The Reluctant Prince

By Eve Mak All Rights Reserved ©

Fantasy / Adventure

Chapter 12

After a while, Jet realized with some embarrassment that he was alone. He wiped his face on his sleeve and opened the King’s bedroom door. Queen Sephira gave him a stony-faced stare from the sitting room where she lay curled up under a blanket, a book in her hand.

“Where’s the King?” Jet asked.

Queen Sephira put her book aside and sat up. “He had to leave,” she said resentfully. “He decided he hasn’t been spending enough time with his youngest children lately.”

Youngest children? The King had more? Jet asked, “You didn’t go with him?”

With an exasperated hiss, Queen Sephira threw aside her blanket. “No, they all have their own mothers. Why would I go?”

“Obviously, there was something Jet was missing. “Oh, well—I should go,” he said awkwardly, moving towards the door. “Thanks for letting me—you know.”

Jet had never cried before that he could remember. He wasn’t sure why he had cried now, after all these years. He had been very, very angry—at King Roy, at the Family in general. But this little Queen was barely older than he was. She had nothing to do with what had happened to Janna. Her life could not be an easy one either, having to share King Roy with all those other women.

Queen Sephira scowled. “Just go. If it hadn’t been for you, the King would still be here with me.”

Jet stepped back, startled at the Queen’s vehemence. “Sorry,” he muttered although he really wasn’t sorry. This whole thing had been a disaster from the start.

“The Enforcer wants to see you,” Queen Sephira said. “He’s waiting for you in his office.”

Well, he was going to wait a long time, thought Jet, shutting the door with a gust of wind that sent something inside crashing to the floor.

Jet didn’t see anyone in the hallways but that didn’t mean no one was there. He didn’t care. He wrenched open the access door to the roof and sat, brooding, in the little alcove Daniel had shown him. He had to face it. He was the King’s son. And the King had done terrible things on his behalf. How could Jet reconcile that with the gentle, seemingly harmless man who had comforted him today?

It was no surprise when Merrell stepped through the access door. The Enforcer. Jet’s jaw clenched. Merrell was most likely the one who had carried out the King’s order. Or maybe it had been Merrell’s order that killed Janna and her children.

“Why?” he asked as Merrell settled beside him.

Merrell stared out over the hillside below. “I shouldn’t be the one having this conversation with you, Roderick. There’s a lot you don’t know.”

“You killed them!” Jet snarled, not even bothering to correct Merrell—his uncle—when he addressed him as Roderick. Oh, God—that meant that Daniel and Charles were really his brothers. Half-brothers, Jet reminded himself.

“Roy should be here instead of me,” Merrell said. “You remind him of his mistakes. He’s always blamed himself for your disappearance. I’m not surprised he ran off as soon as you proved you were really that child.”

Jet’s head came up. “Proved it?”

“That stunt with the weather.”

“But I--,” Jet paused. “I didn’t even realize I was doing it. I was angry.”

“We noticed,” Merrell said drolly.

“I’m not one of you,” Jet said. “I don’t want to be one of you. What does it matter if I’m this Prince? You’ve got enough of them. You don’t need me, and I don’t need to find out how to use abilities that I’m not even allowed to use that bad. I’ll figure it out on my own.” Jet stood. “Say good-bye to the King.”

“Jet.”

“What?” Jet wouldn’t turn around.

“I can’t let you go.”

“You can’t stop me.”

“Will you give me a chance to explain? Stay at Arden. It was a mistake placing you in Macek’s class. I wanted to see how you would react. You were obviously powerful, but did you have the necessary control? That’s why we bring our children here to train once they start exhibiting signs that they’ve come into their power. I should have realized being on your own all these years has taught you some measure of control already. What I didn’t realize until today is that you can control weather. It’s an advanced skill only the most powerful of us ever develop. Roy asked me to train you. You’ll work directly under me. I think you need to see what an Enforcer really does.”

“You mean I’d be an Enforcer?” Jet swung around to face Merrell, incredulous.

“Not exactly. Not yet, anyway. But there are things you have to see, things you have to know about the Family and the world. So, will you stay?”

“If I said no?”

“Then I would try to make you stay,” Merrell replied.

Jet was tempted to just dissolve into wind. Let Merrell try to stop him then. But he didn’t. “If I stay, I want to keep going to the beginner’s class. You said the new kids learn all your stupid rules there, and I don’t know what they are. Every time I turn around I’m breaking some rule or other. So I want to find out what they are, before I decide whether I want to follow them or not.”

