In Kizerain, preparations are underway for Yula, a once in a lifetime Royal festivity. Everyone is excited, except Anwyll and Pedr.
Prince Anwyll had always dreaded winter, but this year, he's turning twenty-five, and for the first time since his birth, the nation will be simultaneously celebrating three momentous events—his birthday, his ascension to the throne, and the identity of his chosen consort.
Pedr Gardner is a talented botanist whose days are spent experimenting to create new varieties of plants and designing gardens. As a recipient of a much sought after royal invitation, he needs to present the king with a unique gift. Unfortunately, he's coming up blank.
When a handsome man walks into Pedr’s garden, they strike up a conversation that soon evolves into friendship and finally love. As Yula draws nearer, Anwyll has to find a way to make Pedr his.
Whenever he sat down to meet his father’s council, be they the heads of government or just the cabinet, Anwyll always adhered to protocols and formalities. Addressing the men seated around him according to their titles and positions kept the meetings in order, and no one had cause to accuse anyone of any slight or wrong doing. Considering his father’s advisers were also members of his extended family or close friends, it was one way to curb the tendency of some to flaunt their connections.
His father never failed to remind him that he, King Eljin, was there as the king, and he, Anwyll, as the prince. With barely one month remaining before taking over his father’s position, it served well to remind the attendants of the officious nature of the meeting.
Anwyll sat to the right of his father at the head of the table, while his uncle, Chief Counselor Fiacre, sat to his left. On either side of the long table were his two cousins, Lairgnen and Llewellyn, attending in their capacities as kingdom ministers.
This morning there were only five of them in attendance, not counting their secretaries and aides standing about, ready to do their bidding. Earlier, Fiacre had handed Anwyll an update on the preparations being made for the Yula celebration. With it was a list of potential candidates for the role of royal consort.
Yula only occurred once in every generation. On the winter solstice, when a royal heir turned twenty-five, they became eligible to take over the reins in the management of the kingdom. The three-day winter holiday celebrated three important events that would change everyone’s lives.
Even when other children had been born to the family, if a royal birth occurred on the eve of the winter solstice, that child would be declared the heir to the throne. It didn’t matter if they were male or female, the eldest, middle or the youngest. Because of the timing of their birth, they were considered a gift from the gods. Of course, no one could ignore the physical sign of the royal heir—they were all born with silver hair.
On the first day of Yula, guests were expected to bring in gifts to their abdicating king. These were to be placed in a room for the king to examine privately and to choose from. The king would then appear before the assembly and show off the favored gift. Whoever brought that gift was then given a monetary reward, forever cementing their reputation and pockets.
On the second day, the heir was expected to reveal the identity of their consort. If he or she had not already found their chosen from among their peers, they were given the one night to find one from among the guests.
Aspiring families wanting royal connections through their children did not hesitate to spend their money on dressing them in extravagant clothes. The parade of elegantly dressed royal personages was a spectacle the populace looked forward to, even if they were only to witness it from their viewing monitors at home.
The third and final day celebrated the bonding and coronation of the newly anointed king and consort followed immediately by the royal couple paying homage to their people and a pledge of public service.
Anwyll read over the list and made a face at the names he saw there. Yes, his uncle had included the names of the sons of his friends and business colleagues. Unfortunately, Anwyll knew all of them. It was not that they were unattractive—they were just too young for his taste. He was not one to have to raise a child while married to them. Setting the paper aside, barely concealing his distaste, he picked up another. A quick run through over the list of expenditures immediately revealed that someone had decided to go overboard in anticipation of the Yula celebrations
He tapped on the paper with a finger and looked at his uncle. “I thought I said we were to stick to the budget I’d approved. This says the planners are already over budget.”
“Yes, they are, and I warned you it might happen when we last talked,” Fiacre said.
“You have to remember that our people are expecting a spectacle,” King Eljin said beside him. “They’ve been looking forward to celebrating Yula since the day of your birth. We have to give them the experience. If they see a lackluster presentation, they’re going to feel slighted and think the gods are withholding their blessings.”
Anwyll looked at the faces around him. “Where did they get the extra money?”
Fiacre harrumphed when no one answered his question. “Your father approved the extra expense.”
Anwyll sensed the discomfort from the others as they struggled to keep their faces blank of expression. They knew of Anwyll and his father’s differing opinions on managing monetary affairs. Where King Eljin tended to be lax when it came to money, Anwyll had a reputation for being close-fisted.
“I, among all of us, should know how important Yula is to our people. However, I gave the planners a certain amount and I expected them to adhere to it without going behind my back and consulting my father about it.” He looked at his cousins’ masked faces and knew that they either knew nothing or if they did, had disapproved of the action.
“I will let this slide for now as it’s already too late and the money has been spent. They placed the king in a precarious situation, and I don’t blame him for approving the release of the money. What’s done is done. However, please inform the event planners this is their first and final warning.”