So I was sauntering back from the stable, idling through the garden, feeling pretty good, all things considered; I'd just been with Kameyn for several hours and that was always good for me. I continued to worry about Colin, who was still at the front. But I knew he was in good hands, protected as he was, by Hannibal's elephant. Still, there was no way not to miss him. I was heading to the library in my usual way, with every intention of spending an hour or so working on the railroad project.
"Desmond," to a familiar footman; "I'd like something cool to drink in the library, please." Desmond appeared moments later with a bottle of sparkling apple cider in an ice bucket and poured me a flute. I drank that down, hot work riding, and Desmond refilled my flute and disappeared. I heard the usual snap-flash behind me and turned to see Cameron had joined me in the library. He looked at me for a long moment; he opened his wings, pointed them toward me, and leaned forward. It was like a formal bow.
Your Majesty. I am charged to report that the King is dead.
Long live the King. Cameron looked up at me; his eyes seemed to brim with compassion.
Justin, my King. Know that it was a heart attack. He did not suffer. His last word was your name.
I stood stunned. Other doors opened and people were coming into the room. Gary Ashmore came up to me and hugged me and it seemed the most natural and appropriate thing that had ever happened to me. He released me and moved me to a chair and had me sit down. An impromptu line formed and they slowly came by me, bowed or curtsied, with a quiet blessing or sympathetic words for "Your Majesty".
I was at loose ends. I was saddened. My Father was dead. But I had never met him. I didn't even know he was alive until about two years ago. And now he was gone and I had never met him. I mourned for something I'd never had. Gary sat with me. He seemed to provide an aura of calm reassurance and comfort.
"Is Colin coming?" I asked of Gary.
"I don't think so. Cameron?" He looked at Cameron.
He cannot. His father is very ill. They were life bonded just as you and Colin are. Colin now commands the army in the field. Your Dads are coming as soon as we can extract them from their business.
"What can we do to help Colin?"
First we have to get you established and settled. We can work on that at the same time. The government will be here to meet with you tomorrow.
I stood in the Grand Salon with Gary, Copenhagen, Jamie, Major Evans, Humphrey and Lawrence in close attendance. Cameron settled himself on a credenza next to the wall where he could help me with these meetings. Only you will hear me, Cameron told me.
First is Her Serene Highness the Princess Helene, she's the Governor General of State. That's rather like the US Secretary of State, or the Foreign Secretary of the UK. She is honest and capable and a distant cousin of yours. She curtsied neatly in the manner of someone who had been doing it routinely for years. We exchanged pleasantries.
There followed all of the principal ministers of government with a few introductory comments from Cameron. These were the men and women who actually ran the machinery of the government. Technically, they served at the pleasure of the king; however, in reality, they were long service bureaucrats that had been promoted within their bureaus because of merit and service performed.
"May I commend Your Majesty for your foresight with those wonderful steam rail cars," the Governor General of the Interior smiled after bowing.
Here is the Lord Chamberlain; he will be in charge of all the preparations for your coronation and protocol and your households and management. You will need to meet with him regularly. You should plan on meeting with the Governors General once a month or oftener if you feel it necessary. They are all experienced and professional and take their service very seriously.
"Thank you for coming to meet me. Together we will preserve and protect our nation. I'd like to have a full meeting with you next week, as quickly as we can get it scheduled. I'm very concerned about the war."
Then there were the diplomats. Introduced by the Governor General of State and Cameron: I met the ambassador from the Empire of Hyderabad ( you would know this as the Indian subcontinent, currently well governed and at peace) ; the Empire of the Chrysanthemum ( this would be Japan and eastern China) ; the Principal of Isandlwana (this is interesting, basically it is sub-Saharan Africa and the Principal is first among seventeen chiefs, he ranks as an emperor the others as kings) ; the Kingdom of the Skies (western and southern South America, the Incas); the Kingdom of the Sunrise ( Mexico and the US West of the Rockies, the Aztecs); the Khedive of Alexandria ( Egypt and North Africa); the Kingdom of Lusitania ( Portugal and Spain as I'm sure you've correctly guessed); and the Kingdom of Kvenland ( Scandinavia, Iceland and Nova Scotia) .
