The following Monday, I was strolling home from school in my usual guise as Justin Alisson-Fielding: high school student. But my mind was far away in my alternate guise as Justin ap Henry VII Indomitable, Prince Royal of Ellendale and the Elven Dominions beyond the Stars. Cameron, Colin and me had spent a lot of the weekend discussing Cameron’s revelations. I now knew that I was the equivalent of a crown prince for the Kingdom of Ellendale which was in an adjacent universe. As such, I would be king there one day; I also would begin to develop powers of telepathy; I would be an absolute ruler over the principal kingdom of a world I’d never visited. I also knew that the “Elven Dominions beyond the Stars” did not amount to much, but were one of the reasons that the Elven Kingdom was constantly meddling in the affairs of Earth. It was the Elven hope that Earth would amount to a great deal.
I had not known what a 2nd Magister of the Heavens was until I discovered that I had become one as an Elven prince and now had almost super mathematical skills (long division in my head — no problem) as well as a comprehensive knowledge of astronomy. I could look at the sky and know exactly where I was on the planet. I thought this astronomical and mathematical stuff might be particularly useful when it came to the study of physics which, until now, had been my least favorite subject and the one in which I had to struggle to get a ‘C’. This had always caused great anguish at report card time as my grades were otherwise excellent. Mostly ‘A’s’ with an occasional ‘B’. I had to shake my head to clear it. Here I was a newly minted prince, and I was worried about my high school grades.
Riding lessons had been going well. Colin and I were treated as royalty by the staff of the Regency Academy so long as none of our parents were present. If the ‘rents were around we were merely treated courteously. There was one particularly handsome stable boy who insisted on calling me ‘Your Highness’ and Colin ‘Milord’ whenever possible. His name was Arion. He had an engaging smile and was totally sincere. I always rode the same horse, a striking gray Arab whose attitude seemed to indicate he was always smiling. His name was Kameyn and I loved him.
“Hey prick breath!” I was jolted out of my pleasant speculations as this was shouted in my ear and a hard shove forced me stumbling off the sidewalk onto the adjacent lawn. This caused my back pack to swing awkwardly and, overbalanced, I fell on the grass. Looking up, there were three teens glowering at me. I did not recognize them. They did not go to my school. At least not according to their t-shirts. As I scrambled to my feet, I shrugged out of my back pack and knew I was going to have to fight. Hell, I knew I was going to lose. Three times a week Colin was in Tae Kwon Do class and it never seemed to be at a convenient time. It would be very handy to have him here just now.
“This’s our street now, ya asshole pussy,” the first one said stepping forward with both hands fisted. “We didn’t pass ya! So now ya gotta pay!” As he moved forward, I moved back, and almost tripped over my back pack. Regaining my balance I looked up at my assailant: just beyond him was Cameron coming in hard, fast, and silent. Airborne cavalry if ever there was such a thing.
I had never before seen the amazing aerobatic maneuver that a raptor performs just before actually striking its prey. Sure, we’ve all seen those beautiful National Geographic shots of an eagle grabbing a fish out of the water with its talons and carrying the thrashing fish off to dine. But this was different. Cameron was coming in headfirst, in combat mode, at the last possible moment he somehow reversed himself in midair and struck my opponent with his outstretched feet, talons open, hitting him right at the shoulder blades. This sent him sprawling at my feet gasping for air. With a few casual wing strokes, Cameron again reversed himself and landed gently on my shoulder.
We’ll take this discussion to a more private place.
I assume we all ‘heard’ Cameron, in any event, I did. There was this sort of bluish-greenish flash and we were all on the smooth tiled floor of what appeared to be an extensive terrace. My opponent was still at my feet trying to catch his breath. His two assistants looked stunned.
There was an ornate stone railing along the far edge of the terrace. Cameron was perched on it regarding the four of us with a look of calm superiority; a look which he wore well.
“Well, well, and what can all this be about?”
