Spark of Madness

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In the planning stages —  

SPARK OF MADNESS is a fictional version of Victorian England where men and women called Metalists use a mix of what we could consider magic and science to wield amazing power over metal.  Their various talents can make them rich, unstable, aloof, dangerous, saviors, or even a bit mad.

Through lead character (and mad scientist), Tesla Jenkins we met every stripe of this unusual breed — from her brother, a very successful industrialist  to Jay Collins, a jeweler with a power that has condemned its wielder to death by Queen Victoria — Jay can transform any metal into another, including turning things into gold.  This Midas touch is his death warrant.

For Tesla herself, she can attach metal to any flesh and make it work together.  But instead of pleasing only the rich and desperate, she’d rather stay high in her tower, perfecting cyborgs and doing increasingly dangerous experiments on herself.

At last she needs more than she and her father can do and so ventures out to find an animetalist to put someone’s soul into her cyborg.  This opens up her world and others’ in a way none could imagine.

From the dirty, though exciting, streets of London, where a new ideas and inventions are emerging every day, to a high tower filled with magic and wonder, and even to the highest reaches of government, Spark of Madness explores a unique place and time with the added sheen of a magic that never was.  Romance, adventure, ethics, family, and discovery all join into a place you’ve never been and a world you won’t want to leave.

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Below is an excerpt of the novel, following the backstory of Dr. Emory Angelo. (Quite a few typos below; this is very rough and early in the process but I wanted to share it with you guys!)

***

Emory Smith was born lucky.  Every blessing, every fortuitous thing that could be gifted upon a person had rained down upon Emory.  Of course, it was all in his mind.

But many of our gifts, and curses, and so strictly of our own making that we don’t just cause them to happen, we see everything cast into the dark or light which we believe the world to be made out of.  And to Emory, that world was blessed.

Roaming around in the middle of eight siblings, he was ignored by his parents (free), depended on by his younger siblings (loved) teased by older siblings (loved), and allowed to grow up without any education (free again).

Their Welsh village of Dallyworth was so far from any even proper townships as to encourage a strange sort of stasis — it acted, thought, and went about its way as though this was 1820, or 1780, or earlier, and London was but the farthest of dreams.

Which didn’t bother Emory in the least.  His father was an apprentice blacksmith, apprentice because he seemed to fail at everything he touched (fathering included).  Emory though, seemed bound for some sort of success — his manners, cheerful attitude, and brightness recommended him to every profession.  That he couldn’t read a lick was not quite the disadvantage it seemed — for neither could the mayor or town doctor.

He was only occasionally beaten owing to the fact that he was so helpful to his mother in the raising of the little ones, and so was quite as happy as a boy could be — till the day his power appeared.

He was eight, and helping his father attend to Mr. Jones, a large man of forty, and the town’s only Blacksmith.  Mr. Jones was testing the sharpness of a butchering knife when Emory’s father tripped and knocked Mr. Jones forward, onto the table.  The knife sliced thickly through the palm of his hand.

Emory’s father ran for the doctor, and Mr. Jones slid to the floor then slumped against the table.  His muffled screams escaped through clenched teeth.  “Boy, bring ‘em a clean rag.”

The clean part was dubious, but Emory grabbed the best he could find and leapt down beside the man.  Mr. Jones took the cloth in his good hand and tried to tie it around his other.  “Gah!  Wrap it!”

Emory was scared, but too scared not to obey, and so he begin moving with a careful gentleness he had developed tending to his baby siblings.  Blood soaked through the rag, and Emory applied pressure, until he felt safe to leave and grab a fresh cloth.  He removed the old rag and sought to apply the new one directly across the wound but he could not.

For the wound was gone.

The blood remained, drying across the rough palm of Mr. Jones, but there was no mark, no scar.  Emory’s father and the doctor returned and they too marveled.  They all decided the wound must have been smaller than thought, and closed faster than thought possible.  “Metal can do that,” the doctor said, and the grownups nodded through their disbelief.

For Emory though, that was the beginning of the least happy-blessed part of his life.  Accidents were commonplace in rural life and Emory found himself, in ways large and small, able to help.  Sometimes.  His little sister stabbed her finger with a sewing needle?  Yes, a kiss healed it.  A wooden beam fell onto a man building a new house?  Emory could do nothing to change his fate.  A knife fight gone wrong?  Yes, Emory found the man to be unwounded by the time his shirt was removed.  Rope burns from training an ornery stallion?  Emory was useless.

Whispers grew louder and people more fearful over the years: his parents ignored his power, and the doctor began relying a little on him — it couldn’t hurt.

Then, in Emory’s twelfth year, and highwayman rode into town (he was very lost) and shot Emory’s father, who had tried to scare him away with a anvil hammer.

It felt to Emory as though the whole town gathered around his father, who lay in the dirt of their sad little main street.  All his brothers and sisters and cousins, his mother, the pastor, the mayor, old Mr. Jones — each face held the same sorrow, the same acceptance.  Not fifty feet away, the highwayman was being beaten to death for his crime, and part of Emory’s mind he heard the sound of a scull being kicked in, but it didn’t register.

“Make way!  Make way!”  The doctor fled to Emory’s father’s side, kneeling amidst the blood.  “The ball too deep; make him comfortable.”

Emory marched forward and some deep, strong part of himself spoke for the first time in his young life.  “What in the meanings givin’ up?”

The doctor stared him down.  “Liken you be askin’ that — seen enough die.  Whyin you be doin’ your thing then — whyin you be bringin’ him back?”

There was a soft gasp from the crowd — no one had talked of the rumors of Emory’s in such an open way before.  But this man, Emory’s father, his blood had run through and the hole gapped in his chest for all to see.

“I will then.”  Emory came forward and knelt beside his father, knowing whatever good little magic he possessed (he’d begun to think brownies might be helping him), it was not enough to bring a man back from this.  He’d watched the man with the fractured scull from the beam die in his arms and now he was going to watch his father die too.

He laid his hands on either side of the wound and could think of nothing to say.  His father didn’t really believe in God, not a nice God, and so Emory had never connected his power to a higher being’s whims.  Everyone was watching, crying, not really expecting anything but a death.  If you had asked any of them what a metalist was they could not have told you.  The Cartwright line was so weak in them, and the last who had that power (Emory’s great-grand father) so secretive, that no one living in Dallyworth had even seen it.

Till now.

The blood stopped, the ball rose to the surface and fell away, the skin pulled back together, and then even the pink line of scar disappeared.  His father was still weak from blood loss but breathing.  The doctor reached down and pulled shirt away, wiping away the blood and showing the man’s perfectly healed chest.

His father’s body recovered in a few weeks.  Emory’s reputation never did.

*          *          *

Emory’s family moved further from town, trading their good homestead for a poorer one in the mountains.  His mother alone made trips to town to trade and to beg to some little help.  Mobs didn’t come for the family, but life was so hard it might have been a blessing.  Emory’s own parents seemed to fear him but his love for his siblings was too strong for him to consider running away.  In time, he thought, they’ll forget, I’ll never use it again.  And in time they’ll forgets.

*          *          *

Life continued on and, though he never heard a word of thanks, Emory came to believe it was wonderful that he’d had to save his father in the town square in front of everyone — now he knew how upsetting his strange power was, and how he must never use it.  A year after the event they were all (excepting him) even allowed back into the town proper, though his father’s job as a blacksmithing apprentice was no longer in the offing.

Then one day Emory’s father, Abel, brought tale of strangers in town, a father and son, willing to pay top price to see anyone ‘of magic, or miraculous ability’.  Abel turned  to his son.  “I thoughten I sure show them you.”

Emory shook his head.  “I’d liken as not to.  Bein’ the consequences of last time’s showin’.”  They had never really talked of it.

Abel grasped his son and pulled him right through the doorway.  He started walking them forward, never loosening his grip.  “Good thing then, I can’t be hearin’ that — and so invited them down to the barn.  You best be startin’ to turn some keep here.”

Emory half marched, half was dragged around the barn.  There in the flat space before the corral was a wonderful sight.  A covered wagon, really more of a house on wheels, with a big black draft horse in the front and amazing colors of paints of bright green and yellow around the eves.  Emory couldn’t help but beam; it was like years ago when the man and the trained bear came through.

While he beamed, his father released him, and Emory’s eyes turned to the people.  Father and son, as he’d been told.  The father was dressed up in quite a strange manner — he wore a black blanket fastened around his neck, a heavy necklace with a large amethyst in the center, flawless black riding boots, and a shiny purple shirt and pants.  It looked a laugh, and what’s more, Emory knew the nicest things from everyone in town couldn’t equal such an outfit.  He wondered if this was the king of England he’d heard so much about.

The boy beside him though, was much more interesting in the whole.  He was twelve or thirteen, just Emory’s age, and his clothes were clean and tailored but perfectly normal, and he looked as though he thought his father as odd as Emory did.  It was his face though, his eyes, that arrested Emory, and plotted his life forever altered.  He had a wild mat of raven black hair, and small yet thoughtful eyes, so dark in color that Emory knew he could never sketch their likeness.

There was something in those eyes that awoke a joy unknown inside the boy — he instantly wanted to never leave their sight.

