148 Chapter 145 A Former Prince
It had been fifteen days since he returned to his father's lands. In that time, he had done a tremendous amount of work, and all of the people had started referring to him as a king. He had made it very clear to those closest to him, that he intended to become a king, so them getting a jump start, definitely didn't bother him. The lands his father owned, stretched for miles in either direction, east and west along the border of the wastelands. So far, they hadn't had any problems with people from the central or eastern kingdoms coming to bother them, as there had been too much fighting after their kings fell to the demon worshippers. He loved the setup that his father had, but it would only work here, in this thin stretch of land.
This central group of buildings couldn't really be considered a town, as it didn't really have anything beyond the decision making for the area. On either side, east and west, there were fields of crops, and fenced areas for animals to graze. Beyond those fields, there were groupings of buildings again; barns for the animals and storage for the harvested crops, along with houses for the people who lived there. Then beyond them, there were more fields, and so on. Along the entire northern section, a stone wall protected them in case an army decided to investigate the southern border with the wastelands, but so far it hadn't been an issue.
It was a little late for supper, but he knew that his parents were still there, and headed right in, when he arrived.
"Joseph, you made it for dinner tonight," said his father, looking surprised.
"Yes, dad. I've been busy trying to get everything prepared. You may be ok waiting still, but I spent nine years thinking about how to be more powerful so I could claim my kingdom properly. I am ready to get rid of this whole cursed wasteland thing. It's been thousands of years."
"Well, Joseph, now that your mother and I aren't quite as…shocked, as when you first returned, we would like to hear more about what you were doing before you were caught in this trap that aged you."
"Ah, well, an evil god was trying to possess and corrupt a sleeping dragon. So, the trap was triggered to stop us, but after we broke out, we killed everyone, including the god, and saved the dragon. So, I'm friends with dragons now."
His mom put her fork down and looked at his father. William sighed. Maybe Joseph got it from him?
"Son, could you give us a bit more detailed explanation?"
"Sure, the dragon was really cool and in exchange for saving him, whenever he manages to shed a scale, he is going to give them to me."
"Wait, that means…" Nadette eeped. It was a cute sound that neither of them had ever heard from her before. "A dragon is going to be coming here? When?"
Joseph shrugged. "I don't know how often they shed scales, but I thought making armor out of dragon scales would be really cool and awesome when I'm king."
For the rest of the meal, his father and Joseph greatly enjoyed teasing his mom about the impeding visit.
It was almost dark, when Joseph finally left his parents, who were still energetically discussing the merits of having an exterior eating area built for when the dragon arrived, or just having the current dining hall door enlarged. He was chuckling and shaking his head, looking forward to the night events he had planned.
"Joseph, don't look behind you," whispered Stella in his ear.
"Why?" he asked confused. If this was a new game, the timing was very odd.
"In order for someone to bathe, one has to remove their clothes…" she replied dryly, and Joseph gave a laugh as he realized the problem.
Reaching behind him, he held out his hand for her to touch it, and cast CREATE OBJECT. She stepped forward, looking slightly annoyed, dressed in the skin tight clothing she preferred from the time they were stuck in time out.
"I can't wait for the new clothes you ordered to be done," she muttered.
"We can check on them tomorrow, but for now we have movies!" he said, with a grin. "Now that the generator is up and running, IMAX has nothing on me."
To the south, now that the sun had set, a huge field similar to a movie theater screen appeared, and some of Joseph's favorite shows, from his previous lives, began to play. He had sent out word earlier, for people to look south, and he could hear people exclaiming in surprise. There were also a lot of, "As expected of Master Joseph," comments going around. Joseph had a feeling that a lot of the apprentices that focused on ILLUSION and SOUND, as well as some of the bards and performers, would be inspired by his shows, so he was very careful on which ones he showed.
Stella had just sat down next to him, with a huge bowl of steaming popcorn, smothered in salt and butter, when a runner approached him, out of breath. Glancing at the shear amount of butter she had poured on the popcorn, he grimaced and turned towards the runner, setting down his plate of nachos.
"Your majesty, the second prince of the western empire has arrived."
"Really?" he asked, jumping up and following after the young boy. Stella jumped up to follow, carrying both her popcorn and the plate of nachos, happily dipping her popcorn into the cheese.
Sure enough, the boy before him was the former prince, Victor. The man standing next to him was his advisor, Joseph assumed.
