My Best Friend is a Prince from Another Worldby
Pt. I, Ch. 10: “It makes sense that you’ve never seen a magic mirror before”
Hull’s Office, South Riverside
Joel wasn’t sure what he’d been expecting for someplace safer, but a long walk through the business district to an older, brownstone office building wasn’t it. Hull had rented the top floor as the “United States Trade Mission,” which was still mostly empty. Dormer settled them in Hull’s office itself, while he disappeared into a conference room.
I am so NOT ready for this, Joel thought.
“Remind me how far off Obdrest is,” asked his father.
“About four thousand miles east, on the other side of the ocean,” said Joel. “Sort of like Chicago to Europe.”
His dad had more questions about the geography, and some of the history; it took Joel a few minutes to realize that it wasn’t about the answers but was an attempt to distract him. I mean, the King was old, and I think Dormer said he was unhealthy, but I thought I’d get to meet him. I’ve never even been there, how am I supposed to figure out if I want to spend the rest of my life there?
“Your friend Mark’s mom had wanted to see a movie here, and it got me thinking,” said his dad. “If the US trade mission here works, there’s going to be a huge opportunity for films and videos from each side to be sold on the other.”
“Dad, if I decide to go back to New York and business here doesn’t work out, are we going to be OK?”
“Joel,” his dad said, “we’re going to be fine. There are opportunities here, sure, and if you stick with it, I want an excuse to spend time over here. My business will be fine, though, so please don’t worry about that if you decide not to stay.”
“What about my step-, um, Laura, going back to work?” asked Joel.
Joel’s dad shook his head. “She was always going to go back to work when April got old enough to be in school.” He looked at Joel. “Like I said, don’t worry about us. I know this is a way to be closer to your mom, learn more about her life. I miss her, too, you know.”
After a moment, his dad continued, “Look, Joel, I’m very proud of how seriously you’ve taken this, and I’ll back you up on whatever decision you think is right. If this all is too much for you, we can all go back to New York tomorrow.”
“Thanks, dad,” said Joel. He and his dad started talking about his mom for a little while, when Dormer returned, looking a little less pale than he had.
“The King, your great-uncle, survived the explosion, thank the Gods,” said Dormer. “He’d like to speak to you. You can come in, too, Mr. Ross, if you’d like to speak to him.”
The conference room looked like any other, but instead of a speakerphone, there was what looked like a small screen sitting on the table; he could see something moving on it but from this angle it was unclear what. “Some kind of video phone?” asked Joel.
The voice from the other side was old, and out of breath, but it was as loud as if in the same room and sounded like it was here far too clearly for a long-distance phone call. “That’s one way to describe it,” said the voice in a distinct but unplaceable accent, and Joel figured that must be the King. “Sit down so that I can see you,” said the King, and Joel stepped closer and then sat down. There was a faint shimmer to the screen, but otherwise it was perfectly clear.
The man on the other side of the screen was sitting half-reclined in a hospital gown, with a couple of tubes attached to his arm. His short white hair was badly scorched on one side, but otherwise he looked uninjured.
“It makes sense that you’ve never seen a magic mirror before,” said the King.
“Yes, Your Majesty,” said Joel.
“You can drop the honorifics, Joel, we’re all family here. Just call me ‘uncle’ until you learn enough Obdresti to converse. You too, Mr. Ross.”
“OK,” said Joel.
“I take it, that’s my cue to leave, Your Majesty?” asked Dormer.
“That’s up to Joel,” said the King.
Joel shrugged. “I can’t see any reason he should leave?”
“Neither can I,” said the King, “so let’s move on. I hadn’t expected we’d get to talk so soon, but the news from over here must have been a shock, and I wanted you to be able to put a face to your family over here.”
“Thank you,” said Joel. “It was. I’m glad to finally meet you, and that you’re OK. The news said there was no word when we saw the broadcast.”
“Our country got lucky, and not just on my account,” said the King. “If they’d had a decent mage on their side, it would have been much worse. Some guards died in the blast, but it was all conventional. It takes more than that to kill an old soldier like me, and I think with healing magic and doctors we won’t have lost any of the lords or delegates.
“I don’t know how much you understand about the situation here,” said the King, “but I know Dormer has told you some. Even if you knew nothing about it, after today I’d imagine you’d have some reservations about staying. I can’t blame you if you do; I grew up knowing that even with two older brothers there was an outside chance I’d end up on the throne, where you’ve had less than half a year to come to terms with that.”
“It’s a lot to worry about,” said Joel.
“Yes,” said the King, “and I wouldn’t wish that on a sixteen-year-old. You and I are the last living descendants of my father, Alexander Marius, and there is simply no one else who can hope to hold the Kingdom together.”
“How do you know for sure that I am who you think I am?”
“Except for darker hair, you are the spitting image of your grandfather, my nephew. There is no question of who your mother was, thanks to your government and the Brotherhood. If there is any further question when it comes time to acknowledge you publicly, it is a very simple matter to test descent with magic, but I have zero doubt.”
“How do you know I’d be ready to be a good King?”
“No one is ever ready to be King, at least in a system like ours. As for being a good one, worrying about that is a better first step than some members of our family ever managed.”
“A system like yours?”
“I’m supposedly an absolute monarch, but in practice…” There was a distant, unintelligible voice from the King’s side; he turned his head, and his voice could no longer be heard, but it looked like he was yelling. Turning back to the mirror, he said, “I’m afraid my doctors need to check me again. We’ll find a time to talk again when you’re settled in.”
The King continued, “Dormer, make sure you are clear with him about the full situation. I’ll be in touch.”
“Yes, Your Majesty,” said Dormer, and the screen turned into a very ordinary looking mirror.
- California, USA
Bio: Amateur SF/fantasy writer. Professional computer geek. Something of a grouchy old man, but mostly harmless.