Go To Chapter 27
Monday, July 27, 2015
Mirror of Dreams - Chapter 26
“Has anyone seen my sister?” Kyle ask the next morning as he entered the dining hall.
“She wouldn't have gone back home without us,” Ian added confidently. “And Nathan is missing too.”
Lords Antony and Gregory, and Sir Barrett, all looked at each other and shrugged. Then they looked at Ladies Leeza and Sophia, who also shrugged.
“She didn't come to my room last night,” Lord Gregory declared.
“Nor mine,” Lord Anthony said, sipping his tea.
“Nor mine,” Lady Leeza stated smoothly with a hint of ice to her voice.
“I spent my night with someone else,” Sir Barrett confessed nonchalantly.
“As did I,” Lady Sophia murmured with a secretive smile.
Lord Gregory raised an eyebrow at Sir Barrett and then looked significantly at Lady Sophia. He wasn't the only one curious about this.
“No!” Sir Barrett denied with a soft laugh. “Not that it wouldn't be a magical night if I had.”
“Agreed,” Lady Sophia purred. “But if you must know, I was in the arms of a very talented guard last night.”
Sir Barrett looked over to the guards standing by the door of the dining hall. “Any of you know where Her Majesty is?”
They shook their heads. “She wasn't in any of our rooms, that we know of...”
Lord Gregory sighed as if thinking that the Queen was being troublesome as usual. Lord Antony put a finger to his lips in thought.
“I wonder... Notice that the maids haven't shown up to serve us tea and ask what we might like for breakfast? Maybe Her Majesty spent the night with the maids.” Which meant that they'd had to serve themselves the tea that they were currently drinking.
“Yeah but, with Nathan?” Ian asked with a shake of his head. “I don't think he would agree to that so easily.”
“Who said it was easy?” Nathan muttered as we entered the room wearing our robes. He looked super tired and worn out.
I grinned at everyone. “The maids beg everyone's forgiveness. They'll be out with breakfast as soon as possible.”
“Sounds like you had an interesting night,” Ian remarked with a dry smile before kissing me on the cheek.
“Definitely!” I confirmed with a cheeky grin. I looked around at my courtiers to see them all watching me with soft smile – except for Lord Gregory. “Anyone want kisses before I sit to to enjoy some tea?”
“Oh me!” Lady Sophia volunteered eagerly.
“I do,” Lady Leeza replied with a smile.
“As do I,” Lord Antony added, trying to hide a grin in his cup of tea.
“I wouldn't mind one,” Sir Barrett stated with an amused smirk.
With a soft laugh, I went around passing out kisses, even grabbing Lord Gregory and giving him one too. He acted like he didn't want it, but his lips gave as good as they got. I ended with Nathan, and then sat down.
“You sure are touchy feely in this world,” Kyle remarked, shaking his head in disapproval, but the merry twinkle in his eye belied that.
“I love everyone here!” I exclaimed honestly. “Why shouldn't I show them my affection?”
Kyle snorted a laugh. “Could you just imagine if the President kissed everyone is his cabinet!” Kyle, Ian, and I all laughed at this.
“Maybe then the government would stop trying to screw over the American public!” I theorized.
“Maybe,” Ian admitted with an amused shrug. “Or maybe it would just turn the White House into a reality show! Tonight on Oval Office, watch as our President talks peace with representatives from the Middle East. Who will be the first to kiss who? Will someone join the President in bed? How will the First Lady react? And then it'll cut to a scene where she's throwing cast iron pans around the kitchen and threatening to cut it off!”
“So, is this President person the King of your country?” Lord Gregory asked as we had a good laugh at the mental images Ian conjured up.
I shook my head and then nodded and then shook my head again. “No! He's...”
Kyle interrupted by holding up a hand. “You're going to say something like: 'He's the elected leader of our country,' and leave it at that, aren't you?” He turned to Lord Gregory, shaking his head over my silliness. “In the US, elections are held every four years so that the people can vote on who should be the President. He – and so far, it's all been men even though women can run too – anyway, he is the man who guides our country.