"Welcome, prince Victor. I am Joseph. I was sorry to hear about your father. He tried hard to improve your country. Let's have something to eat and we can talk."
His advisor nodded in thanks as the boy stared at Joseph.
"How…how did you get so much bigger?"
"Magic," Stella chimed in, the bowl of popcorn and the plate of nachos were gone.
Victor nodded, not knowing any better. Joseph led them to the dining hall while William, Daniel and several other people were summoned, to allow them an opportunity to rest and eat something.
"Alright, Victor, Theodore. What have you come here for?" asked Joseph, leaning back in his chair.
"Theo is fine, Lord Joseph," said Victor, setting his fork down and turning towards him. He had mostly finished his plate for the second time, and had been debating a third, when Joseph started to speak.
Victor was only seven, having been a year younger than Joseph. He had been trained to be a king, and that knowledge might help Joseph become a better king.
"We come seeking asylum," he said slowly, but his voice was strong and he met Joseph's eyes.
"Could you explain why?"
His eyes turned a little teary, so Joseph looked over at Theo.
"All of the royal family was murdered, Lord Joseph."
"Even the first prince?"
"Yes, after the king," Theo paused, glancing at Victor, who nodded while ducking his head. "After the king passed, the first prince, with the backing of several nobles, had himself crowned king. At the ceremony, there was a new person who I had never seen before. He claimed his name was Drassa, but no one knew where he came from. The first prince seemed to know him quite well, and took his counsel over everyone else's, every time. Any of the informants, the nobles sent to investigate him, disappeared. We received word that all of you went north and disappeared into a blizzard. Even though many were convinced the king's death was not Sir William's fault, the king insisted it was.
"He called for a large ball, to celebrate the traitor's demise in the north, and the sealing of the eastern gates. All of the nobles were required to attend, as he was planning to announce the new directives for the kingdom, and everyone knew the chances would be slim if they were there, but completely gone if they weren't, that they might influence his proclamation. It was also expected that the prince would be looking for a bride through the assembled nobles, so the wives and daughters were encouraged to attend.
"The morning of the feast, Victor came to me after he went to the kitchen to get a plate of breakfast. Since the new king took over, the treatment of Prince Victor had continued to decline. He didn't recognize a single person in the kitchen. I took him and we fled. The nobles arrived at the venue and the doors were shut. Everyone, including the new king, were killed.
"Drassa has taken control of the army, as none of the commanders survived, since they were all nobles, and attending the party. I don't know what happened to all of the nobles who remained on their estates, but we heard word of several houses being sacked and the families executed for harboring fugitives of the crown. We have been running and only barely made it through a southern mountain pass I knew about from smugglers. We followed the edge of the wastelands thinking it would be the only place you could be hiding from the central kingdom's armies, after I received a revelation about you over a month ago."
Joseph gave a start, and glanced over at his father and Stella, who were also looking startled. Theo must have the system! What were the odds? No, Joe, that wasn't actually a question he wanted answered…
"Do you know what happened to Walter?"
Victor paled while Theo nodded.
"He was executed by his family as a way to avoid censure from the crown for assisting the traitors."
Joseph nodded sadly. He had assumed that was the case. Theo was eyeing him.
"Lord Joseph, the young prince has been greatly affected by the brutality of his brother's short reign."
Victor's color immediately seemed to improve.
Victor stared at him firmly.
"I don't intend to stay for free, Joseph. I know a lot about being a king, and Theo is the one who taught me. I'm sure you could learn it really fast if you had a tutor like Theo."
"How did you know I wanted to be a king?"
"Um. Most of the people in the north, who stayed, or went back home, said they wished they had gone with king Joseph into exile after my brother took the throne. We heard it a lot of places. Do you not want to?"
"No, I do want to learn more and I am a king, I suppose, already. I'm just waiting to have enough land to claim a kingdom. I intend to claim all of the wastelands after I fix it."
"Wow, that would be as big as the western kingdom, Joseph. Maybe even bigger."
Joseph smiled. Had he been this cute when he was seven? He wasn't sure.
"It's at least twice as big. The gods have declared that I am not allowed to use time magic, so we will just have to move on. You can rest and we'll talk some more in the morning. You are safe here, so sleep well."
Victor nodded with far more energy than he had when he had first arrived, but Joseph could still tell he was exhausted.
Stepping outside, he saw that the movie was just finishing, so with a sigh he turned towards his room. There was to be a meeting in the morning after breakfast and he had a lot of things to plan out.