The man bowed before them.  “As I told your father, my name is Harrison Shelly and this is my son Byron.  We have journeyed far and wide searching for the best and the brightest . . .”  Harris spread his hands before him, starting to weave an elaborate tale.

As Harrison was talking to, and only looking at, Abel, Emory felt safe in glancing back at Byron.  Emory almost laughed out loud, so humorous was the expressions Byron did as his father rattled on with his tale.  Even as someone who had heard little of the outside world, Emory found the telling a little stilted and dull.  Byron though, was anything but.

At last though, the conversation came back to include the boys.  Harrison said, “What can you show us son — what is your magical ability?”

Put that way, Emory hardly knew.  Brownie summoning?  He could do nothing on command, and only was sometimes able to help those hurt in an accident — and never those hurt by illness, or giving birth or anything natural.  Emory shrugged, and felt his father’s hand slap him upside the head.  “I . . .  I liken to help sometimes.  Wherein someone’s been hurt.  Like, knifed.”

Byron spoke up, and in such a fancy, cultured tone that Emory was convinced he was really was the prince of England.  “Why do you talk so ridiculously?”  This got him a slap from his own father, but more of a friendly cuff.

Harrison smiled.  “Forgive my son.  He knows little of dialects and the sweet beauty of the provincial tongue — it takes a cultured ear to appreciate its rarefied candor.  An ear he does not possess.”

Emory said, “But he’s got both his ears.”

Byron groaned, then said, “I’ve got my knife.  What can you do with it?”

“I don’t know.  Maybe healin’.  Maybe not.”

Byron turned to his father.  “May I stab him, sir?”

Abel stepped between the two boys.  “Now hurtin’ my son’s notin open to discussion.”

Harrison nodded.  “But, if your boy could but show us how it works — there’s ten guineas in it for you.”

“Son?”

Emory stepped up beside his father.  “I don’t mind.  Now, Byron? — hand me that knife.”  Byron held out his hand and Emory took the blade with one hand and grasp Byron’s arm with the other.  Faster than a hornet guarding her nest, Emory reached over and carved a line across Byron’s palm.  The line filled red with blood.

Byron leapt backward.  “What in Bogg’s name are you pulling?”  Emory noticed he sounded a lot less posh when he was angry.

Emory shrugged.  “The only way you could know it wasn’t a trick; now holden still.”  Harrison nodded to his son and Byron took an extremely reluctant step forward.  Emory pushed the knife handle back into the other boy’s good hand and took the injured one with both of his.  He felt odd again, like when he’d first looked into Byron’s eyes, but he ignored the feeling.  He grasp the hand tighter, and focused on the wounded area — that seemed to help.  It a second the wound was gone.  He reluctantly released Byron.

Harrison was thrilled; his son less so.  Byron said, “It still hurt.”

Harrison ask Emory many questions, most he could not answer — Where and when had this ability started, did anyone else in his family tree have it, what kind of things could he ’fix’?

Soon Harrison and Abel walked away to talk amongst themselves.  Byron shook his head.  “My father’s a total git; he’ll now have to pay twice the price because his eye lit up so.  What a fool.”

“Twicen the price for what?”

Byron cocked his head.  “That thing that’s being bought — you know that animal that doesn’t even know it yet.  You know, you?”

“Me!?!”  It was more rediculas than Harrison’s outfit.  “Why?  Where would I go?”

Byron shrugged, then sighed.  “To live in a palace with a royal family.  My father finds special people, people with great powers, and finds them homes.  You know how rare you are, right?”

Emory knew he should find the whole thing funny, hilarious, and yet he knew his father might consider it, might sell him.  To make everyone’s life easier.  “What am I?  A demon?”

Byron laughed.  “You’re so backwards — you’re a metalist, of some kind.”

Emory said, “A metist?”

Byron looked dumbfounded.  “You don’t even know what that is?  What you are?  Met-al-ist.  We’re a kind of super rare people who can control metal, make it do what we want.  There’s different kinds.”

Emory smiled.  “And you’re one?”

Byron did his own mini bow.  “Yeah I, I do stuff.”

“Show me.  Show me!”

“No.  Here, your father’s back.”

*          *          *

Abel did sell him, completely and fully, to Harrison Shelly.  Emory had one last night in his home and then was to drive off in the house on wheels.  Emory was shocked at first, and sad to lose his siblings.  But the money they got was beyond imagining (his father could buy his own shop, and a bigger house to boot), and the family’s mood seemed to lighten as they talked about moving back into town.  And for Emory himself, he would see more of the world than anyone in his village had, and he had new friends to see it with.  No one could ask for more, he decided.

*          *          *

Emory learned about Bryon and his father very quickly, and how the picture they’d painted on that first day wasn’t always a true one.

Byron’s father was a lair, plain and simple.  He was always searching for new metalists to send off the live with the heads of Europe, that much was true, but Byron said he would always undervalue their worth when talking to families.  And Harrison’s portrait of the life the children were headed to was, according to Byron, also a bit of a rosy picture.

Their tiny, traveling house was so small that it had only two cots for sleep and so the boys shared the lumpier one.  Only a few weeks after Emory had joined them, Byron complained bitterly to him one night as they crammed into bed while Harrison settled the horse for the night.

Byron twisted to see Emory’s face better.  “You are the worst bedmate!  You’re much too old to share my bed; you’re too large.  Do you know how old the last child was?”

Emory shook his head.  He didn’t mind the arrangement one bit — he had always shared beds with a ton of siblings.  In fact, this felt a little lonely.

Byron continued.  “He was six!  Do you know how small a six year old is — tiny!  And the worst of it?  Father says he’s not giving you up right away.”

“Why?”  Emory tried to hide his smile.

Byron sat up, flinging the sheets away from himself.  “He doesn’t know what you are yet, what kind of metalist.  See, apparently father’s not all not bright about metalists, despite being one, despite spending his life looking for them.  You must be a rare one — and he’s not going to get a penny less than he deserves, so he’s going to find out exactly how valuable you are.  More greed than smarts, I guess.”  Byron looked up sharply.

Emory turned to see Harrison standing in the doorway.

Harrison motioned to outside.  “Byron, go collect us some firewood for the morning.”

Byron’s eyes grew at the words, and his mouth grew tight.  He jumped off the bed.  “I didn’t—”

“Now.”

Byron reached for his jacket.

“No.  Now.”

Byron hand dropped inches from the cloth and he marched outside; Harrison closed the door.

Harrison smiled at Emory.  “Now my son’s probably been filling your head with all sorts of nonsense.  He does that with every recruit, you know?”

“Soen he won’t have to share the bed?”

Harrison grinned.  “No.  He was born with a malformed heart unfortunately, malformed in the share of a dagger.  And instead of blood, his veins run green with jealousy.”

It was many months before Emory learned such things were impossible and it had only been an odd kind of phrase, like ’The pig’s in the pot again,’ which meant someone being in trouble in his old town.  In the between time, Emory had really believed there was something wrong, broken about Byron, and by the time he learned about phrases, and what Harrison had really meant, it was too late to stop caring about, and for Byron.

Harrison continued.  “You see, Byron’s two siblings were wonderful metalists, like my wife and me.  I’m a show metalist, she was a an elemetalist and we came together to have great children.  They are in courts now.  But her interest in this faded after Byron — his kind of metalist is so useless that no one wants him.  So I took pity and keep him as a servant, but he is very ungrateful — and ungenerous with our more gifted guests.”

Emory nodded.  “I’m sorry.”  He wasn’t sure who he was sorrier for.

The man nodded.  “Not your fault.  We’ll find you the best home, in time.  Till then, obey my rules and we’ll get on fine.  Time for bed.”  He then bolted the door and turned out the light, and ignored his son’s pleas to be allowed back into the warmth.

*          *          *

Byron and Emory grew closer as the months passed.  Bryon at first seemed cold and distant, but this was no surprise to Emory — of course it must be hard watching your friends and playmates come and go.  On the playmate front though, Byron seemed very little interested in the other sex.  He remembered his older sister but a little, and yet her and their mother’s abandonment seemed a constant source of pain to him.  As he could not remember his old brother, so not much malice could be attributed to him.

Bryon though, could not be wholly immune to Emory — and Emory’s unique blend of charms.  Emory acted as a balm — and barrier — against Harrison’s cruelty, and helped cheerfully with every chore, dutifully with every task.

One day almost a year after they’d found Emory, he was given news that would change his life almost as much as meeting Byron had.

Emory pulled the comb through the last of Blackie’s tail and then stepped back to survey a job well done.  Harrison always wanted them to impress wherever they went; he said people always listened to you if they thought you were rich.  Emory always smiled to himself when he heard that, thinking of that first day.  But maybe Harrison only meant adults, and it was true, his father had listened well enough.

Emory was packing up his tools when Byron came running up the lane waving an envelope.  Emory smiled; Byron didn’t know how happy could be when he forgot he was Byron.

Byron slid to a halt, spooking Blackie.  “It came!  From Cambridge University.  That’s where I’m going to college, someday.  I knew if I asked nicely, I could get an answer.  Come, we’ll read it together by the stream; I don’t want father to see it.  Father would be so mad — he can’t find out a thing — because he keeps looking in musty old libraries in musty old towns.  This is the 1850s, and London is the answer to all.”  Byron grabbed his hand and pulled him forward.

