There was once a castle in the far reaches of the north that leaned elegantly against the mountains, surrounded by one of the quaintest towns you would ever see. The kingdom was situated in a fjord, perfect for the ice trade but safe from the threat of pirates – ships were able to sail in and out of the harbor with ease, but could be monitored from towers placed where the river met the ocean. Ruling from the palace were the king and queen, who had a young boy named Henrik and another child on the way.
The king and the queen were fond of the outdoors and often went hiking, sleigh-riding, or even canoeing (if the rivers were unblocked) at all times of the year. Sometimes they took Henrik, but as this occasion marked their anniversary, the boy was left behind to be tended to by his nursemaid. The boy prince had stayed in his playroom for the whole morning, a large chamber scattered with various toys and a few stray books. When the nurse came to check on him after the noon meal, the six year old was sitting in front of the picture window, staring forlornly out over the kingdom. In the afternoon sun, the fjord glimmered a silvery blue, sending shards of refracted light across the surrounding mountains and town. One such fragment fell upon Henrik’s head, lighting up the fiery red strands hidden among the boy’s dark hair. It was times like this when one couldn’t help but see his father in the young prince.
The nurse had known him long enough to recognize that though Henrik had his moods, this was unusual. “Henrik?” she called softly.
“Hmm?” The boy turned around, feigning nonchalance, but his blue eyes were troubled for someone of his age, and he fidgeted where he sat.
Henrik’s nurse leaned down towards him, but nearly fell over because of the weight of her voluminous skirts. She straightened up, smoothing the silk, and satisfied herself with ruffling the little boy’s hair. “Are you all right?”
He looked down at the floor in front of him, fiddling with a stray strand of carpet. “I’m okay . . .”
“I have the feeling that there’s a ‘but’ somewhere in there.”
“I’m worried about Mummy and Father.” The words came out in a rush. “They should be back by now, they never take so long to come back -“
“Oh, Henrik!” The nurse, with much difficulty, eased herself onto the floor beside her charge. She put an arm around the boy and pulled him close in a hug. “Don’t worry so, dear. It is their anniversary, after all. They might want to spend more time with just each other. I’m telling you, your mother and father are fine. Okay?”
Henrik nodded and leaned into the hug. “Will you tell me a story?”
His nurse smiled down at him. “Of course, dear.” She arranged herself with the little boy still on her lap, trying to get comfortable, and cleared her throat. “Once, there was a boy . . .”