The Phil Phorce is a fictional periodical featuring my favorite characters from my own writing. It comes out in episodes, once every three months or so. To find out more and to read previous episodes, please go to these two pages: About the Phils and the Phil Phorce. Please enjoy Phil Phorce, Episode 7.
Isaac burst through the double doors. Breathing hard, Quirk almost ran into Percival as he stopped suddenly behind the prince. The castle’s throne room stretched out before them, magnificent and gleaming with color in sharp contrast with the dusty bedchamber they had just left.
Quirk bent over, trying to catch his breath. Even blind, Isaac knew his way around his castle, although Feiron had to correct the occasional wrong turn and warn him of people in his path. Other than those few instances, Isaac had run so fast through the halls he had almost lost Quirk.
But now, seeming to feel the size and splendor of the throne room, Isaac slowed to a walk. At the end of the long room was an empty throne. Next to it, a smaller one, but this one was occupied.
The queen— who else could it be, who looked so much like Isaac, and so regal— stood abruptly as they entered. A man in uniform started from her side to intercept them, but she waved him away.
“Isaac?” asked the queen as they reached each other. She frowned and reached up, barely brushing the blindfold. “Why are you here? What happened?”
“Quite a lot,” said the prince. “I’m sorry for our abrupt arrival— I hope it isn’t an inconvenience.”
“No, of course not,” said the queen. “You come at a rather strange time, that’s all. How did you get past the people at the gates?”
“We used mirrors.”
“So you had left this world…” murmured the queen. “I’m so glad you’re back. The last two months have been terrible for us here.”
“I realized. The king…?”
She shook her head, then realized he couldn’t see her. “He died. Was killed. We never found the assassin.”
Isaac nodded. “We arrived in his rooms.”
“We removed his body, but left the room as it was for mourning,” said the queen. “You know the customs. The engraver had to carve his likeness on the crypt from memory— no one wanted to remember the ogre part of him, though that’s all we had to bury.”
“Must have been a fun open coffin,” muttered Quirk, but Percival shushed him.
“Who are these?” asked the queen, looking over Isaac’s shoulder.
“This is,” Isaac lifted Feiron for her to see, “my fairy. Those are Percival and Quirk.”
Quirk just nodded, but Percival made a full bow. “I promise to serve you as long as I am here to serve,” he told the queen. He produced a red sphere of soap from his pocket, left over from their earlier game. “Let this piece of our world embody my promise. When the sphere bursts, the liquid inside will freeze anyone touching it in place exactly as they are.”
The queen accepted the sphere with barely a glance, turning back to Isaac. “Why are they here?”
“A little much, don’t you think?” muttered Quirk to Percival, who shrugged. “Where did you get that sphere?”
“I kept a pack of them after the game,” said Percival. “I figured this one would be the most useful as a gift.”
“They’re my escort, I guess,” said Isaac. “I need one, I guess, now that…” He gestured to the blindfold. “But strange things are kind of their specialty. They could look around and try to find this assassin.”
“It’s been two months since it happened,” said the queen. “Are you sure they can do all that much?”
“You did leave the scene unchanged, of course,” said Percival quickly. “We might be able to find something there.”
“Perhaps,” said the queen. “You may do what you wish. Before you go, however, I think it would be wise to tell you all that has happened since your father died.”
Isaac nodded, and they began walking away from the thrones, Quirk and Percival falling in behind them.
“The kingdom is in chaos,” said the queen. “Once the people heard of the king’s death, they revolted. We’ve been locked inside the castle ever since. We couldn’t crown a new ruler, since you had disappeared, and all other possible heirs were outside the castle, but I ruled as well as I could. Now you’re here, and…” The queen shrugged. “We can set everything to rights.”
Isaac went a few steps in silence. “Are you sure they’ll accept me as king?”
“Well, you’re the crown prince,” said the queen. “They ought to accept you. Although…” She sighed. “It just strikes me as odd that they revolted so suddenly after your father’s death. Do they think we had something to do with it, or are they just punishing us for letting in the assassin? I don’t think either possibility is likely— such a sudden uproar would not result from discontent. I think something is pushing them, forcing them to rebel.”
“You think they’re under duress?” asked Isaac. “That doesn’t make sense.”
“No, not really under duress, just… not thinking for themselves,” said the queen. “I think someone is out there, stirring up the crowds, possibly even influencing them through magic.”
“Why would you think that?” asked Quirk. “Magic isn’t usually what causes revolts.”
“Actually, that’s a more plausible explanation in this world than you might think,” said Feiron from Isaac’s shoulder.
She led them out onto a balcony and waved a hand. “You can see the results.”
Directly below them, peace still reigned. Gardens and smaller buildings dotted the ground around the main tower. Beyond the surrounding wall, however, it was chaos. Masses of people clamored and shouted, throwing things at the guards on the walltop, who continued their rounds as if nothing were happening. Quirk was surprised both by how high the throne room was from the ground— it was on the same level as both this balcony and the king’s room— and by how clearly they could hear the crowds below.
“This has been going on for two months?” asked Quirk. “How much energy do these people have?”
“And how have they managed not to burn down the gates, or climb over the walls?” Percival asked.
“It died down slightly within a week of the king’s death, although anyone from the palace leaving the walls would be set upon.” The queen wrung her hands. “But this week is scheduled for the coronation, and whoever is available to be crowned will be crowned. They don’t want someone they don’t like, so they’re making a fuss.”
“And who do they like?”
The queen shrugged. “We’ve tried parlaying with them, but we can’t get a decisive answer. Most of them don’t even know what they want out of us— they just seem to like shouting.”
“Doesn’t everybody?” asked Quirk.
“Apparently.” The queen shook her head. “We can’t keep living like this. We can’t trade with the outside, we can’t function as a country until we get our own affairs in order. We can’t do much with the portcullis down.”
Isaac raised his eyebrows, but said nothing.
“So, find a weird magician, quiet a populace, bring an assassin to justice,” said Quirk. “Sounds fun.”