Photo via Visual Hunt
Ethian sat ramrod straight in his seat. He didn’t have much of a choice. His tutor had tied a board to his back to prevent him from assuming his usual slouch. His spine ached and he had a headache but he knew it wouldn’t matter to the man droning on in front of him. Percival’s duty was to instruct the young prince in the matters of law, science, mathematics, and history. He took that responsibility very seriously and refused to acknowledge that his methods were detrimental to his charge’s health.
“Your Highness, have you heard anything I’ve said?” Percival asked, breaking into Ethian’s thoughts.
Ethian sighed. “Yes Percival, I have. You were just discussing about how our world is the center of the universe and there is no other greater than us.”
Percival harrumphed and resumed his lecture. Ethian went back to daydreaming. His ability to ignore his tutor and yet repeat back everything he said was something of a boon to the adolescent prince as it meant he was able to amuse himself in spite of how uncomfortable he was.
His current pondering was a challenge issued in a book of philosophy he’d been reading the night before: “Do we gaze at the stars to search their meaning? That is a foolish supposition. The real question is do the stars gaze back, and what to they think when they see the enigma that is man?”
“Your Highness, would you please answer my question?” Percival snapped, once again breaking into Ethian’s musings.
Ethian glared at the man. “You just asked me a totally unanswerable question in the hopes of tripping me up to prove I wasn’t paying attention.”
Percival blinked, then scowled. “You are far too pert, young man. I ought to take a rod to your hands for such rudeness.”
“Yes, but if you do that my father will take your head,” Ethian said. “He holds no love for those who abuse his sons, or their positions.”
Percival quickly unbound him and sent him on his way. Ethian left the classroom and climbed to the top of the highest tower. It was already dark. His lessons came at night, when he was free from his duties. He preferred it that way. Escaping into the darkness, staring up at the moons and the starlit sky, that was his favorite method of relaxing.
He looked up at the twinkling lights and once again considered the question he’d read the night before. Do the stars gaze back at us? What do they see? What do they think of us?
He heard a tinkling laugh. He turned around quickly but saw no one. A sparkling beam of light settled to the ground in front of him. “Of course we see you, silly human. Your kind are foolish, cruel, and violent. Yet you have the capacity for greatness, love, and humility. You are a source of great confusion and amusement to us.”
“I didn’t know I spoke those words out loud,” he said.
“You didn’t,” the star said. “We hear all thoughts, witness all dreams. It is a cacophony of sound and a dance of madness, yet it is bliss. You are wise for your age, young prince. We will watch you closely.” The light faded and the prince was left alone. Yet he knew he wasn’t. The stars watched him always.