"Prince Ludwig, this is Wilhelm. He is here as your personal servant and playmate."
Ludwig glanced at the little boy next to the chamberlain. Another idiot, he thought. What will I do with him? I don't need a servant. He sighed, shrugged, and turned his back on them.
"Wilhelm will serve you as best as he can," resumed the chamberlain. "Won't you, Wilhelm?"
The little boy nodded vigorously. But the prince didn't acknoledge him at all. Wilhelm swallowed. He was so eager to please, and so happy to be shown such an honour as to serve the prince, but the red-haired boy didn't seem glad to see him at all. The chamberlain left him, wishing him good luck. Will stood still at the door, waiting for his master to give him instructions. But the prince Simply ignored him, so the little boy watched in silence. The room was so big, and looking so rich, with golden ornaments and marble everywhere. There were many toys in the room, and the prince was sitting right in the middle of it. Alone.
At some point Wilhelm started to fidget. He wondered why the prince was acting as if he was there at all, but it wasn't for him to judge. So he waited.
Ludwig acted as if Wilhelm wasn't there, but he was in fact really aware of the boy's presence. He found it very annoying at first. But then, as he realised he wouldn't get rid of him, and also because he was growing bored, he called:
"You, what's your name again?"
"Wilhelm, my prince."
"I'll call you Will. Come here."
The brunette smiled and skittered happily to the prince. Ludwig snorted scornfully.
"Get on your hands and knees," Ludwig ordered.
Wilhelm frowned, but obeyed. He started when he felt the prince sitting astride his back.
"We're going to play a game. I'm a valiant knight and you'll be my horse."
A silence fell, and Will understood an answer was required.
"Yes, my prince. As you wish."
"Good. Wait, something's missing."
Will tried to look around to see what the prince was doing but couldn't catch a glance. The instant later Ludwig was squeezing his jaw to open his mouth, and he a long, thin rope between Will's teeth.
"It's better with reins, right?" said Ludwig, laughing. "Let's go!"
The prince kicked Will in the ribs, the same way he would have done with a real horse. Will left out a moan, but ignoring the pain, and the indignity of his position, he started Walking on his hands and knees. The prince wanted him to be his horse, so he would be his horse. That was his duty.
"Quicker!" Ludwig ordered, smacking Wilhelm's Bottom in the process.
Will greeted his teeth and obeyed.
Ludwig made him run around the room for insufferably long minutes, and when he got bored with that game, he made Will reorganise the whole room, putting toys out of cupboards to them elsewhere, throwing things at the poor boy everytime he judged him to slow. Wilhelm did everything without the slightest complaint.
"Now we're going to play Master & Slave," Ludwig anounced.
Will looked at him in silence. He was exhausted, but he wouldn't say it. And in truth, he was happy to see the prince wanted t play with him, however cruel the games may seem. He waited for his master to go on.
"I'll be the master and you'll be the slave," explained Ludwig. "You have to do everything I say, and if I'm not happy with what you've done I can punish you however I want. Now, run around the room, and don't stop before I tell you to."
Will obeyed, without question. He was starting his third turn when a book fell hard on the back of his head, making him stumble.
"You're slowing down!" Ludwig yelled.
Will resumed running, trying to focus on his breath. Then Ludwig made him jump on one foot, walk on his knees, and turn on the same spot. At that point Will collapsed, both because of exhaustion and dizziness. Ludwig clicked his tongue angrily.
"I didn't ask you to stop, or fall. You're a bad slave."
Will tried to stand up, mumbling apologies. He screamed when Ludwig grabbed his hair and pulled him to his feet. Tears filled Will's eyes, but when he met the prince's face, he swallowed them back. Ludwig was smiling, a nasty, frightening smile.
"I'll have to punish you," he declares.
Will sobbed but didn't say a thing. Was it still part of the game? Or was the prince really unhappy with him? Would he be kicked out? Or worse?
"Go and stand in that corner with your hand on your head until I tell you otherwise," Ludwig ordered.
Will nodded, sniffing a little, and did as he was told. Ludwig looked at the boy with curiosity. He didn't complain, he just did everything I told him to do, he thought. He watched him carefully. What an idiot, he concluded.
A servant arrived and told Ludwig his parents was waiting for him for diner. Ludwig told Wilhelm he could go for today. Will obeyed, of course. But before leaving the room, he asked timidly h=if he needed to come back in the morning.
"Of course you do," Ludwig answered dryly. "You're my valet, remember?"
"Yes, of course, my prince. Forgive me."
Will disappeared in an instant. Ludwig could swear the boy had been smiling.