"We receive embassies from other localities from time to time," the Governor General concluded. "But these are the permanent embassies and the major powers of the Elven world."
Do we have a navy?
Certainly. A rather substantial one in fact.
Send an expedition to check on Australia and New Zealand.
It will be done.
My Liegeman Paul St Marie, his wife Alice, and familiar Sennacherib, will join HMS Boadicea in the South Pacific and it will be a honeymoon cruise of exploration for them. Hopefully their child will be born there. I envy them the trip and the child. It will be interesting to see if there's a continent there. I felt a little imperial flutter in my heart.
I need to get to the front, I need to help Colin.
But that's not possible, you're the King now.
My Father was at the front with Ranald. Certainly I can go to the front.
But you were safe, here, when your Father was at the front.
What can that have to do with it?
You were the heir, so the throne was safe. If you're at the front, the throne is not safe.
But that makes no sense.
I'm sorry, my King, but if you think about it, it makes complete sense. Your Father had an heir. You do not. You know this. Your Father even told you.
Why do you think you were left in the care, first of your Mother and then of your Dads rather than being brought to the palace? It was to protect you and Colin from any possible palace plots during your infancy.
No, that's not quite right. These plots would not have been of the type you've read about back on earth. You were never in danger of being locked away like the Princes in the Tower. They would have been piddly little unworthy scams rather like that of Teapot Dome i . Or possibly something political about legitimacy or something.
This was to give you the foundation of a loving and comfortable childhood before being thrust into the royal scene. At all times you were under my protection.
I must tell you that your Father was deeply in love with Ranald. There were several liaisons with Elven ladies in an effort to produce an heir. There was no success. There was something about your Mother that transported your Father. He loved her deeply and desperately and often spoke of his intention to bring you and her to the palace prior to your puberty. Your Mom's illness prevented that.
Here, the Throne is almost a living thing. It is a force that gently works its magic on everyone close to it. Its safety and serenity is essential to Elven civilization.
But wait! I went with Colin to rescue Gary. There was danger there!
That time you were too fast for the government to stop you. You'll have no chance to get to the front. There on to you now. No chance.
"You will not wear any of your wizard's robes, at any time. We are going to the front. Not to San Francisco Pride." Lawrence was waspish.
"But isn't it the thing. You know. Traditional. I just want to get it right." Humphrey was in a dither.
They had been to Brooks Brothers where they'd ordered boots, jodhpurs, dusters, coats, sweaters, underclothes (for winter and for summer), hats, gloves, scarves, and luggage to contain it all. Then they'd stopped at Macy's for lotions, nostrums, after shave, gel, scent, soaps and shampoos. With, of course, a lovely traveling manicure set as well as hairbrushes, battery powered hair dryers, and hand mirrors. There had been several other stops at fashionable shops for other necessities.
"Goddamnit!" Lawrence stomped his wing-tipped foot. "Wilde."
"I've forgotten towels, washcloths, and bathrobes. Will you see to that please?"
"And all of our formal attire including hats and capes and decorations. One never knows."
"Not even one robe," Humphrey was plaintive.
"Dear heart," Lawrence smiled affectionately. "You have a bathrobe and a smoking jacket. We are roughing it after all. And, you don't even smoke."
What about a portable bath, tent, and other camping gear? Wilde inquired.
"See to it, please. Wilde. You know what to do."
Lieutenant Colonel Owen ap R Evans, now wearing four medals, rather than the two he'd worn when first we met, reported to me that the 3rd Battalion of the 24th Regiment of Foot was now at full strength and would be departing for the front within the next two days. He thanked me for my confidence in him and assured me it would not be misplaced.
Major "Lucky" DeLucca, now of the regular establishment, came by to thank me. In honor of the service he had rendered in smashing the Rajah, and his years of trying to help lost and abandoned children, he had now been charged with forming a new light infantry regiment to be designated the 5th Cavalry (Prince Justin's Own). He was also an Officer of the Ancient and Honourable Order of the Golden Dragon.
