Once upon a time, there was a kingdom without an heir to the throne. It isn't that the king didn't have a son who would have been fully capable of ascending to the throne. It's that the king's son escaped that fate long ago, leaving the king no one to whom he could pass on his crown.
Prince Damien ran away from home at the age of 17. In truth, he had envisioned getting out of his father's palace long before that time, but it just wasn't possible. He needed to wait until he was fast enough to truly escape the palace guard. He knew the king would be relentless in his hunt for the boy. But Damien had no desire to live under his father's roof anymore. Much less, his father's iron fist.
King Christoph was a ruthless tyrant. He had spent the better part of his monarchy expanding the kingdom in the most brutal and bloodiest ways possible. His subjects were downtrodden and oppressed. He desired only power. The well-being of his people never once entered his mind. And as hard as he was on the populace, he was even harder on his only son.
Damien remembered being forced to make impossible choices, all because his father wanted to shape him into a future king. Christoph wanted Damien to be a monarch exactly like he had been. Once, when Damien was only 12, he refused to put a thief to death. For that rebellious decision, he had been thrown into the castle dungeons, chained to a wall for a month.
When he finally left the palace under the cover of darkness, he didn't feel that he was sacrificing a posh lifestyle. He was escaping his own version of slavery. He was escaping a torturous existence at the hands of his own father.
Since his escape, he had been living in a hidden cabin outside of his father's kingdom. Only one person knew his whereabouts. The only adviser that he could trust in his youth, Andrin, had been the one to find this hidden sanctuary. He visited the prince from time to time, always sure to do so without suspicion from the king or his men.
"You need to come back, Damien," Andrin said after he was greeted by the prince on his last visit.
"Why? So I can be tortured and killed by my tyrant father?"
Andrin sighed, "No, so you can dethrone him. The kingdom needs a benevolent ruler, someone who will meet the people's needs."
"What makes you think I'm that person, Andrin?" Damien doubted his abilities. "Why can't you just inspire a coup?"
"The kingdom does not need to trade one tyrant for another, and that's just what we would get with a military coup. You have a claim to the throne. Take your rightful place."
Damien wanted no part of the monarchy. He had built a life for himself. It wasn't much, but it was his. He very much enjoyed his solitude. Going back would mean a fight. Going back would mean learning to become a leader from scratch. All he knew about leading people was what he had seen in his king, and he knew that was all wrong.
"You won't be alone, Prince Damien," Andrin said. "There are hundreds of men and women who are ready to go to war for you. They've been very secretive, but they're very passionate about ending your father's reign."
Damien could not respond. He walked outside his cabin and took a seat on a bench. Andrin followed soon after. "Think about it, prince. You could be a great king."
He watched as his old friend mounted his horse and rode away. How could he possibly return to that life that he left behind so long ago? How could he become a monarch in a kingdom that had been oppressed for so many years?
The prince walked back into his cabin and surveyed his surroundings. This is the place he had known since beginning his new life. Above the fireplace hung his sword, the only item he kept to remind him of his old life. He ran a hand along the blade. Then, with purpose and determination, he pulled it off the wall. Damien turned to leave his cabin, knowing this would be the last time he ever saw the place.