The Reluctant Prince

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Chapter 17

Jet didn’t have much to move into his new suite in the student’s wing. He had a suite—a bedroom with a door that actually closed and a sitting area for entertaining guests. Jet was grateful there was no second bedroom. He had the place to himself.

He took out the items he’d brought with him from Low City and carefully arranged them on the shelving above his new bed. After a moment’s thought, he waved a hand and covered them with a fine film of shadow. The storybooks were precious to him but others might not see it that way.

Jet figured Merrell had given him this suite as a reward for good behavior or an incentive for more of the same. Every third day Jet went down to Salter and worked weather so Salter’s crops would grow. He didn’t mind, really, except that Merrell made it seem like Jet was following his orders.

King Roy still had not returned to Darcy. His Queen, on the other hand, came to visit quite often, which pleased Charles immensely. She spent much of her time with Charles and Daniel in the student quarters they shared although she was ostensibly the ‘mother’ of all the King’s offspring. Jet didn’t see Daniel for days.

Now that his punishment was over, Daniel had returned to his regular training classes, which included Lorra among some others. Merrell had pushed for Jet to attend the advanced classes as well, so Jet reluctantly agreed to give up one day of the beginner classes starting next week.

At night Jet visited the Family library, which was available only to those of the Familly who had attained their grays or higher. The rest of the Family made do with the regular library in the main house. Jet still had to ask Macek to let him in the restricted library, or risk Merrell’s wrath for using his so-called ‘secret’ abilities. Jet would have risked Merrell’s temper, but Macek turned out to be quite accommodating, even staying with Jet some nights to go through some of the texts.

“I thought you already knew all this stuff,” Jet said to him one night when he was annoyed by Macek’s constant presence. It wasn’t like Jet was planning to steal any of the books, or if he did, he would be sure to return it when he was done. But Macek wasn’t there to watch over him.

“Most of this is lost knowledge,” Macek told him, thumbing through an old book which he’d found on a high shelf. “Hidden until recently.”

“How recently?”

“Each city had its own library but nobody knew about the hidden caches of books until roughly fifty years ago when—“ Macek frowned, “—our grandfather Erron Estee uncovered a way to reveal hidden objects. He discovered it by accident, I’m told, when he needed to hide his lover in the Family library so his wife wouldn’t see them together. Grandfather was not the most discreet person in those days. When he dispelled the shadows that had been hiding his lover, he also dispelled the ones which had hidden an entire shelf of books. After that, it was a simple matter of checking all the other libraries to find the hidden rooms. So no, to answer your question, I haven’t read through all of them. No one has.”

“We have a grandfather? Is he still alive?”

Macek sighed impatiently. “If he was, he’d still be King. No, Erron Estee died a long time ago.”

“So you don’t necessarily know if all the tricks in these books are everything we are capable of or not.”

“Unfortunately, no. We lost a lot of our knowledge about our abilities over the years. We don’t even know if we’ve uncovered all the hidden libraries yet. We don’t know who hid them or why they were hidden in the first place.”

“Why?” Jet asked. “Why did you lose knowledge about your abilities? Isn’t it just something you’re born with?”

Macek gave Jet a funny look. “No. We have to be trained. That’s why we have Arden.”

“But what about the other Family? The ones who aren’t royal? They don’t go to Arden. Are there schools that train them also?”

“Not like this. Most Family only display one major ability. They are very restricted in the use of their talent so it’s not an issue.”

Jet gave Macek a funny look of his own. “And you wonder why you’ve forgotten things?”

“You may have a point, Jet.” Macek closed the book he had been reading. “You keep talking like you’re not one of us, but you are. Some of the things you do are only just being discovered in these books. Where did you get your knowledge, Jet? From the library in Low City, right?”

Jet shrugged, not wanting to admit that he’d actually learned very little from the books he’d read in Low City’s restricted library. What he knew, he just knew. He suspected it was because he had grown up too fast in the subways. If it weren’t for wind and air and light and shadow, he would have died. He needed his elemental powers to survive, and so he was able to use them. They were a part of him as much as his hands or his eyes. Every day he was continually surprised that it wasn’t that way for the rest of the Family also.

Jet turned on the television in his sitting room the morning he got back from his meeting in the library with Macek. He yawned. It was still very early. Macek had gone back a couple of hours ago, but Jet hadn’t been sleepy yet. He was now.