The Governor General for War had agreed wholeheartedly with General Spurgeon's requests and proposed strategy. He had believed that my father was on the right path and was very relieved that Colin and I intended to resolve the matter. We spoke at length about this area. It is always easier to start a war, than it is to finish one; but in this case, the war had been started by the Ice Trolls and not by us.
The Governor General of the Exchequer and I spent the best part of a day working on the budget. Adjusting priorities here and there, allocating and reallocating resources. This war was a waste. Every time we reallocated resources we took from positive programs and moved them into the sinews of war. Clearly, we had no option, but it was still a disappointment and a waste.
Worst of all, was the possible loss of life. I thought of Colin constantly.
"Hullo. I'm guessin' you work here," Gary Ashmore said to a young man in kilts who was leaning on a pitchfork just outside an open stable door.
The Dodger regarded him slowly and considered possible replies: Actually, no, I just needed a pitchfork to lean on, so I stopped by here cuz I knew they had some; or, perhaps - no, I'm just watchin' these piles of straw and horseshit case someone starts wantin' what ain't theirs; or, possibly best of all, no, you idiot, I'm lost - I was just looking for an espresso bar.
"Yes sir," is what he said.
His inquisitor was neatly turned out in plus fours, serious walking shoes, and a long-sleeved pullover. His hair was tousled and he was smiling widely.
"Don't call me sir. I'm Gary Ashmore and I'm one of the King's Men. We're going to the front and we need a wagon and horses. Is this where I come?" He stepped forward and held out his hand for the Dodger to shake.
This is as good a place as any, Sorcha stepped into the doorway and regarded him. She glanced at the Dodger who promptly stepped forward to shake Gary's hand. "I'm Robert. Robert Connors."
"I know you. You're the one Mr D calls the 'Artful Dodger'. Pleased to meet you."
"Whadaya' mean 'Artful Dodger'?" The Dodger was defensive.
"You need to read Oliver Twist is all." Gary's handshake was warm and he was clearly sincere. "The Dodger's a good guy in a tough spot."
He does need to read. I'll see to it. But what was that about a wagon and team?
"Well, lemme see, we're going to the front: there's me and Copenhagen – Copey's a familiar; then there's Jamie, he's one of the King's liegemen. And Wilde, he's a familiar too. Plus Steward Humphrey, I can't pronounce his last name, but he's with the King's Household. And his Apprentice Wizard Lawrence, and then there'll be some soldiers. I came down here to make sure everything is done right. My pal, Private Thomas, the general's batman, told me to always do that if I wanted things done right. He'll be there when we get there and I don't want him goin' on at me."
Arion now made his appearance. "What do you think they'll need, Ma'am?" He inquired of Sorcha and a lengthy technical discussion ensued.
We'll need two of the medium Army Studebakers. ii And, I think, one carriage. Those Household wallahs will have too much gear, but will consider it all critical. We'll need eighteen Clydesdales, plus myself and Catriona. I'll want Farrier Sergeant Thomas and his assistants. And Robert of course.
She seemed to actually smile at the Dodger.
He looked at her attentively.
I want you to check with Master Ashmore at least once every two days to make sure we have everything under control. Mind you wear your number one kilt and sporran when you attend the palace. You look best in the Glengarry cap and I think the fly plaid would be quite correct for visiting the palace.
The Dodger blushed vividly.
Gary beamed approval on all.
"Do you remember, back in San Diego, when we first met?"
How could I forget.
"And we were talking about Elven puberty, and growing ears, and what our jobs would be, and learning to ride horses, and skinny dipping, and uniforms and all that kinda stuff."
I remember, My King.
"And you kind of avoided the topic of our ears, kind of down played it, sort of shined me on about the ears, but I demanded an explanation. Is that correct?"
Yes, Your Majesty. I'm sorry about that.
"Okay. We weren't kept with our mothers in San Diego because my Father and Ranald were afraid of someone selling stolen oil and causing some kind of political embarrassment. No!