Emory wriggled from his grasp long enough to put away his comb and brush then caught up to Byron, who ignored his silent offer to re-link hands.

They settled a quarter mile away, around a crook in the bend, and down under a willow by the small stream.  Here they were safe and alone.  Byron tore open the envelope.  “Would you like to read it?”

Emory shook his head.  “You’re noten that good a teacher — You know I’m still on my letters.”

Byron shook his head.  “Well, you should get off the letters, or you won’t learn to write your whole name by the time you’re twenty.  But today I’ll you off the hook.”  He unfolded the letter and began to read —

Dear Sir,

            It is with the greatest pleasure that I received your letter.  If only more young men were inter-                                 ested in this most unusual field of scientific discovery, etc…  I found no mention of the powers                                 you described in the Book of Scientific Abnormalities but it was there plain as day in Metalist: a

            Guide, a volume of which we are honored to possess the only known copy of.

            What you’re describing is a Biometalist, one of the rarest and most wonderful of God’s crea-

            tions.

Byron paused, and their eyes met.  He smiled and continued.

            Biometalists have the power to heal any wound, inflected by metal — be it knife blade,

            bludgeoning by pipe, or the more recent, deadly firearm.  Be this wound old or new.  They

            therefore have the potential to be doctor without parallel, or a scientist without measure.

            There are perhaps three known living Biometalists, but not all are living to their potential.  If

            you know of an individual, please contact me, Dr. Carther, Cambridge etc.

 

Byron appeared to be trying to keep smiling and failing.

But Emory was beaming.  “A Biometalist!  How fine it sounds.  I’m liken to work for the queen aren’t I?”

“It’s ‘like’, for the last time.  And yes, probably.”  He ran his fingers through his hair then looked up.  “But you don’t have to!  If you’re happy, with me, we won’t tell father.  You’ll stay with me; and in a year or two we’ll run off — and go around the countryside healing people!  Wouldn’t you like that?”

“Yes, very much.”  But in the back of Emory’s mind an idea had already taken root, a phrase ‘But not all are living to their potential.’

*          *          *

Another year passed, fill of bliss and trials and the boys turned fifteen.  Byron was as happy as Emory had seen him; whatever shadows had clouded his early years had finally blown clear, and left a darkly handsome young man with a long mat of black hair and sweeping ambitions.

“I can’t believe I never heard about mega-metalists till last month.  It’s so simple — this book lies it all out.”  Byron gestured with his hands.  “Learn!  Don’t just be!  You don’t have to accept your fate — you can wrestle it to the ground!”  He leaned back on their little step connected to the wagon.  He sighed.  “He’s never returning — I told him that family was lying.  He’s probably burning their house to the ground.”

“He wouldn’t do that.  He’s probably just being quieten through.”  Emory smiled at Byron and brought out a smile in the other boy.  They were inseparable and had been for months.  Emory thought of himself a nothing more than a gangly, ordinary boy.  Girls smiled at him in towns, but he thought they were just being polite.  It was only when Byron told him that he was beautiful that he believed it.

Byron, who had to be the smartest, greatest boy in the whole world.  He had found a questionable old book, which said that metalists could, with a certain health regiment and being struck by lightening, achieve mastery of metal.  Become more than one kind of metalist.  Whether or not that was true, Emory had no doubt Byron would be rich, powerful, and famous.  The boy just seemed to ooze potential.  He had talked often about their future adventures, assured in his vision, ignoring the growing doubts of Emory — doubts born of desire.  A desire to leave.

Byron fiddled with a twig, acting like it was a scepter.

Emory caught his hand, and stilled the twig.  “Please?”  Byron shook his head.  “Pretty please?”

Byron grined — and then did the one thing he wouldn’t do for anyone else in the world.  He pulled his hand back and opened his palm, allowing the twig to balance upon it.  Smooth dark gray metal began to coat the wood from the underside up, like a reverse rain shower.  In a moment, the twig was coated in a super thin coating of gray.  It wasn’t beautiful exactly, not like silver or gold, but it was Byron’s only talent — and to Emory it was the most wonderful thing in the world.

Emory snatched it up and held the cold metal to his cheek.  He almost commented on the wondrousness of it, but he knew Byron didn’t like to talk of it — or show it to anyone else.  Harrison had called it ’Good for coating a horse’s feed bucket and nothing more’.

Byron reached into his pocket.  “Now, before you go crazy, or people think you’re crazy, holding onto that twig, maybe you should take this.”  He handed over a twist of metal wire, circled into a bracelet and coated in the same dull gray.  “I thought, you’d like it.”

Emory, still clasping the bracelet, leapt into his arms.  “Like it!  I love it!”  Emory stepped back, feeling suddenly too close to his best friend.  “I’ll wear it always.  Ever where I am, I’ll think of you.”

Byron stood up and watched Emory try on the jewelry.  “Ever where you are?  Ever where I’m not.”

Emory’s eyes shifted from the creation to its maker.  He had been putting off this conversation for weeks.  Always before in his life, he would have given to world to avoid pain in those he loved; now he was about to be the cause of it in the one he loved the most.  “Byron sit—”

“No.  If my heart is to be torn sunder, if my friend is to abandon me, I’d as well stand for it.”

Emory paused.  In his heart he knew it came down to one thing.  “I want to be a doctor.”

“Who cares?  You’re already gifted, beyond belief.  No one needs you to do more.”

“I want to helpen people.  Bring them up full to health.  Noten just metal wounds, that man who I saw the beam fall on—”

“Yes.  He.  Changed.  Your.  Life.  People die.  You can’t be everywhere, doing everything.  People upon this Earth will die — somewhere, somehow — no matter how much your learning or how fast your horse.”

Emory stood a little straighter.  “So I should just give up, not care about people?”

“No.  Just give it— me, a few more years.  Then I’ll be rich enough to send you to university, anywhere you want.  Or do you doubt me?”

“No . . .”

“I think you do.  But let’s not fight about it.  I’m glad you care about people.  Acknowledged.  But you know, they don’t need you are much as I do.  No one on the planet needs you as much as I.  And you’re a good person, so you won’t leave me.”  He took Emory’s hands.  “We’ll be friends forever.  Now let’s not talk anymore about things that aren’t going to happen — I’m too high strung for your fantasies.”

Emory then did something he had never don’t before, had thought he never would find the courage to do — he leaned forward and, for only a moment, softly kissed Byron’s lips.  “I promise I’ll write you.”

*          *          *

Byron would not believe that Emory would leave him, could not believe it.  He raged, run off, came back, and finally collapsed at Emory’s feet.  He pulled himself together when his father got home, and retreated to his bed with tales of a stomach ache.

Emory talked to Harrison long into the night, showing him the letter from Cambridge and asking if they could not leave immediately to find a court that would have him — Emory knew the longer he stayed the more likely it was that Byron could change his mind.  Harrison happily agreed, and they settled in a plan to ride out on Blackie at dawn, with Byron staying behind to guard the wagon.

Harrison said he was not tired, and had much to think about, and so Emory retired into the wagon/house alone.  He settled in next to Byron’s turned back, settling his face against the shoulder blade of his companion because the bed was ridiculously too small for them these days.  Usually that had been a joke between them, a laugh.

After a minute Emory heard Byron’s whisper.  “So’s all settled then?”

“Yes.  We leave at dawn.  He’s says the king of Portugal is likely to pay most.  He fears death more . . .”  The weight of his decision, but not regret, bore down upon Emory and he started to cry, but so softly he doubted he could be heard.

But Byron turned and took him in his arms, something he had never done before, not so sweetly.  Byron held him close and kissed his forehead.  “You fool, you wonderful fool.”

Emory spoke, his words muffled by Byron shirt collar.  “I’ll write you.”  He tensed fearing another outburst at those words.

Instead Byron patted his hair.  “You don’t understand.  They’ll own you.  Oh, they’ll call it ‘debt’, but you’ll never escape it.  You might be kept in a cage.  You’ll be valuable — but not as valuable as you are to me.”

And they lay there, together, sometimes talking and sometimes not, long past when Harrison had come and fallen asleep.  Their whispers warmed each other’s ears but could not have awoken a mouse.

At some point later in the night, Emory returned to dreams, this time his vision of the future.  “I’ll write you all the time, and in a year or two you’ll come visit me, all rich and well-to-do.  Maybe we could even share a little house.  And when I’m paid back all my schoolin’ and graduated, I’ll be free and we can go anywhere in the world.  And you’ll be grand and I’ll be helpful.  Well, grander.”

Byron nuzzled his ear.  “What I love— is that you believe that, that vision.  Like with me, you’re always seeing a rainbow where all there is is clouds.  I’m going to do something terrible without you here. I just know it.”

Emory shook his head.  “I don’t believe it for a minute.  You’re going to do great things.  We’ve got a sayin’, back in my hometown: Where you leave your heart, you leave your happiness.  I leave my happiness with you, and expecten you to rightly care for it, till we’re together again.  Tell me, do you think I’ve made a horrible choice?”

“Since you can’t change it now, I can honestly say: yes.  But it’s my fault — if I’d been more worth your time, you would have stayed.”

“No, I—”

“Let’s not fight.  Just, lie here.”

