Oct 7
A royal meeting

I’ve actually had quite the vacation despite the plague. I’ve had two days without Geoffries waking me up to his lyre music as he is doing right now, playing some folkish tune that, no matter how pleasant, is slowly wearing its welcome. I get up and let Geoffries dress me for the day. 
    “Will you ‘ave the crown on all day today, ma’lordship?” he asks.
    I don’t know why on earth I would ever want to have it on all day, but it is a good question.
    “No, Geoffries, I doubt it very much,” I respond. 
    I feel heavier than usual, probably from the additional layers he’s mounting because I am now king. It’s a weight no one should bear alone without the divine influence of the Universe. Even then it is only acceptable if She is directly involved in the ordination and in everything the king does, which She is. The Bathikry waxes or wanes, and my access to it waxes and wanes with it according to Her will. Geoffries finishes dressing me with one final tug and then I exit through the opened doors. I find Men, Monty and Geoff waiting for me just outside my bedroom.
    “What happened to Hugo?” asks Men.
    “You, the clairvoyant, want to know what happened to Hugo?” I laugh, “C’mon, take me on a tour of the place and I‘ll tell you all about it.”
    Monty leads us down the hallway, a rather stark thing of grey stones with a rug that stretches down the middle and a cabinet here or there. We arrive at the first door on the right and Monty opens it up to the salon. 
    “So he’s getting treatment down in the ward, but they say it’ll be another few days before he’s well. Maybe he’ll be well by the time you get back from Pumpkin Head’s banquet,” Monty says.
    I’m not paying much attention to him, just listening for the words — dead, infected, life — which he doesn’t say, so I take a look around and find that the salon too, is bare. It has two cushy couches in the middle facing each other with a stainedglass lamp shedding a colorful light onto the coffee table, which sits on a Turkish rug. The walls have no decorations and there is a good fifteen feet of empty space between the couches and the wall on every side. I imagine what I could put in here: a billiards on the North side, some chairs and cabinets to line the walls, and the walls decorated with hanging tapestries. On the far side there is a beautifully contoured, pointedarch window letting in light from the garden, but the light is not strong because it points Westward away from the rising sun. On the South wall a set of beautifully carved doors look remarkably ornate next to the stark walls. 
    We open the double doors into what appears to be the afternoon sun room. This room is just as barren as the other, but this time the Western side of the room is one giant window that extends up to a rose window and then ending in a pointed arch. The light, although still morning, fills the entire afternoon room in a faint blue light, sharpening all the shapes of the furniture and the unevenness of the cobblestone walls. 
    Then I turn to them and start my story. I tell them how we didn’t see any infected until we reached Wilmington at nightfall. I then tell them how I was immune to the cloud of infection while Hugo began to turn immediately. Then  I tell them how cool it was watching the Steward and the Earl come down on their dragons, fire ablazing. 
    “Did you figure out what’s causing it?” asks Monty.
    “What is causing it, no,” I shrug, “But I don’t think it is a real disease. It’s a magical curse, it doesn’t kill anyone.”
    “It came on about a decade ago with the first known reports occurring in Southern Europe, but, for some reason, the plague originated in many places throughout the world. The spread is relatively welldocumented because there is no incubation period. The disease takes or it does not, no one can carry it without knowing it,” Geoff remarks.
    “Was it scary? You know, seeing the infected come after you?” Monty asks.
    “No. I knew I could avoid getting infected and I knew I could fly away should the infected try to injure me. If ever I was scared, it was seeing Hugo writhing on the ground, turning into a monster before my eyes,” I reply.
    We then open the Southern doors to the afternoon room into what appears to be the Summer room, a brighter thing than even the afternoon room with windows that span not only the Southern and Western walls, but also curve inward up until it meets in a spire with the Northern and Eastern walls. There is no ceiling to this room and it is dark only because no lights are on in the room. Two dozen or so lawn chairs are stacked and stowed on the Eastern wall to the right of the double doors there. We walk over to the windows and begin to fold the windows open as they are retractable. Like an accordion we fold them back and forth until the room and the porch outside the windows seem as if the same thing. I walk outside where the morning dew makes the air particularly crisp on my skin. It will get brighter over here as the sun crosses over, but still this section of the castle must be cool and refreshing year round. It must be beautiful on a hot summer day, but today it is a bit cold. 
    I look out at the gardens and am surprised by how much color I see. Already most of the trees have turned a burnt orange, pastel yellow or crimson, a symphony of color spanning the spectrum from a deep forest green to an almost neon orange. All of the trees sit on a bed of freshlymown grass or next to gigantic smooth rocks that look like they have been placed there by giants. Although the castle sits in the middle of the gardens, I can see the tall structures of New York City: a gothic skyscraper, a fortress with a wooden spire there, or here a structure that looks like a giant white crystal piercing the blue sky, or there what looks like a giant black tooth with curved outer walls and a crown of round ramparts. 