“Along with him, there are Representatives and Senators elected to represent each of the states. Collectively, they're called Congress, and their job is to make new laws as needed and figure out the national budget each year. Then there's the Supreme Court...
“Ideally, Congress makes the laws, the President enforces the laws – being the head of both the national army and the law enforcement services – and the Supreme Court judges the laws. The three branches are supposed to keep each other in balance. If Congress passes a law that doesn't make sense, the President can veto it. And if the President signs a law that is unconstitutional, the Supreme court can declare it invalid,” Kyle explained somewhat thoroughly.
“The constitution is a the foundation of all our laws,” Ian added. “The most notable part is called the bill of rights. Number one: All citizens shall have freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of the press.”
Kyle shook his head. “You're saying that wrong. It's actually: Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”
I tilted my head and stared at my brother in amazement. “Wow! You have that memorized!”
Kyle blushed and looked away from me as he admitted why he did. “I'm studying law in college because I think I might want to be a civil rights lawyer.”
“Really?!” I asked, even more impressed with him now.
“Yeah, well, the government keeps trying to take our rights away and somebody has to fight them!” Kyle stated.
“Aww, you're my hero!” I purred with pride.
Ian shook his head sadly. “Fighting for rights in the courts... that's only half the battle. The true way to incite the people to stand up and tell the government to go shove it is to create TV shows that take place where things like gay marriage are normal and accepted.”
I nodded in agreement. “Where women are not shamed and degraded for wanting birth control...”
“Exactly!” Ian exclaimed in agreement.
“And people have the right to know exactly what it is they're eating,” Kyle added.
“How would they not know that?” Lord Antony asked curiously. It was clear that he couldn't imagine a situation in which a person didn't know what it was that he was putting in his mouth.
As Queen, I actually had put quite a bit of thought into this subject. “Well, here, farmers focus on growing and raising food and getting it to the army as soon as possible. Thus, there really isn't a need or the technology to preserve food for long periods of time. I've noticed that we are blessed with a good climate, and so food grows pretty much all year long.”
I paused to look over at my brother. “There doesn't seem to be seasons here. No winter, woohoo!”
“But I love the cold and the snow,” Kyle protested.
“And skiing!” Ian and I both exclaimed, which he nodded in agreement with.
“Anyway,” I continued. “In my other world, we created the 'American Dream.' A myth that everyone can have luxury and comfort with little to no work. Especially hard work. Farming is done by large scale factories that grow mind boggling quantities of grain, and then that grain is processed into a wide variety of food products. Most of it is junk food, such as cakes and cookies and crackers... pizzas...” I trailed off in thought.
“Donuts...” Kyle added.
“Chips...” Ian said, trying to think of more to add.
“Breakfast cereal... Anyway, to this junk food, chemicals are added to prevent the food from going bad for a long time. Other chemicals are added to enhance taste or make it look prettier,” I murmured, wrinkling my nose in distaste. “A lot of these chemicals are bad for a person's health, but the large corporations that control the food manufacturing process have bought the government so that they aren't required to tell us – the innocent consumers – what exactly is in the food we're eating.”
Kyle shook his head sadly. “So to fight back, those consumers who care about this have created a standard of quality that we call Organic. It means that the food was grown or raised without chemical fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, antibiotics, or growth hormones, and then processed without added chemical preservatives, food coloring, or flavor enhancers. Unfortunately, the big food companies keep trying to subvert this quality standard by having laws passed that allow them to claim this label while still adding everything the label guarantees a buyer shouldn't be in the food.”
“The more I hear about your country, the more messed up it sounds!” Nathan exclaimed, using an expression that he had heard us use.
We basically nodded in agreement and didn't say anything. Until a thought occurred to me. I smiled at him.
“That's why I haven't pushed to change this country to be more like my other one. The truth is that I love Rolandia! It has everything that we're still fighting for in America – aside from hella convenient technology – and the only real downside is the war you've been fighting for damn near ever! I figure that if I can maintain peace, then the rest can work itself out eventually.”