“Alright, but know, you did tempt me greatly.  Because I love you greatly.”  And in that moment, in the early morning hours of their parting, Emory and Byron kissed for the last time for twenty years.  It was worthy of the etching it would be given in their memories.  And for a sweet, glorious moment, both believed there could be a happy ending in all of this.

And then came the harsh light of day.

*          *          *

Dawn came soon enough and, though he longed for it, Emory was to have no more sweet moments with Byron.  Byron and his father started quite a row over breakfast, each accusing the other of malison in this matter regarding Emory.  And then, as Harrison packed, Byron rose in full fury again, this time at Emory — his unhappiness at being unable to change anything caused him to erupt into the most malicious and hard-hearted of boys.  Everything was Emory’s fault, Emory’s desire.  For his part Emory didn’t blame him; losing your only friend was hard for anyone, and especially so for a boy like Bryon, who didn’t come by anything easily.

Byron said, “I cannot believe I didn’t see before, that this was your ploy all along.  Use my friendship, my trust, and then dart off to live among the royals — eating cake and drinking rum.”

Harrison laughed at his son.  “He’s done your chores for a year and a half.  And put up with your bellyaching.  It must be a sly ploy indeed, for it escapes my eyes.  Climb on; we’re leaving.”

Emory turned to Byron, hoping against hope for a last tender moment.  “Goodbye Byron.”  He hesitated, aware of Harrison.  “You’re the best person I’ve even known.”  He turned and climbed aboard.

Byron stared at him, ignoring Harrison’s gaffs.  At first he seemed not to being going to say anything, then he stepped with them for a moment as they walked away.  “And you’re the worst person I’ve ever known.  You can’t leave me here alone!”

*          *          *

 In less than a month Emory found himself alone, aboard a ship, and heading toward a country he had never seen before in his life.  He was, indeed, going to Portugal.

They had set sail from London — London!  That wonder built upon wonder that he must remember all of his life! — and had now, on this very morning, first caught sight of the capital, his new home.

He missed Byron immensely, but the general excitement and his positive nature couldn’t help but raise his spirit till he sailed as with the gulls, looking down on the white domed buildings, heavenly ‘beaches’ (he was still learning that word), and the brightest of blue seas.  He couldn’t wait to show this place to Byron someday soon.

The boat docked and Emory departed, his single bag in hand.  He knew not what to expect, and so expected the world.

“Em-ory Cart-wright.  Welcome.”  A graying, be-speckled man in a very English suit nodded at him, his accent belying that this English was not his native tongue.

“Well, I happen to be meetin’ you well.”  Emory nodded right back at the man.

“Yes.  Of, course.  I’m Mr. Gonzalas; follow me.”

They climbed into a white, gilded, closed carriage and wove their way through the streets to the palace.  Mr. Gonzalas responded but in mono-syllables and so Emory turned his attention to the window, and all of its sights and sounds.

It was all, to him, at something out of a storybook the mayor’s wife use to read (she was much better at letters than most and had written out all the important town documents).  In those stories there were always shinning castles and handsome princes and cities by the sea.  But he had not forgotten that those stories also had hardship and sacrifice.

They pulled to a stop in front of hundred foot tall door made of pure gold, or so it seemed on that shinning day.  Mr. Gonzalas lead him silently through the castle, ending their journey if a beautiful little room with a view to the water.  The bed was big enough for Emory’s whole family, he was sure.  He looked about in awe.  “Is this all to be mine?”  It was too much to contemplate.

Mr. Gonzalas sighed. “Yes.  Now — what is not to be yours:  That horrid tongue.  You muffle the English worse than most, but it is not matter.  It is forbidden here.  After this conversation, you are not to speak or respond to the English unless spoken to by a noble.”

“There’s been a terrible misunderstandin’.  I’m liken to speak Portugal-ens as to speak pig.  I don’t know it.”

Mr. Gonzalas clapped him upside the head.  “That’s what you were given a head for — to learn.  No debatable.  Rule two: You will go from your room, to the kitchen, to your studies.  No exception, no exploring.”

Emory nodded.  “I . . .  I need to send a letter.”

Mr. Gonzalas laughed, and in that laugh Emory began to understand how very right about things Byron had been.

*          *          *

Emory through himself into his work, planning for the day when he could reconnect with Byron.  He planned to ask the king about sending letters, but he did not meet him, not any royal, at first

His day instead were filled with exactly what he had been told — room, breakfast, studies, lunch, studies, dinner, running around the kitchen yard, and bed.  And he was ever so happy.  For even without Byron, without his family, he was able to seek and catch joy daily.  Firstly, all the servants were as taken by his kindness and good manners as the shopkeepers had been back in Dallyworth.  The food, though simple, was tons better than he’d ever eaten in his life.  And the learning, the learning made any pain he’d endured to get here instantly worth it.

In the beginning, all his professor could do was try to teach him Portuguese.  The man would lie his head on the desk in frustration, and more than once the professor actually banged his own head against the wood, but soon Emory caught on — and, in time, learned Portuguese much better than he ever had English.  His English sat unused and did not improve.

After five months of tutelage, his professor declared Emory ready to meet the king, and soon after, he was in front of the man himself.

Emory by this time had learned a little of the royal family — the king and queen had two daughters and three sons.  The middle son, Feliciano, was but six year old yet had already been named by the priest as heir.  For Portuguese royalty, it was believed that the ‘spirit of the first king’ was ever present in an unbroken line of the royalty on the throne.  Which child of the current king (or the king’s brother’s or sister’s children) carried this spirit was unknown until the priest declared it.  It was thought to be exceedingly bad luck if the ‘spirit’ heir died before siring the next ‘spirit’ heir.  If that happened, according to Emory’s calculations and his professor’s arm waving and fast Portuguese, there was some sort of backward, ‘place-card’ spirit-holding till an heir’s brother or sister could produce a new true ‘spirit’ heir.  It all seemed very silly to Emory, but everyone else seemed to take it very seriously.

Emory was brought into the thrown room, to walk the length of which he was sure must have taken an hour, and placed in front of the biggest throne he’d ever seen.  There was no windows here, which struck him as very sad (‘To have all the world but a window . . .’)  After being forced to stand in one spot for the better part of an hour, the king arrived.

He settled down on his throne and whispered a private word to an adviser or guard, Emory didn’t know which.  The king looked young to him, less than five and thirty — and hale and hearty, his figure as neat and trim as his brown beard, not an old man with gray hair and a big belly like in the storybook.

Emory, probably much too late, remembered to bow.  He released a silent prayer that the king wouldn’t speak too fast and end up murdering Emory for some perceived insolence.  “You Majesty.”

“Do not speak until spoken to.”  But the king was smiling and took each word slow, to make sure Emory got it.

Emory nodded.  “Yes.  Sir.”

The king nodded.  “You are a metalist?  A magic worker?  Yes — my men in London verified your powers, one day I will ask to see them.  But I will not waste them, for do you know why you are here?  Why I paid a fortune for you?”

“I don’t know, for fun?”

The king laughed.  “I am not offended; I think you speak too plainly.  You are protection.  But not for me — well, not mainly.  You are Feliciano’s protector.  He is the new spirit, the new heir.

‘I have the best doctors, the best surgeons, the best herbalists.  I will now have a biometalist.  Because there are things you can do that no doctor can.  Do you understand?”

Emory nodded.  He didn’t understand all the words, but he understood enough.  “I want to be doctor too.  A regular one.  To help me . . . biometalist.”  Emory grimaced; he still didn’t know enough words.

The king nodded.  “Mr. Shelly mentioned as much.  You can be a doctor; it can only help.”

“Thank you.”

The king said, “As soon as your Portuguese is good enough, and your writing, you will start at university.”  He nodded to his man to lead Emory away.

Emory spoke.  “Wait!  Please?”

The king nodded.

“I . . . want to send letters, back to England, to my friend.”  He had learned these words as perfectly as he could and they still trembled from his mouth — it had already been months since he’d promised Byron he’d write.

The king laughed.  “No.  Your focus and your days belong to me, at least until your schooling debts are paid back.  And you live in my castle; I can’t have you spying for England.”

“One letter!”

The king rose out of his chair, a lion released among people.  “Shut up!  I have given you much; I will not have insolence as my return.  You live and die as I say, do you not?”

“Yes sir.”

The king nodded.  “I choose . . .”  He took a deep breath.  “I choose to believe, that your Portuguese is still very bad, and so I will overlook your manners.  Of course, you are no slave, and I want you to be happy, and in time you may have many freedoms.  But today you must follow the course I have set.”

Emory nodded, and soon after found himself back in his room, staring out at a brilliant blue sea, willing England to be a little closer than it was.

*          *          *

It only took another year for Emory to win over the kingdom to his letter writing cause.  Or, more preciously, Mr. Bradshaw, high aide to the king.  He had more power than Mr. Gonzalas, and an evener temperament than his majesty, and he convinced both men that no harm could be done in letting the boy send back (carefully read) letters to his ‘brother’ back home.  Everyone knew Byron wasn’t a blood relation; no one seemed to care.  In these early years, Emory spoke warmly of Byron to anyone who would listen, and people simply named the relationship as made most sense to them.

