Prince Jaxon of Pash raced through the halls of the palace, toward the room that had been playroom, classroom, and refuge for as long as he could remember. On this day, the anniversary of his birth, it was also where he could find his presents. He was always bidden to wait until his fathers had joined him to open them, but he knew if he arrived early enough, he could make some guesses about what some of them were. He had been eagerly anticipating this birthday, for this day marked his Coming of Age, and tomorrow he would officially be crowned Prince of the Realm and Heir to the Throne. That had to net him a lot more presents than any normal birthday.
It came as a bit of shock to him, therefore, when he burst through the doors to discover that, not only was there no pile of birthday presents awaiting him, but all his toys and cherished possessions of his childhood, along with the desk and blackboard used by his tutor, were gone. The room was bare, save for a single chair. One of his fathers, King Tyron, stood looking out the glass doors to the balcony, his gaze encompassing most of his kingdom.
“Jaxon,” he said, not turning around, “sit down.”
Jaxon blinked and swallowed hard. He didn’t understand. “But...”
Tyron turned, his face impassive. “I said sit.” He gestured toward the chair in the center of the room.
Jaxon sat, hands folded in his lap. His father was being uncharacteristically stern. “Have,” he stammered, “have I done something wrong?”
“No,” his father said.
“Today is your thirteenth birthday,” Tyron said. “Today you come of age, and tomorrow you will be crowned Prince.”
“As of today, you are no longer a child, and you have no further use for...” the King sighed and shook his head. “No,” he said. “I’m not doing this.”
“Da?” Jaxon was confused.
Tyron gestured for Jaxon to rise, and led him out on to the balcony that overlooked the grounds of the palace, and, further out, the Kingdom of Pash. “When I came of age,” he said, “I also found my father waiting for me. I had a room just like that one,” he gestured over his shoulder to the room they’d just left, “where I kept my toys, took my lessons, and found my gifts on my birthday. In fact,” he turned from the view, and looked through the glass doors, “I think it was that one. At any rate,” he said, leaning against the railing of the balcony and looking at his son, “my father gave me the same speech that sovereigns of Pash have been giving to their heirs probably for as long as there have been sovereigns of Pash.” He began to tick items off on his fingers. “I was no longer a child, it was time to put away childish things, my toys had been given to needy children...”
“Have my...” Jaxon asked hesitantly.
“Yes,” Tyron said. “It’s royal custom. When an heir comes of age, all his or her toys are given to needy children in various towns and villages.”
“Of course, I wasn’t going to be his heir,” Tyron said. “At that point my older brother was still alive, and he’d come of age three years prior. Still,” he said, “I was thirteen, and could wind up the heir someday, so it was time for me to grow up. My father felt, as did all who came before him, that a stern lecture on my birthday would make this clear to me.” He shrugged. “Maybe some royal children need that. Maybe some princes and princesses are so spoiled as to need a sharp shock to bring them around to an understanding of their responsibilities.” He smiled proudly at his son, and lay a hand on his shoulder. “I don’t think you need that, however. You were forced to grow up quite a bit this past year, and you’ve already shown me, your father, and this Kingdom just how responsible you can be.”
Jaxon flushed. Praise always embarrassed him. “So, what now?” he asked.
Tyron smiled wider, and saw his son relax. “Now, my young Prince Jaxon, it is time for breakfast.” He opened the door and glanced back over his shoulder with a grin. “And presents, of course.”
“Really?” Jaxon smiled.
“Of course,” his father laughed. “They will be different from what you’re used to, and fewer in number, but I think you will enjoy them all the same.”
They walked through the empty playroom, and Jaxon smiled at his father. “I thought I would have to do without birthday presents from now on,” he said.
Tyron laughed. “You may be of age now, son, and soon to be Prince of the Realm, but even princes, even kings, deserve to celebrate their birthday.”
Later, following a breakfast composed entirely of some of Jaxon’s favorite foods, his fathers, by some secret signal, stood in unison from the table.
“Well,” King Tyron said, “I believe it is time for presents.”
“Oh yes,” King Athos replied. “I daresay it is.”
Tyron waved his hand, and liveried servants entered the room, each bearing a wrapped parcel. There were three in all, and they were laid upon a table off to the side of the dining room. Each servant bowed low to the prince, wished him a happy birthday, and departed.
Tyron gestured toward the table.
“Which should I open first?” Jaxon asked.
“That is for the Prince to decide,” his father answered.
Jaxon rose from his place at the dining table and crossed the room to the table laden with gifts. After examining each in turn, he picked up the smaller of the parcels. “It feels like a book.”
“Does it,” Tyron smiled.
Jaxon removed the wrapping, revealing a thick book bound in soft leather. He read the title. “A History of the Five Southern Kingdoms: From the Revolution to the Present.”
“Your tutor tells me you showed a fondness for history,” Tyron said. “That is the latest and most definitive work on the history of the Kingdoms. I thought it would be valuable.”
Jaxon flipped through the pages, smiling. “I love it, Da. Thank you.”
Next, Jaxon unwrapped a thick leather jacket, dyed the colors of the Realm, overlaid in steel mail. The royal crest was a badge on the lapel. He immediately put it on.
“It’s a bit large,” Athos said, “but you’ll grow into it. A king must be ready to lead his people in war, but there’s no reason he shouldn’t look good doing it.”
“It’s amazing,” Jaxon beamed, running his hands along the mail sleeves. “Thank you, Father.”
Tyron lifted the final gift, and handed it to his son. “This last one is from both of us.”
Jaxon unwrapped a long sword with an ornate hilt. It was in a scabbard attached to a leather belt. The scabbard also bore the royal crest. The young prince gasped.
Athos grinned. “Like it?”
Jaxon drew the blade, marveling as it gleamed. “It’s perfect...”
“Our Master at Arms tells us you’re a natural with a blade,” Tyron said. “We felt it only fitting you have a proper one.”
“We will officially present you with the sword at your coronation,” Athos explained, “but, we felt, since it’s your birthday...”
Jaxon looked again at his sword. “You mean...”
“Yes, Jaxon,” Tyron said, smiling, “that is your Kingsblade. It will be up to you to name her, once she’s earned her name.”
Jaxon swung the sword through a few simple forms, mindful of his fathers, and the furniture. “I thought the Kingsblade was ceremonial,” he said.
“It usually is,” Tyron answered, “but, with your obvious skill, we didn’t see the point in that.”
Jaxon sheathed the blade, handing it back to his father. “Thank you so much, Da,” he nodded first to Tyron, “Father,” then at Athos. “I promise to wield it with honor.”
His fathers gathered him up into a big hug, and the family stood there for a while. Soon, the palace would be filled with friends, extended family, and foreign dignitaries. This would be their last opportunity for quite some time to just be two fathers and their son.
“You hold on to it for now,” Athos said. “We’ll take it back tomorrow morning before the ceremony, but we thought you’d like to wear it to the family party tonight.”
“Yes,” Athos said. “My brother and sister, as well as her husband and your cousins, will be here, of course.”
“However,” Tyron said with a smile, “they won’t be the only family in attendance. I have it on good authority that the Edisons will be here as well.”
“Jax and Nikki?” Jaxon smiled. “And Barda?”
Tyron nodded. “Indeed, lad. And I imagine they’re looking forward to seeing you, and seeing you crowned.”
“Be sure to show them your sword,” Athos said. “Jax, for one, will be most interested.”
“But that’s later,” Tyron said. “For now, get on down to the practice yard. Sir Jorrus will want you putting that new sword through its paces.”