‘The weather pattern in the middle of the country shows no sign of changing any time soon.’ Jet let the weatherman’s voice drone on as he closed his eyes for a short nap before breakfast. He had a hard time sleeping at night, but he always paid for it the next day.

‘ . . . unusual growing season . . .’ Jet’s eyes shot open. He sat up on the sofa and stared at the map on the tv screen. From his forays into both the restricted and the regular libraries, he now recognized Salter in the dead center of the map. Darcy, the capitol, was somewhat farther to the north and east and Low City was even farther east than that.

‘ . . . rain every third day for the last month. We’ve never seen anything like it.’ The screen cut to a seven-day forecast. Sure enough, there was rain for tomorrow, then sun, sun, sun, and rain again, then sun and sun. ‘Good news for the farmers.’ The tv now showed the coastline in the far west. ‘Record drought . . .’

Jet switched off the television. It hadn’t occurred to him that by making it rain in Salter he was redirecting the rain away from other areas where it might also be needed. He remembered Ben watching the weather obsessively, and wondered now if it were because of King Roy’s weather-working in other parts of Attania. Weather-working was a King’s skill.

Jet rolled off the sofa, wide awake now. He needed to talk to Merrell. Skipping a shower, he quickly stripped and put on a new gray uniform. He ran his fingers through his hair, which was starting to grow out now. It was still too short to put up in braids, but just long enough to fall into his eyes. He needed to do something about it soon. For now, he pushed his hair out of his face and went to find Merrell.

“Am I the King’s son or not?” Jet demanded when he found Merrell in his office.

Merrell looked up from the stack of papers he was reading. “I thought we’d established that,” he replied. “Why are you asking?”

“I mean did you get the blood test back? Am I officially Roderick Estee?”

Merrell put down his papers. “Yes,” he said. “The blood test confirmed it weeks ago. I didn’t think you cared about the official results or I would have mentioned it.”

“Is it true only the King has the ability to work weather? Does that mean I’m going to have to be the King some day?”

“Don’t look so horrified. Most of you cousins want to become King.”

“I don’t,” Jet replied. “Tell me, is my weather-working in Salter harming the rest of Attania?”

“Sit down, Jet. “ Merrell pointed to the chair in front of his desk. “First, just because you can work weather doesn’t mean you will get to be the King. There are other things involved in the decision. And Roy has many sons and daughters. It’s too soon to jump to conclusions.”

Jet was relieved, but one thing still bothered him. “What about the rain I’m taking away from the west coast?”

Merrell’s eyebrows rose. “Roy will take care of it, don’t worry. Your job is to take care of Salter.”

“Is that where the King is now?”

“Near there,” Merrell said vaguely. “Is that all you wanted to ask, Roderick?”

“Don’t call me that.”

“It’s your name.”

“My name is Jet.” Jet spun on his heel and walked out. Merrell didn’t scare him. Jet still felt uneasy about the weather-working. He went to breakfast, sitting at Lorra’s table again because Daniel wasn’t at breakfast. Neither was Charles. The Queen must be visiting again. Daniel needed to watch himself before something unpleasant happened. Jet tried not to think about it. Why was he the only one who seemed to be worried?

Jet’s mind drifted as he went through the routines in Macek’s class. Charles was there, so maybe they had just shared a family breakfast in their rooms. Jet shook his head and concentrated on moving in shadow across the practice area like everybody else. Shadow. It occurred to Jet that he had hidden his own secret books in a very similar manner to the ones in the hidden libraries. So maybe it wasn’t such an esoteric skill after all.

He was supposed to meet Merrell’s driver out front after lunch, but Jet decided he needed a break and the weatherman needed to be wrong for a change. He left a note on Macek’s desk where he would be sure to find it when he came home later. By that time, hopefully, Jet would be long gone. He intended to return by the weekend, but he suddenly felt a need to talk to Ben. Besides, he owed it to his old friend to let him know what had happened to him since he left for Darcy over a month ago.

Jet was in luck. Marty was scheduled to leave Darcy for Low City at four o’clock. He waved away Jet’s attempt to pay him for the trip, saying Jet was Family in a good way. Jet grinned, knowing exactly what he meant. He settled back in his seat and closed his eyes. By the time the bus got to Low City it would be nearly midnight. Perfect timing for Jet.

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