The letter writing, unfortunately, came to naught.  Emory happily sent a letter a month, for many months, to Byron care of the Blackthorn postmaster.  Blackthorn was a central hub for the Shelly clan’s wanderings and all their post was sent there.  In Emory’s mind it was impossible for Byron to miss his letters — unless he was dead, or in jail.  Both seemed unlikely trending to horrific and so Emory shut them out entirely.  That only left the possibility that Byron was refusing to answer him.  And there was nothing to be done for that.  But he had earned the right to send letters and so at the rate of one per month, he continued to for many years.

*          *          *

Life continued well for Emory, he learned the language, made friends of other servants, was allowed out and around the town and, in his eighteenth year, was allowed to begin studying with the best doctors.  He saw the royal family rarely, he honoring them with a bow and they with a word of two for him — there was never a connection.

It was in this year that he saved another life, the first since his father’s.  Oh, he had helped people around the castle, with knife cuts, and other wounds — and he had had to stand up to the king to do it.  The king had believed such actions might weaken Emory’s power, but Emory convinced him that, like a muscle, it grew stronger through use.  But it was only in the fall 1876 that he got a chance to do great good.

Emory had been outside near the stables, talking to the veterinarian about local healing plants when a frantic guard ran up, his breath nearly exhausted.  “The Prince has been shot!  An assassin’s bullet—  He’s dying!  On the veranda!”

Emory, in one form or another, had been expecting this call for years.  But it had been unlikely, and fallen to the back of his mind.  Now though — his focus was absolute.  It his mind’s eye, he saw himself saving the now twelve year old heir — and saw how best to do it.

Emory leapt onto a nearby, tacked horse and galloped up the steps and into the royal palace.  Lamps smashed to the floor, rugs were torn asunder, and delicate, beautiful flooring was shattered.  People yelled at him.  Heedless, Emory charged forward, ducking his head to avoid low doorways and chandeliers.

At last he saw the veranda ahead of him, but he was on the wrong side of a long row of benches.  Without formal training, he guided his mount into a grand jump, landed flawlessly and reached the prince, who was surrounded guards and other servants.

Emory leapt to the ground, every bit as commanding as the day he’d saved his father’s life.  “Make way!”  Everyone parted and Emory wasted no time throwing his hands onto the boy’s bloody chest.  He didn’t have his doctor’s bag with him, but he knew it was useless here — the boy was gone, unless a metalist’s power could save him.

Emory concentrated, sensing the depth of the wound, the pierced lung the bullet had hit.  Too much.  But Emory dug down, pulling deeper and deeper, every ounce of his strength going toward this one goal, like a strong man seeking to raise an impossible beam.

How much time passed, Emory could not say, but finally he fell backwards, his bloody hands instantly ruining his clothes.  The bullet lay on the ground, the wound was closed.  But Emory’s work was not done.  He forced himself upright, not caring what he touched.  Red everywhere, and his legs shaking under him from the ride and the exertion.  Still he could not stop.

Emory turned to the guards.  “Carry him to his room, or where ever is safe.”  He then looked to the maids.  “Ladies, offer him water, broth this evening.  Find Dr. Marcells, let him know what has happened.  I’ll get my bag.”

“Wait.”  A frail voice stopped Emory in his tracks, one he could not remember if he had ever heard speak before.  Feliciano shifted his head ever so slightly upright.  “Don’t leave me.”  He laid his head back upon the floor.  Emory nodded, dispatched one of the guards for his bag and stayed by the boy’s side until Feliciano fell fast asleep later that afternoon, buried in soft comforters in his own room.

*          *          *

For the next few days the castle was in an uproar — Emory didn’t know the particulars of the assassin, only that he was caught, and the conspirators found.  And luckily there were to be no more attempts on the royalty for many years.

Emory was thanked, through Mr. Bradshaw, by the king and queen.  And finally, a few weeks after the event, he was brought the throne room and thanked by both living embodiments of the spirit of the king of Portugal.

The current king grinned, came down from his throne and clasped Emory’s arm.  “I knew you were a great investment!  You have my eternal thanks.  Let me know if there’s anything I can do.”

Emory smiled.  “You could forgive my debt.”

Feliciano, happy as a clam and much recovered, smiled down from his smaller throne.  “Yes do, father!”

The king returned to his throne.  “What my son doesn’t yet understand but I know you do sir, is that it is an honor debt, not merely a monetary one.  He does not see your jest as I do, since I know you would not insult me by asking to escape your ‘obligations’ early.  Am I right?”

Emory caught Feliciano’s eyes for the merest of moments.  Then he said, “Very good sir, most don’t catch my, obtuse, humor, but you’re too sly for me.”

The king laughed.  “I knew it.  Quite witty though.  I implore you though — name your reward.”

“Could I visit England?”

The king laughed again.  “At this time of year?  No, no, I know you have well too much studying to run away right now — maybe later.  But I grow tired — name your prize.”

Emory was at a loss.  He wanted nothing, nothing but the kind of real things he could not have.

“I know what he wants.”  Feliciano had stood up.

Emory said, “You should sit down my prince.”

The king said, “Don’t ever tell the prince he can and can’t do.  Son, sit down.”

Feliciano sat down, unfazed.

“What do I want?”

“You want singing lessons, from Madam Paulty.  The most beautiful men sing.”  Feliciano smiled with sure assurance and a happiness that Emory couldn’t deny him.

“Is that permissible, your highness?  May I learn to sing?”

The king shook his head, but smiled.  “Of course you may.  Why didn’t you say so in the first place?”

*          *          *

For Emory, his schoolwork took morning, noon, and night to decipher.  They no longed taught him any Portuguese, and the difference between guessing medical jargon in one’s own language and in a foreign tongue was very great.  And all he had not learned back in England also weighted upon him here, as a teacher would explain a body part ‘as the Earth is pulled around the Sun’ and Emory would find himself as lost as a newborn lamb.

But he tried and tried, determined to overcome an obstacle to make the most of the gifts he’d been given, magical and situational.  And so by Friday he was exhausted as usual, and much behind in his reading — when he was found and escorted to Mrs. Paulty’s study.  Suddenly the indulgence of a boy’s whim felt frivolous and stupid.  Perhaps he could excuse himself from further musical lessons.

They stepped into a rather small, but very tasteful room — fashionable red-shaded glass lamps and mahogany wood furniture shown against the cream-white walls.  Mrs. Paulty, a strong and well-bred woman of five and forty stood over by the pianoforte.  And there, on a red and white striped sofa, sat Prince Feliciano himself, unguarded and looking more like the boy he was than the leader he would become.

Feliciano stood up and offered his hand, not for a shake, but a kiss.  “I thought you would never come.  You must be quite proper on these things, father always tells me so.  I have just finished my lesson — and how was I Madam Paulty?”

“Oh, like a lark from heaven.  The prince has practiced since he was a boy,” she said proudly, as though thinking of some long ago day.

Emory nodded.  “I, unfortunately, have not.  I don’t think I’d be very good at it, and I have a lot of reading to do so . . .”

Feliciano’s face fell, but only for a moment.  “Of course you do.  That why this is so important.  Gentlemen always must balance work and pleasure — it unhealthy not to.  I’ll start, and you’ll sing too.  There’s nothing to it — I’m sure your people sung.”  Feliciano rose to stand by the pianoforte while Mrs. Paulty took a seat on its bench.

Emory relented and went to stand beside the prince.  “Of course they did.  We had some fine singers.”  They began together and very often were interrupted by the prince breaking down into laughter by the missed words and horrid key of Emory’s sincere efforts.  But Emory could not be mad, not at someone obviously so happy to be here with him.

Afterward, Mrs. Paulty went to order them all tea and the boys were left alone to talk.  Emory had decided there was no secret to the prince’s choice of this reward — it was obvious that the boy was lonely.  Emory said, “Do none of your siblings take to singing as you do?”

Feliciano laughed.  “They take to it — as well as a pig would!  I have four siblings: Eduardo, who is older and too busy with his friends and sports; Roselia, who is perfect and sixteen, but doesn’t sing; my twin Francesca, who laughs with every word and plays with horses and dresses all day long; and Timothy, who’s but three but I am teaching to sing.  He already knows twelve nursery rhymes — all taught by me.”

“Impressive.”

Feliciano nodded sadly.  “I don’t remember being picked, you know.  They say I was very happy.”  He smiled.  “I am happy.  They just don’t tell you how much time you’ll spend alone.”

“There’s so many servants—”

“Yeah, I’m not alone like that.  That should be obvious.  But I’m right, you know, all the time.  No one can disagree with me except the king.  And you; I want you to be able to disagree with me.  Because you don’t believe — you don’t believe what we believe, do you?”

“I was raised in the smallest, most backwoods place imaginable, I assuredly don’t know.  But I do know human nature — and I know God has you a choice; even kings, and princes, can listen to their better angels.”

Feliciano smiled as though Emory had passed some secret test.  “That’s just what Roselia says!  You will come back, won’t you?  Your voice isn’t that bad.  You think you could be made beautiful in ten, or twelve years.”

*          *          *

Emory did continue his lessons, sometimes seeing the prince, sometimes not.  He came to consider them friendly, if not true friends.

Feliciano grew into a teenager and his duties took him away from music practice and even often from the castle altogether.  The Prince was often taken to the greatest balls of Europe in anticipation for future matchmaking.

Emory graduated and threw himself helping all he could in the town, using his biometalist powers when he could, and honing his knowledge of regular doctoring the rest of the time.  He was also allowed to begin to study surgery, the place where he believed his greatest good could be accomplished.