My attackers looked behind me, and I stepped back from them so that I could safely look too. Walking onto the balcony from some French doors at the other side of the terrace was one of the most handsome young men I’d ever seen. He was probably just under six feet tall, was wearing a dark blue robe sort of thing that kind of reminded me of pictures I’d seen of ancient Greece; it was only knee length, and looked both active and comfortable and he wore a blue cape lined with silver over it. It was edged with some fairly elaborate gold embroidery. His hair was shoulder length, light brown with an elegant wave. His eyes were light blue and seemed to be faintly glowing. I took a deep breath when I saw that his ears emerged from his flowing hair. They were pointed and they were dramatic. And that doesn’t really do justice to them. They were way longer than Spock’s ears and stood out more from the side of his head. Yet they seemed to fit him perfectly.
He looked at Cameron, “Where’s Colin?” Cameron just regarded him and ruffled and fluffed his feathers as birds sometimes do.
“He’s in Tae Kwon Do class,” I volunteered into what was becoming an awkward silence.
“That figures. No surprise there. Have you ever noticed, Your Highness, how there’s never a soldier around when you need one?” He looked at me as he said this. I assumed he didn’t really want an answer and besides, I’d never really noted much of anything about soldiers having never needed one before.
He glowered at my attacker who was still sitting on the floor. “Who, I admit to vague curiosity, are you,” he asked this almost academically, as if he were prodding something obnoxious with a booted toe. There was a long pause and then my foe stood up suddenly and said, “My name is Paul St Marie.” Then one of his confederates announced that he was, “Christian Sanford” and the third said he was “James Wolsey.” I’m quite certain these statements were not voluntary.
“Excuse me sir,” I ventured. “Who are you please?”
“That’s right! We’ve not been introduced have we? Sorry. I’m Wmffre Dyrys, Ystiward and Cyntaf Swynwr to Your Royal Highness.” He swept a bow and smiled broadly. “Which, roughly translated from the Welsh would be: Humphrey Abstruse, Steward and First Wizard to Your Royal Highness. But enough of me. Cameron, go and fetch Colin at once.”
Cameron gave Humphrey a long look that somehow conveyed a certain lack of respect. It also lasted long enough to completely discredit the concept of “at once”. There was a golden flash-snap and Cameron was gone.
Humphrey sniffed, “You just can’t get good help these days.” Then he looked at me and my erstwhile assailants.
“You don’t need to worry about them, they’re not moving for now,” and I remembered how easily Cameron had kept me immobile when he wanted.
“You three are for it,” he growled at my assailants. “I think you would call it ‘deep shit’ back in San Orlando, or wherever it is you’re from. Is that what you call it? Or what? Here it is called lese majeste and it’s a capital felony. Do you know what that means?” He was clearly gloating and not in the least interested in a reply. “It means we can hang you.
“Dafydd,” he called toward the French doors to the balcony not waiting for an answer. “Will you ring for the orderly please?” Another handsome elve had appeared at the doors, but he nodded quickly and went back into the palace.
I’d been looking around enough to know that the terrace we were on was a part of a large mansion, or maybe it was a palace. The side with the French doors was of stone, with large mullioned windows. It was several stories high. On the other side was a large formal garden which had to be several acres in extent. There were a number of beautiful flower beds and ornamental shrubs on view. I’d have liked to spend some time in there.
“San Diego,” I commented. “We’re from San Diego. Do I have to learn Welsh?” There I was trying to be helpful and worrying about having to study something new. My comments were almost routine, but seemingly, in the midst of these incredible events, it was very comfortable to retreat to the mundane.
“No, we all use Saesneg, which is Welsh for English. But we’ve a Welsh regiment billeted here so we use a little of it. You’ll pick it up more quickly than you might imagine. And of course, there’s always magic.”
At that moment, a small soldier marched, although crashed might have been a better word for it, onto the terrace his boots ringing loudly on the paving stones. He marched up to the Wizard and crashed to attention. “You rang, sir?” He inquired. Then, without waiting for an answer, he marched over to me, and again crashed to attention. He bowed slightly with great dignity and inquired, “Your Royal Highness?”
As I said, he was small, not more than five and a half feet tall, he was wearing a red coat with gleaming buttons and green collar, cuffs and epaulettes. There were several medals on his chest and chevrons on his sleeve. He wore black pants with a small red stripe on the seam bloused into gleaming black boots. His was the most ferocious moustache I’d ever seen; his eyes were golden, his black hair gleamed ebony, and though the smallest person on the balcony, he radiated calm authority and complete assuredness. He was not young.
