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.
Quirk winced as the physician pulled the bandage tight around his arm. The physician’s methods were, well, medieval, but Quirk and Percival had ganged up to force him to actually clean the wound first. Even that had been a struggle, and Quirk could tell the urge to amputate seethed below the surface.
“What is a Flit, exactly?” Percival asked.
The queen walked from her throne toward the door, then turned back to him. “It’s a creature of unknown origin,” she said. “There are no legends about them, nothing— until ten years ago, when they appeared without notice, invading a realm on the eastern coast. As they began to march on another realm, however, the surrounding kingdoms allied and attacked, driving the Flits back. After only a month of fighting, they disappeared completely. A few have reappeared, working as assassins or thieves, effective due to their ability to turn incorporeal and pass through solid objects. They are nevertheless rare. It does make sense, however, that whoever wants to kill me would hire such a creature.”
“We found those scratches in the king’s room, and the Flit drew them here.” Quirk stood as the physician began packing up his things. “Is that how it moves?”
“Over long distances and through objects, yes,” said the queen. “It can move very quickly that way, but it takes time for it to regain its body completely. As you saw, it grows one part at a time until the body is complete. The one exception is its moving spike, on its left hand— it always appears last, leaving the Flit unable to make scratches until it has fully appeared.”
“It moved strangely,” said Percival. “It only seemed to move in a straight line until its moving spike formed.”
The queen nodded. “The two lines it draws creates a sort of track. It can only move along those parallel lines until it is fully formed. After that, however, it is free. Also, before it’s moving spike can form, it can control the features of its body— by holding something someone else owns, they can mimic the appearance of the owner.”
“So that’s how it was able to impersonate me,” said Percival. “All of this makes sense, but how—”
He was interrupted as an officer and a team of men rushed into the room, weapons drawn. “My queen, we heard a commotion,” said the officer. “We came as soon as we could.”
“Good timing,” said Quirk. “We managed it.”
The officer glared at him. “We were delayed, unfortunately. Some force held us inside the guardhouse, and at our posts. We couldn’t move, even though we heard your scream.”
“I was restrained similarly, captain,” said the queen, nodding to him. “Luckily, the two otherworlders were able to arrive in time to protect me.”
The captain shot another glare at Quirk. “It could have been their doing. They could have restrained us and protected you to curry your favor.”
“I was attacked by a Flit,” said the queen. “These men know little about our world— I hardly think they could have hired a Flit to do such a job.”
“It could have been the fairy,” said the captain. “None of them can be trusted—”
“That’s enough, captain.”
The captain fell silent with another glare at Quirk. It seemed to be a hobby of his.
The physician bowed low to get the queen’s attention. “Permission to leave, your highness. I must tend to the sick in the city outside.”
“Of course,” said the queen
“Permission to walk with him?” asked Quirk. “He did such a wonderful job on my arm, I must thank him somehow—”
The queen cut him off with a wave of her hand. “You may go.”
Quirk ignored Percival’s raised eyebrow and hurried after the physician. He caught up to him in the hallway outside. “Thank you so much for your work on my arm,” he said loudly enough to carry back into the throne room. “White has always been my favorite for bandages, and with the red it’s quite striking…” He checked behind them for anyone listening in and dropped his voice. “You mentioned going outside the palace.”
“Yes,” said the physician, probably still miffed that Quirk had wanted his wound washed.
“I thought no one was allowed outside the walls.” Quirk gestured out a window at the crowds gathered at the gate. They seemed to have stopped for lunch.
“No, they allow me in and out as much as I want,” said the physician. “They just yell a lot, no real violence. Although, if a queen’s man tries to read propaganda to them out there, they might get nasty.”
“Propaganda?” Quirk frowned. “But I thought the queen was the rightful ruler. The king—”
“The king was the real ruler, but kingdoms are passed down from father to son, and the people want nothing to do with a ruling queen.”
“But she isn’t—”
“You’re one of the otherworlders,” said the physician. He had obviously picked up a little too much from the conversation in the throne room. “What has the queen told you?”
“The people rebelled because the king died,” said Quirk. That reasoning sounded flimsy now, and he wondered if he had missed something in the queen’s explanation. “They think someone is manipulating them.”
The physician snorted. “No manipulation— the exact opposite. The people haven’t risen up because the king died, they rose up because the queen tried to take his place.”
“But…” Quirk frowned. “Isaac— the crown prince, I mean— is here. He’s supposed to rule, not the queen.”
“Listen, otherworlder,” said the physician. “People like tradition in this city. They don’t like someone who comes in with new ideas about how things are supposed to work.” He glanced pointedly at the bandage on Quirk’s arm. “The king died. Not even a day passed before the queen declared herself ruler in the absence of the crown prince. No preamble, no question about whether they liked it or not, just a declaration.”
“So the people revolted,” said Quirk, understanding. “But why would they be so hostile to her?”
The physician shrugged. “Perhaps because of her magic. I don’t know.”
“Magic?” Quirk hadn’t heard anything about the queen having magic. If she had had magic, why had they just fought off a Flit for her? Why had Quirk gotten stuck in the arm?
“Look, don’t ask me about it,” said the physician. “It doesn’t go well for those who know too much about these things. If you’re smart, you’ll leave her alone and go back to your own world.” He walked on, leaving Quirk in the hallway.
The real reason the people had revolted… the revelation of the queen’s mysterious magic… Quirk didn’t know what to make of it. Only one thing was for certain: there were multiple explanations for everything that was happening, and the queen wasn’t being completely truthful.