Merrell laughed. “You do seem to have a problem with rules,” he agreed, glancing around the rooftop alcove in mild reproach. “Fine, I’ll talk to Macek. You can attend his class in the mornings. In the afternoons I will expect you at my office right after lunch. And Jet? No using your abilities in front of the others unless I say so. That’s a rule.”

“Yeah, sure.” Jet had learned another rule from Daniel. Just don’t get caught. From the expression on Merrell’s face, it looked like he might have heard of that one, too.

“I mean it. Jet, if you have any questions, you can bring them to Macek or me.”

Merrell, maybe. Macek? Jet didn’t see that happening. “I do have one question,” he said. “What happened to my mother?”

Jet had startled Merrell badly. “The Lady Elen? She’s not—dead, if that’s what you’re thinking,” Merrell replied after a moment. “She’s been living quietly outside of Darcy. You can see her if that’s what you want, but I don’t think she’ll recognize you. The shock of your—disappearance—changed her. She’s not the same as she used to be.”

Roddy had fuzzy memories of how his mother used to be. He hadn’t liked her. She was a stranger who would breeze in and order him and Janna about and then breeze out again. He had a hard time thinking of her as his mother. Still, she was a piece of his past. “Maybe not right away, but I would like to see her,” Jet said, and Merrell nodded.

At supper, the cousins watched him warily as Jet took his plate and made his way to Lorra’s table. “S,fine,” he mumbled around a mouthful of food. “I’m not going to make it rain in here so you can go ahead and eat.” He looked up when no one spoke. “I was kidding,” he said.

Daniel was nowhere in sight. Neither was the Queen. Maybe she was having dinner privately with Daniel and Charles, who was also missing. Lorra for once didn’t huff and move to another seat, so Jet counted that as an improvement. He ate his dinner and took back some extra for later.

Merrell hadn’t said anything about changing his room now that he was officially a cousin. Jet used his key-card to get in. He looked at the open suitcase in the middle of the room and wondered what he was supposed to do about the clothes he’d already worn. They weren’t actually dirty according to his standards, but they were wrinkled from lying in a pile on the floor and he had worn them once or twice already. He’d have to ask Macek about it tomorrow, and prepare to have his head bitten off in the process. Maybe he’d just throw them all in the tub with a bar of soap. That sounded like a better alternative.

“Jet? Jet, are you there?” The voice alternated with knocks on the door. “Jet? It’s Lorra. Can I come in?”

Lorra? Jet opened the door. “Sure, come in.” He kicked the open suitcase behind the bed.

Lorra looked around curiously. “This looks like a hotel room,” she said, coming over to sit on Jet’s bed, bouncing up and down a little as if testing out the spring.

“What are you doing here?” Jet asked.

Lorra shrugged and smiled, patting the bed next to her. “I just wanted to talk,” she said. “We got off to a bad start so I thought we could start over.”

Jet remained standing. “Why?”

Lorra came over to Jet since he hadn’t taken her invitation to sit next to her on the bed. She stood on her toes so she could whisper in his ear, “I can make it rain, too. Want to see?” She squeezed her hands together and slowly raised them above her head and opened them. A small gray cloud appeared between them. Lorra playfully nudged it towards Jet just as it began to rain tiny droplets of water.

Annoyed, Jet flicked it away. The rain made a puddle the size of a cup of coffee on the floor.

“I can do other things, too,” Lorra promised, moving in so that Jet was pressed back against the wall. She wound shadow around his arms to hold him there while she leaned forward, straining up to give Jet a little kiss on the lips. “See?” she said with a breathy laugh. “You’re mine.”

Jet stared down at Lorra who thought she held him with her puny shadows. She was a little girl playing at being an adult. She had no idea what she was doing, but Jet did. He broke her shadows easily and twisted her around, wrapping his own shadows around her arms and lifting them above her head. He ground himself into her as she hung on the wall, and gave her a kiss she wouldn’t soon forget. When he stepped back, she was still caught in his shadows against the wall, helpless, her eyes wide with shock.

When Jet released Lorra, she ran into his bathroom, slamming the door behind her. He could hear her crying in there, but she sounded more angry than upset. What was she trying to do, anyway? She was his cousin at the least, possibly even a sister. Jet’s stomach churned at the thought. He changed to wind, swirling around the room as if to cleanse it before he escaped through the bottom of the door. He needed to get away from Family if only for a few hours. Also, he didn’t want to be here when Lorra calmed down and came out of the bathroom. He was pretty sure he’d broken some kind of rule back there, but then again, so had she. At least he hoped she had.


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