    I look over and see Monty has already called several lawn chairs to fly over and set themselves up for us to lay in. I get cozy in one of the middle chairs and position it so that it looks into the sky, today a blueberry blue. 
    
“Well look where I find you,” the Steward breaks the silence of our peaceful party.
    I sit up in my chair.
    “What pressing matters do we have?” I ask him.
    “Other than preparing hard for Captain’s great summit?” he retorts, “I think you should check in on Hugo, and then meet me in the board room so that we can discuss your first decrees as king.”
    I give him a curt nod and then get up. The others stay where they are at. 
    “You should go see him. We have already seen him. Just go see him,” they say.
    I follow my father around the corner of the castle, which looks like a giant ice crystal trapped inside a grey mountain. We walk over to the front doors, I remember them faintly from last night. I was so tired though, I had Geoffries take me straight to bed. They are large heavy things made out of thick slabs of oak, reinforced with black iron rivets and iron plates. Scenes of magic and wonder were carved out of cherry and then inlaid in sections onto the doors. One scene the unnamed magician causes an object to levitate, another stirs a cauldron which lets off a gossamer steam. I don’t have a chance to see the other scenes before the doors open with a large creaking noise. 
    We come into the atrium where there are two cascading staircases that lead to the second floor some fifteen yards above and two spiraling staircases behind us. All four are needed because depending on the stair you take, you can arrive at the second floor up to forty yards away from the exit of the stair you needed to take. Along all the of the staircases are thin wooden handrails which look like they ought not support a human’s weight, but are secure I’m sure. Windows, pointedarch and rose, break through the walls in an organic pattern, never looking quite systematic, but not looking completely out of place either. A rose window rarely starts at ground level, but there is one just under the Northeast stairway. In the middle of the atrium sits a large table with a vase spilling with all kinds of plant life. I continue to follow my father down the room, past all of the stairways, when I hear loud footsteps approaching.
    Before I know it I am on the ground, my head ringing from the fall, and a body pinning me to the ground. I try to look up but find my vision is covered by a row of dresses. I push against the mass holding me to the ground enough to see a whole mess of girls have attacked me. Their bright, accusative eyes bear down on me with gravity of the guillotine. I look for the Steward but he seems to have disappeared.
    Then I look at my opponent, the Princess, at her mop of hair, her fiendish eyes, and her masculine body only to realize that she is not any of those things. Her eyes are laughing, her hair is smooth and soft on my cheeks, and her body is anything but masculine. But she keeps a hold on me, stuffing my cloak and mantle underneath her left knee.
    “Didn’t know I could beat you up did you?” she laughs.
    I don’t know what to do.
    “Can you do this?” is all I can think to ask.
    “You can’t just make us move from our home and expect nothing in return for it,” she says.
    The other girls all laugh in agreement. I have no idea what to do at all. 
    “Did your parents come with you? Is that part of the agreement our parents made?” I ask.
    “Our dads, thank you very much! I don’t think my mom had much say in the matter, which is not what is going to happen between us two, you got that?!” she threatens, “You are now going to memorize my friends’ names on the spot or I’ll push back the marriage a year.”
    “When is it now?” I ask.
    The Princess ignores me. She points to a mousy girl with hazelnut hair and a button nose. I take a good look at her and try to summon the mental power to remember this girl’s name.
    “Her name is Ophelia. She’s the clairvoyant who’ll keep a tab on you hooligans,” she says.
    I repeat Ophelia just under my breath a few times. I don’t know why, but I am actually trying to remember her friends’ names. Then she points to the blackhaired girl next to Ophelia. She’s a bony thing but her face is full and healthy. 
    “This is Judith. I would watch out for her if I were you. She’s a necromancer. She was just speaking with your thug dying of the plague before we decided to come give you a piece of our mind,” she says.
    “That I am actually extremely interested in. What did he tell you?” I ask Judith. 
    The Princess fastens my clothes to the ground. 
    “Princess Armada would you stop doing that?” I ask.
    She tugs harder. I hear the screech of the doors opening.
    “You don’t even know my name and I’m your fiancee!” she retorts.
    “Fiancee. That sounds so intense,” I hear Men say at the double doors.
    By now the boys have come in and they rush over to come get me. I see them stop before the ring of girls and sheepishly look around.
    “In fact, that makes me a Duchess of this estate and as first order of business, you have to take me to Pumpkin Head’s summit tomorrow,” she orders.