There was another bluish-greenish flash and Cameron was again sitting on the railing and Colin was standing between the Wizard and me. Colin’s eye fixed on the soldier at about the time that the soldier seemed to recognize him. With more crashing and stamping, the soldier stood before Colin and saluted with immaculate precision. Colin, as if it were the most ordinary thing in the world, returned the salute. They looked at each other for a moment.
“I know you Corporal Aberhonddu,” Colin said slowly. “We were on the Forever Fields together.”
“Sir!” The Corporal replied. Beneath his moustache it seemed he was trying to smile, but a tear was definitely at loose down one cheek.
“I’m not exactly sure what’s going on here, but I’m glad you’re here,” Colin smiled at the Corporal. The Corporal seemed to swell.
“Well, if I may,” the Wizard seemed testy. “I was going to have the orderly escort these three hooligans to the dungeons. Would you see to that orderly, they’ve assaulted his Royal Highness.”
Corporal Aberhonddu, unimpressed, looked to Colin. Colin verified the order with a nod and told him to report back when finished. The three were quickly lined-up and marched off to shouts of “You lot!”, “Bloody Cuthberts”, “Quickly there!”, “Left turn!” and other loud abuse, which grew fainter as the crashing subsided into a dull roar that ended with a clang. There were only the three of them, but the noise would have been sufficient for three hundred.
“Well,” Colin offered. “Whas’ up?”
“I was on my way home when those three came at me and one of them knocked me down. Then Cameron came swooping down and knocked him on his ass and, I guess, brought us all here. Humphrey,” I indicated him with a nod, “Called for the marines and they’ve been arrested.”
“Strictly speaking,” Colin observed, “He’s not a marine, he’s a corporal of the 3rd Battalion of the 24th Regiment of Foot. Am I right?” He asked of Humphrey.
“Yes. I’m not sure about the battalion and that, but we’ve a Welsh regiment here and I think this is their depot and he was definitely Bwca.”
“Okay, where are we,” I demanded. Everyone seemed to know more about what was going on than me and I’m supposed to be the Royal Highness here.
“Why this is your country palace, of course,” Humphrey explained as if that information were somehow obvious.
“Mine?” I demanded.
I paused momentarily, shaken by the enormity of that remark; well actually it was the palace that was enormous. But I decided ‘What the hell. Let’s see what happens.’ “Well, if that’s the case, let’s go inside, sit down and let’s have something cold to drink too”
“Assuredly,” Humphrey repeated and ushered us through the French doors into a large salon that appeared to have been decorated by someone who knew the Palace of Versailles intimately.
Dafydd, who was clearly very attentive, appeared almost at once with a tray containing tall goblets with a red and orange beverage that swirled without mixing inside the glass, the Elven equivalent of champagne perhaps. It was delicious and it was nice to sit down. The furniture, while appearing ornate, was clearly very sturdy.
“Now,” I wondered. “What do we do about the prisoners? We don’t have all day. And what, precisely, is a Bwca? And where are we anyway?”
But we have all the time you need, My Prince. I can time our return so that we will only have missed a very few seconds on the other world. It makes it easy, but you don’t want to overdo it or you’ll wear yourself right out. Although you could dine, and sleep here tonight, and I could still return you so you’d miss nothing of the day on the other world. But there’s always the danger of getting out of synch with the two worlds. You can see how it could become a bit of a problem. A kind of jet lag on steroids. Just need to be a little careful of the timing is all.
“Thanks, Cam. And thanks for your very timely arrival back there. You were awesome. Perhaps we should include ‘Ferocious’ among your best nick- names.”
Cameron fluffed and started to preen.
“A Bwca,” Colin observed. “Is what might be called a ‘Tommy Knocker’ back home. They used to hang out mostly in mines, but as the mines have closed, or been turned into open pits, a lot of them have moved into garages. No mine disasters to warn the miners about, but plenty of tools to hide. Many of the better ones have joined the Army. They’re basically Welsh or Cornish. I think we have four Bwca regiments.”
