Jarl had done better at his studies. He had also got to know Arabella Albaran and grown to love her. She was a noblewoman from another realm, recently moved with her family to escape tensions. Jarl could understand that. They would often just gaze at each other. It was obvious what had to happen.
He was glad of Winter’s death. It was one less thing to worry about on his return.
But what of Winter’s son?
Alfred got acquainted with the town, not sure what to do with his life. He still felt a little awkward around his new family, especially since his father’s death. He met a beautiful young woman in the town. She had some strange unpronouncable name.
Despite her plain clothing, he learned that she would attend university soon. Her aunt was sponsoring her. Alfred was jealous.
“You? You’re going to university? I’m envious.” The girl asked why he couldn’t also go, if his family was well off.
Alfred didn’t know. Was he eligible? He didn’t think so, especially since his birth was “illegal” as Daisy had put it. He had never expected it anyway, as the “son” of a commoner.
It was not long after Winter’s death that Alfred was called to meet the queen. Elle was much afraid that he would be imprisoned or sent away. She cried, but the guard who came for him reassured her.
Alfred met the queen in the garden. He was glad to be outside. He had always preferred it to the rich interiors he was not used to.
“I want to know whether you supported your father’s claim.”
“My father’s claim?” The boy seemed confused.
“Do you think you have a right to the throne?”
“Do you want to be king?”
Alfred laughed nervously. “No! No, the thought never entered my head. Why would it? I can’t be king. The idea… it’s… laughable. I don’t understand it.”
“Would you like to learn more about it? I hear you have done well at school. You have intelligence your father sadly lacked.”
Alfred ignored the comment against his father. He had not known him at all and could not be offended by it. “I would like to understand why he thought he had a claim. I would like to understand the customs, the laws… but…”
“What is your wish? What do you want to do with your life?”
“I.. I don’t know. I just wanted the truth… and a family.”
“You are a truthseeker. You would make a good philosopher. I have need of wise counsellors.”
The import of what the queen was saying didn’t immediately hit Alfred. Then he looked aghast.
The queen smiled. “Would you like to go to university?” Alfred gaped, overjoyed. He could be with the girl with the unpronounceable name! “Yes! Yes, majesty! I…” tears welled.
“First you must do something for me.”
“Anything, your majesty!”
“You must swear allegiance to me and my heirs, promising to serve them to the best of your ability.”
“I do solemnly swear, your majesty.” Alfred got down on his knee. He could not believe his good fortune.
“Very well. I do believe you have your uncle’s pacifist and knowledge-seeking attitude, which is all to the good.”
“My uncle?” No mention had ever been made of an uncle. He was astonished to learn he had an uncle and cousin who were monks.
Alfred duly went to university and there met the girl he had been thinking about. His life was now like a dream he could never have imagined.