Oi, don't write this off so quick.... There's a bit of a twist.
Jem was slow to wake, as usual. He had never had a bed before, never thought it a possibility. Most days, he was just happy to have something in his belly and a cover for his head. But ever since he had been plucked off the streets, everything had changed.
He opened his eyes, blinking away the sunlight streaming through the curtains. My curtains, he reminded himself, taking in the lavish surroundings once again.
A handful of people-servants-had been assigned to him when he arrived. They all knew him for what he was, but treated him like what he was being groomed to be.
"My Lord," one of the two present spoke, stepping back from the curtain he had just opened. "You are due before your parents in an hour. Best to have you ready."
As usual, Jem remained silent. The facade had been explained to him many times in the last week, though it still seemed... odd. Too good to be true, really. But they were feeding him and had given him new boots. Jem had no problem pretending to be someone else. New boots were hard to come by.
The... servants... took his silence in stride. They were used to it by this point. They busied themselves with picking out his clothing, pants that fit far too tight, some weird bit that was put in a rather uncomfortable spot and made it bulge awkwardly, a shirt with far too much thread and a coat that was way too warm for the city. How anyone could stand wearing so much clothing, he could not understand.
But he suffered it in silence. 'Speak little and seldom and no one will know the extent of your ignorance,' his father had said, once. He had been a learned man, having been through some schooling. His father had taught Jem as much as he could, before the ship he had captained went down in a storm when Jem was still shorter than a mooring post. The orphaned son of a fisherman, no one paid any attention to what had become of him. But Jem was smart, though he was careful to hide that as quickly as his ignorance. Jem knew which missus would throw out food and when; which kitchens would let just one more tyke through the door.
Before long, he was being rushed through the door, a tutor matching his footsteps pace for pace as he was led along through the corridors to the Throne Room. He wouldn't say so, but he had already memorized every passage he had taken; cataloged every possible escape. Speak little....
The tutor drilled home the idiosyncrasies of court, every nuance of his speech, the exact pronunciation of every possible combination of words the woman could think of. Jem had no idea how one person could have so much to say and still think of more. But, he repeated every word, pronounced each phrase properly, and performed each task perfectly. Anything to keep the boots on his feet and food in his stomach.
Jem soon found himself before his 'parents'. The people responsible for taking him off the streets. The reason he had to suffer through being padded and prodded and stuffed full of things that wouldn't help anyone survive in the streets.
His Royal Highness, King Isaac of House Abbott, and Her Majesty, Queen Isabelle of House Crane.
"Good morning, Lucas," his 'father' spoke, Isabelle waiting expectantly. It had been made quite clear just how much was resting on his shoulders. With their son dead, killed in a sparring accident with his swordmaster, it had been all they could do to strive to keep their plans for a peaceful merge with the kingdom in the North alive. And there did Jem come in.
Not Jem, he thought, rolling his shoulders back and assuming the posture that was expected of him. His face hardened, almost seeming a mask placed upon him. After all, that's what it was. The mask of a ghost. I am Prince Lucas of Rayleri, a Lord of House's Abbott and Crane, next in line to the throne of Rayleri. No matter how uncomfortable the chair looked.
"Good morning, father. Mother," he replied, his accent still tinged with the street. But only a local could recognize it for what it was, and never from the lips of their Prince.
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