Like many things in his life, once his singing lessons had begun, he continued them, as his letter-writing continued into its eighth year.  Emory was twenty-three, had everything he could dream of but his freedom — and was terribly lonely.

How this had come upon him he couldn’t quite say, but it seemed to have started when he had found out six months before that Byron was alive and well.  Somehow that just made being alone worse.

And so he was practicing an old Portuguese seaman’s ballad in his room, on a bright, yet clouded, gray day soon after the prince had returned from another whirl-wind trip around Europe.  It was above eight months since he’d last seen the heir, and then it had only been in polite passing.

He sang —

On honor-bound I left you,

Oh honor-bound I go,

Never shall another replace you,

Not matter how far we row,

 

My journey took me far,

My journey took me wide,

I traveled an ocean so large,

There wasn’t another side,

 

I met the prettiest people,

I danced with many a dear heart,

More than one beauty asked me,

To stay and us never to part,

 

But I was honor-bound,

And home I must go,

But upon landing on the shoreline,

Oh how my tears did flow,

 

My love said, ‘I was honor-bound’,

‘But only for a year or two’,

Her family and her stomach swelled,

My heart was dashed right through,

 

Un-honor-bound I left,

Not honor-bound I go,

Never shall another replace you,

No matter how the years do flow.

 

“It’s beautiful.”

Emory turned from his view of the sea to find Prince Feliciano standing, alone, in Emory’s small room.  Emory leapt forward and embraced the other man, now fifteen and quite tall and grown-up.  “I heard you had finally returned.  I have been very lonely.”  Emory had no idea why he had admitted that, began to retract it, then stopped.  It was true; he would let it be.

Feliciano hugged on him for a moment more before releasing him.  “Well, it had not been all bad for me — the wine, the parties — I feel like we don’t entertain very well here by comparison.  Another thing to change here, I guess, when I am king.  But why are you lonely — everyone loves you.  You have many friends.”

“I am very lucky.”

The prince walked around this room he had never seen before, drinking in the tiny treasures — a gull’s feather, a round, white rock, a ball from a pistol all sat on a shelf.  He opened the desk and then drew out a newspaper clipping, staring at the browning paper.  “But luck, isn’t always the same as happiness, is it?  Who is this?”

“What it says — Byron Von Rosenmier, a great metalist.”

Feliciano stared at the picture accompanying the article.  “He looks very young — to be famous.  Do you always save clippings about metalists?”

“No, I . . .  He was my friend— is my friend.  I think they made a mistake about the name though — it’s Shelly.”

“The ‘friend’ you’ve written to for a decade?  The ‘friend’ who’s never responds?”

Emory took the paper away and laid it back in the drawer.  “That’s the one.  But look, he’s been very busy.”

Feliciano stared at Emory, hard, for a few moments then walked to the balcony.  “I am not suppose to stand where people can see me, you know?  One of the many things father and I do not agree about.”  Still lounging, he turned back to stare at Emory.  “Can I ask you a medical-type question?  Do you love him?  Are you riveted?”

“Riveted?”

Feliciano nodded.  “Do you love men?  ‘Cause I’ve never heard you speak about a girl the way you speak about him?”

“I hardly know.  In my town it wasn’t done.  I mean, everyone knows about King Henry the Eighth, but it’s not something regular people did.  And then Byron seemed so singular, I assumed he was the only one on the planet that I could love.  But now, in my years here, I have noticed men, in a way I never have noticed women.  Does that answer your question?”

“Hardly, but it will do.  Royals have been riveting for a while, but never the king of Portugal.  Of course, the spirit of the king has loved men before — people forget that — but it has always been because the king’s spirit was in the body of a woman, a queen.  Ever after Henry the Eighth took on the church to marry whom he pleased, there has been some level of understanding, if not acceptance.  If this were England or France, I believe there would be not problem — but the king of Portugal . . .  My father and I are divided.”

You like men?”  Emory was dumbstruck.  He had heard of and seen couples occasionally among guests, and two of the surgeons at his school were together, but never had he so closely known someone like him — in truth, he greatly feared that Byron had not felt as he did and had seen only dear friendship where Emory had felt much more.  “Have you kissed a boy?”  Emory’s two kisses with Byron had lived in his memory for what felt like a lifetime.

Feliciano of course, was much different.  “Oh yes, I’ve kissed scores.  That’s one thing these trips are great for — there’s always so many new people, some who think like me.  Everyone is running about and acting quite inappropriate — you should see Eduardo — just most of them are doing it with girls.  My father calls it a youthful phase.  It’s not a phase.  And yet, I wonder if I should marry, and live, as my ancestors have.  Is that the spirit of the king?  But if I am different, don’t I owe it to myself to be the best of all possible me’s?”

Emory fully forgot protocol and ushered Feliciano to sit on the bed beside him.  “What does you sister say?”  Feliciano kept his older sister Rosalia as his closest confidante.

“That I should make sure.  Make sure of everything, before I commit.”

Emory took his hand.  “I would do that then.  You will probably not be king for many years — enjoy your time, love who you will.  And though I have never said it, I have always seen the spirit of the king very strong in you — sometimes stronger than I’ve seen it in your father.  I know you do not think I believe in your ways, but I do.  And you must not dim who you are for anyone — you are the boy with the smile, and the man who will become a great king.  The priest choose you Feliciano, because you are perfect, just the way you are.  Now you must just live up to your highest self.”

Feliciano hugged him close.  “You are right — I am perfect.”

*          *          *

More years passed, Emory became a master surgeon and finally left school, though he still spent long hours bettering himself and the world around him.

Feliciano did not apply himself in quite the same way — he went rather wild, falling in with his brothers and twin sister and caraselling around Europe and enjoying every licit and illicit pleasure being a royal child had to offer.  His string of lovers was long and legendary — some of the most beautiful and useless riveting young men of great families (and not so great) became his, for however long his interest lasted.  He often brought a young royal back with him, and they would entertain each other for a few months and then Feliciano would send them packing.  Many hoped to one day become Prince Consult of Portugal, though the current king still forbid such a union.

Emory smiled at the reports and gaped when he saw these beautiful, often exotic, men in the halls — each was more striking than the last and all looked as if they’d fallen from Heaven itself.  Emory had settled happily into his solitary life — now too full of patients, friends, and colleges to allow room for loneliness.  He still wrote his letters and gathered his clippings but everything had fallen into place and he was happy again.

Emory turned thirty-two in 1866, a year which found Feliciano home for all its calendar and without the company of a young man.  Emory kept up but little with the gossip of the castle, but he knew well enough that the king was getting on in years and Feliciano had came back to settle down at last, and take up a larger share of the responsibility.  The months that had passed since his arrival had shown him to be doing an excellent job.

Emory was aware of crossing paths with the Prince heir frequently and, as when he had first taken up singing lessons, he was aware of a loneliness about Feliciano.

One summer day he was in his room, this room where he had now lived for seventeen years, when he heard a knock on the door.  He opened the door to find Feliciano and his nephew, Rou, a boy of about three.  Feliciano picked up the boy and stepped inside.  Emory thought Feliciano was never more beautiful than when playing with or taking care of his nieces and nephews.

Feliciano held up the boy’s small hand, which had a cloth wrapped around it.  “I’m afraid we’re had an accident.”

“Let me get my kit.”

“No need, it was a metal toy sword.  Roselia hates that Eduardo and I keep giving her children war toys — but otherwise how will they learn?  Anyway, I told Rou that I knew a man who did magic, and could not only heal him, but do it with nothing more than the wave of his magic fingers.”

Emory smiled and settled the prince and the small child in a chair.  “Rou, place your hand in my hand.”

Feliciano nodded encouragement to the boy.

Emory held the boy’s upright palm in his own, and while that touch healed the small wound, Emory waved his fingers in a elaborate, magical manner.  “Exlecor cazham!  Wound be gone.”  He moved his hand to reveal the healed hand.

The boy clapped his hands.  “Again!” The men laughed and then Rou leapt up and set out about the room, ‘looking for more magic’.

Feliciano rose from his chair.  “Thank you.”

“I would, of course, have come to Roselia’s chambers.  But you take rather special care of them, don’t you?”

“I do.  I am well convinced that somewhere in my four siblings’ children, there will one day be a new heir — and for my part, I reverently hope it is one of Roselia’s.”  Rou took that exact moment to pull a large vase of flowers off the table, nearly hitting himself in the head before they crashed to the floor.

Feliciano leapt up and swooped the unhurt child up in his arms.  “The girl, Margarit, ever so smart.”

Emory nodded.  “So you are determined not to have children then?”

“There are too many of us, having too good of children, for me to worry about it.  I do not care to do what Henry the Eighth did — I’m afraid my passion runs solely toward men.”  Rou wanted back down, so Feliciano set him on the floor and opened the door.  Emory assumed their conversation was over but Feliciano handed the child over to the nurse outside the door to be returned to his mother, and then stepped back inside and closed the door.  He was standing quite near Emory.  “You have seen, perhaps, that I have given up on foolish young men.”

Emory nodded.