Now that we were all more or less done eating, Lord Gregory pulled out a stack of reports and thumped it down on the table. “Before you leave, my Queen, naturally you plan to do your work. Right?”
I chuckled dryly. “Of course...”
“Are we sparring?” Sir Barrett asked.
“I was hoping you'd dance with me,” Lady Sophia pouted.
I clapped my hands happily at her suggestion, but then shook my head. “Nah, I have another dance I want to teach you, but that will have to wait for another time.” I leaned over and gave her a consolation kiss. I then smiled at Sir Barrett. “Sparring sounds perfect at the moment.”
He nodded with a delighted grin and went to go get our practice swords as Lord Gregory started the first report and Lord Antony refilled my cup of tea. It was my favorite herbal blend. Not the fertility blend!
“That's a war report!” I sang out before he had even gotten half way through it. At the same time, I got to my feet and accepted my practice sword from Sir Barrett. “I have finally decided how I want to handle them... Denied!”
“But Your Majesty!” Both Lord Gregory and Lord Antony protested.
“The war is over!” I roared, pointing my practice sword at them rather rudely. “I am dedicated to maintaining peace! So I have no objections to keeping the much reduced army well armed – and allowing citizens to bear arms as they feel is necessary – but I am not going to authorize a large cache of weapons with no purpose but to exist in case war breaks out again!”
Sir Barrett tried to attack me while I wasn't looking, but I blocked him easily. We launched into an epic battle. I'm not entirely sure because I'd never really sparred with anyone but him, but I think that being evenly matched made our matches far more enjoyable than they would be otherwise.
Lord Antony took up the next report. “Well, what about this? We have a request for more men to reinforce the recently besieged city.”
I signaled for Sir Barrett to pause for a moment. “I guess that depends. Do they want more help with rebuilding?”
Lord Antony and Lord Gregory gave each other thoughtful looks. “I suppose that we could send a few more units of men there with instructions to help out as needed. If they just so happened to be needed for defensive purposes too...”
I rolled my eyes and attacked Sir Barrett while he wasn't expecting it. He blocked me anyway. “I suppose that would be acceptable.”
“Huzzah!” Lord Antony cheered as he set the report in a pile for me to sign later.
Lord Gregory took up the next report. “Well this is highly unusual...”
Sir Barrett nearly got me because I had looked over at Lord Gregory in surprise. I just barely managed to save my neck in the nick of time!
“This is a request from a highly decorated soldier for funding to equip his unit with musical instruments and teach them how to –”
I cut him off before he got any further. “Granted!” I roared even as I blocked a particularly nasty attack from Sir Barrett. “There's not enough music in this Kingdom!”
Lord Gregory gave me that growling sigh that sounded just a tiny bit like Lurch. I made a mental note to dig up the DVDs and bring them here for him to watch on my laptop. I bet he would secretly love the show!
Kyle used a hand to make Ian look him in the eye. “So now you're going to try to tell me that my sister kicking ass with a sword is an everyday occurrence too?”
“Yep!” Ian stated with a grin. “She even runs too!”
“Runs!” Kyle exclaimed incredulously. “Now I know you're pulling my leg! My sister used to pay a kid to take our dog for a run so that she wouldn't have to!”
“I know! Right?” Ian responded with a laugh.
“Man!” I blurted out unexpectedly. “I miss that dog! I'd totally take him for a run now...”
“Ahem!” Lord Gregory growled in disapproval as he tapped the three or four reports we had left.
Lord Antony picked up the next one. “The Royal Lords would like to host a party to honor the official end to the war.”
“Are they asking for money?” I called out as I feinted to the left.
“No, it's simply an invitation,” Lord Antony informed me as my right arm (holding my sword) blocked a strike from Sir Barrett and my left arm shot out to disarm him.
“Did she just beat Sir Barrett?!” Nathan asked, his mouth then hanging open in shock.
“Indeed she did,” Sir Barrett confirmed dryly.
“That's impossible!” Nathan exclaimed, still in shock. “Sir Barrett... You're unbeatable!”