“It’s a capital offense. You can have their heads if you’d like,” Humphrey returned to the prisoner problem. “That would be quick and easy.” Somehow, I could easily see Humphrey, despite his handsome appearance, in the garden with a magnifying glass, burning ants.
“Doesn’t that seem a bit much? They’re just kids. An obnoxious bully and some hangers-on, perhaps, but is that a capital crime? Only one of them hit me and he barely rumpled me.”
“Any assault upon Elven Royalty is a capital crime and has been for several millennia. I daresay your Father would already have sentenced them. There are less stringent sentences available. You could have them tortured for a few weeks, or flogged, it’s entirely up to you. Just tell the orderly what you want and it will be done. And we’re in the capital province of the Elven Kingdom.”
I looked at him in amazement. Back home, my dads were against the death penalty and were active in liberal circles. I’d not be able to face them if I sentenced these kids to death even were I able to order such a thing. “Do you mean to tell me that I can be judge, jury, and executioner in a case like this?”
“Of course, you were the victim, you are Royalty, and they’re not even Elven, so they have no right to a trial in an Elven Court. Of course, the result would probably be the same even if they were Elven. A stable monarchy is essential to the serenity of the Elven lands. The trial would just take a little longer. No one would actually expect you to personally execute them, of course.
“I know that a lot of this is new to you, but you’ll understand better as you learn more about the Elven Way and I’ll be happy to help in any way I can.”
“What do you think, Colin?”
“I think that some punishment is in order, but I don’t think we’ll be doing any executing, or flogging. I don’t think they know who you are. Not that that’s any excuse, but they sure picked the wrong person to bully.” Colin smiled broadly.
Faint tapping gradually increased to a measured pace which rose steadily to a familiar crashing as the Corporal entered, marched to Colin whom he saluted, saying, “As you command, General.” He then crashed to attention before me, bowed again, and said, “Your Highness.” He ignored Humphrey.
There was now something of an impasse. Frankly, I didn’t quite know what to do or say and the Corporal remained fixed before me awaiting something. “Dafydd, bring the Corporal a drink. Corporal please relax.” That was something at least. “And then bring Cameron a root beer in a nice bowl.” I added to Dafydd’s back as he went for the Corporals drink. There! When in doubt, be civil. Humphrey appeared miffed for some reason.
“Corporal Aberhonddu,” Colin said quietly.
“Sir,” the Corporal responded without any crashing as he was holding his drink as if it were a fragile treasure beyond price.
“What’s your regular assignment here?” Colin continued.
“Drill Instructor when we’ve a recruit intake, Sir.”
“So you deal with young soldiers on a regular basis, is that correct?”
“Tell me, what did you think of our three prisoners?”
“Basically good lads. They’d nor discipline nor direction from home nor school. Could be good soldiers in a Saesneg Regiment. Mebbe the Rifles or one of the Fusiliers. No the Guards.”
“Do you know what they did?”
“Sir. Brawling with His Highness. Bad form that.”
“What do you think we should do with them?”
“Sir. His Highness should bind them to his service through Fealty. That would do the trick I’m thinkin’. ‘Aving sinned agin Our Prince, now they serve ‘im.”
Having let the problem solve itself, I interjected. “Excellent. We’ll attend to that first thing in the morning. Dafydd!” He arrived almost instantly, “We’ll have dinner now. Nothing too formal, the Corporal will join us. We’ll spend the night here. The General and I will share a bedroom so ensure it’s spacious and we’ll want a hot bath. Make sure Cameron has whatever he needs. Refresh our glasses please.”
“I thought you were some kind of chief colonel,” I commented to Colin the next morning as we were thinking about getting up. “And how is it that you know all about the Bwca?” A young elve in what I guessed was my livery (but with just a little gold trim) had brought us a tray with coffee, tea, and pomegranate juice. A young soldier accompanied him and they tussled gently with the refreshments as if they were competing with one another.
