Pair of ancient Egyptian rings (gold with glass, lapis lazuli, and carnelian inlay) depicting lotus flowers.  Artist unknown; ca. 1400-1200 BCE (18th or 19th Dynasty, New Kingdom).  Now in the Walters Art Museum, Baltimore.  Photo credit: Walters Art Museum.

This is the World Cup of small teams, of underdogs, of underrated teams. It’s the World Cup of surprises, shocks; the World Cup of the brave and the passionate, warriors, fighting against the odds, the World Cup of dreamers and believers.

Finally.

Bring. It. On.

The Frog Prince

halim has loved prince darius since he was a young boy. he thinks the prince is kind, and beautiful, and has kind, beautiful eyes.

but halim is just a servant.

he is not of noble birth or bearing. he was a servant in the kitchen, always watching, always waiting for adventure to come looking for him. one day, when halim is not even ten years old, the whole palace is in an uproar because emperor ordered them all to bring him his son, and the prince is missing. they can’t find him anywhere. but halim is always watching, so he slips out of the kitchens and into the gardens. so much of persia is sand, but within the palace gardens it’s impossible to know that. it’s green, and lush, and the prince’s very favorite place in the whole world.

adults are running through and yelling, and halim doesn’t want to get in trouble, so he waits. once the coast is clear, he darts into the gardens and goes running to the tall tree in the corner, and gets to climbing. in less than a minute he’s reached the top, and finds himself face to face with the prince.

prince darius is his age, and he’s sitting on a branch, hugging his knees to his chest. pale little green tree frogs with brown stripes down their sides cover the branches and the prince, on his shoulders and head and knees.

“people are looking for you, my prince,” halim says.

“i do not wish to be found,” he answers, voice scratchy and eyes red from crying.

halim doesn’t have many thoughts about the emperor. but he knows he loves his prince. so he disregards the emperor’s orders and says, “okay. do you want me to leave?”

there’s a long moment where prince darius just stares at him, then he slowly shakes his head and reaches out a hand. “no. will you sit with me?”

halim takes his prince’s hand.

after this, prince darius demands that halim be made his personal servant. it’s his job to dress the prince, to bring him meals, to stand by his side at official functions and fetch his carriage and look after his horse. more than anything else, it’s his job to be the prince’s friend.

it’s a job he does gladly.

they grow up together. years pass and the prince grows handsome, and stays kind, and halim never learns how to stop loving him. instead his love only grows. he has been the personal servant to the prince for ten tears, and he thinks of him every second, would kill and die for him, and every inch of him is in love with his prince.

but he is only a servant.

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