Memories shook me, and I think they shook Connor too because he dropped to the floor and started shaking. “Make me trust you. Make me believe you’re not crazy like the doctor says,” I said.
He looked up at me. His eyes were bloodshot. He looked so young sitting there. “You don’t know what it’s like being the emperor’s son. I’ve grown up knowing that this empire will be mine someday. It’s so…big.”
“But you are the emperor’s son. You have a lot of time to learn how to manage this ‘big’ empire. Your father seems to be very good at it and there’s always the chance that you could be better if you tried. Bringing about that transition early only hurts everyone and ‘everyone’ is a lot of people. Do you really want that?”
“No, I don’t, not really. I just get so confused and so angry, and I don’t really know why. I am crazy like the doctor says; I just don’t know what you can do about it.”
It was cold in here. I remade the window the way I remembered it and lit a fire in the scarred fireplace.
Connor leapt to his feet in astonishment. “How did that happen?”
“Connor, think a minute. Who do you trust; someone who knows you well.”
He looked at me in surprise and pointed to the window. “Didn’t you see that? This place is haunted.”
“No it’s not. Come on, settle down and help me here. We need to work this out.”
He backed away from the window, which brought him closer to the fireplace. He started to run from the room when he noticed that there was no wood there to support the fire.
He ran into me. I grabbed his shoulders and gave him a shake. “It’s magic; it’s why I’m here. Now help me. Who do you trust?”
“Mother.” The way he said it made me wonder if he was a child begging for his mother’s protection, or if he was giving me the answer to my question.
I spoke into the air above his head. “Empress, this is High Guard Liam McTavish, will you consent to come to me?”
There was an audible gasp from somewhere in front of me, but Connor recognized even that small sound. “Mother?”
“Connor?” said the disembodied voice.
“Empress, we are at your mountain estate. There are issues that need to be sorted out. Would you consent to come to us and help?”
“How are you talking to me? Do I know you?”
“Yes, my lady, though perhaps not by name. Please, call the emperor and give him my name.”
She did, and after he told her who I was, she consented to come. Before she could leave her room to go to a lighter, I brought her directly to us.
She was as beautiful as I remembered. She quickly recovered from her surprise at being brought here so abruptly. She came up to me and touched my face with her long delicate hand. “Yes, I do recognize you now. I’m so glad you are all right.”
“Mother?” said Connor.
She turned to him and accepted with surprise, his ardent hug. I’m thinking such didn’t happen very often.
“What’s going on here?” she asked.
I tipped the couch back upright and cleaned it off, then I recreated a chair that had been demolished in the explosion. I waved the empress and her son to the couch and sat down in the chair. She looked at the thing dubiously, but sat down as I had asked.
“My lady, I’ve been asked to help your son, but I’m not sure he needs my kind of help. What I need from you, and you too Connor, is to talk about all the times Connor lost control and got mad. Anything and everything you can remember. Talk about it, remember it; I’ll be doing what I can to help.”
It was halting at first, and at first, I just listened. When it started to venture into the more irrational areas, I closed my eyes and explored Connor’s brain the way I explored the farmer’s body when I had to rebuild Carm’s bones. Some subjects still touched off some anger, but I couldn’t find any reason for what everyone thought. I even managed to find the tell tail leftovers of the drugs he had been given.
I opened my eyes and watched Connor and his mother talking. There were tears. Explanations. Apologies. This is what Connor needed. Not drugs. Not adjustments.
I isolated myself in a soundproof bubble and called the emperor the same way I had called his wife. “Emperor, this is Liam. Would you consent to come to me?”
“Yes,” he said simply. I suppose that was a show of the measure of trust he had in me. I brought him to stand behind his wife and his son. I placed him back away from the light. They didn’t know he was there.
He just stood there and listened. After a few moments, he stepped forward and rested a hand on both of their shoulders. They jumped and stopped talking as if they had been caught doing something they shouldn’t.
“Keep talking,” I said.
Haltingly they started again, trying to pick up the thread where they had left off. I could tell that it was difficult talking of such things in front of the emperor; I could also tell that it was just as hard for him to listen.
Hours later, I handed them a simple dinner and lit the room with soft candlelight. They talked until the empress fell asleep on the end of the couch, then the emperor and his son moved to the window and continued to talk. They had a lifetime of talking to catch up on and a very large wall to break down between them.
I almost dozed off myself when I heard my name. I looked up and saw that Connor and his father were still talking softly by the window and the empress was still asleep on the couch. I cocked my magical ear and heard Brian’s voice. “…Liam. What do you mean ‘they went with someone named Liam? Where is he? How did they leave without an escort?”
I smiled. “Sorry Brian. They’re with me. Everything is just fine. We’ll probably be back sometime tomorrow. Do you think you can hold the fort down until then?”
“Liam, is that you? Where are you?” asked Brian sounding unnerved.
The emperor heard me speak and came over. I included him in the conversation. “This is classified information, Captain; we’re at the mountain estate. Is everything in order there?”
“Except for the fact that you’ve kidnapped the emperor and the empress, Liam. I’ll have you up on charges for this. Your only second day back here – I thought you could be trusted,” raged Brian.
“Take it easy, Captain,” said the emperor. “Everything is under control here. You will not include this in your report. This never happened. We’ll be back tomorrow. Do you understand?”
“Yes sir, I do, but…”
“That will be all, Captain.” The emperor slid his hand across his throat and I severed the connection.
“Sorry for the interruption, sir,” I said.
He went back to his son and draped his arm across the boy’s shoulder. I heard him say. “It’s hard to be emperor sometimes.”
They roused me as the morning sun was beginning to lighten the eastern sky. “Sorry sir. I didn’t intend to fall asleep.”
“I don’t know how you brought us here, but you better take us back before Captain Wilson has a fit,” said the emperor. He had dark circles under his eyes mirrored by the dark circles under those of his son.
I waved the empress over to us and then I moved us all back to the palace.
Brian jumped to his feet at our appearance, but anything he might have said was silenced by the emperor’s hand. He turned to me as his wife and son disappeared deeper into the apartment. “Explain yourself; what did you find out from all that?”
“I found out that, in my opinion, there’s nothing wrong with your son. I also found out that you have never talked to him. How can he know you, love you or learn from you if you never talk to him?”
He cocked his chin as if he had been insulted, but he said nothing. “I’ll expect your written report in an hour.” He turned to follow his family into the apartment.
Brian escorted me firmly from the room and after the door was closed, he said, “Liam, if you ever do that to me again, I’ll have your head.”
I smiled; I was tired and hungry. I handed him an apple and then bit into one of my own, then I sat down at the guard desk to write up my report. Today would be a long day.