a stack of books that he kept.
Most of them were old and falling apart. He’d trade a few coppers here and there for them. He wasn’t a fiction reader; these books were about the different places in Cartharia. He was especially taken with Cairne; one of the winter states in Northern Cartharia. Terifille was about as different from Cairne as it could get.
Terifille was a summer state, full of tropical plants and tall, thin trees. It rained a lot and there were beautiful waterfalls that took the breath away from most people. Richard had never seen the snow, and he’d never felt the cold. Other places fascinated him too; the wealthy kingdom of Arinford, the poor kingdom of Lamonte… Fairenthe, Serjya, Rafix…
He was intrigued by them all, and had long ago promised himself that someday when he was older, someday when he was more than a prince’s servant that he would go and visit these places. He’d see them all.
Richard spent hours in his room, pouring over the books. He also spent quite a bit of time practicing the different dialects used in the other kingdoms. He had a talent for words and had taught himself the language used in Northern Cartharia. There was a guard who had come from Cairne, and sometimes he’d practice with Richard, correcting his pronunciation and helping him with his phrasing.
Yes, someday he’d see them all.
It was hunger that distracted him from his studies as opposed to boredom. He put his books back under his bed and went to the kitchens. One of the cooks gave him a plateful of food and he went out to the back step to eat. He imagined that he was eating at at the head of a table, with long lines of people on either side of him.
It wasn’t fair, he thought. It wasn’t fair that he should be stuck eating leftovers outside while Prince Lee was undoubtedly surrounded by dozens of people, including his mother and father. What made them so different? They were both nine years old, they were both intelligent, they both had a good sense of what was wrong and what was right…
Richard had often been plagued of thoughts of what was fair and what wasn’t. It kept him awake on some nights. He’d lie there, both hot and cold, thinking about how birth shouldn’t dictate futures. He was bright, people always told him so. If he followed the life that was set before him, though, the highest he could hope to rise was head of a group of servants.
Lee Sanders opened the door of the kitchen and joined him on the step, his own plate in hand.
Even though he was happy to see his friend, Richard couldn’t help but to compare what they were eating. Lee had fresh beef, and warm bread with real butter.
They sat together in silence, eating their foods and silently enjoying each others’ company without the necessity of words.
Then Lee said, “Someday, I’ll make you my head servant,” he said.
“No,” Richard said. “Don’t.”
“Why?” Lee said, “You’ll have control over everyone, Richard.”
“I’m not planning to stay here,” Richard admitted, “Someday, I’m going to travel. I’m going to see the world.”
“What’s there to see?” Lee asked.
Richard shrugged, “I don’t know,” he admitted, “Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. I’ve thought of something, Lee.”
“I don’t have to be satisfied here,” he said. “There are other places. Places where I can be somebody. Maybe I’ll even be a king someday.”
Lee frowned, “You can’t,” he said, “You’re not of noble birth.”
“Maybe,” Richard said, “Maybe that doesn’t matter. Maybe it doesn’t matter who I was born to, or how I was raised. Maybe it’s time for the world to change, to help people who work hard and have ambition.”
“Maybe,” Lee said dubiously.
“I’m going to change Cartharia,” Richard said. “Just you wait and see.”