My name is Jacy.
And I’m a royal bastard.
In the context of illegitimate, that is. I wouldn’t go so far as to call myself unpleasant.
I happen to be the illegitimate offspring of Crown Prince Jaken and a random prostitute he found on a Royal visit to some foreign place. I’m an accident, a nuisance, a constant danger to the throne, and according to some of the older-fashioned courtiers around here, an abomination. They just love me, I can tell. I’m really appreciated.
The noise came through my sleeping mind like a chainsaw through butter. I peeled an eye open and, with great effort, scanned the room. Oh good-the being that had rudely awakened me was outside in the corridor. I ignored the sour taste in my mouth, and bullied my voice into sounding more awake.
“Don’t come in, I’m dressing!”
“Jacy, this is important!”
“Don’t come in!” I repeated, rolling out of the tangle of blankets and checking myself over in the mirror. There was something to be said for falling asleep in your clothes after all. Hastily removing the worst of the wrinkles from my tunic and stretching out my crumpled wings, I ventured to open the door.
My father stood outside, glowering at me. He’s got a good glower, my dad. Really weakens the knees. I practically fell over from shock-I hadn’t been expecting him at all. He usually kept me at arms length, reminding him of past indiscretions as I did.
“F-father!” I stammered. “What are you doing here?”
He looked at me, and wrinkled his nose.
“You’ve been drinking,” he stated, pushing past me and striding into my room without so much as a please. I shut the door behind him, wishing he didn’t have such a sensitive nose. I had indeed been drinking, and it was only merciful that fairies didn’t often get hangovers, or I’d be in no condition to deal with him. It had been a heavy night.
“Yes father,” I said meekly, hoping I sounded appropriately ashamed. “To what do I owe the honour of your visit?”
“Was that sarcasm?” he snapped.
For no, read yes.
“Good,” he said. Mentally, I rolled my eyes, but what he said next left me no coherent thought at all.
“It’s nearly time for your coming-of-age.”
I made a strangled squeaking sound. The coming-of-age ceremony was a Royal custom-a big public show where princes and princesses were declared old enough to take up royal duties and were presented with an animal bred specially the Royal stables. This animal, usually a horse, was supposed to represent the kingdom, and the Royal brat cared for it as they would a kingdom. How they looked after it was supposed to show how they’d rule. I had no idea it applied to bastards as well-I’d lived quite happily expecting never to have to take part in the bloody thing. This meant I would have to have Responsibilities. I hate Responsibilities.
“Does it apply to me?” I asked, hoping he’d accidentally mistaken me for my half-brother Kal, the legitimate one (unlikely, to say the least. As well as being physically totally different, Kal was as perfect as I was disappointing).
Jaken fixed me with a steely glare. I considered making the sign to ward off the evil eye, but decided it might make the entire situation worse.
“You have Royal blood.”
“I have commoner blood too,” I ventured to point out. “Doesn’t that kinda cancel it out?”
“Royal blood does not get cancelled out!”
Geez. Sometimes I wonder how the hell I turned up. Dear ol’ dad just doesn’t seem the type to take up with Ladies of the Night. I must have taken after my mother-the previous night’s entertainment had involved some lovely little fairy chicks.
“All right,” I said placatingly, before he burst a blood vessel. “So I have to do the coming-of-age thing. Kal’s doing it too, yes?”
His face went from turnip purple to a delicate rose hue, and he nodded abruptly. “Same time as you, but he will be going first, being older and-”
“Legitimate,” I finished, with a sigh. “Fine.”
“And you will not receive a horse.”
I shrugged. Didn’t bother me terribly-if I wanted to go somewhere fast, I use my wings. I can fly, unlike Kal-he’s not allowed to learn, in case he falls and breaks his neck, and then, shock horror, they’d have to give the crown to me. Sometimes it pays to be dispensable.
“You will be given a cat.”
That threw me.
“A cat,” my father confirmed. “A kitten from the stable cat’s new litter. It would have been a dog, but we have no puppies at present.”
“Why a cat?” I enquired, suddenly filled with misgiving.
“It will symbolise your new role,” Father said, looking unconcerned.
“My new role,” I repeated, misgivings maturing. Responsibilities loomed.
“Of course. I will not have you freeloading any longer. I’m giving you a job.”
Freeloading? How rude. Still-you don’t argue with Crown Prince Jaken.
“All right…What’s this job?”
My father’s smile was ominously satisfied.
“You’re going to be Kal’s bodyguard, Jacy.”