"Be proud of where you came from. It is you who decides your future, but it is your origins that got you to where you are now."
"ALEX! LOOK!" screamed an excited Zara. The young blonde-haired girl tugged on her cousin's hand as her excitement peaked.
The two year old, and her cousin Alexander, were witnessing a guard change at Stockholm's Royal Palace. It was a sacred ceremony which stood the tests of time and remained a regular tradition at the home of the Sweden's royal family. In the ice-cold night of the final day of the millennium, it was the last time of the first two thousand years of the modern calendar that his particular tradition was performed but it was only the first time the pair had ever witnessed it.
The royal guards, dressed in dark-blue adorned in gold, performed the change with an immense pride. They were leading a nation into a new millennium and out of an old one. They moved with conviction and delivered a performance of exquisite delight. In a mesmerizing display, the guards attracted and captivated a crowd of onlookers who brimmed with national pride. The performance was a statement of what was to come in the future for Sweden - greatness.
Alexander and Zara looked on in awe. Their open mouths gaped as they failed to blink in the wake of the trademark performance of the renowned professionals before them. The pair were wrapped warmly as the ground was covered in a thin veil of fresh snow and a cool breeze set a chill in the air. The cold did not stop them from enjoying the occasion. Regardless of the six-year age gap between them and their status as cousins, Zara loved Alexander like a brother and he loved her like a sister.
Despite being cousins, through Alexander's father and Zara's mother being siblings, the pair looked nothing alike. Alexander, nine years old, looked older than he was. He was tall for his age, standing at just under 140cm tall, and his face appeared to be chiseled into that of a teenager. His hair fell in straight, jet-black locks by his ears which were tinted red in the chill of the winter's day.
Zara was able to walk at the age of two years old, albeit with some clumsiness. Nobody could stop her from standing by her cousin's side for the event, and a sense of awe and happy emotions ran riot on her facial expressions. Her peachy-white skin glowed red with excitement as she gazed at the guards in front of her. She donned a hat upon her head as her white-blonde hair fell freely underneath it. She had known nothing but awe and wonder in her life and the final year of the millennium was no different for her.
Alexander's mother, Mia of Switzerland, and Zara's mother, Agnetha, stood behind their excited children. They were dressed warmly, deep in meaningless conversation as they witnessed an act that had passed them by countless times. They appreciated the display but had seen it enough times to recount each step before it happened. They were there for the children, and they were proud of how happy the two kids were in front of them.
After a perfectly-executed routine, the guards took their place back within the grounds of the Royal Palace. The street outside began to empty as people wandered on their way through the city, mingling in groups of jolly conversation. Mia, Agnetha, Alexander and Zara remained outside the palace's entrance, with the two kids in awe of what they had just witnessed. The two kids spoke excitedly to one another, although Zara was only able to string the most basic of sentences together.
The four began to make their way towards the centre of the old town area of Stockholm, known as Gamla Stan. Gamla Stan, along with the royal palace, was based on an island in the centre of the city. The island was connected to the rest of the city by a series of bridges. The island was unique in comparison to the remainder of the Swedish capital. It was known for a series of houses painted in bright and extravagant colours that set them apart from their surroundings. Cobblestone paths led through alleys surrounded by old buildings that seemed to charm their inhabitants with a restless beauty that defied the age of the city.
'Voulez-Vous' by ABBA rang through the street that the quartet embarked down, from a speaker placed precariously on the ledge of an open window of a coffee shop. The parents stopped to look at a food menu nailed to the brick face facade that surrounded the window and an adjacent entrance. The two women oohed and aahed as they read through a menu which had the sole attention of making people hungry.
"Would you two like to eat some food here?" asked Mia to the two kids.
"I WANT MEATBALLS!" roared Zara, pulling on Mia's and Agnetha's coats to catch their attention.
"You can get meatballs here darling," laughed Agnetha who scooped Zara up in her arm and kissed her on the forehead.
As the four entered the coffee shop, a commotion could be heard behind them in the street. Two men, dressed in suits and ties, were storming down the street with two security guards in tow. They were both in their fifties, but had completely different auras. One had dark black hair, beginning to grey extensively, combed back carefully, and a brown pair of glasses covering his face. He had a cold expression and his eyes darted through the street with a methodical eagerness. He did not see the quartet entering the coffee shop in front of him.
The other man was balding severely, also wearing a pair of glasses. He walked briskly but with an air of authority about him. He held his head high, carrying responsibility on his shoulders. He did not look uncomfortable, but he appeared to be frustrated. It was he who spoke loudest.
"Money, money, money, is this all you care about Christian Schäfer? We cannot continue funding your operations without any real evidence of results that J.A.C.K. actually works," barked the balding man as they strode past Alexander, Zara and the parents and further into the streets of Gamla Stan.
Alexander, Zara and Agnetha paced towards the counter which had a fine selection of pastries and other delicacies on display. Mia did not immediately join them. Agnetha looked back at her and noticed that Mia was not herself. She had grown pale and appeared to be upset. Her eyes were fixed upon the floorboards in front of her and she was holding her breath.
"Is everything okay, Mia?" asked Agnetha with a degree of friendly concern.
Mia broke out of her daze and shook herself before smiling back at Agnetha and nodding her head. She joined the rest of the quartet at the counter, where they picked out the food they wanted before sitting at a table in a corner of the room, adjacent to a stove that was alight. They removed their jackets, placing them on the back of their chairs, while Agnetha located a cushion to elevate Zara in her seat. With a short period of time, a waitress from behind the counter arrived with a tray of hot drinks. She handed coffees to the adults before placing tall cups of hot chocolates in front of the children.
"Gimme, gimme, gimme!" exclaimed Zara as she reached for her drink. The excitement of the day had seemed to take its toll on her manners and grammar, but the other chuckled with an eerie delight at her innocence.
Alexander began to reminisce upon the events of the day. He had enjoyed a glorious time with his mother, his cousin and his aunt. Despite living in Stockholm for all of his childhood, Alexander had never witnessed a royal guard changeover before. It was truly a marvelous spectacle. It had capped off a brilliant day that he spent with the people he loved. He then thought further forward to the events which happened after.
"Mom, who was that man who was shouting at the other guy when we were walking into the coffee shop?"
"That man was Carl Gustaf, the king of Sweden. He is a very important man here and he lives in the royal palace which we saw earlier," said Mia with her mouth clenched. She spoke with a tense tone.
"He is a king? That sounds awesome, he must have everything he wants," said Alexander with stars in his eyes.
"Being a king is not always a good thing, Alex. They often have difficult choices to make and are not always happy with how their life is," warned Mia, hoping to no avail that her son would notice her tone of voice.
"I want to be a king one day," said Alexander with admiration. His mind began racing to thoughts of the luxuries available to royalty. He had his eyes set on a successful future.
, thank you very much, hopefully I can do this story some.... justice
, in circles, of course
, I believe he becomes a king!
, time to take notes
, thank you! It isn't about how you fall, but how you get back up when you do fall.
, you are bae <3
It may be worth reading Kalle Koskinen: The Iceman
for some context on some stuff in this update.
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