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 wandered by feel. He knew the castle like the back of his hand, but it was difficult to translate what he knew visually into what he could feel. He spent more time hesitantly testing the ground before him for stairs, walls, or doors than he did actually walking, but it felt good to be doing something on his own. He had depended on the others for so long without even realizing it. Depending on them for explanations of their world when he couldn’t see, depending on them to solve problems he didn’t realize, and depending on them to save his mother from incorporeal assassins. He didn’t like the idea of that one, especially with Quirk’s idea of the queen’s motives. He and Feiron had been in the room the day his father had died, and done nothing. They hadn’t been near when the Flit had attacked his mother, but they still could have done… something. He wished he had at least heard his mother’s call for help, as Quirk and Percival had.
But, when he considered these things, he had to consider the other side as well. Feiron had a point— what could they do? Seeing wasn’t that great of a gift when facing a creature that move invisibly almost at will, but it was much better than not seeing at all. If he had walked into his father’s battle, he wouldn’t have been anything more than a hindrance. He had to face the facts. He was useless.
But, considering Feiron, he was in good company. The fairy was almost the consistency of pudding these days— he wouldn’t have been able to fight either. What a pair of fools they made.
Isaac sighed. It didn’t make him feel any better to insult the fairy, even as much as the fairy insulted him. He wanted to be useful again, or at least independent. And if that independence came through simply removing himself from all his problems and choosing not to get involved… well, there was charm to that. He would make a good hermit.
He could hear individual servants muttering obsequiously as they passed him, but there were less of those mutters than before— he must be getting into a less-frequented part of the castle. If memory served, he was in the lower levels, if not underground already. He considered going back. No, he wanted more time to think without the bustle of servants around him. He kept walking.
He felt the air grow colder as he went down a flight of stairs. Surely he was underground by now. He sat on the last step, shoulder pressed up against the wall, to think a while before he went back.
Did he want Quirk’s help in all this? He could easily send them home if they hadn’t gone already. Feiron too— once he was king, he would have plenty of people to guide him to the bathroom. But securing the throne… That was the reason he had brought them in the first place. Could he do it on his own? It was merely a ceremony he had to go through, although the rebellious populace might prove difficult to sway. He could easily handle it all with his mother’s help, though. But if the Flit was after the royal family…
He rubbed his forehead. That was where he really needed the others. He couldn’t fight a Flit by himself— and judging by the attack on his mother and how she and her guards were restrained, he wouldn’t have their help either. He’d be on his own.
How had his mother been restrained? That was right, the soap Percival had given her— foolish Percival. But what about the guards? They hadn’t been kept in place by soap. Feiron had wondered about his mother’s powers, but for all his talk about the family line possessing magic, he didn’t actually know. It made sense about boundaries, but why had he never seen his mother use that power? She was a diplomat, good with people, finding new ways to make agreements. She didn’t force people to sit down or stay where they were— if she had had that power, surely she would have used it on his father once or twice while he was an ogre. He would have noticed it by now.
He dropped his head into his hands. Now it wasn’t Quirk who was second-guessing his mother’s actions— it was him. He couldn’t keep doing this.
He was about to go back upstairs when a cough echoed down the hallway. He frowned. He hadn’t heard a servant pass since he had come down these stairs— who was down here? He tried to think where he could be, underground as he was.
Of course, the dungeons. But that didn’t make sense either— no one was down here. His father had never imprisoned anyone here, instead imprisoning offenders in a jail built for the purpose, separate from the castle. This dungeon hadn’t been used in generations. They didn’t even hire guards anymore. It was cleaned occasionally, which might be what he was hearing.
The cough sounded again and his curiosity won. He stood, feeling his way along the wall to his right until he reached a door. Feeling around, he found a grate and listened at it for a moment. He couldn’t hear anyone within the room.
The second door he tried was similar, but from the third door there came another cough. He listened for a little longer, then said, “Hello?”
The person inside gasped, then scuffled around until the breathing was closer. “Isaac? What have they done to you?”
He didn’t understand. She was upstairs, not locked in a dungeon. He tried the door. Yes, it was locked. And she was coughing— something was wrong here.
Eventually he managed to speak. “Mother?”
“A Flit killed your father,” said his mother. Isaac nodded. “It also kidnapped me and took my wedding ring to impersonate me.”
“So Quirk was right…”
Isaac found himself telling the whole story, from the point he had left the castle with Feiron to where he had been whisked off to join the Phils, to where he had become restless and decided to come back here. He told about Quirk’s attitude toward who he thought had been his mother— which was pretty much correct, now that he thought about it. When he finished, his mother remained silent for a moment.
“She kept me down here until earlier today, when she took me upstairs and restrained me in my throne with some sort of red slime. I couldn’t move or tell anyone that she was an impostor, and I couldn’t help as she attacked your friends. Then she brought me back down here. I didn’t see you.”
“I was in my old room,” said Isaac. “I can’t do much to help with things since…” He gestured to his blindfold and sighed. “We need to find the others. Help me find the keys to your cell.”