“I am twenty-four years old, and I don’t regret my past, but it has taught me who I am and who I am not.”  He laughed to himself.  “I am very riveting, and I would not be otherwise.  Yet, many of these gay young men — disgust me.  They are, as my brothers, worthless to their core.”

“Now, you shouldn’t say that.  They’re just a little wild—”

“They’re a little spoiled maybe.  And I don’t mean to say my brothers are all bad, but I don’t know anyone useful like you.  Every pretty boy I met has had every advantage, every chance at improvement, and at the end of the day, they waste it, like so much spilled wine.  I don’t want someone like that, encouraging me to be flippant.  I want someone real.  That’s the real reason I came home — to be among Roselia and her husband, and my nieces and nephews — and you — real people all.  I want to better myself.”

“In my book, any man who wishes to better himself is nine-tenths there.”

Feliciano smiled at him, and then left without another word.

*          *          *

Emory found himself included in the royal family’s gatherings more and more over the next few weeks.  As Feliciano had given up the grand parties, these were small family affairs, and Emory found much to talk of with both Roselia and her husband, Schubert.  More so, Emory found in these affairs the man who been lost these last few years, the joyful, delighted Feliciano, whose eyes were always dancing, and quite often in Emory’s direction.  The king and queen preferred to eat in their own company, and away from the little ones.  Francesca was at home and sometimes dined with the company, but Eduardo and Timothy still roamed Europe in search of the next party, be it a shooting or dancing one.  And so these small dinner parties felt as the dinners themselves, overflowing with all good things, and cleverly excluding some of the more overwhelming flavors.

Emory felt that Feliciano especially wanted Emory and Roselia to become acquainted — easy enough, since she was in taste, intelligence, and kindness, all he has heard her to be.  After a few weeks of these meetings he felt confident to talk to her plainly.

It was evening and Feliciano was entertaining them with a song while Schubert accompanied him on the pianoforte.  Emory said low, “What do you think of this change in Feliciano?  He seems so altered.  Or I should say, altered back to the boy I once knew.”

Roselia leaned closer.  “And I dare say you approve of this change?”

“Very much.”

She smiled.  “My vantage point is different.  He is as he has always been.  He simply went out looking for something but it found it waiting here at home instead.  But I am very happy too.”

Emory listened to the beautiful song, and felt lucky to have been a part of the evening.

*          *          *

Emory was again asked to dinner, but arrived to find only himself and Feliciano.  Feliciano laughed off any misunderstanding and said he simply wanted a quiet conversation.  Emory doubted the truth of that statement (Feliciano had never once objected to the childrens’ noise and roughhousing before) but he did not press the matter.

Instead he moved his chair from the end of the table to beside Feliciano and they talked and laughed and shared the news they had heard.  Timothy, the youngest child, was said to be on the edge of engagement to a girl he had not known even a fortnight.  Eduardo was doing everything in his power to change his brother’s mind and yet Roselia and Feliciano had read a letter of Timothy’s filled with such radiant declarations of love that they could not doubt the outcome.

Feliciano laughed into his second glass of wine.  “I cannot imagine marrying someone I just met.  Do you believe in true, instant love Emory?”

“I . . .”  Unbidden, an image of Byron sprang to mind.  “As a doctor—  No, I don’t know!  I guess it’s possible!  He may grow to be the happiest of you all.”

“Come with me into the den.”  Feliciano lead the way into his smaller parlor — smaller, but still the size of Emory’s whole living area — and the closed the door behind Emory.  A fire glowed in the hearth and Emory stared at the embers, still unable to shake the image of Byron from his mind.

Feliciano said, “Now, I wish my brother happiness, maybe even great than Francesca’s and Eduardo’s, but my sister will be the happiest, because she has her soul mate, and I intend to be second only to her in felicity.  Do you believe me?”

“I believe any home with you in it would be a happy one.”  The embers danced before his eyes.  He felt Feliciano’s hand upon his shoulder.

Feliciano laid his chin beside his hand, leaning toward the fire, watching with Emory.  “Will you be with me then?  Be mine?”

Emory spun out of his grasp, and turned back staring at the prince.  Whatever he’d expected, his whole life through it was not this.  He knew boys and men who plotted their whole lives for this moment — this offer he was about to refuse.  “Oh Feliciano.”  He stared back and the fire, closer now, he stood more aside it, as though it were a friend, standing close to him, a missing lover.  “You must be kidding.”

“Why?  You are beautiful and amazing and I want you.”

“I’m not like those men you’ve been with — so handsome, so rare.  I’m a Dallyworth poor man’s son.”

Feliciano took a step forward, emboldened.  “I do not care.  I have watched you all my life.  And I have admired you ever since you leapt over that bench on a horse to save my life.  I know what I want.”

Emory straightened up.  It killed him to say these next words, to push away any hope of companionship.  “I am sorry.  But my heart belongs to another, and it has for a very long time.”

Feliciano pulled back, and Emory wondered if he would quit the room, or order him to leave.  Instead he was quiet, but for a moment, and then spoke.  “It is a good thing then, that I do not need your heart.”  Emory pricked up his ears.  Feliciano continued, “In fact, it is ideal.  That way I know I will not break it when our love affair cannot become more, when I must settle down and marry someone of royal blood.”

Emory stared at him.  He had always assumed his undying love for Byron would preclude anyone else from his life.  “Okay.”

Feliciano nearly skipped to his side.  “Okay?”

Emory smiled, then leaned forward and touched he prince’s lips with his own for the first time — heat and passion and excitement clouded his vision and speeded up his heart.  His torch for Byron still burned, but it was not a part of this life, this real world.  He was being held, he was loved.  “You are wonderful; I want you.”

He ceased his letter-writing that very month.

*          *          *

Unhappy can have been feelings, many expressions.  But for Emory happy simply was, it existed, was immediate, was simple.  If it did not have the raging highs and perilous lows of his time with Byron, well, Emory wrote such intense emotions off as memories of a teenage mind.  He could not forget Byron, but after so long, he had well learned to live without him.

From the first, Feliciano and Emory were happy, and in many ways perfect companions.  It was not three calendar months before Emory came to live in the prince’s suite, and in every way they improved each other — in each day’s joy as well as in temperament.  Feliciano, unsurprisingly, brought out a silly and somewhat more naïve version of Emory, one he had perhaps abandoned in the hills of England long ago.  Emory improved Feliciano in essentials, reminding him to think more of others and less of himself, to find more middle ground with his father, and to be more open-minded about things which he didn’t like or understand.

It was as though, after a lifetime of storms and lonely adventures, both had come across the same safe harbor.  That each loved and respected the other was obvious, and if that feeling did not extend all the way to true love, well, both men felt too lucky to be in any way disappointed.

*          *          *

The next five years passed happily, and 1871 arrived.  The king had grown old and weak, but no more open-minded about his son.  He still believe this childish phase would past, and his son might marry a woman and produce children.  The priest had named no one as Feliciano’s spiritual heir yet, but that rarely happened if there was already a king and prince heir.

Feliciano had given up fighting and instead allowed the king rule over everything, including the debts still held over Emory head.  Price of room and board, and interest only increased, and even someone as even-tempered as Emory had to call it an injustice.

Emory and Feliciano were in their bedchamber, dressing for a dinner with his sisters and their families.

Feliciano adjusted his hair in the mirror.  “I don’t know why you go on about it so.  In a year or two, there will be no debt.  Let him have his rules — it’s all he has left.”

Emory kissed him on the cheek.  “You look beautiful; we’ll be late.”

They hurried out the door and down the hallway.  Emory took Feliciano’s hand.  “But you understand the unfairness of it all.  Not for me, especially, but for anyone ‘owned’ by another — that’s all this debt is, in the end.  Your family never plans to release me — a metalist is too special.”

“Well, I certainly think you are.  But really — you will be released the day my father is dead if you wish it.  Till then he is king.”

“As you’ve said.  Perhaps I shouldn’t have worked to make you so agreeable — you could argue my case more, you know.”

Feliciano smiled.  “Who’s all political-ly now, lady Mecbeth?  I’m content to wait — and so is everyone I love.”

Emory nodded.  He was not apt to win now, and it mattered little.  He did not have any plans of what his freedom would buy him anymore.  His home was here, and he’d long ago given up the idea of ever returning to England.

The dinner was a happy one, except when Schubert brought up the American civil war and the talk turned to a moment to people and freedom.  Emory could not help a few cold words escaping his lips on the subject before they settled back into happier matter.  Roselia noticed, and sought out a private conversation after dinner.

Emory watched from afar as Feliciano and Schubert attempted to teach Margarit and Rou how to play cards.  Roselia sidled up beside him.  Emory sighed.  “I know what you’re going to say — it’s not his fault.  And it matters little for myself, it’s just the thought of other metalists in other kingdoms—”

“You are right.  You know it was deplorable what was done to you — and no one in this room disagrees with you.  And we both know Feliciano isn’t about to change, he will keep bending to our father’s will until the man’s dying day.  I believe he is still scared of him, old as he is.  But that is not what I wanted to talk to you about?”

“Oh?”  Emory had long ago lost any fear and properness around these people — the king and queen, and high servants alone still inspired fear.  “What would you tell me?”

“That it is time for you to grow up.  You cannot scrabble with Feliciano anymore — just as my children sit quietly at the table there, you must learn to do likewise.”

Emory nodded.  “Because soon he will be king.”