"No, Ranald and my Father were worried by a real threat, not some Wall Street Ponzi scam. I never met my Father, but I know a lot of recent history and I've yet to find anything that appeared to cause my Father, or Ranald, any fear for themselves, or any fear of some minor government scandal. They both went to the front the minute it seemed that war began. Now, we both know that there have been flim-flam men flocking around government since before we had a word for government. No. There was something else and you know what it was. I believe it was a major problem for my Father and a distinct threat. I believe the threat was dangerous. I need to know what it was because I am now the king. I want to know and I want to know like right now!
Your Majesty. There was this wizard. At least he said he was a wizard. He was never seen at any convocations or guild meetings. Wizard Abstruse can confirm this; he was an opponent of this wizard and was even sued by him once, though Humphrey won the case. He was never known to work any wizardry.
Anyway, Cameron continued, this alleged wizard was very vocal about attempting to make money by selling just about anything: food, wine, fashion, education; but the odd thing was, no one ever seemed to return for more of his product or, if they did, more often than not, there was none available.
Then he started to whisper against the King. Before you were born, he started implying that your Father could not sire children. That there would be no heir. That the throne was dying. At first these comments were quiet and low key. But when he realized that your Father wasn't going to chop him into dog food; he started to speak more loudly. He continued to be involved in various commercial enterprises which tended to be short term, but apparently lucrative for him. At the same time, pretending concern for the Kingdom, he implied that there was no heir, could be no heir, and that the Kingdom needed to prepare for a change. Of course, it was implied that this charlatan would be just the person to help the realm in this time of change. It was at this time, that the decision was made to keep your location secret. Your death would have been extremely convenient for him.
However, the Council of Governors General was convened and felt that truth had to come out and it was announced that you were alive and well, and that you were the acknowledged heir of the King.
Now this person quite openly stated that neither you nor Colin were real, and that the King and Ranald were liars. That was too much and Ranald went after him with drawn sword and he disappeared. That's exactly how Ranald went after him, too. He was enraged. No finesse, no use of military intelligence to locate him exactly; he went storming out of the house and went right for his last known location. The coward was forewarned and escaped.
Shortly thereafter, the problems with the ice trolls began and it was decided to let you and Colin stay in San Diego until the nature of the northern problem was determined. But that plan also went awry because of the onset of your puberty.
And that's why you came here when you did.
I sat still, digesting all of this information.
"Cameron. You must go to Colin at once and tell him; if not you, another familiar who is absolutely reliable."
Vyvyan was undressing me. I had worn the regalia of an Admiral of the Fleet to my Father's funeral. But I hadn't really paid m uch attention to getting dressed or my appearance.
"Vy, you know, I'm sometimes kinda lost. Like in a dream, or something. My world has changed tremendously in a very short period of time. I can remember worrying about getting a poor grade in high school physics. My Dads were always concerned about where I'd go to college. And whether I'd be a success in life.
"And here I am. Just back from the funeral of the father I never knew. And never met. I don't worry about physics anymore. I worry about war. And about peace. And most of all I worry about Colin. And, you know, will I know what to do next.
"You know, it's only been what? Five years?"
Vyvyan murmured soothingly.
"So everyone came around, before and after the service consoling me for my loss. Which was nice. They all meant well. But I never knew him. I don't feel loss, I worry. Can I be a good King? It would be a relief to worry about college."
"You are the Third, Justin," Vyvyan whispered. "Third, know you are First in my heart. You will be a great King. You will be a great King because you worry about it; but everyone worries about the details of their life and work. I worry about you. You worry about all of us. You are loved and trusted because you show that you truly care."
And Vyvyan helped His Majesty King Justin III, ap Henry VII Indomitable, King of Ellendale and of the Elven Dominions Beyond the Stars into the silk pyjamas he wore when he slept alone, settled him in bed, kissed his forehead and turned down the light.
i The Teapot Dome scandal concerned the transfer of petroleum reserves from the US Navy to the Department of the Interior where those reserves were then sold without a bidding process. A number of political careers, including that of Theodore Roosevelt Junior were wrecked when it was exposed.
ii Studebaker was busy building wagons and coaches long before the internal combustion engine appeared.
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