“Congratulations, my Queen. You've surpassed me,” Sir Barrett remarked with a smile. I was mildly stunned myself since in all the time I'd been sparring with him, neither of us had truly beaten the other.
Before anyone had time to respond to my surprising victory, a guard ran into the room. “Your Majesty! There's a message from King Francis of Nibal!”
I spun around swiftly to face the guard. “Message?”
He stepped aside and waved two men into the dining hall. They were the loyal bodyguards who had accompanied Fritz, and so I knew quite well. Stopping just a few feet short of me, they each got to one knee.
“Your Majesty, we have terrible news...” the one on the left began.
“His Royal Majesty, King Francis of Nibal was executed by his son and Heir, Prince Guy, on charges of consorting with the enemy and falling under a vile enchantment,” the one on the right finished.
“What?!” I asked, breathless with disbelief.
“We were nearly executed as well, but the second Prince – George – is a pacifist like his father, and smuggled us out of the Nibal Royal Palace so that we could bring to you King Francis' last request...”
I had a hand to my heart as tears welled up in my eyes. “Fritz...” Despite my grief, part of my mind wondered why George was also pronounced in a french way when Francis was actually pronounced in a British or American way. It was an intriguing contradiction that prevented me from falling apart.
The guards both got to their feet so they could look me directly in the eye. “If you'll recall, Majesty, when King Francis and you agreed to sign the peace treaty between our Kingdoms, you were asked to agree to two conditions...”
“Yes,” I stated impatiently, rolling my hand as if saying: get on with it!
“One condition was fulfilled right away, but the other was a favor to be granted later on.”
“Yes,” I growled softly, trying to sound patient but failing miserably.
“Wait!” Both Lord Gregory and Lord Antony protested.
“We heard nothing about any favor!” Lord Antony exclaimed.
“Such a thing would have been highly advised against!” Lord Gregory cried out in dismay.
“Quiet!” I commanded them, using a “no arguments allowed” tone of voice for the first time ever. I gestured for the guards to continue.
“The last words ever spoken by King Francis – the night before his execution – were: Go to Queen Kaitlynn and tell her that the favor I require of her is to remove my son Guy from the Nibal throne and place my son George upon it. Also warn her, Guy is preparing to launch another attack...”
This news was just too much for me to handle. Stumbling backwards a step, I held a hand to my stomach and stared at them with my mouth just slightly open. No one said a word for the second or two that it took me to process this information.
“Lord Gregory, prepare to defend the border! I want all units on hand in case they are needed. Sir Barrett, Nathan, this includes yours. Lord Antony, you're in charge of the palace and doing my work while I'm gone. As for me, I'm going to visit God!”
I tossed my long braid over my shoulder and marched out of the room before anyone could remind me that I was still only wearing my robe – which hung off me weirdly because of my sparring match. “And be prepared for me to ride out the moment I return!”
For the first time ever, I rode my horse all by myself. Normally, I rode with Nathan, being cradled by his strong arms as we rode his large and powerful warhorse. Even so, I had learned how to sit on a horse, and he had even taught me the basics of how to ride one. Thus, I didn't allow anyone to argue with me. Gathering my robe more securely around me, I mounted my horse – a smaller faster one – the moment it was saddled.
The ride to the Temple was a bit funny since people turned to look at me as I rode by. They weren't quite sure if I was actually the Queen, but the sight of a woman in a bathrobe that was once again hanging open a bit lewdly was enough to make them wonder about my sanity. I paid them no attention and arrived at the Temple in record time.
The door guards hesitated for a moment – also wondering if I was actually the Queen – before nodding to me respectfully and opening the door. I strode in as if I owned the place. This actually startled the elderly Priestess, who I am pretty sure was napping.
“Bruce! I'm here to make my wish!” I called out angrily. “So show yourself, right now!”
“You know,” he murmured mildly. “I have half a mind to ignore you until you learn proper respect.” Then he sighed. “Unfortunately, the situation is too urgent to play such games.”