“Yes, and because soon you will be Prince Consult, and more will be expected of you.  Especially as non-royalty, you will have to win over a lot of hearts and minds.”

“Oh princess, you are so rarely wrong, but in this case you are.  I’m Feliciano’s companion, as ever, nothing more.  If he chooses a husband, when he chooses a husband, I will step aside.”

Roselia shook her head.  “I cannot believe he really has not told you yet.  Perhaps he believes in some great romantic gesture, but I believe you should begin to prepare for your new life.  Not everyone is alright with his choices, with him being riveting — you will have to show how right he was, that you are his first great choice.”

“I . . .”  Emory could think of nothing to say and soon drifted over to watch the card game.  He was overwhelmed and not in a good way.

*          *          *

That night, back in their bedchamber, they prepared for bed.  Feliciano sat on the bed, brushing his hair.  “I still think it is Margarit; there was this time playing cards tonight — she was so smart and witty, it reminded me of me.”  He set the brush aside and held out his arms.  “Come here my dear.”  Emory laid on the bed and rested his head in the prince’s lap.  “I’m sorry we fought.  You are right, I just don’t know the answer for it.  He is still the king.  But you are mine, and that is not nothing.”

Emory reached up and fiddled with Feliciano’s hair.  “Is it true?  That you’ve pegged me for your husband?  For Prince Consult?”

Feliciano cradled his head.  “Talking to my sister, I see.  But yes, of course.  I decided about a year ago.  It’s worth the trouble you know.  You’re worth it.  I’m not going to start over and marry someone I don’t even know.”

Emory smiled.  “How romantic.”

Feliciano said, “Shush.  You know what I mean.  You know I figured, once I was marrying a man, I might as well marry a commoner too — see what kind of raise I could get out of people.  They’ll love you though.”

Emory sat up.  “No they won’t.  Have you not been here for the last twenty years?  I hate social things — meeting more than three people makes me itch.  People like me after they’ve known me months, not minutes.  And I’m very busy; I can’t imagine planning dinners and entertaining guests.”

“You’ll get over it — get the hang of it.  I want you as my Prince Consult, or I want no one.  There is no debate here.  I love you; I need you with me.”

“You need nothing.  You may just want things — but you need for nothing.  You are ready to rule.  But I am not the man to rule Portugal with.”

Feliciano laid back upon his pillow.  “Might I ask one question?  One question after hearing this unimaginable response?”

Emory nodded.

“Please tell me honestly — if I wasn’t the prince of Portugal, if our marriage required nothing new of you, would you consent to be my husband?  Or is the marriage itself abhorrent to you?”

Emory caught Feliciano’s hand.  “You know it is not abhorrent to me, in any way save one.  Please don’t be mad — anyone would be lucky to have you — whether or not you had a crown on your head.  But I cannot marry you.  I cannot promise before God to love you before all others, you know I can’t.”

Feliciano sighed.  “Even now.  Even after all these years.”  He looked hard at Emory’s hand that he held and then kissed it.  “It is all right.  But, I will not relent my dream just yet.”  He waved a finger at him.  “I’ll have you for my husband, you wait and see — I’ll win you over to my way of thinking.”  He pulled Emory down into his arms.

Emory smiled.  “And what way is that?”

Feliciano kissed him.  “That we all have our ghosts, but they need not intrude upon our daylight hours, upon this reality.  I am here and I am real and I love you.”

Emory kissed him, and pulled the sheet over their bodies and yet still could not say he loved him too.  A ghostly hand had crushed his heart.

*          *          *

A few weeks later Emory and Feliciano were enjoying a quiet breakfast, and sharing a Portuguese newspaper.

Feliciano said, “You must try this new jam — it’s grapes and figs — quite good.”  He took a small piece and handed it over to Emory.

“Oh that is lovely.  Maybe we should have it at—”

Feliciano smiled.  “Maybe we should.”  Feliciano had started talking of weddings and parties, and while nothing was decided, he had talked of it so often that now Emory was doing it too, which was a very good sign.  “Oh dear, the new English newspapers have arrived; they’re at the bottom of the stack.”

Emory set his pages aside and rummaged through for the London Times.  His life and interests were in this country now, but he still enjoyed catching up a little on his homeland — and polishing his English reading skills.

After a few moments, a headline on the front page caught his eye and horror lit across his face.

 

Famed Metalist arrested for treason

Byron Von Rosenmier, famed mega-metalist and author, was arrest today for willfully and maliciously attacking and attempting murder on the queen’s nephew, prince Lawrence….

Emory could not breath, nor move.  He read the rest of the article but it told him nothing.  It was dated a month ago.  He fell from his chair to the rest of the newspapers, stattering them as he searched for a more recent date.

“Are you alright?”  Feliciano sounded near panic.  “I’ll fetch a doctor!”

Feliciano rose but Emory managed to grab his hand.  “No!”  He could say nothing else so instead handed over the first paper as he searched through the rest.  There was another dated three weeks ago —

Lawrence’s Would-Be Assassin Sentenced to Death

He was to be hung.  Within two months time.  Still there was no details, no proof.  There must be some mistake.

Feliciano had been reading over his shoulder.  “Oh Emory; I’m so sorry.”

Emory slowly stood up, his legs quivered, but he could not take time to sit.  “What can be done?”

“What do you mean?  Nothing can be done; it is impossible.”

Emory laid the newspapers on the table.  “Could your father not ask the queen—”

“Even if he would, and he would never, it would mean nothing.  We are no friends of England, and her nephew has been threatened.  Do you have any idea what I would do if someone hurt Rou?  Or Margarit?”

“He’s innocent!”  Feliciano said nothing.  “I must go to England, I must make this right.”

“How?  By dying?  Because there is nothing you can do against the will of the Queen.  Any attempts would be . . . swiftly dealt with.”

Emory said, “I must speak with the king.”

*          *          *

He was not to be dissuaded, and yet three hours later found Emory with less hope and less choices than ever before.  The king had not only turned down his request but had made it very clear that Emory could find himself at the end of a similar noose if he attempted to flee Portugal.  Despite his ‘special friendship’ with the prince heir, Emory knew that the king’s word was still law — even Feliciano could not challenge the old king’s command.

Feliciano found Emory in their room, in a state of agitation and movement, though to what end was unclear.  “Oh there, you are.  I have written a letter, to be sent at all haste, to England.  It offers all matter of money and use of our investigators and pleads with her to stop the execution until the matter can be more thoroughly investigated.  It will probably fall on deaf ears, but it is all I can risk doing without outraging my father.”

Emory stopped moving and turned to the prince.  “Then I thank you for it.”

“You seem calmer.”

“I am, a little.  I must ask two things of you.”

“Certainly.”

“I ask to take the spare money leftover from our trip to Malta — it has been sitting in your dresser above five months.  And I ask you to conceal my absence as long as possible, until I can escape on a boat.”  He took hold of Feliciano’s hands.  “Will you do this for me?”

“You’re leaving?  Leaving me — forever?”

“I will return, if I can.  But one or two governments will probably want me dead.  I do not believe I shall be able to return here.”

Feliciano pulled free.  “And this — this is the thanks I get for the years I have given you?  The kindness, that I have shown you?  I know you do not appreciated being the consort of the prince but come on!  I thought you at least cared for me, my feelings!  You know I could have you put in the dungeon — or whatever we have here — right this moment.”

“I know.  And you know I care greatly for your feelings, for you.  But I cannot let an innocent man— No, I cannot let this innocent man die.  Not if I can stop it.  Not while there’s a breath left in my body.  I swore to him I would come back if he needed me — how can I abandon him at this hour?  And why — because it is inconvenient to me?  I don’t expect you to understand.  But I expect you’ll let me go.”

Feliciano paced for a moment, then turned back to him.  “I can’t go with you.  There’s unforgivable, and then there’s unforgivable.  But I can let you go.  Let you follow your heart.”

Emory leapt into his arms.  “A boat leaves on the evening tide; I’m gone.”

Feliciano clung to him, then pulled away just far enough to stare deeply into his eyes.  “Don’t come back — I cannot keep you from being . . .”

“I know.”  Emory ran his fingers across Feliciano’s cheek and then cupped his chin.  “You have been the greatest friend of my entire life, and I have never deserved one moment of your friendship.”

Feliciano placed his hand over Emory’s and turned to kiss his fingers.  “The exchange rate as always been in my favor.”  He reached forward and kissed Emory, long and slow.  Breaking away he stepped over the dresser and pulled out the pouch of money.  He grabbed up a couple of garish gold and jewel-encrusted brooches from the top of the dresser and added them to the bag.  “It will last you a little while.”

“I can’t take—”

“Only the ugly ones.  Our friendship only goes so far.”  They shared a smile.  “You know, you owe me nothing — if he’s wonderful— You never promised me your heart.”

“I do love you.  But you’re not in love with me either, right?”

“I am in love with comfort.  And you have made me a very comfortable life.  I want no part of whatever drags a man across the ocean, risking his life for another.  You may keep that sort of love.”

“Liar.”  He kissed Feliciano again.

“Go, before the tide turns and you miss your boat.  Be careful.  I love you.”

“And I you.”  And then Emory was out the door, gone, fleeing a place he had called home for the last twenty-two years of his life.

*          *          *

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