The clouds were low over Brech City, turning everything to a dull monochrome. A wave of drizzling rain dropped without cease—tiny drops that a person scarcely noticed until he was wet through. Smoke from fireplaces, steam carriages, and factories barely rose above the tops of houses and lingered there just below the proper clouds, making everything that the rain touched dirty, greasy, and grimy.
“Are you sure you want to do this?” asked Prince Clitus from beneath his umbrella. His usual uniform had been replaced by a formal black suit, making him as monochrome as his surroundings.
“Do what?” asked his older half-brother Prince Tybalt. “Stand out in this Kafira-wretched rain?” He too was dressed in black formal.
The two of them stood surrounded by a massive crowd at the dockside, staring at a great black steam liner: S. S. Lied des Vaterlandes.
“No. Are you sure you want to marry Princess Henrietta?”
“It’s time for me to marry.”
“You love her at least, don’t you?”
“Love her?” Tybalt frowned. “I don’t even know her.”
“But you’ve corresponded.”
“She wrote me some stupid letters. I didn’t read them.”
“Why then did you agree to marry her?”
“I have to marry someone. With Henrietta, we will cement our rule over Freedonia.”
“You could have picked anyone you wanted,” said Clitus. “You had a choice.”
Tybalt rolled his eyes.
“What choice? That fat Bordonian pig Lady Enid? I don’t think so. Princess Ophelia of Mirsanna? She’s a whore. Maybe you think I should have chosen the idiot Hortence Moorn, or the egghead Iolana Staff?”
“Lady Iolana is the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen,” said Clitus, exasperated.
“She talks all the time. Have you noticed? Henrietta doesn’t even speak Brech. I’ll never have to listen to her. All I have to do is mount her a couple of times and pop some heirs into her. Then I can send her back to Freedonia to her family, and I can spend my time doing something more exciting with someone more exciting. That’s the beauty of it all. As King, I can have any woman I want, any time.”
Clitus sighed and shook his head.
* * * * *
“She’s actually quite pretty,” said Lady Esther, holding up latest issue of The Daily Review. “You look very handsome.”
“Thank you,” said Clitus, sitting across from her, sipping his tea.
Lady Terra entered the library carrying a large clock. Clitus stood up.
“Good afternoon, Lady Terra.”
“Please sit, Your Highness,” she said, walking past him and setting the clock on the mantel above the fireplace.
“And what are you about on this miserable day?” he asked, taking his place once again in the comfortable chair.
“Clock repair,” she said, turning on her heel and retracing her path. She stopped and looked over Esther’s shoulder at the picture on the paper’s front page. “How is that fair? She’s got huge tits.”
Clitus gasped, getting tea up his nose. Lady Terra didn’t notice. She was already stepping out the doorway.
“Please don’t mind her,” said Esther.
“No, of course not.”
“You look tired, Clitus. You’re working too hard. You need to get out and have some fun.”
“Well, I am going hunting the day after tomorrow at the Tottsbury Estate in Wills. It should be a good time. I hear the pheasants are thick this year. Why don’t you come up with me?”
“I’m not one for hunting really,” said Esther. “Lady Iolana cured me of it quite early on. You should ask her. I’m sure she would be interested. She used to kill things all the time back in Brechalon.”
“You really think she would come?”
“I’m sure she would. Terra might even be interested.”