The Mourning Prince
"I met your nephew about nine years ago at a military academy here in Iowa. I was an instructor for the officer training school there. He was one of my brighter students."
"So he is an officer in the military then?"
"He was, he resigned his commission a couple of years ago to get married. You did know he got married didn't you?"
"No, I didn't," Camber said, obviously shocked. "In my present position in Gwynedd, I'm not really told a great deal about the general goings on in the rest of my family."
"They keep you in the dark unless they need you for something?"
"Most of the time, yes. I have a question though Harold, why did he resign his commission to get married?"
"Well its not the fact that he go married, it's who he got married to."
"Who is he married to?" Camber asked.
Harold hesitated for several seconds as if reluctant to tell Camber something. When he did answer there was a hint of sadness in his voice.
"Her name was Anna McGregor, Crown Princess of Howicce, and Llanedd."
"He married royalty? Did something happen between them? The way you just spoke you made it seem as though it was in the past tense or something."
Harold was silent for several seconds as he drove through the dark wintry morning. Finally he turned his saddened face towards Camber.
"Anna and their three children were killed six months ago by communist rebels as they arrived in Howicce."
Camber turned his face away in shock to stare out the window. After several minutes Harold finally broke the silence.
"I'm sorry, Camber. Obviously you weren't told even about this. I can't fathom why somebody would keep this kind of information from your family. Can you?"
"No I can't. My family gave me no indication that something like this had happened before I left."
Camber was silent for several more seconds. "I am curious though why my nephew would not try to contact his family in a tragedy such as this. To my knowledge there has been no contact between him and the rest of the family since he left. Do you know if he tried to make contact?"
"Like I said, I didn't know he had any living family."
"Did you know he is royalty as well?"
At that comment, the vehicle skidded sideways to the left almost going off the road. Harold steadied the vehicle back out, and then turned his shocked face towards Camber.
"No I didn't," Harold said," and look, if you keep telling me all these secrets were going to end up in a ditch."
"Well, in that case you might want to pull over to the side of the road, because I think I might know why my nephew hasn't kept in contact with his family in all these years."
"No that's all right, I think I can handle a couple more surprises without getting us killed. You were saying."
"Since you insist. My father, Donal, his grandfather, was the heir in exile to the throne of Gwynedd. Anyway, my father has these advisors who have a really bad habit of not telling my family about things that they consider inconsequential."
"They consider, what I just told you, 'inconsequential'?"
"Basically, yes. They consider any junior members of the royal family beneath notice. They rarely even acknowledge his younger brother, Rhys Micheal and younger sister's, Jehana and Sidana. At present, they are more concerned with my father, my older brother Malcolm, and my two oldest nephews, Alroy and Javan."
"You know, that sounds vaguely familiar."
"Well, Anna's father had the same sort of problems with his advisors before they took back their throne."
"What did he do?"
"After they got the throne back from the communists, he got tired of them trying to control his family and fired them."
"I wish my father could be that bold. His advisors are pretty controlling. The royal family can't as much go to the restroom without being supervised."
"Like I said, it sounds familiar."
"Do you mind if we get back to my nephew? How is he doing?"
"Okay right now, but right after their deaths, he wasn't doing so well."
"I don't think you fully understand. Right before their deaths, he was basically told to stay here in the states."
"Who told him to stay here? And why was he here in the states in the first place?"
"A whole new group of nitwit advisors his father-in-law had hired. He was told that his wife and children were needed for some sort of royal function. And to answer you second question, his maternal grandmother had just died and he came home to take care of the arrangements. Plus his maternal grandfather has Alzheimer's disease and he had to put him in a home."
"That part I can understand. But I still can't believe he stayed behind without going with is family."
"Well apparently, that was normal for him not to attend official royal functions. I think he hates all that pompous stuff."
"One thing I don't understand though?"
"Why isn't he in Howicce right now?"
"That's another part of the story."
"Yes. Right after Anna and the kids were killed he went to Howicce for the funerals and was immediately arrested at the airport and imprisoned for their deaths."
"Why was he arrested?"
"Well apparently, his father-in-law's nitwit advisors had gotten it into their heads that your nephew had engineered his families deaths to get the crown for himself."
"I assume that the real killers were caught, right?"
"Yes they were, and they didn't implicate your nephew."
"But it didn't end there, did it?"
"No, their funerals were held before they released him."
"And he didn't get a chance to say his own good-byes to them," Camber continued.
"I take it he got to visit their graves after he was released?"
"Yes, he did visit the graves, and soon after, he left Howicce for good."
"Why did he leave Howicce so soon?"
"Well, his father-in-law gave him no support what-so-ever when all this was going on. And that s not all."
"You'd better believe it. About six months ago he started receiving messages from his father-in-law begging him to come back to Howicce."
"Sorry to say I'm not. There was apparently a huge backlash against his father-in-law from the general populace of Howicce."
"And bringing my nephew back would solve it, right?"
"From what I understand, yes. I guess he was extremely well liked there, and the people were not too thrilled with what happened to your nephew. And to top it all off, your nephew's sister-in-law, the new Crown princess, Micheala, and some guy going by the title of Supreme of Howicce showed up two days ago in an attempt to convince him to come back to Howicce."
"The situation must be pretty bad for her to come just to see him. And what is a Supreme of Howicce anyway?"
"An Ambassador or something. He's turning out to be a real pain in the ass."
Camber noticed that this 'Supreme of Howicce' had struck a slightly comical irritation chord with Harold.
"And how is he 'a pain in the ass'?" Camber asked lightly, glad that they had moved on to a less morbid subject.
"As soon as he got off the plane he wanted to be waited on hand and foot. Plus he wanted me to carry his luggage. Hell no! Actually your nephew, who just happened to be there, asked if his hands were broken or handicapped."
"Did he finally carry his own luggage?" Camber said smiling.
"Yes he did, but he complained about it the whole time. Now the crown princess is a different story."
"She's quiet and reserved. Doesn't complain about anything, well she did complain once about the headache the ' Supreme of Howicce' was giving her."
"Is she anything like her sister?"
"No. Opposites actually. Your nephew's wife had the same attitude the 'Supreme of Howicce' has."
"I take it he changed his mind about her?"
"No, just her attitude. And that took quite of bit of time."
"Interesting. Harold do you mind if we change the subject a little bit?"
"Not at all."
"How much farther is it? It seems like we've been driving forever."
"Not much farther actually. Five miles at the most. Maybe ten to fifteen minutes."
"In that case, since we are going to be awhile longer, why don't you tell me about yourself? I mean we have been driving all this time and I don't really know anything about you. You don't mind do you?"
"Fine with me, but I should warn you, my life is far less interesting than your nephew's. Which I intend to take up with your nephew when we get there."
As the vehicle trudged along through the wind and blowing snow, the two men talked about Harold's background and things totally unrelated to the young man they were on their way to see.