I couldn’t get much sleep last night. I’m so damned nervous.
And now I’m here — today’s the day. My fate, my future, it all rests on the next following few moments.
“Halt! Chief Minister Ria is busy, and wishes not to be disturbed. Come back later.”
I smile politely, and shake my head. The fresh smell of the ocean calms my nerves a bit.
“I cannot. This news can wait no longer. It’s the Minister’s last day at the Capital, and if she leaves to the Isles of Yar without hearing what I have to say, then Dol may lose out on something very important. The future of our nation may depend on this meeting.”
The Ministerial Guard looks at me, and furrows his brow, like a stubborn child who can’t have their way. Then, without a word, he nudges his head towards the door, a silent acceptance of my request.
Here goes nothing.
“Mr. Jora, so glad to finally see you,” the Chief Minister says after I open the door. “My apologies for not meeting sooner. The farmlands in the south required all of my attention, with the severe drought that’s hitting the land now.”
“I understand, Chief Minister, ma’am. You had missed the visit from the Princess of Tyr. She and her delegation were eager to meet you, but I organized a massive welcome for her in your stead. I am sure the young Princess enjoyed the rainbow fire-breathers that Dol is famous for overseas, and the extravagant feast with every kind of delicious fruit and berry our small island nation has to offer as desserts.”
Ms. Ria looks at me, and I can see a bit of frustration on her face. She lets out a deep sigh, as if it weighed heavily on her body.
“Let me make this clear, Jora. Our nation is starving. As mayor, you have full right to use the Capital’s resources within reason, but I find it unpalatable that a foreign princess and her entourage will eat more than an average Dolnan would in a month. Why should we even allow her to visit our nation? What use does she have for us anyway? Tyr is a massive empire; why would they care about us? We’re like small, skinny fish without teeth swimming in the Osev’i Ocean compared to them.”
A bit of sweat was forming on my forehead and the back of my neck. This was it. Time to reveal my gamble.
“I believe, Chief Minister, that when the Princess gives word to her father, the Emperor of Tyr, that this beautiful island nation is bursting with ripe fruits, unique island culture and talented people, that they will be eager to open trade with us. We have a surplus of spices, scented hardwood, and other items that may interest the Tyrians. We can trade this for food, and safeguard our nation’s future.”
“So, let me get this straight, Jora. You decided to organize a lavish feast, full of the city’s finest foods and entertainers, and let foreigners eat all of it, while our people have nothing on their plates? For what? A promise? Did you even get at least a verbal promise that she’ll speak to the Emperor about a trade deal?”
My lips can’t stop trembling. This is not the praise I had expected.
“No, ma’am. The Princess did not say that she would speak about a trade deal. She only said that she will, and I quote, ‘speak to my father about this wonderful island’. I figure putting us on the map for Emperor of Tyr was worth the feast. I will send a letter to him today to pursue a deal between our two nations. The Princess must have already told him about Dol; it has been some time since she was here.”
“If no trade deal comes about, I will dismiss you from your mayorship. Your salary will be annulled. You will understand what it’s like to be hungry. Pray for your deal to come to fruition, Jora. I do not have patience for these kinds of things.”
“I understand, Chief Minister.” Gods hear me, this is awful. How could I have put my life in jeopardy so abruptly? I had hoped she would promote me to Vice Minister once the deal materializes… wait, what’s that?
“Ma’am! Look over there! Through the windows. Do you see the ships?”
Behind us, a runner bursts through the doors. His face is as red as a hellfruit, and heavy drops of sweat hit the smooth grey marble floor.
“Excuse me, Chief Minister Ria. Three ships from the Empire of Tyr have been spotted in the north-east.”
“They are trade ships! The gods have heard our pleas. We will survive this drought, and the future will brighten by the day!” I asserted. The Chief Minister wasn’t sharing my enthusiasm, but she will once the trade delegation arrives. I am sure of it.
“Halt! The Emperor is not to be disturbed. Come again another time.”
Ugh. This is so annoying. Do I seriously need to talk to a guard every time I want to see my father? Don’t they know that Daddy always has time for me?
“Listen up. I have something important to share with my father. If he finds out later that you denied his daughter from seeing him, pieces of your body will be on spikes outside your home. I’ll make sure your tongue gets cut off first, though. But you’ve also got a good head. It has a nice shape to it. Maybe I’ll use it as a candle holder.”
The guard has this astonished look, as if he’s genuinely surprised. None of what I said is true, but gods, what does it take for these guards to just step aside when I say so?
He unlocks the door without a word. I push the guard aside and enter the Royal Bedroom, and lo and behold, I see something that takes me completely by surprise. NOT.
“Elrena, what are you doing here? No one, not even you is allowed in here when I command it.”
He‘s’ sleeping with another woman. Again. This is getting so stupid. He spends more time with other women than he does with me. How many whores has he slept with after Mother died? I am so sick of this rotten place. Today’s the day when I start my life, my way. But I need something first.
“Daddy, I just returned from my first trip overseas. There’s this amazing little island called Dol, just a few days sailing from here to the south-west.”
The woman next to him slides out of bed, covering herself with a blanket. She leaves the room in a suppressed hurry. Good. Now I can finally have Daddy’s undivided attention.
“How many times have you barged in here and interrupted my… private matters? This is becoming an annoying trend, Elrena. If this happens again, I’ll order you to be locked inside your room for half the day, every day. Do I make myself clear?”
“Daddy, this island has everything I want. There are delicious fruits, entertainers that breathe colored fire, palm trees and white sandy beaches… and the sunset! I love the sunset.”
“Get on with it.”
“I want this island. I want to have it now! And I want to live there and build my own palace and ride horses whenever I want and swim in the ocean and…”
I can see he is starting to actually think about it, instead of swatting me away like a gadfly.
“How long will you be gone, if you have this island?”
As long as I want! I won’t ever need to live in this filthy palace ever again.
“Oh, I don’t know. Maybe a season, maybe two? I will surely miss you and I won’t be able to stop myself from coming back to see you. You’re my daddy!”
He smirks. Maybe I laid it on too thick, but it’s worth the try.
“Good. I think it will teach you a bit about the world. I will give you three ships, six hundred men along with one hundred experienced Royal Guards to accompany you to conquer that island for yourself, on one condition. You stay there for four seasons straight without returning, and improve the island by ordering roads to be built, new farms sown, aqueducts constructed, and Tyrian law established. It will teach you something about statecraft, my princess. Now go. Disturb me no further. I will give the order and you shall set sail tomorrow morning.”
I can’t believe this worked.
“Thank you, Daddy!” I kiss him on the cheek, and head off to my room.
Oh, I can’t wait to have an island, all to myself! And what a lovely island it is. I don’t think I’ll be able to sleep tonight — I can’t contain my excitement! Dol, your princess is coming!