A moment later, he shimmered into existence – well, as much as he ever did – and then sat in the nonexistent chair. He sighed again. “If you've come to wish that Nibal never attacks, well, that is a wish that I just cannot grant. They obey a different God...”
“Yeah, I figured that out,” I muttered, being a big believer in free will. The Temple was actually fairly hot, probably because the elderly were often chilly. In frustration and annoyance, I slipped out of my robe and threw it across the room.
Bruce smirked. “I must admit that you are far better to look at than your father was.”
“Good for me,” I grumbled dryly. “So anyway, my wish is this: I want you to grant me the power to place a magical barrier along the entire border of Rolandia. I want to be able to stand anywhere in the Kingdom and activate this barrier when needed, but not have it be dependent on my personal power. I need it to be able to last as long as necessary to protect this Kingdom and drive home the point that I will not tolerate war any more!”
Bruce stared at me in silence for a moment. His expression was both astonished and impressed. “No one has ever thought to ask me for that before! I'm not entirely sure that I can grant it...”
He got up from his chair and paced the room. He made frequent noises such as hmm, nah, or that might work! When he was done thinking, he smiled at me.
“I think I can grant your wish!” He announced. “It'll take a complex weaving of spells, but basically, I will insist that all of the abundant natural magic in the Kingdom – that normally lies in the land, the water, and even the air we breathe! – join together to fuel the barrier. So long as we have land to call Rolandia, the barrier should remain. I will also bind it to an artifact so that you can activate or deactivate it at will.”
“Great!” I cheered, forgetting that he wasn't a solid person and trying to hug him. The strangest part of all was that he was just tangible enough for me to hug! I mean that my hands did pass through him, but it was slowly enough that it felt a bit like trying to walk forward as a strong wave crashed over me.
Grinning, I decided to give him a kiss as well. For the ten seconds or so that our lips (and tongues) joined, he felt completely and utterly solid. At the same time, a sensation like lightning struck us both, making us both glow a soft golden.
Stepping back when I just couldn't endure the sensation any longer, I looked at my hands. “Oh great! The sizzling is back worse than ever!”
“That's a good thing, you may need it!” Bruce informed me with a chuckle. He looked at himself. “It seems that I've been revived a bit as well...” Swirling his hands around a few times, he formed an orb the size of a softball. It was a shimmering opalescent that was completely clouded over inside.
He handed it to me with a smile. “Take this and travel to the border. By the time you get there, I should have finished working the spell. You'll know I have when this clears up and you can see an image inside.”
“An image of what?” I wondered curiously.
Bruce shrugged. “Could be anything. Whatever the image is, it'll be whatever the elements of Rolandia feel will best protest our Kingdom.”
“Good to know!” I exclaimed softly, tempted to kiss him again.
He smirked at me. “I'm not sure either of us could survive another kiss so soon!”
I turned to leave.
“Incidentally,” he said before I could take a step. “You should work more on spells. Your raw power is truly magnificent, but if you simply activated an artifact by imbuing it with a small amount of your power, you could then use it almost indefinitely without draining yourself dry.”
I sighed, feeling a bit frustrated. “Why isn't there some sort of manual for this? I think we might have won the war a long time ago if people actually used their magic!”
“Probably not,” Bruce stated with a patient smile. “Just imagine the irreparable damage someone like Lord Gregory could cause if he used his earth magic during a battle? It may seem desirable for Lord Nathan to use his fire magic during battle – which he has done in the past – but doing so can easily kill him if he doesn't realize when he's running dangerously low. For the energy that it takes to kill just a half dozen people with fire, he could use that magic to fuel his strength and stamina, and fight for many hours...
“Basically, even using magic has taken a back seat to fighting in the war,” Bruce explained, sounding sad.
“I think I want to change that!” I announced, marching out of the Temple. “Sorry I didn't have time for tea today!”
“Your Majesty!” The elderly Priestess called after me urgently. “Your robe!”
“Keep it!” I called out over my shoulder.
Go To Chapter 27
Go To Chapter 27