“I am. I’m Colonel-in-Chief of the Ancient and Honourable Company of Artillerists and Infernal Device Artificers; but my permanent rank is Brigadier on the general list. They sent me CD’s and books as well as my commissions the other day and I’ve been reading. But I’ve got to admit, that a lot came back to me when I saw the corporal.”
“So, I’ve been wondering. Where’s that ‘Forever Field’ you mentioned to the corporal?”
Colin looked into space for a long minute. “Well, it’s not so much a place, as it is a state of mind that we combat veterans share. I’ve been here before. That’s why so much came back to me. When our Corporal was a young private, he and I were in a battle together. He survived, and I did not. That sort of awareness is the ‘Forever Field’. This happened over a hundred years ago. He tried to save me.
“I’m going to see him promoted and you should give him a medal. This is a Royal Residence as well as a regimental depot. I think you need a Garrison Sergeant Major.”
“Fine. Can you take care of the medal and the promotion, please. I’m not at all sure how that works. And how are you a general already? We just got here.”
At that moment, the young soldier and the elve who’d tussled over our tray entered the room wheeling a clothes rack.
“Brigadier, sir,” the young soldier squeaked, and led Colin to the rack where he provided Colin with underwear, and then helped him dress.
“If you please, Your Highness,” and the young elve did the same for me.
When they were done with us, Colin was very impressive in a dark blue uniform with a high collar with gold trim, epaulettes with some complex insignia on them, a strip of multi-colored cloth on his left breast, and an oval badge of some sort on his lower left breast. There was a wide gold stripe on his trouser seam and he wore highly polished black half-boots complete with spurs. I was turned out in a robe similar to the one the elves wore, except it was white with blue and gold trim and there was a large golden dragon embroidered in gold thread, decorated with many jewels, on the chest.
“Well I’m a brigadier because of who I am, and who I was when I was here before, like I was just telling you. They don’t give a brigadiers crown to just any fourteen year old who comes down the road. You look striking by the way.”
The elve had placed a kind of tiara with sprays of gold leaves on my head. I went over to the mirror and Colin was right. I was pretty striking.
“Breakfast, highness, brigadier?” The young elve enquired. We were escorted into a small salon where we were treated to a sumptuous breakfast. Humphrey was supervising the elves who served us breakfast.
“So where do we begin this morning?” I smiled at Humphrey, “Lovely breakfast, by the way.”
“Well there’s the little matter of the criminals. Then you should probably just relax until it’s time to return this afternoon.”
After consulting with Colin, it was agreed that Corporal Aberhonddu should make all the necessary preparations and then bring the prisoners to me. That way, I was assured, the “form” would be correct and all the procedures “proper.”
I was permitted a few moments to wander in the garden, accompanied by Colin and Humphrey who took this time to tell me what my role would be in the ceremony to come. It was not long before Cameron summoned us back to the salon that I was beginning to think of as the “grand” salon because of its size. I was ushered into position standing in front of my three rather woebegone assailants each of which had a young soldier on either side. Colin asked for leave to begin and I nodded. Corporal Aberhonddu said something in Welsh in a commanding tone, and the first of the three, the one who had knocked me down, was brought in front of me, where he knelt on a small cushion. Without further instruction, he placed his hands together as if he were praying and extended them to me.
I enclosed his hands with mine and nodded. He began to speak: “I, Paul Henri St Marie, do promise on my faith and honour that I will in the future be faithful to the Prince Royal Justin ap Henry VII Indomitable and never cause him harm and will observe my homage to him completely against all persons in faith and without deceit for so long as I am able.”
I then placed a small gold chain with a medallion of my dragon around his neck. The soldiers stepped back and away. I smiled at him and he rose and thanked me as “Your Royal Highness.” We repeated with the ceremony for the other two. I asked Humphrey to see them dressed appropriately and told him that they would join us for lunch.
After lunch I toured my palace for a while and was particularly taken by my library, but then Cameron appeared and it was time to be getting back.
We met on the terrace. There I was, a Prince with a boyfriend who was a Brigadier, a formidable Garrison Sergeant Major (whose exact function remained a mystery to me), three vassals that I’d have to figure out what to do with, and a familiar. I nodded to Cameron, there was a golden flash-snap and that was that.
 ap is the Welsh patronymic